Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump by Sandra Hempel

book cover

The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump:
John Snow and the Mystery of Cholera
by Sandra Hempel

ISBN-13: 9780520250499
Hardback: 331 pages
Publisher: University of California Press
Released: 2007

Source: Bought through Half.com.

Book Description from Cover:
In 1831, an unknown, horrifying, and deadly disease from Asia swept across continental Europe and North America, killing millions and throwing the medical profession into confusion. A killer with little respect for class or wealth, cholera rocked Victorian England when it arrived in its capital, where it indiscriminately ravaged the squalid streets of Soho and the great centers of power.

In this gripping book, Sandra Hempel tells the story of John Snow, a reclusive doctor without money or social position, who--alone and unrecognized--had the genius to look beyond the conventional wisdom of his day and uncover the truth behind the pandemic. She describes how Snow discovered that cholera was spread through drinking water and how this subsequently laid the foundations for the modern, scientific investigation of today's fatal plagues.

A dramatic account with a colorful cast of characters, The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump features diversions into fascinating facets of medical and social history, such as Snow's tending of Queen Victoria in childbirth, Dutch microbiologist Leeuwenhoek's deliberate breeding of lice in his socks, Dickensian children's farms, and riotous nineteenth-century anesthesia parties. What emerges is the dramatic story of an important breakthrough for medical science, and of one individual's determination to use science to help others. An afterword discusses how global warming will likely increase the risk of infectious diseases--including malaria, yellow fever, and cholera.

My Review:
The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump describes the waves of cholera that spread across the world from 1817 to 1866, what was done to treat it, and what was discovered about it. While many people and places were mentioned, we learned the most about John Snow since he made the greatest discovery about how cholera was spread and the main focus was on the cholera-related events in London, England. The book also described related topics like the medical and sanitary practices of the day, medical training, etc. Sometimes it felt like the author was wandering off topic, but these asides still gave an interesting look at the time period.

The author frequently quoted letters, journal articles, case notes, etc., from that time period They described what someone sick with cholera went through, the medical views on the spread and treatment of cholera, etc. There were also black-and-white illustrations: political cartoons and posters about cholera from that time period.

If talking about drinking water that contains feces and mentions of people throwing up grosses you out, then you might not enjoy the many vivid descriptions in this book. However, I found it an interesting, easy read from start to finish. The author clearly explained the (few) medical terms she used as well as any outdated phrasings in the quotes that might be confusing.

Cholera is another example of how the majority of scientists at that time were so sure of their own ideas about how sickness was transmitted that they couldn't see the truth even when John Snow clearly showed that they were wrong. Anyone who believes that "if most scientists say it then it must be true" should read books like this. :) Maybe they're right, maybe they aren't, but they aren't right just because they're in the majority.

In any case, I recommend this book to those who aren't easily grossed out who are interested in cholera and the advances in science that occurred while trying to fight 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.

Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Fossil Book by Gary and Mary Parker

book cover

The Fossil Book
by Gary and Mary Parker

ISBN-13: 978-0-89051-438-2
Hardback: 80 pages
Publisher: Master Books
Released: 2006, 2007

Source: Local Christian bookstore.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Fossils have fascinated humans for centuries. From the smallest diatoms to the largest dinosaurs, finding a fossil is an exciting and rewarding experience. But where did they come from, and how long have they been around? These and many other questions are answered in this remarkable book.

The Fossil Book will teach you about:
  • How fossils are formed.
  • How to start your own fossil collection.
  • What kinds of fossils can be commonly found.
  • The age of fossils.
  • The different kinds of rocks fossils are found in coal and oil formation.
  • The Geologic Column Diagram.
  • How scientists find and preserve fossils.
  • How to identify kinds of fossils.
  • How the flood affected fossil formation.
  • The difference between evolutionists’ and creationists’ views on fossils.

Learning about fossils, their origins, and how to collect them can be both fun and educational. The abundance of both marine and land fossils and the locations they are found in is a fascinating subject for students of all ages and has been studied by scientists and laypersons alike for many years. Learn what all the excitement is about!

My Review:
The Fossil Book is a nonfiction book about fossil formation, types, and collection. The authors assumed they had a Christian audience, but they still gave solid, respectful reasons for why they believe Flood Geology is the better explanation for how most fossils were formed. They clearly explained each topic and defined the few scientific terms in the text (though there's also a glossary in the back). The book is suitable for 10- or 11-year-olds on up.

There were full color pictures and illustrations. In the back, there's a 12 by 24 inch pull-out full-color poster with pictures from the book. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book to children and adults who are interested in fossils and fossil hunting.

Chapter One explained what a fossil is, what rocks they're found in, how they're formed, and the types of fossils (including fossil fuels). Chapter Two explained what the Geologic Column is and compared Evolutionist and Flood Geologist interpretations of fossils. Chapter Three briefly covered the problems with the evolutionary interpretation of fossils and why the evidence better fits the Flood Geologist explanation. It then discussed the Grand Canyon's formation and rock layers.

Chapter Four covered invertebrate fossils. Chapter Five covered vertebrate fossils and discussed intermediate fossils and fossil sequences. The final section described how to do fossil hunting and collection (where to look, permits needed, tools used, and how to collect, store, and display them).

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.

Read an excerpt from The Fossil Book.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Early lighting in New England by Helen Hebard

book cover

Early lighting in New England, 1620-1861
by Helen Brigham Hebard

Hardback: 88 pages
Publisher: The Charles E. Tuttle Company
Released: 1864

Source: Bought at a library book sale.

Book Description, my take:
Antique collector Helen Hebard wrote this presentation to be read at an Antique Collectors' Week-End meeting since she couldn't give it in person due to an illness. She discusses her favorite topic, old lighting devices--specifically those used in New England in 1620 to 1861.

My Review:
Early lighting in New England briefly describes the various ways New Englander's lighted their homes from 1620 to 1861. The author described the various types of lighting and sometimes (especially for splint lights, rush lights, and bayberry candles) described how they were made. There were some brief quotes describing these devices by the people who actually used them.

There were black and white sketches and black and white pictures of the various items, but mainly of the candle holders and lamps. 40 of the 82 pages in this book were completely full of pictures or sketches. Additional, smaller sketches were scattered throughout the text.

The lighting methods covered were wood (log fire, torch, wrought iron cresset or fire basket, splint light); grease lamps (crusies, Betties); rushlights; early candles (tallow, beeswax, bayberry); candle holders; whale and lard lamps; solar and astral lamps; kerosene lamps.

It was interesting and easy to follow, but I personally would have enjoyed more details on how the various lighting sources were made and used at the time. Though written for collectors, it didn't give much information about finding or identifying good specimens for antique collections. It's more a brief overview of the various methods used to light New England homes from 1620 to 1861.

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 from Chapter One
Just as the log fire was the first source of light in primitive dwellings where wood was the only fuel, so the hearth fire was an all important and at first the only means of illumination in the homes of our early settlers. The torch, an offshoot of the fire, could be carried about, thus enlarging man's sphere of activity. Staggering however are the number and variety of torches improvised, fashioned or fabricated for outdoor use. They range from strips of blubber, fat bodies of birds and fish, to dried tree limbs or pine knots. Our pioneers utilized what was available and wood was plentiful in the new land.

The wrought-iron cresset or fire basket was a later development of the above methods. It was used throughout the ancient and medieval periods. In early New England the cresset functioned as special purpose lighting. An early reference to the blazing beacon on Boston's highest hill gave it its present name--Beacon Hill.

