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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chances are 3 in 100

"Tales from Q School" is another golf book by semi-famous golf writer John Feinstein. I read "Caddie for Life" by Feinstein last year and liked it, so I figured I'd like this one. And, for the most part, I did like it.

Tales from Q School by John Feinstein: Book CoverThroughout "Tales from Q School," Feinstein follows several different golfers through the 1st, 2nd and final stages of golf's most pressure packed event. Q school is the qualifying tournament for the PGA Tour. Each year, nearly 1,000 pros tee it up for 30 spots on the PGA Tour. Most of the book chronicles the failures of the different players. However, sprinkled in are success stories of the lucky few who make it all the way through.

I really enjoyed reading the stories the players told, both about their successes and failures. I liked the analysis the players gave of themselves, even though it was brutally honest at times. At some level, this book made me glad I was never good enough to be a pro. As an everyday hack, I can just enjoy the game I love, and not have to sweat it out as a way of making a living.

The only thing I didn't like in this book was the occasional "conservative" bashing by Feinstein. I get that he's a liberal, and he doesn't think too highly of the conservative way of thinking. However, I find it somewhat ironic that he covers and makes his money off a sport that is at least stereotypically seen as a sport for elitist conservatives. If I were the editor, I would have dropped those parts from the book, they didn't add anything.

Overall though, it was a good read...if you like golf books.

Are you Hungry for the Hunger Games? You Should Be

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games (Hunger Games Series #1) by Suzanne Collins: Book CoverCatching Fire (Hunger Games Series #2) by Suzanne Collins: Book CoverMockingjay (Hunger Games Series #3) by Suzanne Collins: Book Cover

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is the first book I've read on our new Nook. I had been steering clear of the e-readers, but we took the plunge and got one.

Ok, so "Hunger Games." This is a science fiction book with a different take on a post apocalyptic United States. In the country of Panem (old United States) the Capitol rules the people with an iron fist. The country is divided up into 12 districts, though prior to some earlier rebellion there were 13. