Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Title: DragonSpeaker
Author: Laura J. Chipman
Genre: Fiction/Magic/
Reading level: All Ages
Paperback: 76 pages
Publisher: PublishAmerica
ISBN: 1424101360

DragonSpeaker (it is written together though the book cover shows the two words separately) is a book for the child in each of us. It is a story of magic, of fire-breathing dragons and how a small girl of 10 is called to save them fromextinction. The dragons use the fire not only to punish evil people, but also to roast apples! Jamie Mathews is a DragonSpeaker, one who can speak with dragons. She is consistently called through dreams to her true purpose of life and is helped by her grandma. She goes out on the adventure accompanied by a bully Billy, who ends up becoming her friend.

When Jamie unites the tear drop pendant with the original stone of Magic from which it has come out, she discovers her oneness with the mountain and thus the whole world. She is also united with her parents who went to save the dragons and were trapped in the mountain. The book conveys a deep spiritual message to each of us, that we all need to discover our true mission in life and fulfill the same to achieve happiness. It also conveys the idea that the magic in each of us will be restored when we become whole and complete.

The book is well written and appeals to children of all ages. I liked this book for its different take about saving of dragons as opposed to the others dealing with slaying of dragons.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Title: The Hurried Woman Syndrome - A Seven Step Program to Conquer Fatigue, Control Weight and Restore Passion to Your Relationship
Author: Brent W. Bost, M.D., FACOG
Publisher: McGraw-Hill
ISBN: 0-07-144577-3
Presentation: Hardcover with dustjacket
No. of Pages: 340
Genre: Non-Fiction/Health/Women/Self-Help

I was intrigued about the title and set out to find out what the good doctor meant by that. And I am really happy that I read this book, courtsey McGraw-Hill. Though I am a man, I could relate to many points explained by Dr. Bost in the book since my own wife was and is going through some of the symptoms so vividly described. And, as Dr.Bost explains, there are many symptoms common to both sexes, caused by too much hurry and worry. My spiritual mentor who is also an Ayurvedic Healer always refers to the three ingredients of several health problems: hurry, worry and curry, the last referring to the spicy food which is consumed for stimulation and for satisfaction of the taste buds.

The book deals with the group of symptoms (that is why the Syndrome comes into use) commonly affecting a large number of women in USA (and probably many other developed and developing countries too). The Hurried Woman Syndrome deals with the adverse effects of chronic stress produced by trying to do too many things at a time, typical of a successful life.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part, titled, "UNDERSTANDING HURRIED WOMAN SYNDROME" has 5 chapters:
1) Life as a Hurried Woman
2) Stress and How it Affects Your Brain and Your Life
3) Are You a Hurried Woman?
4) Using Cognitive-Behavioral Coping Skills and
5) The Role of Antidepressants.

I learnt a lot and also got confirmation of some ideas which were building up in my own mind over the course of the last few years.

The Second Part is "YOUR SEVEN-STEP PLAN FOR BETTER LIFE BALANCE" and consists of 8 chapters (yes, not seven as is obviously expected!). They are:

6) Step 1 - Create Balance in your Body
7) Step 2 - Find the Right Caloric Balance
8) Step 3 - Exercise, No Matter What!
9) Get Started on the Program (I thought that by that time, the reader is already on the program)
10) Step 4 - Rekindling the Fire
11) Step 5 - Identify your Priorities and set Reasonable Limits
12) Step 6 - Get the Best of Stress and finally
13) Step 7 - Organise Your world.

Two Appendices and a Index follow. A fairly comprehensive coverage and a good road map for a workable program.

The book is VERY WELL WRITTEN and is highly readable. And as is to be rightly expected from McGraw-Hill, very well edited. However, as a Quality Assurance Professional and as an Editor, I was delighted that I could catch a few slips! But let me hasten to assure you that the book is of real quality and you will get the message clearly. The printing is good and the readability is good. The conversational style adopted is quite effective.

The author sticks to mainstream medical knowledge and suggests cognitive-behavioral therapy and herbs as adjunct or alternative for treatment of depression. He doesn't advocate the several alternative / complementary treatment options for stress and depression. In a way, that is to be expected since he has been trained in the mainstream medicine and also since he got good results with a number of his clients with the program suggested.

The book is very informative and will help not only the Hurried Woman but also her harried family members (yes, every one suffers when the lady of the family suffers, husband, children, even parents, friends etc.), recognise the hurried woman amongst them and help her. Just check out the first and the third chapter. If you recognise yourself or your wife/mom/sister etc., in that description, I would recommend that you go ahead and buy/gift the book. It may just be right thing that the doctor has prescribed. However, like all books of self-help, you need to practise what is written. Reading and understanding is the preliminary step.

About the reviewer: I am a physicist and a metallurgist, not a medical man. Thus I am a lay reader as far as health books are concerned. However, I have been deeply interested in health (partly because of my own health challenges) for long. I have studied Homeopathy, Biochemic
(Schussler's) Tissue Remedies, Bach Flower Remedies, Reiki (I am a certified Usui Reiki Master Healer), Crystal Healing etc. I would strongly advise you to seek the advice of a health professional before trying out the program outlined in the book.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Title: The Oculi Incident
Author: Regis Schilken
Publisher: TurnKey Press
ISBN: 0976498138
Genre: Fiction/Religion/Christianity/Mystery
No. of Pages: 348
Presentation: Paperback

This novel attempts to portray the ever-raging conflict between good and evil, between altruism and greed, through a religious setting. The story takes place in a Catholic Church. A cross is sent for renovation to a nearby monastery. Brother Anthony who is doing the renovation disappears suddenly without a trace. Nothing much is made of the mystery because it is not too uncommon for Fathers and Brothers to get bored of the monastery life and disappear to surface under a different name and lead the so-called 'normal' life. No one is beyond temptation.

