Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Title: Big Idea's Veggie Tales Bible Storybook - with Scripture from the NIrV
Authors: Cindy Kenney with Karen Poth
Illustrated by: Casey Jones and Robert Vann
Publisher: Zonderkidz
ISBN: 978-0-310-71008-0
Genre: Children/Stories/Religion/

A good effort to bring Bible Stories to kids, I found that the book succeeds in bringing the Biblical Stories to the present generation of parents and children with a fresh approach. I also found that the values taught by the book are applicable all over the world to all cultures and religions in general, though some controversial statements like Jesus being the only one son of God could have been avoided.

Using the commonly available vegetables as characters is an interesting experiment in educational entertainment. I am not sure whether the suggested age group of 4-8 is appropriate since now a days, kids appear to be much smarter and may not enjoy a vegetable speaking to them.

However, even elder children will certainly enjoy reading the stories from the Bible and the accompanying values. Each story ends with an affirmation, 'God made you special and he loves you very much'. This is a very important contribution of this book to instill love in childen and the parental figures in their lives.

I would have normally recommended that the book be converted into a multimedia DVD or VCD, but I found that the book is actually adopted from the Videos.

In general, I liked the book and recommend it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Title: Inside the Space Race
Author: Lawrence E. Lamb, M.D.
Publisher: Synergy Books
ISBN: 978-1-933538-39-6
Genre: Memoirs
Key Words: Space, Aerospace, American Space Program, Fitness, Cardiology

I accepted this book for review with some trepidation, since I was not feeling totally fit for taking up a non-fiction book and since I was struggling to finish a book that I have been trying to read for the last few months. However, I found that this book is really well-written with an easy style, that takes the reader back into time, to an era that was exciting. I was in my Bachelor of Science Program when the space program was launched by USA and following the Soviet and American Space successes over radio (we had no TV at that time) was really exciting and inspiring.

Dr. Lawrence E. Lamb describes the successes and the difficulties associated with the American space efforts especially in the cold war era. He brings out very clearly the efforts of his own team in developing a medical evaluation program for selecting the astronauts for Projects Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. He also brings out vividly the office politics involved in such programs where money and fame are at stake.

His account appears to be fairly objective, though I cannot certify that, having had no opportunity to read or hear all the parties involved. As a physicist and also with my own deep and abiding interest in health matters (I feel I too deserve the epithet, "Quack" because of my fairly extensive medical knowledge and because I have no formal training and certification to practise medicine), I enjoyed reading his detailed explanations of the problems with atrial fibrillation, the effect of bed rest on blood pressure etc. I hasten to assure you, however, that you don't have to be medically knowledgeable to appreciate what Dr. Lamb wrote. He keeps the whole thing fairly simple.

The book has a number of photographs of Presidents Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and other dignitaries who played a major role in the development of US Space program.

While reading the early experiments on the effect of high 'g' s (a 'g' is the force of earth's gravity, during take off of a high speed aircraft or spacecraft or during sudden deceleration, a person experiences forces many times the g) on the human physiology, Dr. Lamb describes the work done by others including the Soviets. However, I did not find a mention of the work done by other members of US Air Force, esp. Dr. Stapp and others, which helped the development of modern safety belts for cars, apart from indicating that the human body can withstand fairly high 'g' s . I felt that the account of the experiments of that era conducted by other departments would have added value to the book.

I found that the book has a few editorial slips. I would have liked to see a short biography of the author.

All in all, I feel that this is a good addition to the literature on an important era of US space successes.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Title: I Can Handle It!
Sub-title: 50 Confidence-building stories to empower your child
Authors: Susan Jeffers and Donna Gradstein
ISBN: 0-9777618-0-0
Publisher: Jeffers Press
Genre: Parenting/Children's Self-Help
Presentation: Paper Back
No. of Pages: 137

The book is a collection of 50 short stores and is aimed at Parents (and those who are in a parental position of helping and guiding children) and children. The stories have different themes, Fear, Guilt, Embarrasment, Frustration etc., but have one thing in common - all of them teach the child how she can handle it. Each story has the byline, "I can handle it" three times (the third time, it says, "No matter what happens, I can handle it") thus reinforcing the child's ability to handle a situation. Affirmations have better chance of succeeding in children since they are like virgin soil without the weeds of negativities. So, the seeds of affirmations have better chance of taking root.