Splint lights are a refinement of the torch used by many people in many places. These slivers of resinous wood are known here as splints or candlewood and in Scotland as fire-candles. They have been used for centuries wherever suitable wood was plentiful.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Exploring the World of Physics by John Hudson Tiner

book cover

Exploring the World of Physics
by John Hudson Tiner

ISBN-13: 978-0890514665
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Master Books
Released: May 2006, March 2008

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Physics is a branch of science that many people consider to be too complicated to understand. In this exciting addition to the "Exploring" series, John Hudson Tiner puts this myth to rest as he explains the fascinating world of physics in a way that students from elementary to high school can comprehend.

Did you know that a feather and a lump of lead will fall at the same rate in a vacuum? Learn about the history of physics from Aristotle to Galileo to Isaac Newton to the latest advances. Discover how the laws of motion and gravity affect everything from the normal activities of everyday life to launching rockets into space. Learn about the effects of inertia firsthand during fun and informative experiments.

Exploring the World of Physics is a great tool for students of all ages who want to have a deeper understanding of the important and interesting ways that physics affects our lives and is complete with illustrations, chapter questions, and an index.

Exploring the World of Physics teaches basic physics within the format of discoveries made throughout history. It included page-long biographies of scientists who made important contributions to our understanding of physics.

The author did a good job of clearly explaining new concepts. The book was suitable for middle schoolers on up, though younger children may find this book understandable. There were useful black and white charts and illustrations. There were also a few experiments that the reader could do with common objects. At the end of each chapter, there were 12-20 questions that tested if you learned the important points in the chapter. The answers were in the back.

The author occasionally referred to God as Creator and pointed out which scientists were Christians. Overall, the book was interesting and well-written. I'd recommend it to homeschoolers and those who want to learn basic physics in an interesting way.

Chapter 1 was on Motion on the earth (teaching about speed, acceleration, velocity, Galileo, Aristotle, etc.). Chapter 2 was on Laws of Motion (teaching about force, friction, Isaac Newton and his three laws of motion, etc.). Chapter 3 was on Gravity (teaching about Johannes Kepler and his three laws of planetary motion, Newton's Law of Gravity, etc.). Chapter 4 was on Simple Machines (teaching about levers, pulleys, inclined planes, wheels, axles, Archimedes, etc.).

Chapter 5 was on Energy (teaching about mechanical energy, heat energy, kinetic energy, potential energy, James Prescott Joule, James Watt, etc.). Chapter 6 was on Heat (teaching about heat capacity, measuring temperature, conduction, convection, radiation, entropy, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Laws of Thermodynamics, Daniel Fahrenheit, Anders Celsius, etc.). Chapter 7 was on States of Matter (teaching about solids, liquids, and gases, Robert Hooke, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle, Daniel Bernoulli, etc.). Chapter 8 was on Wave Motion (teaching about wave length, frequency, velocity, speed of sound, wave waves, sound waves, amplitude, echoes, Doppler effect, etc.).

Chapter 9 was on Light (teaching about prisms, color, the human eye, optical illusions, mirrors, telescopes, etc.). Chapter 10 was on Electricity (teaching about electrical fields, conductors, batteries, resistance, voltage, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Morse, etc.). Chapter 11 was on Magnetism (teaching about magnetic fields, magnets, electromagnets, William Gilbert, Michael Faraday, etc.). Chapter 12 was on Electromagnetism (teaching about radio waves, microwaves, infrared waves, x-rays, gamma rays, Rudolf Hertz, James Clerk Maxwell, Albert Einstein, Arthur Holly Compton, etc.). Chapter 13 was on Nuclear Energy (teaching about the parts of an atom, nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, nuclear power, etc.). Chapter 14 was on Future Physics.

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.

Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Life and Work of Dwight L. Moody by A. W. Williams

book cover

The Life and Work of Dwight L. Moody
by A. W. Williams

Hardback: 416 pages
Publisher: unknown
Released: 1900

This book was reprinted in 2006 by Cosimo Classics (ISBN-13: 978-1596050327)

Source: Inherited from my grandmother's library.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Dwight Lyman Moody was the great evangelist of the 19th century--a child of a large working-class family who went on to preach to an entire nation. Both Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant attended his revivals during their presidencies. Here, in a work that is part biography and part tribute, is the story of Moody's life-from his stolid New England childhood to his adult conversion to fundamentalist Christianity to his late ministries, including:
  • his Chicago ministry
  • his missionary work during the Civil War
  • the story of his faith that inspired his fiery defense of the Bible
  • his massive evangelical meetings during the 1870s and 80s in England, Scotland, and the United States

Published in 1900, just a year after Moody's death, the book also includes essays and reflections on his life by those he worked with and motivated, and other accolades.

My Review:
The Life and Work of Dwight L. Moody is a biography about D.L. Moody (February 5, 1837 - December 22, 1899) written within a year of his death by someone who had occasionally worked with him. Though it started with some information about his family and upbringing as a child (since this influenced his preaching style), most of the book covered events from 1871 to 1899. After Moody's conversion to Christianity, the book focused mainly on his various ministries. We weren't told much about his wife, children, and family life beyond the fact that he had them.

The book included excerpts of some of Moody's sermons and other documents, descriptions of his evangelical meetings by those who were with him, interviews with and tributes by those who knew him, and descriptions of the various schools he helped found (Northfield Seminary, Mount Herman School for Boys, and the Chicago Bible Institute). Some sections near the end read a bit like a fundraiser campaign (to raise funds for "Moody's dearest projects to keep them running") and some parts contained more detail than most people care about. However, it was an interesting book and I learned a lot about Moody that I didn't previously know. The book contained a number of black and white photographs showing Moody, those he worked with, and the places he preached.

The chapters covered: Moody's boyhood and early life; his early career in Chicago; his conversion; his ministry during the Civil War and the Young Men's Christian Association; Moody's first church; Farwell Hall; preaching beyond Chicago; the Great Chicago Fire; Moody and Sankey in England and Scotland; the Great Revival in Philadelphia; The Northfield Seminary; The Northfield Conference; Mount Hermon School for Boys; The World's Fair Campaign (in 1892); Chicago Bible Institute; Moody's Last Campaign (in Kansas City); Moody's funeral at Northfield and memorial service in Philadelphia; and various tributes by different people who knew him.

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.

Read an excerpt using Google Previews.

Monday, November 29, 2010

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the Gratitude Giveaways winner. Including Twitter entries, we had 30 people enter. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:

who won Once an Arafat Man by Tass Saada

Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always buy a copy of this book from your favorite bookstore.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How Much More Longer by Steve Elder

book cover

How Much More Longer:
How to get real now about living the life you want
by Steve Elder

ISBN-13: 978-1414114774
Trade Paperback: 130 pages
Publisher: Pleasant Word
Released: January 18, 2010

Source: Review copy through Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity.

Book Description from Back Cover (slightly modified):
Steve Elder--speaker, wealth advisor, and professional coach--often counsels people about their life goals. His painful experiences with a near-death car crash when he was a teenager and later a bankruptcy led him to ask hard questions about his life's purpose: What is it that you want? And how much longer will you wait to honestly answer that question? With a passion born of deep trauma and tough choices, How Much More Longer will convince you that the time to decide how to live is now.

While the stories in this book will make you laugh, its messages are serious. What do you want? To live a real, transparent, full life, or continue walking on eggshells, failing to confront areas in your life that need attention?

Filled with personal anecdotes, down-to-earth advice, and thought-provoking questions called "On the Road to Real", this book challenges us to take action and claim the life we desire...now.

My Review:
How Much More Longer is an enjoyable read that's part memoir and part motivational talk. The first few chapters were memoir style with insightful comments from the thoughtful perspective of maturity. After that, the style changed into a motivational talk illustrated with funny stories from the author's life. If you can laugh at yourself even when things are bad, then you'll enjoy the humorous style of this book.

The author encouraged the reader to really live life to the full, engaged in every moment instead of just surviving. At the end of each chapter, the author asked a few questions of the reader. They usually were to help the reader figure out what type of life it is they really want to be living.

While the author did mention stories that occurred at his church and said things like "thank God," this wasn't a religious book in the sense that he didn't specifically say things like "look to God for your purpose."

Overall, I'd recommend this book to those who feel like they're existing in a haze of busyness rather than living a full, engaged life and who want to know how to change.

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 from Chapter One
"Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever." --Lance Armstrong

The first thing I saw was Michelle.

The next thing we both saw was my left index finger, hanging by a strand of skin.

What I did not know was that my new stubby friend was the least of my immediate concerns.

July 9, 1984. The setting was a perfect summer night. I left the country baseball park after watching a couple of games--I didn't play that night, though I did have practice. My teammate Randy asked for a ride out to see friends play because his car was broken down and I was taking him home. Tough break for Randy, as you will see...

I was driving on a small rural road when my little Honda Accord met up with a 1975 Chevelle driven by a drunk driver. In the clash between the two cars, my Honda lost the fight. My passenger and baseball teammate Randy and I awoke to a new reality. Innocence was gone, along with all sensation throughout our bodies. That turned out to be a temporary but welcome reprieve from what was about to become my new teacher--pain.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gratitude Giveaways: The Summit or Once an Arafat Man

Gratitude Giveaways Hop

As a part of the Gratitude Giveaways - Blog Follower Appreciation Hop, I'm holding a "your choice" giveaway.

book coverYou can enter to win either:
The Summit by Eric Alexander
Once an Arafat Man by Tass Saada.

Read my review to learn more about The Summit by Eric Alexander.

book cover
Read my review to learn more about Once an Arafat Man: The True Story of How a PLO Sniper Found a New Life by Tass Saada.

This contest is for USA & Canada residents only.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for ___________." For example, if you wanted The Summit, you'd twitter: "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for THE SUMMIT by Eric Alexander."


2) You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered and naming which novel you'd like to win. Please also leave some way for me to contact you--or follow this blog so you can see the winner announcement. I'd be fun if you also included why you're interested in reading this novel.

Last time I did a "your choice" giveaway, people chose more than one book. If you do this, you still only have one entry (like everyone else) but, if you win, I'll select which novel to send to you.

This giveaway ends on November 28, 2010 at midnight. The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner on Nov. 29, 2010 on this blog.

If you entered using twitter, I'll send you a @ or DM telling you of your win and asking where to send the book. If you entered using the blog comments, you'll need to leave your e-mail address or check back to see if you won so you can e-mail me your mailing address. If the winner hasn't responded with a mailing address within four days, I reserve the right to pick a new winner.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

The blogs participating in the Gratitude Giveaways Hop:

The Summit by Eric Alexander

book cover

The Summit
by Eric Alexander

ISBN-13: 9780892217014
Trade Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: New Leaf Press
Released: Nov. 1, 2010

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
It's one of the greatest challenges one can face on Earth: an ascent to the top of the world on the slopes of Mount Everest. Eric Alexander experienced grace and a faith-empowering journey he will never forget as part of a record-setting team in May 2001, scaling the heights of Everest with his friend, blind climber Erik Weihenmayer.

  • Experience some of the most dangerous locations in the world, including abject terror on Ama Dablam, a blind ski descent of Russia's Mount Elbrus, and up Kilimanjaro in Africa with four blind teens

  • Gain wisdom in the application of trust, courage, innovation, teamwork, leadership, and integrity to overcome your own Everests

  • Discover practical faith lessons learned on the highest peaks of six continents

Here is the powerful story of Eric Alexander and his unique life journey of helping to guide people with disabilities as they overcome the most perilous places of the world.

My Review:
The Summit is a memoir by a man who has climbed some of the tallest and most difficult mountains in the world...and usually with a blind person on his team. His vivid descriptions of the various climbs gives the reader a good idea of what climbing extremely high mountains is like (both the good and the bad) and the special challenges created by climbing with a blind climber.

The author gave details about his climbs up Mt. Ama Dablam (including blind Eric W.), Mt. Everest (up to base camp, including 3 blind men & a quadriplegic; up to summit, including blind Eric & a documentary crew), Mt. Elbrus (including blind Eric; both Erics skied down), Mt. Cook (including blind Eric), Mt. Pisco (including 3 "at risk" teens), Inca trail to Machu Pichu (including 9 blind teens & 9 sighted teens), Mt. Kilimanjaro (including 4 blind teens), Mt. Aconcagua, and Mt. Denali.

Between the stories of his mountain climbs, the author described the training, dangers, and doubts he had at home in Colorado and talked about meeting his wife. There were some spectacular full-color photographs from the mountain climbs in the center of the book.

However, I'd expected the book to include a bit more from the blind climber's perspective. There were a few quotes from Eric W. (mostly about incidents involving the author) and the author explained how he and the other team members helped to guide Eric W. on a climb, but it was in terms of what the author did for Eric W. rather than from Eric W.'s perspective.

The author also didn't use a linear time-line and this sometimes made things confusing. In fact, he split his account of the Mount Everest climb in two and told about a variety of other climbs in between. Personally, I would have enjoyed the overall story more if it had been told in order. This also would have allowed the reader to better see his growth as a person and a climber.

I also felt like the author craved acknowledgment of his achievements and harbored contempt for strangers who were more adverse to risking their life. Because of this, he kept expecting his team members to see him as a failure or reject him anytime he made a mistake or turned back for health reasons. I found this mildly exasperating. However, it's great he's willing to support and help his blind friend (and others) achieve their climbing dreams.

The author did talk about his Christian faith and how it helped him on the various climbs. He ended each chapter with a reflection section about what the climb taught him that related to the Christian faith.

Overall, I'd recommend this book to those interested in what it's like to climb Mt. Everest and other tall mountains.

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 from Chapter One
April 14, 2000, Day 29 — The relentless storm only added to the drama of retreating that day. With 4,000 feet of air below us, we would descend in what we call “full conditions,” meaning the foulest of weather, over the jagged, rocky, extremely exposed terrain that now had a coat of ice and snow, not only on its surface, but on our ropes as well. It was slick, at least the parts angular enough to collect snow on that steep and often vertical terrain. Rappelling, climbing, slipping, sliding, and banging our way down the ridge in what at times was a whiteout, gave me a new perspective on what it would be like to be in my blind climbing partner, Erik Weihenmayer’s shoes.

The three of us, Chris Morris, Brad Bull, and I, had just grunted our way from the 20,000-foot perch of Camp Two to the lower and more comfortable accommodations of Camp One at 19,000 feet on Ama Dablam. We were tired and very relieved to see our tents just yards away. My tent was one of the farthest from the fixed lines leading us down onto the platform terminating just before camp. My tentmate at this camp would be Dr. Steve Gipe, who had remained at Camp One as the team ascended. Dr Gipe’s intentions were to attempt the summit from Camp One as the team fixed the route up higher, then later rejoin the team as everyone was leaving Camp Three for the summit.

As I approached my tent I could almost feel the warmth of my bag and a nice cooked meal, and was already beginning to think of sleep. In fact, I may have been half asleep and daydreaming when it happened. Chris Morris said he thought I was a "goner" and Dr. Gipe kept yelling, "Stop! Stop! Self arrest!" Brad Bull started to pray. I know God heard his prayer.

Camp One is perched at the top of a 600-foot, mostly smooth, yet steep slabby rock face. If you are familiar with the rock formation outside of Boulder, Colorado, called the Flatirons, it would be similar to this with little blocky features that would give a falling person flight at times. I was ten feet from my tent and scrambling over the rocks, which were scattered all over the top of the face. As I made my final few steps to the tent, one of these rocks shifted, toppled over, and caused me to lose my balance and fall to my stomach on top of it. I was caught off guard to say the least, because I had stepped on this particular rock a number of times before, but it was my heavy load and the thoughtlessness of my step brought on by fatigue that caused it to turn over.