7 years later, suddenly a 'miracle' starts taking place in the Church where the restored cross is installed. Tears start forming from the eyes of the statue of Jesus Christ. When investigation is attempted, deaths start taking place and threats are held out. The connection between the renovation of the cross (and the body of Jesus) and the present miracle is lost on the people because of the time gap.

Pastor Paul Logue’s gut instinct keeps telling him that the few drops of water that fall from the eyes of the statue suspended in the old, Gothic Church are probably a diabolical human ruse or possibly a display of Lucifer himself. But for simple believers and to his Bishop, the word miracle arises in the mind and it spreads like a raging fire fanned by the media’s unquenchable desire for sensationalism. The unique occurrences at his church quickly become national phenomena. Money pours into church coffers as droves of curiosity seekers, tourists, and religious believers visit Saint Martin’s to glimpse the miracle cross and to leave behind extremely generous donations. The mystery is finally solved by the help of a policeman and his live-in partner, a school teacher. They are aided by an young woman in the police department and an intelligent technician working for the villain.

The author succeeds in conveying a few ideas through the characters of this interesting book. Firstly miracles do take place. But all apparent miracles are not necessarily real and thus need to be investigated thoroughly. The forces that are trying to bring about the miracle, human or otherwise will not keep quiet when the investigation is attempted and will try to thwart the same through threats, murder etc., It is not necessary for a human being to believe in Church to be good, and it is entirely possible for an evil person to be in the robes of religion, since normally suspicion doesn't point there.

The story is written well and till half of the book, the suspense of who could have done the killings is well maintained. Though the villains are identified fairly early in the book, the plot keeps unfolding nicely and a good climax is presented. The end is quite mysterious.

The physics behind the formation of the water drops is fairly simple and is well presented. To lay people, the science could indeed be mystifying and magical. I felt that graphic descriptions of love making are out of place in such a book. The story stands quite well without such descriptions. The characters are well developed and look plausible. The effects of war and violence combined with the innate greed could certainly make a man inhuman.

All in all, it is a good read.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Title: The Alcohol Blackout
Sub-title: Walking, Talking, Unconscious... and Lethal
Authors: Donal F.Sweeney, M.D. with Robert A. Liston
Publisher: Mnemosyne Press, Santa Barbara
ISBN: 0-9747943-0-9
Genre: Non-Fiction/Medicine/Neuroscience/Law/Psyciatry/
Pesentation: Soft Cover
No. of Pages: 221

What happens when one consumes alcohol? Several things can happen. A sense of euphoria, a high, then loss of coordination, blackout, passout etc. All other stages except blackout are well understood and are well documented. Common people also are aware of almost all these stages but when it comes to blackout, it seems that the knowledge and awareness is rather low. Dr. Donal F. Sweeney, M.D., a board certified doctor of internal medicine, chest disease and addiction medicine, set out in this book to fill this gap in the knowledge. Together with Robert A. Liston, a former newspaperman and magazine journalist, Dr.Sweeney deals with a complex subject in a faily clear and cogent manner.

The authors define what is a blackout and explain what factors probably cause the blackout, the difference between a blackout and a fadeout, the difference between a blackout and a passout, the probable mechanism of a blackout and its implications in the legal systems of a country. They forcefully argue the need for further research into a subject that is not well undestood by the community of scientists (including doctors and psycologists, psychiatrists etc.), lawyers, police and the judges. A good number of cases involving alcohol induced blackout are presented. The difference between immediate memory and short term memory is crucial in understanding the phenomenon of alcohol blackout. The case of Henry, who was operated for epileptic seizures and was left with only immediate memory and no short term memory made interesting and poignant reading. The parallel between alcohol blackout and Henry's lack of memory is really striking. The comparison between drug induced blackout and alcohol blackout is also interesting, esp. because of the difference in terms of the type of memory and duration affected.

While the treatment of memory and its formation and the description of brain anatomy and the role of neurotransmitters etc., may need rereading and or additional reading (for which the authors do supplement the book with a list of resources), the subject matter and its treatment is not beyond the understanding capacity of an educated layman.

Dr.Sweeney is frank and forthright in his views on the subject and while he is no lawyer, his analysis of Paul Cox's case, made me think that he could have made an excellent lawyer or detective if he ever wanted! I feel that he would make an excellent expert witness now for many cases of alcohol blackout related crimes.

The print quality is average and the editing could be better. You will be able to check out the contents, excerpts etc., at a local book store or at Amazon and similar on-line bookstores and so will be able to make a fairly quick decision to buy the book or not.

I would strongly recommend this book to you if you need to deal with the problem of alcohol blackout in any capacity, including as a friend, a policeman, a lawyer etc.

About myself: I am a physicist and a metallurgist, not a medical man. Thus I am a lay reader as far as health books are concerned. I have tasted alcohol out of curiosity but luckily came of a possible addiction at an early stage. I never experienced a blackout myself. However, I have taken up this book because I am interested in health (partly because of my own health challenges) for long. I have studied Homeopathy, Biochemic (Schussler's) Tissue Remedies, Bach Flower Remedies, Reiki (I am a certified Usui Reiki Master Healer), Crystal Healing etc. I would strongly advise you to seek the advice of a health professional when trying to understand and implement any knowledge gained from books.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Title: The Time Has Come - The Book of Grace - Part One
Author: Barbara Oleynick
ISBN: 978-0-9755922-5-0 and 0-9755922-5-4
Publisher: Synergy Books
No. of Pages: 188
Category: Fiction/Spiritual
Presentation: Hardbound with dust jacket

The photograph of a small baby with chubby cheeks and beautiful eyes calls to you from the front cover of this book. If you are called or destined to respond, you will read this book, like I did. This books gets to the core of the reader, the heart. It certainly did to me. Made me cry at several places with its intense narration of the lack of love and the consequent cruelty of a man to a fellow man (I am using that word in its most general form, which encompasses man, woman and child). The author certainly knows how to grip the reader's imagination and she made me feel as if I was there when all that she describes was happening.