While one may differ with the way a story is told, one will not differ with the theme of the book. Many of the stories are enjoyable to even the adults and resonate with the inner child.

My only reservation with this book is the soft-cover presentation. Considering that the book is meant to be handled by parents and children over many days (and considering the situation where the child may like to read it by himself), a hard cover edition with plasticised pages would have been more appropriate. However, the cost of production would have gone up and the aim of reaching as many children and parents as possible would have been defeated. A good e-book (with nice background music) would have been a good option.

I recommend the book strongly to all children and their caregivers.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Title: Lords of Terror
Authors: Allan Cole and Nick Perumov
Publisher:Zumaya Publications / Zumaya Otherworlds
ISBN: 1-55410-285-5
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Presentation: Soft Cover
No. of Pages: 350

The cover is suitably alien and frightening, so that unless you are a fan of magic, other worlds, aliens etc., you know it is not for you. And if you are a fan, jump right in and get a satisfying feast to your imagination. Allan Cole and Nick Perumov take a seemingly simple story (the US-USSR Cold War) and weave a beautiful novel of violence, betrayal, espionage, and of course bravery, heroism.

An American civil space liner is blown up by a Russian warship whose best instruments (magical of course) and wizards are tricked by an unseen evil force to see a warship in place of the civilian craft. The resultant political crisis is exploited by several vested interests to push their own agendas for their own hideously selfish purposes. Only a few committed and courageous individuals including an engine devil and an orphaned boy try and obviously succeed in preventing an Armageddon. Read and be thrilled by the excellent story telling and you will spend hours engrossed.

The book is a good mix of science, space, aliens and of course the eternal conflict between the good and the evil.

I did not read any of the other books written by the authors but if this book is a good sample of what they are capable of, I hope to read their other books too in the near future.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Title: A History of Murphy's Law
Author: Nick T.Spark
Publisher: Author
ISBN: 978-1-4116-8469-0
Genre: Non-Fiction/History/Reliability

This book is of valuable help to those who always wondered about the origin of Murphy's Law, which became quite famous along with Parkinson's Law and Peter's Principle. When I read the press note, I was really interested and when an opportunity to review the book came, I was delighted. And I can confidently write that I was not disappointed after finishing the slim tome which is quite attractively printed and has a number of photographs to put the text in the right perspective.

That Dr.Paul Stapp, arguably the man who first expressed the law in a press conference, was also involved in making car travel in USA and many parts of the world, including India, where I live, was news to me. You, the reader of this review too may similarly find something new in the book. In any case, unless you too have been a researcher like the author about the origin of Murphy's Law, you will certainly be much more informed after you finish the book, which can be read while travelling in a bus, train or while waiting for your flight at the airport.

Nick certainly writes well, in a good, readable style and he has tried to be as fair as humanly possible to present all the sides of the story. Whether he has indeed become the leading expert on Murphy's Law is for you to judge after reading the book. In any case, in Nick's own words, the book was and is intended not just to be a reflection on the origins of Murphy's Law, but on the difficulty in making an assessment of any historical event that was not documented properly. From that perspective, the book has broad appeal I think to anyone who is a student of history or science.

I certainly enjoyed reading this book and recommend it strongly to you too.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Title: Summer Snow
Author: William T.Hathaway
Publisher: Avatar Publications
ISBN: 0-9738442-3-X
Genre: Fiction/War/Religion/Sufi
No. of Pages: 208

Summer Snow is a fiction by William T.Hathaway, a US war veteran and now a peace activist. The story takes place in Kyrgyzstan, which has borders with several other countries including Afghanistan, China and..... A nuclear bomb is stolen and it is suspected that Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations could be after it for inflicting extensive damage on US property and life. A group of Sufi women try to bring the story to a peaceful end through Transcendental Meditation, popularised by Maharshi Mahesh Yogi.

