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.