I felt like I was Coyote in a Roadrunner cartoon. My body started to drop, yet somehow my head seemed to linger in space. I hugged the rock and as I did, it started to slide over the edge with me on top of it. I knew that if I didn’t let go I would tumble some 600 feet down, being crushed by this rock that was now in my arms. So I decided to let go, and take my chances, hoping that I would be able to grab on to the ledge in front of me as my feet began their way down. With gloved hands hitting the loose and partly snow-covered edge, I had no chance as my hands deflected like a soccer ball off the goal post in a botched goal attempt. This wouldn’t be a completely vertical fall. I would, in some moments, be afforded the luxury of abrasive granite shredding me and my clothes.

My head smacked the rock, and as I began my freefall and slide for life, all I could think of was a series of four-letter words. Words like: “Stop! Help! Grab!” And then over again: “Grab! Grab! Stop! Stop! Help! Help!” Perhaps one or two other four-letter words were spoken, but I can’t recall what they might have been. People often ask me what I was thinking in that moment. I have to laugh because it’s not as though I could have paused in mid-flight and reflected on the matter, concerning myself with the various methods I would have employed to bring myself to a complete stop. In fact, I kid and tell them, "I was thinking what anyone would have been thinking: 'Do these pants make me look fat?'"

The fall was sudden and quick, yet it seemed to last all afternoon. I slid, crested a precipice, landed again on my belly not far below, repeating this endlessly during the course of my rapid plunge. Fortunately, I was still wearing my helmet, multiple layers of clothing, and my backpack, which at times padded me from the impact of the hard granite. During the course of this tumble, had I caught my foot on a ledge or begun to cartwheel, I most certainly would have fallen the entire distance to a rocky death below.

Read more of chapter one and two.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury

book cover

Getting to Yes:
Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In,
Second Edition
by Roger Fisher & William Ury

ISBN-13: 9780140157352
Trade Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Penguin Book
Released: December 1991

Source: Bought through Half.com.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Getting to YES offers a concise, step-by-step, proven strategy for coming to mutually acceptable agreements in every sort of conflict--whether it involves parents and children, neighbors, bosses and employees, customers or corporations, tenants or diplomats. Based on the work of the Harvard Negotiation Project, a group that deals continually with all levels of negotiation and conflict resolution from domestic to business to international, Getting to Yes tells you how to:
  • Separate the people from the problem;

  • Focus on interests, not positions;

  • Work together to create options that will satisfy both parties; and

  • Negotiate successfully with people who are more powerful, refuse to play by the rules, or resort to "dirty tricks."

My Review:
Getting to YES is a book about how to come to mutually-satisfactory agreements with people, from your spouse and kids to your boss at work or even in a hostage situation. The real-life examples tended to be business-related or based on national-level events, but it was easy to see how each principle could be applied in any situation. It was easy to follow the points and see how to apply them.

Quite likely some of their suggestions won't be new to you. Either you did it and didn't know why it worked, you read it in a marriage/relationship book, or learned it from someone. But you'll learn why it works plus new things you hadn't thought of before. Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in improving their working relationships (and I'm including spouses in this).

The book covered: why merit-based negotiation is better than haggling-style negotiation; how to carry out merit-based negotiation and why it works; how to negotiate successfully with people who are more powerful, refuse to play by the rules, or resort to "dirty tricks; and a summary of the main points of the book. The second edition included answers to 10 questions that people repeatedly asked them after reading the first edition.

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 from Chapter Two
Everyone knows how hard it is to deal with a problem without people misunderstanding each other, getting angry or upset, and taking things personally.

A union leader says to his crew, "All right, who called the walkout?"

Jones steps forward. "I did. It was that bum foreman Campbell again. That was the fifth time in two weeks he sent me out of our group as a replacement. He's got it in for me, and I'm tired of it. Why should I get all the dirty work?"

Later the union leader confronts Campbell. "Why do you keep picking on Jones? He says you've put him on replacement detail five times in two weeks. What's going on?"

Campbell replies, "I pick Jones because he's the best. I know I can trust him to keep things from fouling up in a group without its point person. I send him on replacement only when it's a key person missing, otherwise I send Smith or someone else. It's just that with the flu going around there've been a lot of point people out. I never knew Jones objected. I thought he liked the responsibility."

....[People] see the world from their own personal vantage point, and they frequently confuse their perceptions with reality. Routinely, they fail to interpret what you say in the way you intend and do not mean what you understand them to say. Misunderstanding can reinforce prejudice and lead to reactions that produce counterreactions in a vicious circle; rational exploration of possible solutions becomes impossible and negotiation fails. The purpose of the game becomes scoring points, confirming negative impressions, and apportioning blame at the expense of the substantive interests of both parties.

....On both the giving and receiving end, we are likely to treat people and the problem as one. Within the family, a statement such as "The kitchen is a mess" or "Our bank account is low" may be intended simply to identify a problem, but it is likely to be heard as a personal attack.

Read from chapter one using Google Preview.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Forensics by D.P. Lyle, M.D.

book cover

Howdunit: Forensics
by D.P. Lyle, M.D.

ISBN-13: 978-1-58297-474-3
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Writers Digest Books
Released: April 4, 2008

Source: Bought through Half.com.

Book Description from Back Cover, slightly modified:
Just because you don't have all the tools and training of a full-time medical examiner, doesn't mean you can't learn your way around a crime scene.

In Forensics, award-winning author and TV show consultant D.P. Lyle, M.D., takes each area of forensics--from fingerprint analysis to crime scene reconstruction--and discusses its development, how the science works, and how it helps in crime solving. This comprehensive reference guide includes:

  • Real-life case files and the role forensic evidence played in solving the crimes

  • A breakdown of the forensics system from its history and organization to standard evidence classification and collection methods

  • Detailed information on what a dead body can reveal--including the cause, mechanism, and manner of death

  • The actual steps taken to preserve a crime scene and the evidence that can be gathered there, such as bloodstains, documents, fingerprints, tire impressions, and more

Forensics is the ultimate resource for learning how to accurately imbue your stories with authentic details of untimely demises.

My Review:
Howdunit: Forensics is a basic course in forensics. Though the subtitle says it's a guide for writers, there's a lot more information in it than an author could use in a novel without bogging the action down (though I do highly recommend they read this!). It's actually a book for anyone interested in learning the basics of forensics. It doesn't say things like, "In your novel, you could do this..." but simply gives real life examples of how everything works or how real criminals act.

The book was well-written and interesting. I never had a problem following what the author was explaining even though it did get technical at times. A wide range of topics were covered with enough depth that most people would learn all they cared to know. Brief, real case files or made-up examples were used to demonstrate how a certain technique is used to reconstruct the crime scene or help identify a criminal. The book covered murders, but also theft, arson, and forgery. It talked about determining if a death was from natural causes, accident, suicide, or homicide. The author also gave a little history about how various techniques were developed and improved over the decades.

Overall, I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about forensics.

Topics covered: Medical examiners versus coroners; gathering evidence; the steps involved in an autopsy and what can be discovered; how to discover the identity of a dead body; determining the time of death; determining how the victim died; identifying what caused the wounds; what to look for in suffocation cases (including hanging and strangling); using blood and bodily fluids to help identify the criminal; using DNA to identify the criminal; how to identify when toxic substances (including drug overdose and poisons) caused death; fingerprints; using bloodstains to reconstruct the sequence of a crime; finding, preserving, and using impressions (of shoes, tires, tools, and fabric); finding and using trace evidence (hairs, fur, etc.); identifying the gun type and specific gun used in a crime from bullets, etc.; arson investigation; handwriting and forgery examination; and profiling. The appendix contained more information about the various tools used in forensics.