The story is told in an interesting way. The book is special in the sense that there is no hero. Jeff Madsen, the American veteran, who is dragged into the mess, is not the typical hero. The heroes if any are Djamila and Cholpon, the Sufi Master and her main Chela (disciple).

The novel is a good blend of war, religion and philosophy. Djamila integrates Sufi Islam and the TM of Hinduism. The peace which radiates from an advanced meditator is not fiction and can be experienced even today in some of the Ashrams (Hermitages) of India. Though in the story, Djamila fails to resolve the theft of the nuke peacefully (because the meditation is below the critical threshold and the sudden entrance of Al-Qaeda throws the process out of gear), the author succeeds in interesting the reader sufficiently to try out the meditation techniques described as instruments of peace.

The love scene between Jeff and Cholpon is described rather too vividly but it serves the purpose of highlighting the importance of sex as a breaker of the ego barrier albeit very briefly. The ending is tragic yet not contrived. I felt that the burying of the nuke is a too simplistic solution and a Master like Djamila should know that modern science has enough gadgets to locate even deeply buried nuclear weapons. She should have handed it over to her Government. Otherwise, the story is well told and holds the attention of the reader.

I enjoyed reading the book as a physicist and also as a student of spirituality. Though I don't practise the meditation techniques described in the novel, I know that they are real and potent. I recommend the book to all the readers who are interested in peace at personal, national and international levels.

Note: Though I am spiritually inclined, I am not a Yogi or Sanyasi (Monk). And you too need not be one to enjoy the book. I also apologise to the other authors and publicists for taking up this book ahead of their books, since this was the second of the two books which were at hand when I was hospitalised and did not have access to the previously received books. Now also, I am not yet sufficiently strong to take the several serious non-fiction books and so will finsih some more novels which are pending. Thanks for understanding.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Title: Revelations
Author: M. Scott Byrnes
Publisher: Blue Stripe Books
ISBN: 0-9772674-0-7
Genre: Fiction/SF

"Revelations' by Scott Byrnes is a SF novel that holds your attention throughout its 279 pages. Here is the blurb from the inner flap.

"Huddled over her seismometer on the frozen surface of Mars, NASA geologist Kathy Palmer struggles to explain the image that just appeared on her monitor. Simultaneously, sixty-five million miles away, brilliant scientist Tim Redmond bolts upright in bed, inexplicably terrified. In a matter of days, these two strangers will unite in the face of a stunning revelation: our traditional perceptions of God are wildly inaccurate, and Armageddon is quickly approaching. Mankind's only chance of survival lies with Palmer and Redmond, who must sift through clues on Mars - and within religious doctrine on Earth - to solve a cosmic riddle s old as time itself. The two soon discover, however, that it's not just a perplexing mystery that stands in their way, but something infinitely more imposing - the pernicious being that's protected the secret for billions of years."

The story keeps shifting between the exploration of Mars and the unearthly attempts on planet earth to keep the secrets being revealed. The story is well knit and is a good mix of space science, religion and evolution/creation. Readers of Erich von Daniken's books such as "Gods from Outer Space" and "Chariots of Gods" will find some of the ideas described therein in the present book.

Though earth and its civilisations have seen several religions, the author sticks to Christianity only. So, readers of other denominations may find the story stretching their credulity rather too thin. However, if one keeps in mind that it is just a story, one can certainly enjoy the same.

The book is well written and well edited, well printed. Certainly a good read.