Well, let me give a brief peek into the story. The story is about Grace, God's grace to be specific, which was sent to earth in the form of Grace, a baby born to an unwed child of 14, Rachel, who didn't even know that she was pregnant and who didn't know how she became pregnant. And the baby's arrival is known to a wise old woman Gyada and is heralded by the appearance of a bright star. She was waiting for a long time and her role is to teach her. The baby is abandoned by the child mother and is picked up again through a Divine Plan, by Albert, a large hearted man, whose wife Henna is equally loving. The two brought into the world children, who in turn are loving, thus emphasizing the role of good upbringing. But even where love is lacking, God sometimes has His/Her own plan like in the case of Rachel. Rachel proves a loving and forgiving daughter and a wonderfully loving sister to Stefi, whom she brings up like a mother since her biological mother is addicted to drugs and uncontrolled sex. Rachel's mother kills her younger daughter Stefi in a fit of uncontrolled rage, possibly drug induced. She repents and is forgiven. Rachel is directed by the same Divine force that is responsible for Grace's adoption by Albert and Henna to go searching for her baby and naturally is welcomed with open arms by the couple.

Rachel grows up to become a qualified medical doctor and Grace becomes a miraculous healer. She saves another baby Jeffrey, the grandson of Albert when he was just a few months old. When she is about ten years old, Grace performs another healing miracle by healing a man with multiple stab wounds. She continues to help others and the climax for this particular part comes when she saves a train from being blown up in a terrorist attack, set in 2008.

Barbara is at her best when she is narrating scenes of love and interestingly scenes of great sorrow like when Rachel was delivering her baby not knowing what is happening, another small child being attended in the Emergency Room by a desperate team whose members cry when they fail, Stefi's death and Rachel's desperate attempts to save her sister and similar incidents. When she comes to the part where she describes the decaying social order, the increasing incidence of crime, the way children are being ill-treated etc., she sounds more like a preacher and like a narrator of a documentary film. The philosophy that she tries to share is really not new and is more eastern though the western world did have similar thinkers but lost most of that knowledge in the mad rush for materialism. Now the eastern societies are pursuing similar agenda and the societies are paying the price. Barbara seems to send a message through her novel that if sufficient number of people work more from her heart than from their minds (which are more logical and self-seeking) and thus share the love (sharing material possessions comes as a natural act when the heart is full of love), the world can still be saved from a total disaster.

You will read this book if you are destined to read. After reading, how you will feel is dependent upon how much dogmatic your belief systems are. If you are spiritual and believe in the oneness of Universe, you will resonate with some of the ideas presented by the author.

As I wrote, the author has a good style and really grips you in the first part of her book. The later part is as mentioned a little more in a documentary or reporter style. Still, fairly readable.

The editing of the book left much to be desired. It didn't interfere too much with my ability to understand but left me wondering at the state of English in US colleges and universities.


About me: Swamy is a part of my given name, Venkateswara Swamy Swarna. Swarna is the family name and is the name of a small village in Andhra Pradesh, India, from which my ancestors hail. Venkateswara Swamy is the name of the presiding Deity at Tirumala Tirupati, the richest temple of India and the second richest religious institution in the world. It is the tradition in Hindu families to name the children after Gods and Goddesses, with the optimism that the child does develop the divine qualities. I am clarifying this since Swamy is also used as a respectful title for Sadhus, Sants and Sanyasis (monks) in India and thus sometimes I am confused with such monks. I am not a monk. I am a physicist and a metallurgist, a Quality Assurance specialist and am presently working in a full time job in a large organization, at Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. The views expressed are of course my own and my organization has no connection to it.
Title: Lean Strategies for Product Development
Sub-Title: Achieving Breakthrough Performance in Bringing Products to Market
Author: Clifford Fiore
Publisher: ASQ Quality Press (www.asq.org and http://qualitypress.asq.org)
Publisher's Catalog No: H1205
ISBN: 0-87389-604-1
No. of Pages: 96
Genre: Non-Fiction/Management/Industrial Efficiency/Product Development

"Lean Strategies for Product Development" is a small, beautifully printed soft-cover paperback that you could pick up and read while waiting for your flight in the airport and may be finish by the time you reach your destination after about an hour. However, you may need to reread it a couple of times to really appreciate and fully absorb the important concepts presented therein. In 11 chapters spread over just 62 pages, Cliff succeeds in presenting lucidly some very important concepts and methodologies for faster and better product development. These are aptly called Lean Strategies since they tend to make the organization lean by reducing flab and wastage of resources. An analogy that comes to mind is how a small torpedo boat is much more nimble when compared to a bulky aircraft carrier, or how a lean and fit man can outrun and outmanouver a flabby, overweight opponent in boxing. The need for faster, leaner product development teams that can come up with smart and cost-effective designs to withstand intense competition is very well brought out.

The book resembles the well-known business novel "The Goal" in style, though the story line is not as strong as that book. The tone is quite conversational and most of the time, the text is easy to follow. The examples are quite meaningful and with only a little rereading, it is possible for the strategy to be understood. The contents and a sample chapter of the book can be accessed by clicking on the following link:


In addition to the 11 chapters, the book has appendices including a Glossary, Product Development Approach Summary, Examples of Waste, Value Stream Map Examples, Common Product Development Problems, Product Development Maturity Path, References and at the very end, a very useful index.

I especially liked the chapters on Modular design, Platform Design and The Lean and Six Sigma Connection. I also liked Cliff's emphasis on the imperative need to capture knowledge (Knowledge Management if you prefer). I feel many of the existing organizations, even large ones, neglect
this area. As Ken Hawkins, the Project Engineer of Donetics in the book rightly remarks, knowledge goes into a black-hole, never to come out again!