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 from Chapter One, page 9
This book will not deal with the techniques of law enforcement and investigation but rather look into the functions of the criminalists, the crime lab, and the medical examiner. This is still a huge undertaking, and as we go along you will see that the domain of forensic science involves many scientific disciplines. It is organized in many different ways.

As I said earlier, the development of modern forensic science paralleled advances in science, particularly the physical and biological sciences. The invention of the microscope, the development of photography, the understanding of the physics of ballistic trajectories, and the discovery of blood typing and DNA analysis are examples of such advances. Before these scientific principles and procedures were applied to criminal investigations, they underwent many years of refinement.

Read more using Amazon's Look Inside Feature.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Ocean Book by Frank Sherwin

book cover

The Ocean Book
by Frank Sherwin

ISBN-13: 9780890514016
Hardback: 80 pages
Publisher: Master Books
Released: April 2004

Source: Bought from a local Christian bookstore.

Book Description from Back Cover:
The oceans may well be Earth’s final frontier. These dark and sometimes mysterious waters cover 71 percent of the surface area of the globe and have yet to be fully explored. Under the waves, a watery world of frail splendor, foreboding creatures, and sights beyond imagination awaits.

The Ocean Book will teach you about:
  • Giant squid and other “monsters” of the seas
  • Centuries of ocean exploration
  • Hydrothermal vents
  • The ingredients that make up the ocean
  • Harnessing the ocean’s energy
  • Icebergs
  • Coral reefs
  • Ships, submarines, and other ocean vessels
  • The major ocean currents
  • El Niño, whirlpools, and hurricanes
  • Harvesting the oceans’ resources
  • Whales, dolphins, fish, and other sea creatures
Learning about the oceans and their hidden contents can be exciting and rewarding. The abundance and diversity of life, the wealth of resources, and the simple mysteries there have intrigued explorers and scientist for centuries. A better understanding of our oceans ensures careful conservation of their grandeur and beauty for future generations, and leads to a deeper respect for the delicate balance of life on planet Earth.

My Review:
The Ocean Book gives a good, basic overview of the many aspects of the ocean (from its physical characteristics to sea life) from a Christian perspective. The author referred to God as the Creator of the oceans and occasionally referred to the world-wide Flood described in Genesis. The book was well-written and easy to understand for about ages 9 on up. It contained many lovely, full-color photographs of sea-related animals and objects as well as useful color illustrations.

The introduction gave some fascinating facts about the ocean. Chapter One gave an overview of the history of studying of the ocean (including when, how, and what studied). Chapter Two talked about the physical characteristics of the ocean (shore, coast, continental margin, trenches, ridges, hydrothermal vents). Chapter Three talked about the chemical make-up of the ocean (also discussing salt & icebergs). Chapter Four discussed how tides, waves, currents, and whirlpools are formed. Chapter Five talked about El Niño, La Niña, and hurricanes.

Chapter Six talked about the fishing and (sea) mining industry and tidal hydropower. Chapter Seven discussed marine life (zones, plankton, algae, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, whales, and ocean monsters). Chapter Eight discussed coral reefs (animals & vegetation, types, how formed). Chapter Nine talked about ocean-going vessels (research ships, submarines & submersibles, how steel ships float, how submarines control their depth, and early ocean navigation). Chapter Ten discussed the Genesis flood (what the ark looked like, how fish survived, etc.). The Appendix had a glossary, short biographies for five ocean-crossing explorers, and length conversion charts. There was also a pull-out poster with some illustrations and pictures from the book.

Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable book to any (Christian) child who's interested in learning more about the ocean.

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 from Introduction
The oceans can be thought of as protective, like a blanket that Almighty God has cast over the surface of the earth. Along with the atmosphere, the oceans help to regulate the climate and weather of the world. Because water is so effective in absorbing heat, the oceans act as heat reservoirs that moderate the cold of winter and the heat of summer.

The oceans are also provisional, directly providing food for sustenance and life-giving oxygen released from tiny, free-floating photosynthetic organisms. Most people know that plants supply the atmosphere with oxygen: what they do not know is that plants contribute only half of the oxygen. Those tiny ocean organisms produce the other half. Indirectly, the oceans provide precipitation by acting as the source of rain for crops. Heavy ocean breakers, tides, and currents also reveal that our oceans are powerful, a source of almost limitless energy for man's potential use.

Human history is closely connected to the oceans. Centuries ago, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas, and the Indian, Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Oceans were referred to by some as the "seven seas" or those bodies of water that were navigable. As exploration continued through the decades, oceanographers saw the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea as marginal seas of the Atlantic Ocean. They also distinguished the Antarctic Ocean from those oceans to its north. Today these vast bodies of water serve as a great liquid highway for commercial ships, act as borders between nations, supply one-third of usable natural gas and petroleum, and provide a major source of a variety of foods and recreation. God's creative hand is clearly seen in preparing this planet with its life-supporting oceans for our habitation.

The oceans contain the greatest number of living things on Earth. Many of the most amazing creatures in God's creation reside in the salty deep. Incredibly beautiful life forms inhabit the sparkling, sunlit waters of areas such as Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Here's an excerpt with the pictures shown as well.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Straighter, Stronger, Leaner, Longer by Renee Daniels

book cover

Straighter, Stronger, Leaner, Longer:
A Head-to-Toe Strengthening, Stretching, & Pain-Relieving Program
by Renee Daniels

ISBN-13: 9781583332276
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Avery
Released: June 2005

Source: Personal library.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Stop aches and pains with this effective new therapeutic exercise plan.

Who doesn't suffer from chronic aches and pains in the neck, back, shoulders, knees, or elsewhere? In Straighter, Stronger, Leaner, Longer, medical exercise specialist and personal trainer Renée Daniels presents her full body strengthening and alignment program for rehabilitating injuries and strengthening and toning bodies. She explains why proper alignment is the key to a strong, healthy body, and how our daily habits, from sitting at a desk at work to carrying a baby on one hip all day to spending long hours sitting behind the wheel of a car, can contribute to muscle weaknesses and mis-alignments, leading to aches and pains.

Straighter, Stronger, Leaner, Longer will help readers find relief by showing them how to assess their own posture and movements, which may be causing pain, and by providing them with a personalized exercise program to treat problem areas.

For exercise, I either swim or work around the farm. However, I've had trouble with certain muscles periodically getting stiff and cramping and refusing to naturally work themselves out. So I needed a book that taught stretching exercises.

I bought this book because the author is a medical specialists who understands the details of how the body works and used this knowledge when putting her exercise program together. This lady really knows her stuff from the inside out. I appreciate how this book carefully explained how the body is put together (in very simple terms) and which muscles each exercise works. And you can feel each specified muscle or muscle group being worked during the exercise! Be careful not to overdo an exercise the first time through or you'll get sore.

Most of the book explained the muscle groups and the various exercises that work those groups. At the back, she has two 30 minute exercise workouts using certain of those exercises. If you can't do the suggested exercise, you can always do an alternate one.

The illustrations of the muscles and the pictures of the exercises were in black and white. Overall, the explanations and pictures of the exercises were very clear and easy to follow. However, one exercise, I still can't figure out. It would have been helpful if there was another picture showing the middle stage for that. But since there's another exercise that works the same muscles and is easy to follow, it doesn't really matter.

I used this exercise program for several months and loved it. The exercises are easy to do and don't require specialized equipment (though some optional exercises use an exercise ball). The stretches helped get rid of my stiffness problem, so I stopped using it since I was getting exercise from other activities. However, the last few weeks, I've been in constant, low-grade pain due to stiffness. I tried this program again, and the pain was gone afterward. Maybe I'll just stick with it, this time.

I'd recommend this book to anyone looking for a "keep in shape & working order" exercise program.

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.

Goggle Preview

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Exploring the World of Mathematics by John Hudson Tiner

book cover

Exploring the World of Mathematics
by John Hudson Tiner

ISBN-13: 978-0890514122
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Master Books
Released: June 2004, Nov. 2005

Source: Bought from local bookstore.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Numbers surround us. Just try to make it through a day without using any. It’s impossible: telephone numbers, calendars, volume settings, shoe sizes, speed limits, weights, street numbers, microwave timers, TV channels, and the list goes on and on. The many advancements and branches of mathematics were developed through the centuries as people encountered problems and relied upon math to solve them. For instance:

  • What timely invention was tampered with by the Caesars and almost perfected by a pope?

  • Why did ten days vanish in September of 1752?

  • How did Queen Victoria shorten the Sunday sermons at chapel?

  • What important invention caused the world to be divided into time zones?

  • What simple math problem caused the Mars Climate Orbiter to burn up in the Martian atmosphere?

  • What common unit of measurement was originally based on the distance from the equator to the North Pole?

  • Does water always boil at 212° Fahrenheit?

  • What do Da Vinci’s Last Supper and the Parthenon have in common?

  • Why is a computer glitch called a “bug”?

It’s amazing how ten simple digits can be used in an endless number of ways to benefit man. The development of these ten digits and their many uses is the fascinating story you hold in your hands: Exploring the World of Mathematics.

Exploring the World of Mathematics is a history of the development of mathematics with some instruction on how to do the various types of math worked in. (Chapters 5, 9, and 10 were more focused on math instruction than history.)

The text was engaging and easy to understand. Much of the book was suitable for middle schoolers, though some chapters were more high school level. There were useful black and white charts and illustrations. At the end of each chapter, there were 10 questions--most tested if you learned the important points in the chapter, but some were math problems based on what was learned. The answers were in the back.

The book occasionally referred to things in the Bible, like explaining the cubit as an ancient measurement of length. The author had math start with the ancient Egyptians (since, according to him, it wasn't needed before then because people were roaming herders). It also referred to a Sumerian counting system that started back in 3300 B.C.

Overall, the book was interesting and well-written. I'd recommend it to those interested in an overview of the development of mathematics or to those desiring to teach their children math in an interesting way.

Chapter 1 talked about ancient calendars (how days, months, and years were calculated in various cultures) and how the modern calendar was developed. Chapter 2 talked about marking the passage of time (including how & why people started counting hours, minutes, and seconds). Chapter 3 talked about the development of weights and measures from ancient ones to modern non-metric systems. Chapter 4 talked about the development of the metric system (mostly weight, length, capacity, and temperature).

Chapter 5 talked about how ancient Egyptians used basic geometry to build pyramids and survey farm land. Chapter 6 talked about how ancient Greeks continued to develop mathematics. Chapter 7 talked about the different systems and symbols for numbers in various cultures and times. Chapter 8 talked about number patterns (like odd, even, prime, Fibonacci numbers, square numbers, and triangular numbers).

Chapter 9 talked about mathematical proofs, decimal points, fractions, negative numbers, irrational numbers, and never-ending numbers. Chapter 10 talked about algebra and analytical geometry. Chapter 11 talked about network design, combinations & permutations, factorials, Pascal's triangle, and probability. Chapter 12 talked about the development of counting machines, from early mechanical calculators to modern digital calculators. Chapter 13 talked about the development of modern computers. Chapter 14 gave some math tricks and puzzles.

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 from page 9
Most names for months in our calendar are from the Roman calendar. The ancient Roman calendar originally had only 10 months and 304 days. The year began with the month of March. Later, the months of January and February were inserted before March, and the new year began with January.

January was named for Janus. In Roman mythology, he was the keeper of doorways. January was the entrance to the new year. February was from a Roman word meaning "festival." March was named after Mars, the Roman god of war. April came from a Roman word meaning "to open," probably because buds opened in April. May was named after Maia, the mother of Mercury. June was named after Juno, the queen of the gods in Roman mythology. She was portrayed as the protector of women.

In the Roman calendar, months after June had names based on their original calendar before January and February were added: Quintilis (quin, "fifth"), Sextilis (sex, "sixth"), September (sep, "seventh"), October (oct, "eighth"), November (non, "ninth"), and December (dec, "tenth").

Julius Caesar took the month Quintilis and named it July after himself. The next Roman ruler, Augustus Caesar, took the month Sextilis and named it August after himself.

August had only 30 days but July had 31 days. Augustus took another day from February and added it to August so his month would be as long as the one for Julius Caesar.

Read chapter one.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Age of Big Business by Burton J. Hendrick

book cover

The Age of Big Business
by Burton J. Hendrick

Hardback: 196 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press
Released: 1919

Source: Bought at library book sale.

Book Description, my take:
Written in 1919 and a part of the Yale Chronicles of America series, this book takes a look at how the first monopolies and large corporations formed between 1865 and 1919. It looks at the areas of petroleum, steel, telephones, public utilities, agricultural machinery, and automobiles with a focus on the "captains of industry" and their influence in changing the face of business.

The Age of Big Business is a history of how businesses changed from small, competing businesses to large corporations that controlled major portions of or all of an industry. Since the book was written in 1919, it was fascinating to see how the various industries have changed from post-Civil-War to post-World-War-I to now. For example, I didn't realize that America once exported oil.

Chapter One compared 1865 to 1919 in terms of technology and business. Chapter Two gave an overview history of the discovery and business of oil and described how "the first great American Trust," the Standard Oil Company, was formed. Chapter Three gave an overview history of the major development and business of steel and how Carnegie Steel Company was formed. Chapter Four gave an overview history of the invention, development, and business of telephones and how the American Telephone & Telegraph Company was formed. Chapter Five gave an overview history of the development of public utilities. Chapter Six gave an overview history of the development and business of agricultural machinery and talked about McCormick's inventions and his three main competitors in that business. Chapter Seven gave an overview history of the invention, development, and business of the automobile and talked about Henry Ford.

Overall, the book was easy to read and interesting. I'd recommend the recent re-releases of this "classic" to those who enjoy reading about technology and business history.

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 from Chapter One
A comprehensive survey of the United States, at the end of the Civil War, would reveal a state of society which bears little resemblance to that of today. Almost all those commonplace fundamentals of existence, the things that contribute to our bodily comfort while they vex us with economic and political problems, had not yet made their appearance. The America of Civil War days was a country without transcontinental railroads, without telephones, without European cables, or wireless stations, or automobiles, or electric lights, or sky-scrapers, or million-dollar hotels, or trolley cars, or a thousand other contrivances that today supply the conveniences and comforts of what we call our American civilization. The city of that period, with their unsewered and unpaved streets, their dingy, flickering gaslights, their ambling horse-cars, and their hideous slums, seemed appropriate settings for the unformed social life and the rough-and-ready political methods of American democracy. The railroads, with their fragile iron rails, their little wheezy locomotives, their wooden bridges, their unheated coaches, and their kerosene lamps, fairly typified the prevailing frontier business and economic organization.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Book Quotes: Transportation in American West in 1850s

From Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of California by Remi Nadeau (pages 154-155):

Henceforth, Shasta flourished more as a trans-shipping center than a gold camp. By 1857, four stages from the South and three mule trains from the North raised dust into Shasta every day. The fastest mode of communication was the stagecoach, carrying passengers, mail and express packages. It was a highly specialized vehicle, distinguished from others by the leather thoroughbraces which supported the carriage and took up the shocks of the road for both horses and passengers. The favorite model was the elegant Concord coach, shipped all the way from New Hampshire around Cape Horn to California. Considered the last word in horse transportation, it carried nine passengers inside and from six to eight on top. Rival stages from Colusa to Shasta carried travelers through in just over 12 hours--at the alarming rate of thirteen miles per hour.