Note: This book reached me when I was in hospital and thus was one of the couple that were available for reading. So, my apologies to other authors whose books stayed unread.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Title: Do-It-Yourself Natural Health: Natural Health Trio
Sub-Title: Acupressure, Aromatherapy and Herbal Therapy
Author: John Sherman, Ph.D., OTR, CST
Publisher: New Found Therapies Publications
ISBN: 0-9709411-2-9
Genre: Non-Fiction/Alternative Medical/Self-Help

This book is the latest by the author who has authored several other books on the subject over the last six years. It combines in one handy volume, three alternative treatment options for 60 common ailments and conditions. Acupressure, Aromatherapy and Herbal Therapy are covered. The acupressure points are clearly explained by using line drawings of the human body and indicating the points. Precautions where applicable are also given.

The author explains that acupressure is meant for immediate relief and is to be followed by aromatherapy and herbal therapy.

Depression is one of the sixty ailments covered but in my opinion, depression is a major health disorder and is to be treated by a competent health professional, not necessarily by a mainstream psychiatrist. The author of course advises that all the treatments should be undertaken only under the supervision of a physician.

The author rightly stresses the importance of correct breathing.

This book will be very useful to those who can't take allopathic medicines because of the side effects or cost. A pocket reference book dealing with 50 of the 60 ailments is available from the same author and will be a very invaluable aid.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Title: Hypoglycemia The Other Sugar Disease
Author: Anita Flegg (Foreword by Dr. Ron Rosedale, MD)
Publisher: Book Coach Press (September 30, 2004)
ISBN: 0968034748
Genre: Non-Fiction/Medical/Diet/Self-Help
No. of Pages: 237

Having read "Overcoming Runaway Blood Sugar" by Dennis Pollock, I was wondering whether I should take up yet one more book on blood sugar problems, especially hypocglycemia (Dennis's book is also dealing with the same problem) , but then I took it up to see the difference in treatment of the same subject by a different author, who, incidentally shares with Dennis the unfortunate similarity of being a sufferer.

Anita's book under review treats the subject very comprehensively and gives the various forms of hypoglycemia and the causes for them. The treatment protocol is more or less similar and is largely based on elimination of refined carbohydrates and sugar (in all its forms like cane sugar, glucose, fructose, honey, etc.). A diet largely based on complex carbohydrates, fats of the right kind, proteins and fiber (very important) has been found to minimise the spikes in blood sugar and thus minimise the incidence of hypoglycemia and thus help minimise the onset of adult diabetes, which is caused by insulin resistance.

The book under review provides a good discussion of the various popular diets such as the no-fat diet, Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet, The Zone Diet, etc. and suggests a diet aimed at hypoglycemics, which incidentally also helped many of them lose weight and which eliminated the mood swings etc.

The author gives the life stories of other sufferers in their own words at the beginning of each chapter and follows up their stories with a good analysis. This feature has added a lot of authenticity to the book. She discusses various problems like fatigue, fibromyalgia etc., associated with hypoglycemia, in Chapter 9, with the notable exception of hypochlorhydria (the symptoms of which were described by Michel in Chapter 4).

The work book at the end adds value to an already good book and Anita provides the reader with two or iterations (cycles) to check how they are doing. If the workbook is photocopied before being written up, the same can be used in the unlikely event of the reader not being able to reach the desired state of health in the first few cycles.

All in all, I found the book a good read with a good style and very good editing.

Title: Mayday A Physician as Patient
Author: Allan Lohaus, M.D.
Publisher: Synergy Books
ISBN: 978-0-9755922-9-8
Genre: Autobiography/Medical/Self-help
Presentation: Hard Bound with dust jacket
No. of Pages: 114

About the Book (From the inner flap) - Mayday! is a medical odyssey journal revealing the thought, feelings, humor and spirituality of an American physician during months of hopitalization. Rising on swells of optimism and tugged down by pain, infections, operations and adverse outcomes, he drifts through waters too deep to stand in and too dark for him to see hidden dangers. The illness ends in New Zealand, two years later. This body, mind, and spirit experience of dying and returningto health is a personal and universal journey.
A little more about the book (as I understood after reading) - It is a good indepth account of the doctor's struggles with illness, fortunately for him, an acute problem and not chronic illness. He was operated for removal of some intestinal polyps and the post-operative infections and the resultant complications required three more surgeries to restore his body to a semblance of normalcy.