As an editor, I found a few places where I felt that the text could have been edited better. But in general, there is no difficulty in understanding the message.

All in all, I have no hesitation in recommending this book to individuals, organizations and libraries.


About the reviewer: Swamy is a Physicist and a metallurgist by education and has spent almost all of 37 years in Quality Control, Quality Assurance with special emphasis on various aspects of material testing. His other interests include training and general management. Presently he is actively involved in Human Resource Development and Corporate Communications in a large organiza- tion in India. The above views are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of his orga- nization.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Title: Lupus - Alternative Therapies That Work
Author: Sharon Moore
Publisher: Healing Arts Press a division of Inner Traditions International
ISBN: 0-89281-889-1
No. of Pages: 246
Category: Non-Fiction/Health/Alternative/Self-Help
Presentation: Softcover

This book is written by Sharon Moore, who suffered from SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythomatus or simply called Lupus) and who was told that it is an autoimmune disorder and she may not recover from it. She did recover from it by studying alternative approaches to health, which she describes well in this book. Her story is spread over 13 chapters and an epilogue. She talks of the effect of liver on health, diet and health, nutritional supplements, herbs, beneficial fats and oils, toxins in food, problems from toxins in dental work, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Mind-Body Therapies, Caring for Your Spirit and interestingly the last chapter, "How to Begin" a good road map. The
epilogue is a good graphic portrayal of her recovery from a debilitating illness.

I found the book readable in general but some sections are a little more technical, which may need additional reading. Fortunately, the author supplements her book with Suggested Reading and Resources. An index is also added to enable you to return to a specific topic easily.

I would suggest that you should read the Introduction, My Story, What is Lupus and Your Liver, followed by a quick read of the rest of the book. When you reach the chapter How to Begin, you would know whether these approaches are for you. If you are convinced that Sharon's suggestions will work for you, read that chapter carefully and follow the advice given by Sharon. The epilogue should keep giving you courage and perseverance when things look a little bleak.

I found her suggestions on the treatment of depression (which is a natural complication of any chronic health problem) with Multivitamin supplements, B Complex, DLPA and tyrosine (detailed on pages 75-76) very interesting and very useful. I am painfully aware of the problems of B 12 deficiency and associated problems.

I have no hesitation in recommending it to you if you or your people need a good resource book on the alternative approaches to the management of Lupus.


About the reviewer: I am a physicist and a metallurgist, not a medical man. Thus I am a lay reader as far as health books are concerned. However, I have been deeply interested in health (partly because of my own health challenges) for long. I have studied Homeopathy, Biochemic
(Schussler's) Tissue Remedies, Bach Flower Remedies, Reiki (I am a certified Usui Reiki Master Healer), Crystal Healing etc. I would strongly advise you to seek the advice of a health professional when trying to add any alternative health system to your treatment protocol.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Title: Waking the Warrior Goddess - Harnessing the Power of Nature & Natural Medicines to Achieve Extraordinary Health - Dr.Christine Horner's Program to Protect Against & Fight Breast Cancer

Author: Dr. Christine Horner, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Publisher: Basic Health Publications, Inc.
ISBN: 1-59120-155-1
Genre: Non-Fiction/Health/Women/Cancer/Holistic/Ayurveda
Pages: 320
Presentation: Hard Cover

Breast Cancer is one of the more prevalent forms of cancer that is affecting a number of women all over the world. From time immemorial, breasts have been associated with femininity and thus any disfiguration (caused by chemotherapy, radiation and mastectomy) is emotionally devastating to many women. Dr.Christine Horner, a Board Certified plastic surgeon has personal experience of seeing the suffering since her mother was affected. In this wonderful book, Dr.Horner shares the latest research on the factors that increase the risk of developing breast cancer and the best ways of fighting those risk factors. She combines life style changes and Ayurveda for an effective fight against a deadly, disfiguring and emotionally devastating disease. In fact, her recommendations will most probably protect against other disorders like other cancers and aging too.

The book is spread over 28 Chapters and is followed by Dr.Horner's 30-step program, and Dr.Horner hastens to assure the reader that they are really not steps and thus there is no sequence. They are life style change suggestions and if really implemented become customs.

The book is highly readable. However, there are a few problems with units. For example, on Page 74, ppt is defined as parts per thousand and then an absurd figure is given for the concentration of PCBs in waters of the Great Lakes. 1000 ppt becomes 1 or 100%. So, there cannot be a higher value like 17,000,000 ppt. Similarly, a microgram is one millionth of a gram and is one tenth of a millicentigram. A millicentigram, mcg is one over one hundred thousand. There are a couple of statistical errors and there are a few slips in text editing too but in general, there is no problem in understanding the subject. In any case, taking of any herbal supplements etc., is best done with the full knowledge and guidance of the primary health professional and thus the dosage etc., will be taken care of. These minor deficiencies, I repeat, do not in any way reduce the value of the information given by Dr.Horner in this excellent book.

The publisher's disclaimer of not endorsing any specific product including the product promoted by the author is very apt and the same disclaimer applies to this review too. Similalrly, the reviewer doesn't endorse the specific brand of Ayurveda or Meditation that the author recommends. That doesn't reduce the value of the information given in the book.

The book will be found useful not only for US readers but for all women and for that matter all people since men are also adversely affected when their mothers, sisters, wives, lovers and daughters are affected by this disease.

Some Hindu readers of this book in USA or other countries may get offended by the author's naming her pet cat, Sita, who is the incarnation of the Divine Mother in Ramayana, the great Indian Story of the victory of Rama, the embodiment of virtue over Ravana, representing the demoniacal forces of lust and arrogance. The author could probably rechristen her pet with a culturally proper name.

I really enjoyed reading this book and strongly recommend any one with even a slight interest in cancer in general and breast cancer in particular to read this book.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Title: Reiki Energy Medicine Bringing Healing Touch into Home, Hospital and Hospice
Authors: Libby Barnett and Maggie Chambers with Susan Davidson
Publisher: Healing Arts Press (A Division of Inner Traditions International)
ISBN: 0-89281-633-3
Pages: 126
Price: $12.95
Category: Health / Alternate Health / Energy Medicine / Reiki

Reiki is a form of Energy Medicine. The Japanese compound word Reiki means Universal Energy and is equivalent to the Chi of Chinese and the Prana of Indians. In this book, "Reiki Energy Medicine Bringing Healing Touch into Home, Hospital and Hospice", the authors Libby Barnett and Maggie Chambers, Reiki Masters, give us a number of areas where the Reiki healing touch can be applied with advantage. They give a good number of case studies and examples from their extensive health-related professional experience spread over years. Libby is a Medical Social Worker and Maggie is an artist who works with handicapped children. Both found Reiki to be useful in a number of situations. In collaboration with Susan Davidson, who helped the book to be edited into a highly readable account of Reiki, they succeed in getting the message through that Reiki as an adjunt to all other medical systems can improve the healing process effectively. Reiki is intelligent and it is the receipient who receives as much or as little as one needs and uses it for the highest good. Thus, it is not to be construed as a panacea, but it should be offered with unconditional love. I especially liked their comment that Reiki is not only Universal Energy but is also Universal / unconditional love. They also bring out an important point that Reiki should be welcomed by all other medical systems and the insurance firms since it doesn't interfere with their working and helps in bringing down the medicare costs.

The book gives a short introduction to Reiki but concentrates more on the applications of Reiki in the health field. The emphasis through out is on touch. The Appendices give the hand positions for self Reiki and for giving Reiki to others. The other aspects of Reiki which enable distance healing, programming etc., which do not involve touch have not been covered.

I recommend this book to all those who are interested in the use of Reiki in the health field.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Title: Becoming a SERVICE ICON in 90 Minutes a Month
Author: Jeff Mowatt
Publisher: JC Mowatt Seminars Inc. (www.jeffmowatt.com)
ISBN: 0-9734704-0-2
Category: Business / Management
No. of Pages: 164

"Becoming a SERVICE ICON in 90 Minutes a Month" is a well-written, highly readable book that gives a clear road map to those individuals and organisations (or rather the individuals who feel responsible for the organisation) who are interested in taking their service standards to ever increasing heights and having reached a great height, staying there. They stand out as symbols of outstanding service, or in other words, they become the SERVICE ICONs. And Jeff shows how it can be done, with as little as 90 minutes a month, which is all it takes to conduct a CAST Meeting (Customer Service Team Meeting, copyrighted). However, before the first meeting can be conducted, a lot of groundwork is needed, including employee training, conducted through his "Influence with Ease" (Trademark Registered) customer service training.

Jeff's approach is good, and is laid out in 8 chapters. Chapter 1 is rightly titled, "What's in This for you". The second chapter gives a broad outline of the CAST Meetings, followed by the next five chapters, which describe the subtle shifts needed in Customer Service Training, Service Standards, Customer Surveys, Employee Motivation and Daily Priorities. The final chapter describes the actual meeting process.

The anecdotes and the examples given by Jeff are from real life and will certainly hit home. I liked especially two examples: one about the customer feed-back survey, where a car-wash employee not only gets the real problem about the front-desk poor service from a customer (who was not going to complain but who, if possible will not come back) by asking the right question, but also succeeds in getting the customer's good-will by offering a discount, simply because the company empowered him to take on the spot decisions. The second example, which appealed to me was the way a Government employee went out of his way to give a refund cheque to a person who was in real need. That story brought tears to my eyes. If only we all could be as sensitive as that employee!

Jeff makes one important observation in his book, which I liked, the need to treat all people (employees, customers etc.) fairly, not necessarily equally. The difference is important and in many organisations, which go by the rule book, the approach becomes impersonal. Every rule has an exception and Jeff brings out clearly the need to empower employees to differentiate between these two aspects.

The cartoons used by permission from Randy Glasbergen (www.glasbergen.com) in the book add humour and reinforce the points made by Jeff. The book is well printed, and the editing is generally good, though a few slips were noticed, which however, do not distort the message.

The book is aimed at managers (that include people at many levels including supervisors, executives and top management) who are interested in making their organisation a SERVICE ICON, an example to be looked up to and emulated by one and all including the competitors. Even for those who are not in North America, the book gives enough ideas to get going. The book can be supplemented by the Multimedia kits availble from the same source.

I would have preferred to see this book in hard-cover since it makes a good addition to the shelf of many a library. The paper-back is fine for individuals.

Recommendation: A good read

Friday, August 26, 2005

Title: Many Faces to Many Places - A Story
Author: Judy Azar LeBlanc
Publisher: Xulon Press
ISBN: 1-594678-66-9
Genre: Spirituality/Fantasy
No. of Pages: 92

"Many Faces to Many Places - A Story" by Judy is a highly readable, philosophical / spiritual fantasy. Using allegory and symbolism, Judy tells very eloquently the problem that all of us face at some time or other in our life. Many Faces is the girl in this story, who escapes from a witch and goes on a journey to seek fulfillment. She meets many spirits in various shapes, sizes and is guided by them. She goes through a dark spiritual desert of lust, greed etc., and comes out successfully. She meets a Veiled Man, a fatherly figure, full of wisdom and love. When he hugs her and lifts his veil, he disappears and she finds that he is no other than her indweller. This book touched a respondent chord in my heart since Judy's philosophy is very similar to our eastern philosophy. The trick is in living that philosophy. So, Many Faces had to go to Many Places and go through Many Phases to discover her true Self! You and I are also going through such transitions all the time. Intellectual knowledge has to be absorbed through experience. Once she discovers that she is One with All and whatever she is seeing and experiencing outside is but a manifestation of her inside, she feels at peace since she now knows true love to one and all.