While the six-horse stage was built for speed, the eight- and ten-mule freight teams specialized in tonnage. Plodding along at three miles an hour, they would cover the Colusa-Shasta route in around eight days. In mountain country the lead pair usually wore a bow of team bells over the collars, as a warning to head-on traffic coming around a blind bend. In contrast to the stage driver's box seat and six reins, the muleskinner rode astride the near wheeler and controlled the team by a single jerkline running through harness rings to the leaders. In her palmiest days, Shasta's streets were jammed with a hundred such teams every day.

At local wholesale houses, goods were unloaded and placed in saddle boxes for the most primitive transportation of all--pack mules. In trains of around 120 mules each, supplies moved on over bumpy, precipitous trails to Weaverville, Scott's Bar, Yreka, and the Oregon settlements. As this means of transport had been employed in Mexico for some 300 years, operations were in the hands of hardened Mexican muleteers. Though each animal was limited to around 300 pounds, no cargo was impossible for the mule trains. Crates of squawking chickens, stamp mill machinery, dismantled pianos, printing presses--all swayed and jostled over Trinity trails to the tramp of hoofs and the Spanish oaths of the muleteers.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Telling Lies by Paul Ekman

book cover

Telling Lies
by Paul Ekman

ISBN-13: 978-0-393-32188-3
Trade Paperback: 386 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton
Released: 1985, 1992, 2001

Source: Bought through Half.com

Book Description from Back Cover:
From breaking the law to breaking a promise, how do people lie and how can they be caught? In this revised edition, Paul Ekman, a renowned expert in emotions research and nonverbal communication, has now updated his groundbreaking inquiry into lying and methods for uncovering lies. From the deception strategies of international public figures, such as Adolf Hitler and Richard Nixon, to the deceitful behavior of private individuals, including adulterers and petty criminals, Ekman shows that a successful liar most often depends on a willfully innocent dupe. His study describes how lies vary in form and can differ from other types of misinformation, as well as how a person's body language, voice, and facial expressions can give away a lie but still escape the detection of professional lie hunters—judges, police officers, drug enforcement agents, Secret Service agents, and others.

Telling Lies is a non-fiction book on how to tell if a person is lying. It also described how to better hide it if you're lying. A lot of the information was intuitively obvious, like someone who's caught off guard will be less able to hide a lie than one who's had time to rehearse a lie or has repeatedly told it. Also, he pointed out that many of the clues he gave to look for could also be done by those who aren't lying. So, unless the person confesses that they're lying, there's no sure way to know if they're lying even if you spot several of the lying clues. The content was easy to understand and not written in a highly technical way. There were some line drawings and black and white photographs to help illustrate his points about body language.

The book defined what lying includes and covered how the author got into studying lying, how lying is concealed, how clues to lying can leak through the liar's efforts to conceal the lie, why lies fail, how to spot lies by word choice, voice pitch, pauses in speech, and body language. He also gave details on the facial actions that point to lying, precautions to keep in mind when using this information to identify lying, information about polygraphs, using lie checking, and lies that have been told in public life (mainly in politics) that demonstrate his points. There were several charts in the appendix that summarized the lying clues.

I wasn't expecting a definitive way to spot lying, but I was disappointed that the information looked more useful to helping lairs lie better than helping people spot lies in everyday situations with any confidence.

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 from Chapter Four
People would lie less if they thought there was any such certain sign of lying, but there isn't. There is no sign of deceit itself--no gesture, facial expression, or muscle twitch that in and of itself means that a person is lying. There are only clues that the person is poorly prepared and clues of emotions that don't fit the person's line. These are what provide leakage or deception clues. The lie catcher must learn how emotion is registered in speech, voice, body, and face, what traces may be left despite a liar's attempts to conceal feelings, and what gives away false emotional portrayals. Spotting deceit also requires understanding how these behaviors may reveal that a liar is making up his line as he goes along.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Once an Arafat Man by Tass Saada

book cover

Once an Arafat Man:
The True Story of How a PLO Sniper Found a New Life
by Tass Saada
with Dean Merrill

ISBN-13: 9781414323619
Hardback: 250 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House
Released: Oct. 2008

Source: Bought through Half.com.

Book Description from Back Cover:
At age 17, Tass Saada was carrying a high-powered Simonov rifle. He had run away from home to become a PLO sniper and chauffeur for Yasser Arafa. His experience growing up as a Palestinian refugee in Saudi Arabia had taught him to hate. Like many Palestinians, his hatred--and his rifle--was aimed squarely at Israel.

Tass Saada's story could have ended tragically, another casualty of the centuries of hatred brewing in the Middle East. But Tass was destined for better things. His story will give you an intimate look at the world of Arafat; the life, struggles, and heart of a Palestinian refugee; a Muslim who converted to Christianity and faced retribution at the hands of his relatives; and the transformation of hatred into love and hope.

This is more than the story of a Palestinian refugee making something good of his life in America. It's a story of the ultimate triumph of love over hatred, reconciliation over persistent divisions. It's a story that can inspire us all to overcome the divisions and conflicts in our own lives.

Once an Arafat Man is a well-written memoir about a man who was born a Muslim in Palestine in 1951, who grew up hating Jews, killed both Jews and Christians, but then later became a Christian and worked to bring reconciliation between Arabs and Jews. It's a fast-paced story that kept my interest from beginning to end.

He described how his family became refugees, why they were moved to Saudi Arabia, what life was like there for Palestinan refugees, how he learned to hate Jews, how he met Yasser Arafa and later came to join the PLO, what he did in the PLO, how his parents tricked him to get him out of the PLO, why he went to America and what he did there, how and why he converted to Christianity, how his family reacted to his conversion, and how he made peace with his family as well as with Jews. Having read quite a bit on the conflict in the Middle East, I thought he did a good job showing both sides of the issue, though he didn't go in-depth.

Overall, I'd highly recommend this interesting and well-written book to those who are interested in the Jew-Arab conflict in the Middle East or to those interested in what it's like for a Muslim to convert to another religion.

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 from pages 10-11
I was born in a tent in the squalid al-Breij refugee camp of Gaza City in early 1951, the third child of a former orange grove manager and his wife from Jaffa. Three years before, when the state of Israel was declared, their comfortable life had been turned upside down by the order to move. "Step aside," the Arab governments of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt said, in effect. "Get out of the way so our armies can move in and drive these crazy Zionists into the sea."

My father's business partner, a Jew, had offered his protection and counseled him not to act hastily. He assured my father that leaving wasn't necessary, that they could keep the business going together. But the safer choice, my parents believed, was to move to the sidelines of the battlefield and hope for an early return once the fighting ended.

The 1948 war, however, did not go as predicted by the politicians in Cairo, Ammam, and Damascus. In fact, the day in mid-May that Israelis now celebrate as Independence Day turned into what my people still call al-Nakba ("the catastrophe" in Arabic). Some seven hundred thousand Palestinians were displaced; more than four hundred Arab-majority villages were destroyed or abandoned. The words of Great Britian's famous Balfour Declaration of 1917, favoring a national home for the Jewish people so long as "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine," had turned to smoke and ashes.

By 1951 the Saada family had endured three winters in the tent, with overnight temperatures sometimes dipping as low as forty degrees Fahrenheit. One day my father stared across the muddy landscape and realized that the ultimate Arab indignity had fallen upon him: no land. In the Arab culture, no land equals no honor. All his dreams had crumbled.

I was only two months old, my mother having just recovered from giving birth, when the United Nations authorities squeezed our family of five onto an overcrowded freighter to head for a new and unfamiliar place where we might start over. .... At least we had a modest house here instead of a tent. .... Although the money for our family was an improvement in this new land, the welcome from the native Saudis was not. They bluntly called us "refugess" and "immigrants" to our faces. I realized quickly, even before starting school, that we were not wanted here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

And the BBAW winner is...

It's time to pick the winner of Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby & Greg Campbell. Including all of the Twitter entries, we had 32 people enter. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:


Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always join in the fun by buying the book at your favorite bookstore!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

BBAW Forgotten Treasure


For Book Blogger Appreciation Week, today's theme is "Sure we’ve all read about Freedom and Mockingjay but we likely have a book we wish would get more attention by book bloggers, whether it’s a forgotten classic or under marketed contemporary fiction. This is your chance to tell the community why they should consider reading this book!"

book coverThe book I wish was getting more attention from book bloggers is Discovery of Design by Donald DeYoung & Derrik Hobbs. Why? Because it's really neat to see how "researchers are now taking design elements from the natural world and creating extraordinary breakthroughs" that we often use every day without even thinking about how amazing it is. I grant this book won't interest everyone, but surely there are other bloggers out there that think this is an interesting subject. :) How about you?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BBAW Wednesday Treasure


For Book Blogger Appreciation Week, today's theme is "...share with us a book or genre you tried due to the influence of another blogger. What made you cave in to try something new and what was the experience like?"

book coverA book I tried because another blogger liked it so well is Life of Washington by Anna Reed.

I like biographies, but I figured I already knew a lot about George Washington, so I'd rather read a book about something new to me. But then I read a review saying how the blogger had learned a lot of new things about Washington from this book and how wonderful the book was. So I took a closer look and realized how this biography had been written by a person who would have known Washington or talked with people who had know him. Plus it used his own writings (letters, journals, etc.) which I love to have in biographies. So I decided to give the book a chance.

I'm glad I did! It was definitely worth reading, and I'd certainly recommend it to others.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of California by Remi Nadeau

Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of California
by Remi Nadeau

Hardback: 278 pages
Publisher: The Ward Ritchie Press
Released: 1965

Source: Library used book sale.

Book Description, my take:
Using letters, journals, newspapers, reminiscences, and other original papers from various libraries and museums, author Remi Nadeau gives a view of the Gold Rush and the mining towns the way the miners saw them. He includes many rare photos from private collections and maps and directions for finding even the remotest ghost towns.

Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of California is an entertaining history of the Gold Rush towns and mining camps in California based on letters, journals, newspapers, and more. The stories were mainly from 1848 to 1856, though he'd briefly tell the rest of the town's history if it lasted beyond that. The author gave a brief history of the gold rush and then shared amusing tales about what life was like in each of the main camps and towns. The stories included Christmas balls, racial clashes, and tales of local robbers. He also described what the towns looked like, how & why that changed, and what's left of them (even the smallest ones) now. He included black and white photographs of the towns, digs, and miners as well as maps and information on what's left of each camp or town today and how to find them.

The book didn't really describe how the mining was done but focused on the towns and social interactions. It's an entertaining read for anyone remotely interested in the subject, but it'd also be a great research resource for authors who want to set their novel during the Gold Rush. This is also a good book for anyone who'd like to track down the old mining camps and towns, though the information given in my 1965 version is probably a bit dated.

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 from pages 156-157
In the earliest days, Shasta was a town of frame buildings, made of yellow pine lumber lined with cotton cloth. Fire struck this veritable tinder box on June 14, 1853, and in thirty-three minutes the whole business section went up in cinders.

But Shasta in her prime was too tough to burn out. In the next four years a fireproof Shasta rose from the ashes. With twenty-eight new structures, she was claiming the longest row of brick buildings in California. Prosperity returned in full force, and it was Shasta that provided the first shipment of gold received at the San Francisco Mint.

The golden treasure flowing through this thriving camp was not overlooked by California's knights of the road. Among the first of such gentry to arrive were five members of Rattlesnake Dick's gang who were fascinated by a shipment of $80,000 worth of gold being packed over Trinity Mountain in the summer of '56. Since pack mules over the route were plainly branded and easily identified if stolen, Dick himself was to meet the gang with fresh animals for carrying off the loot.

At an abrupt bend in the trail, the robbers descended on the pack train and quickly overpowered the muleteers, whom they tied to trees. Then they unloaded the gold and hurried off to a secret hiding place.

But Rattlesnake Dick failed to show up with the new mules, and was, in fact, resting in the Auburn jail on a charge of mule stealing. After seven days' wait, one of the outlaws grew restless and was killed in a fracas with the leader. The remaining four buried half the gold and lugged the rest across Sacramento Valley to the Mother Lode country. But on the road near Auburn a Wells Fargo posse was waiting for them. In the fight that followed, the leader was killed and the other three captured. Half the loot was recovered, but the other $40,000 hidden on Trinity Mountain stands high in the lore of California's buried treasure.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

BBAW Giveaway: Flawless

BBAW 2010

book cover
For Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I've decided to hold a giveaway for a copy of Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby & Greg Campbell.

You can learn more about this true crime book by reading my review.

This contest is for USA & Canada residents only.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for the true crime book, FLAWLESS: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History."


2) You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered. Please also leave some way for me to contact you--or follow this blog so you can see the winner announcement. I'd be fun if you also included why you're interested in this book.

The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner at noon (Central Time) on Sept. 18, 2010 on this blog.

If you entered using twitter, I'll send you a @ or DM telling you of your win and asking where to send the book. If you entered using the blog comments, you'll need to leave your e-mail address or check back to see if you won so you can e-mail me your mailing address. If the winner hasn't responded with a mailing address within four days, I reserve the right to pick a new winner.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lifesavers of the South Shore by John Galluzzo

book cover

Lifesavers of the South Shore:
A History of Rescue and Loss
by John Galluzzo

Trade Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: The History Press
Released: Sept. 2008

Source: Bought through Half.com.

Book Description from Back Cover:
However cruelly the rocks of Massachusetts's South Shore have treated storm-driven sailors, there can be no questioning the selflessness and courage of the keepers and surfmen who played host to the no man's land between frozen beach and gale-tossed sea. Read John Galluzzo's enthralling account of the Life-Saving Service and meet legends like Joshua James, whose surfboat, Nantasket, once saved twenty-nine men from six boats in a grueling thirty-six hours. Chart a course through the service s history, from its humble beginning in the refuge huts built after the American Revolution until its absorption into the U.S. Coast Guard in the twentieth century.

Lifesavers of the South Shore gives the history of the lifesaving services (the Massachusetts Humane Society and United States Life-Saving Service) from the 1780's until the 1920's (shortly after the Life-Saving Service became the US Coast Guards). The author described where the idea to create a lifesaving service came from, their equipment, how it was used, and how the services were run. He explained how the service developed over time (stations, lighthouses, improved equipment, etc.). He then talked about each station that was on the south shore of Massachusetts. He gave a brief biography of the various keepers (leaders) of each station over the years and the details of one or more of their major rescues. I was expecting more tales of rescue than were included, but the author included all of the information I was most interested in. The book ended by talking about the changes in technology and in how the service was run when the US Coast Guard took over.

There were black and white pictures of the lifesavers, their equipment, their stations, and various wrecks. Overall, the book was written in an easy-to-understand and interesting way. I'd recommend it to people unfamiliar with but interested in the origins of the lifesaving organizations and the US Coast Guard.

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 from Introduction
They were called storm fighters and storm warriors. When wind and wave conspired to kill those who dared to tread upon the sea, the men of the United States Lifesaving Service left the comfort of their sturdy stations and entered the battle. With nothing more than wooden boats, cork life jackets and the oilskin foul weather gear on their backs, they let their muscle, determination and bravery lead the way. Time and again they smirked in the face of danger and stole back the lives of men who were supposed to be dead, victims intended to be claimed by shipwrecks caused by storms.

While the birth of the Life-Saving Service took place elsewhere, the South Shore of Boston is where the first lifeboat ever intended for launching from the shore to a wreck on the American coast was placed. For before there was the United States Life-Saving Service, there was the Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Volunteers who worked their boats during times of disaster lived by the motto, "I'd like to think that if I was the one out there, someone would come for me."