What I liked about the book - The intensely personal narrative and the good style. Since it is a relatively short book, it could be read in a day. Since I always had an abiding interest in medical matters (though I became a metallurigst), I enjoyed reading the details of the treatment and the operative procedures, his emotions as he was struggling with pain and a very real chance of prolonged illness or death!

What did not appeal to me - None.

What else I would have liked to see - A fuller account of his younger days, and his own mom's struggle with Hodgkin's disease etc. His estrangement from his biological father probably pushed him to mature spiritually since he searched and found his father first in senior friends and later in God through Christ. I would also have liked to read a more detailed account of his treatment.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Title: Overcoming Runaway Blood Sugar
Author: Dennis Pollock
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
ISBN: 0-7369-1721-7
Genre: Non-Fiction/Health/Self-Help
Presentation: Paperback
No. of Pages: 217

Overcoming Runaway Blood Sugar is a good self-help book written by a layman for laymen. The author is a Christian Preacher and found the right keys to open the secrets of good health when he was struggling with wildly swinging blood sugar levels. Diet, exercise and weight management - these are the three keys for effective management of blood sugar levels in Diabetes Type 2 - also called NIDDM (Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus) or Adult Onset Diabetes. Dennis rightly emphasises the main factors for the early onset of this type of diabetes in urbanised developing/developed societies. Poor eating habits and lack of exercise leading to obesity is the main cause of this type of diabetes. Refined carbohydrates (starches and sugars) without enough fiber is the main cause of the swinging blood sugar levels.

Dennis has a good style and the book is easy to read. He writes in a simple yet convincing style and he has done enough research to give the reader an accurate account of the factors that cause fluctuating blood sugar levels, which lead to diabetes if left untreated.

As a believing Christian, the author encourages Christian readers to believe in Jesus Christ. Readers of other religions can leave out that portion, if needed. The rest of the book is quite secular and provides a good road map for effective management of blood sugar levels, weight and general health through aerobic and resistance exercises.

For pure vegetarians (those who don't eat eggs, fish and meat etc.), the recipes and diet suggestions in the book are of limited use. However, by following the general principles of the low-carb diets and ensuring adequate fiber, vegetarians also can manage their blood sugar levels. What not to eat is more important in their case.

All in all, a highly readable and informative book for those who are diabetic and or overweight.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Title: The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation
Sub-title: The Mysteries of Grammar and Punctuation Revealed
Author: Jane Straus
ISBN: 0-9667221-7-5
Published by: Jane Straus, www.grammarbook.com
Genre: Non-Fiction/Language/Grammar
No. of Pages: 110

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation is "An Easy-to-use Reference Guide and Workbook" and lives up to its description. Attractively designed and well-written, the book is indeed a good attempt to demystify the intricacies of grammar and punctuation. What I received is the New, Expanded Eighth Edition and so the author would have incorporated several improvements based on the feed-back from users of the previous editions.

The book provides clear rules and examples for Subject and Verb Agreement, Pronouns, Adjectives and Adverbs, Problems with Prepositions, Lie vs. Lay, and Effective Writing in the grammar section.

The Punctuation Section covers Spacing, Periods, Ellipsis marks, Commas, Semicolons, Colons, Question Marks, Exclamation Marks, Quotation Marks, Parentheses, Apostrophes and Hyphens, etc.

The book has a number of exercises and quizzes to test one's knowledge. The layout is attractive. I have no doubt that the book will be useful to all users of English language.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Title: Transmutation
Sub-title: A novel about Eternal Love
Author: Lydia Bisanti
Publisher: Buenos Books America
ISBN: 1-932848-12-6
Genre: Spiritual Fiction
Presentation: Soft cover
No. of Pages: 116

Transmutation is a Spiritual novel by Lydia Bisanti. It is about transmutation of the individual man to a Universal Man. The hero of the novel, Rene Eagle goes through a series of personal catastrophes (as seen through normal eyes) which push him over the precipice and help his ego to refine/ dissolve/ sublime.