I especially liked the easy style of Judy. The symbolism is not difficult to understand. Her play on words like Fake (King Ekaf) and False (Maiden Eslaf) is really insightful. The book makes an interesting read to young and old alike. The first part can be read out to children as a fantasy, while the whole book (which is quite short) will appeal to the spiritual seeker.

The book is printed well, but the editing could have been better. I hope the future editions will take care of that aspect.

I recommend the book strongly.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Title: The Acid-Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health
Sub-title: Restore your Health by Creating Balance in Your Diet
Author: Christopher Vasey, N.D. (Original in French)
Translated into English by Jon Graham
ISBN: 089281099-8 (Soft cover)
No. of Pages: 170
Category: Health/Diet
Publisher: Healing Arts Press (a division of Inner Traditions International)
website: www.InnerTraditions.com

"The Acid-Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health" was originally published in French and this present edition is translated into english by Jon Graham, who rightly preferred to give credit to the original author. This book is my first full-length introduction to this subject, though I have been reading some articles about the deleterious effects of excessive acidity on the body's health. I am happy to report that this book is certainly exhaustive in its approach and is at the same time, very well written and is highly readable.

The author takes a systematic approach to the subject and takes the reader through a well-guided tour of acidity and alkalinity. He discusses the effects of various foods with respect to their acidic and acidifying nature (this distinction is very important) or their alkalising nature. He analyses several typical meals right from breakfast to dinner/supper, tea, coffee, desserts and gives sensible suggestions to select a good blend of various food items so as to achieve the optimum balance in the body. More importantly, he gives good advice on deacidification through the use of alkaline supplements, deacidification through increased kidney function, increase in sweat etc. He also gives good advice about other supplements like ginseng, spiriluna etc.

I especially recommend the reader to read Pages 18 and 19 of the book so that the reader can decide whether or not he/she has a problem with excessive acidity or acidosis as it is called. I found that I do have several symptoms described by Vasey and I am now enthused to take up the dietary changes and alkaline supplements. I will certainly share the results with you through this blog.

I would have liked to see Vasey include the homeopathic approach to acidity, since I am aware that homeopathy has a lot to offer in this regard. However, he has stuck to what he knows and he comes through as a genuine and sincere naturopath.

The book is well written and well printed, but for a few editorial slips, which are not significant. I strongly recommend this book.
Title: This House is on Fire - The Life of Shri Dhyanyogi
Author: Shri Anandi Ma
Publisher: Dhyanyoga Centers, Inc.
ISBN: 1-883879-50-5 (Hardbound), 1-883879-51-5 (Softbound)
Category: Spirituality / Yoga / Meditation
Pages: 448 (144 in color)

My review of this book is based on a Galley Copy (with photos in Black and White) and with a few editorial slips, which would certainly have been corrected in the actual print edition. The book is scheduled to be released shortly (in amazon.com, the date given is September, 28, 2005). I was probably too late to get my review on to the back cover, but I do hope that my review will help you to decide whether the book is for you or not.

"This House is on Fire" can literally set your own spiritual house on fire and burn down all the karma to ashes! If you have any interest in spiritual matters, if you ever felt suffocated by the materialistic desires which bind you, if you ever felt that your present life is rather empty or is not fulfilling, if you have at any time felt like exploring Kundalini, Hatha Yoga, Meditation (Samadhi), Bliss etc., this book is for you. If you enjoyed reading "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramahansa Yogananda and "Living With The Himalayan Masters" by Swami Rama etc., you will enjoy this book too.

Narrated by His Spiritual Heir, Shri Anandi Ma (not to be confused with Shri Anandamayi Ma and Mata Amrutanandamayi, who are Masters in their own way), this book brings to the reader a fairly detailed, vivid portrayal of a great Master, Who has attained enlightenment and Who decided to share His experience with all others, who came to Him. Born in a highly pious family in Bihar in 1878, the boy Kashinath left his house at the age of 11 and then again at 13 (this time for good) and went through various spiritual processes for 30 years to finally achieve the Ultimate Reality of Samadhi and Bliss. He served a small rural community in Bandhwad, Gujarat for several decades and then the call to go to USA to serve the spiritually hungry children of that country came, after a OBE (Out of Body Experience) - or Near Death Experience, if you prefer that word. Heeding that call, He goes to USA along with His carefully prepared Spiritual Successor Asha Devi, now known as Shri Anandi Ma. He is ably assisted by another disciple, Shri Deepak Parekh, now rechristened as Shri Dileep ji (ji is an honorific suffix to Indian names to show reverence).

Pl. check out http://www.dyc.org to know more about Dhyanyoga and the Dhyanyoga Centers set up to continue with the work started by Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudhanadas ji (as He was renamed after renunciation). He took Mahasamadhi (left His physical body) at the ripe age of 115 years, but continued to be available to His disciples in His subtle body.

There is a saying that unless a Saint wishes it, we cannot go to Him. Though I have been born and brought up in India, I did not know about the existence of this great Mahatma (great Soul) all these years and it is again a quirk of fate that I came into contact with Him (in a subtle manner, since reading about Him and seeing His photographs is in a way meeting Him), after all these years, that too because of my hobby of reviewing books. This book came to Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India all the way from USA! Strange are the ways of the One who became many for Leela (Sport, Play). Thanks are to Adrienne Biggs of www.biggspublicity.com, for sending me this beautiful book.

While reading this book, I was constantly being reminded of my own Master, Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi, Maharashtra, with whom I came into contact (though He took His Mahasamadhi in 1918, nearly 30 years before I was born physically), in 1998, though I have seen a film depicting His life in 1984, been married to His devotee in 1978 and though I have been in general interested in Gods and Saints for a long time. Sai Satcharita, the Life Story of Shri Sai Baba and the present book have many parallels. Check out www.saidarbar.org for a good introduction to Sai and to read Sai Satcharita and Shri Guru Charitra on line. Similarly, "Autobiography of a Yogi" has some common features with this book. As mentioned in this book, all Sadgurus (True Gurus, Masters) have many common features. I was also reminded of Bhagawan Ramana Maharshi (www.ramana-maharshi.org) and Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, His Spiritual Heir Swamy Vivekananda etc. I also found a lot of parallels between the life story of Shri Dhyanyogi and Shri Shankaracharya of Hampi Virupaksha Vidyaranya Peetham, Hampi, Karnataka, with Whom (and with His successor too), I have the Guru-Sishya (Master-Disciple) relationship.

This book will come into your hands and you will read it if you have some connection with Shri Dhyanayogi or if you are already connected to another great Master, who decided that you should read this book.

An important note: My name is Venkateswara Swamy Swarna. I was named after Lord Sri Venkateswara Swamy, also called Lord Venkateswara, Srinivasa, Balaji etc., Who is the presiding Deity of the famous Tirumala Tirupati temple. I am not a monk or a Sanyasi, though as mentioned, I do have strong spiritul leanings. I am married and have a family, full time job etc. Pl. see www.freewebs.com/svswamy to know more about me. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Title: American Warrior
Author: James Snyder
Publisher: Infinity Publishing.com
ISBN: 0-7414-2320-0
No. of Pages: 334
Presentation: Soft cover
Genre: Fiction, War

American Warrior is a novel that deals mostly with the Vietnam war, which in this case symbolizes the internal conflict. The hero is abused by a drunk father, by schoolmates and by local thugs when young. A half-Dutch and half-Indonesian man named Draeger rescues him and the two develop an intense soul-level relationship (as a father and son). Pestered by the hero, the recluse Draeger teaches the young protégé, a secret martial art so that he can defend himself. However, the boy finds that to really master that martial art, he has to transcend his own ego. When he dies, Draeger leaves all his property to the young American, whose drunk father commits suicide. The young teenager gets into trouble with the law and with the help of a teacher, who takes paternal interest in him, gets into military service.

He lands up in Vietnam and gets caught up in the war and the politicking and machinations of CIA. He runs away and is caught by the American Military Police. He survives torture and is again sucked into Vietnam by a slick talking CIA man who has his own personal agenda. He finds that his trust in the CIA man is betrayed and he leaves him behind to his fate in his final escape to Thailand.

The novel is sufficiently interesting to read that one continues with it. Some portions of the book are rather graphic in their description and may cause distress to readers who are a little squeamish, though the title itself should alert the potential reader about the content. However, some of the mysticism, symbolism and eastern philosophy underlying the story may not appeal to the average reader. The book has a strong anti-war message though the hero finds that when buffeted by much bigger forces, one can't do much about fighting or not fighting.

I was reminded of another Vietnam war novel, "Diverting the Buddha" by Bob Swartzel, which I had the opportunity to read and review a few years ago.

A short biography of the author would have been a good addition to the book. However, the would-be-reader can get some information anout the book and the author by checking out the website, www.americanwarrior.org and reading the author's interview by Dian Moore.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Title: Goober The Golf Ball's Great Adventure

Author: Michelle Lynn DiCicco (Writer) & John Terlato (Illustrator)

Publisher:Trafford Publishing
Category: Fiction / Children's
ISBN: 1-4120-2071-9

"Goober the Golf Ball's Great Adventure" is a children's book, written by Michelle DiCicco and illustrated by John Terlato. It is a short and sweet story, humorous and with a happy ending. A boy Tommy loses his favorite golf ball, Goober. After a short separation, they get reunited.

The story is simple and easy to read for children. The illustrations are colorful and are eye-catching.

It would have been better if the age group for whom the book is meant for was mentioned somewhere, on the cover or in a short intro. Also, even in USA and Canada (for whom the book is meant for) there could be parents who don't play golf and so will be at a loss to explain what is a driver and what is meant by slicing. Such golf terminology could have been explained so that the curiosity of children and parents could be taken care of.

The story and the illustrations lend for a multi-media approach in the form of a CD (with nice music and the story read out).

A good effort from a first time author.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Title: Hot Plants – Nature’s Proven Sex Boosters for Men and Women
Author: Chris Kilham
Publisher: St.Martin’s Griffin (www.stmartins.com)
ISBN: 0-312-31539-2
No. of Pages: 208
Genre: Non-fiction, Health, Herbalism

Hot Plants is Chris Kilham’s account of exploration of plants, which help men and women lead better sex lives and thus enjoy better health. The author is a medicine hunter, author and educator and is the Explorer in Residence at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he teaches ethnobotany. He has written a dozen books, four of which are listed in side the book.
In this particular book, Chris explores about 10 medicinal plants including some like Aswagandha, Yohimbe and Ginseng, which have been well known all over the world and a few lesser known (to me atleast). He describes for each plant, the active part, the location, the scientific studies conducted if any and the views of the traditional doctors, herbalists and the users. He has tried almost all of them himself and thus what he writes can certainly be taken as authentic. He also gives the side effects for some of the plants where applicable. He finishes the book with a very engaging account of the benefits of chocolate, not from the erotic angle but from the angle of love and bonding. His writing style is engaging and the accounts of his wide ranging travels and his experiences with people of various civilizations makes the book an interesting read.
He got a few Indian names wrong (he refers to Dr.Prabhakaran as Dr.Prabakhan and Vata as Vatta), which I hope he will correct in future editions. His perception of the Hindu Gods Krishna and Siva may offend orthodox Hindus and fundamentalists. The conversion of temperatures by the author from Centigrade (Celsius) scale to Fahrenheit scale is approximate at some places. The special feature of -40 degrees in the temperature scale (that -40 F and -40 C are exactly equal) does not come through in the book.

The book would have been certainly more valuable if a few photographs of the plants were included. The author’s recommendations at the end will be certainly useful to those who would like to try out these plants as a good substitute for Viagra and Cialis etc.
Title: The Transformed Leader
Author: Ernest L. Stech, Ph.D.
Publisher: Trafford Publishing
ISBN: 1-4120-3695-X
No. of Pages: 212
Genre: Non-fiction, Management, Psychology, Leadership

The Transformed Leader by Dr.Ernest Stech (Ernie Stech) is a study of the traits that differentiate a leader from a manager. He differentiates the leader from the manager by the use of the adjective ‘transformed’ and describes the process of transformation.

The book has 17 chapters. The 1st chapter deals with Leaders, Leadership, Management and Power and explains the difference between management and leadership. The 2nd chapter discusses ordinary life and ordinary leadership and the next chapter discusses the development of life history and leadership. The topic of the book is introduced in the 4th chapter where transformation is linked to a kind of death and rebirth. This transformation is discussed from 4 perspectives, that of a mythological hero’s journey, the archetypes of Carl Jung (further developed by Carol Pearson), Humanistic Psychology of Dr.Abraham Maslow and Taoism. An integration of the concepts brought out in these four different approaches is attempted in the later chapters. The reviewer couldn’t but help noticing the similarity of approach of Indian (Hindu) epics to this topic.

The book certainly covers the topic well and the resources at the end of the book help the reader to explore some of the concepts further if so desired. Dr. Stech writes in a highly readable and lucid style and holds the reader’s attention well through out the book. Dr. Ernie Stech is the Principal in Chief Mountain Consulting and Executive Director of the Flagstaff National Monuments Foundation. Examples from his own consulting could have been included in the book and would have added greater value.

The book could certainly have been edited better and this reviewer couldn’t help marking his copy at several places.

This book is a good addition to the literature on leadership.
Title: The Roly-Poly Hunters in Kindergarten
Author: Robin Merlino
Publisher: Trafford Publishing
ISBN: 1-4120-5353-6
Pages: 24 plus cover
Genre: Children's Fiction (Illustrated)

Rating: 8/10 (4 stars out of a possible 5)

The Roly-Poly Hunters in Kindergarten, written and illustrated by Robin Merlino is a visually delightful and colorful book meant for children of 3-6 years (Pre K through 1st grade) and their parents / care givers etc. It is a short and inspiring story of how a small girl Maddie overcomes her shyness and makes friends with her Kindergarten class mates with the help of Roly-Polies. The book has a nice educational value too since the author explains what a Roly-Poly is in the beginning with the help of a good illustration.

The illustrations are appealing, the colors are eye-catching and the story is good. The target readers may need a little help from their parents or other elders to read and understand the story. The book may be a good addition to play schools and libraries that cater to children.

While the editor has done a good job in general, I came across a minor slip. The spelling of one Roly-Poly as Cassy and Cassie on two different pages is a little confusing. Except for this, the book is well-produced.


Title: Dance with Your Heart - Tales and Poems That the Heart Tells

Author: Shirley Cheng

Publisher: Lulu Press (www.lulu.com - The Marketplace for Digital Content ID 81082)

ISBN: 1-4116-1858-0

Pages: 228

Genre: Fantasy - Short Stories, Poetry

Dance with Your Heart is Shirley Cheng's (see www.shirleycheng.com) collection of short stories and poems, some of them written when she was in school. Some of the stories and poems were published in local press and won awards. While I could not appreciate her poems much (because I am not much of a poetry fan), I did enjoy reading her stories, which show her very vivid imagination.

The True Leader is about the true traits of a great leader, including kindness and courage, willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of others. A doe is portrayed as teaching the apparent leader lion, a few lessons in real leadership.

Fancella, the Fire Goddess is a fanciful tale about why a fire is hot, which apparently was not initially so. Interesting to read.

Smell the Roses is a heart-warming story about the transformation of a man by a girl dying of cancer.

There are many more stories, most of them good to read, with some useful moral.

Shirley writes in a fluid style, though the language gets a bit flowery at times. Those who like to escape into a world of fantasy for a few hours by reading the stories will like the book.

The book is well printed with an easy-to-read font. It will be a good buy for children and parents who like their children to read some good stories. It will also be a good addition to libraries and schools.

- Swamy

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Title: The Revelation of a Star's Endless Shine - A Young Woman's Autobiography of a 20-Year Tale of Trials & Tribulations

Author: Shirley Cheng

Publisher: Self Published by Author

ISBN: 1-4116-1860-2

Category: Autobiography

No. of Pages: 700 (including 50 photographs)

The book with the rather long title is the story of Shirley Cheng, an American girl (of Chinese descent), who was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when just 11 months old. Cared for by a loving,courageous and spiritually strong mother, Shirley overcomes all her physical challenges including being confined to a wheelchair, loss of vision and constant pain to realise her intellectual and artistic potentials to a great extent.

The book is written in third person and reads more like a social novel than an autobiography. The author chose this particual format to probably maintain a sense of objectivity and seems to have succeeded to some extent. The book is written in a lucid, vivid and flowing style and is easy to read. It may take the reader a few days to read through because of the number of pages. But it is certainly not boring and the author holds the reader's attention all through. The portrayal of the various people who played a crucial role in Shirley's life has been well done and the reader gets a fairly clear idea of the people involved and the events. As is to be expected, Shirley and her mother encounter a number of problems from various people who are not able to understand the special problems of Shirley and at the same time are helped by some really kind souls.

The narration is moving at many places and at the same is also inspiring because of the perseverance of Juliet, Shirley's mother and Shirley herself. Their problems with the US Medical, Social and School systems evoke reader's sympathy. However, the same system helps Shirley in several ways including her getting a laptop computer with special software which finally allows to read what she is typing. The reviewer could empathise with several aspects of Shirley's suffering. All in all, a good, inspiring read.

Please visit Shirley Cheng at www.shirleycheng.com and

this reviewer at www.freewebs.com/swamyreviews