Transmutation is a word used in alchemy and in nuclear science. It means changing one element (a base metal like lead or iron) into another noble element (like gold). The Philosopher's Stone is a 'mythical' object which is supposed to help the alchemist to transmute a base metal like iron and lead to gold. Philosophically, it is the transmutation of an egoistic soul (which because of its limited vision is naturally selfish) into an Universal Soul (a soul which becomes the whole universe and thus has no scope for being selfish). The purpose of each soul is to transmute itself into the Universal Soul. To achieve that, the ego has to achieve a sacred union with that missing complement soul, to which it is compellingly drawn. Till then, shadows of such soul (egos that have some semblance to that real mate) will attract the individual, resulting in infatuations, addictions etc. The objectives of various prayers, meditations and other rituals is to prepare the individual ego for this sacred union, which is the real fulfilling union. Eternal Love is the natural result of such an union. Till then, the ego goes through several planes of existence.

The author succeeds in bringing out these concepts well, which are not really new to eastern minds. The story is well told and grips the reader through out. Rene becomes Siva, the three-eyed God (the third eye representing true knowledge and wisdom), though the author doesn't use that specific name.

The book could have been edited better, but fortunately the communication comes through. I strongly recommend this slim volume if you have any leanings towards spiritual matters. Even without the spiritual connection, it makes a good read.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Title: Fighting Time
Author: Oskar Frankfurt
Publisher: Llumina Press
ISBN: 1-59526-514-7
Genre: Science Fiction
Presentation: Soft cover
No. of Pages: 204

Fighting Time by Oskar Frankfurt is a SF novel set forth in contemporary America but spanning into a few thousand years into the future and at a few places, into the past too. The book deals with gene therapy and its application to immortality and cancer treatment. It also deals with all the scientific, ethical, moral dilemmas that go with path-breaking research in any branch of science. There is not much of science in it for the hardcore SF fan. However, the ethical and moral issues of immortality, of premature human trials due to pressures etc. are nicely brought out.

The style is rather pedantic. At places, it reads more like a book on philosophy and ethics. The author uses the technique of dreams and their interpretation to make the characters speak of their sub-conscious thoughts and fears. A book within a book is a novel technique, atleast to me.

The story is not really that strange. It is predictable at many places. However, it is told in sufficiently good style to hold the reader's attention.

The book deserved better editing than what it received.

All in all, a good read if you are of the scientific bent of mind.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Title: Tattered Flesh, Resilient Spirit
Author: Craig H. Collison, M.D.
Publisher: Llumina Press
ISBN: 1-59526-169-9
Genre: Medical/Self-Help
Presentation: Hard-bound with dust jacket
No. of Pages: 171

When I read the press release about the saga of survival of the author, a medical man himself from flesh-eating bacteria's ravages, I was very much interested in learning more about the interventions that helped him. So, when an opportunity to review the book came up, I was very happy. And I am not at all disappointed with the result.

The author succeeds in holding the reader's attention all through with a fairly detailed and at the same time, highly readable account of the main factors that proved critical in his pulling through a gruesome and potentially fatal illness. The excellent medical care, the support of the family, esp. his wife Michelle and his own grit pulled him through the ordeal. Faith and prayers played an important part (that is the support part) and Dr. Collison is now quite willing to share these aspects with all patients and thus help them in their own recovery.

I would have preferred to see a more detailed account of the disease and the reconstruction (with possible figures, sketches and photos), since a picture is worth a thousand words. Also, the author could have discussed the possible source of his infection to alert the readers about similar possibilities. The photographs of his family inside the book could have been in color.

The book is very well written and the editors should be complimented. A few typos remained in the book, possibly escaping the proof editor's eyes. I felt that the price is a little on the higher side.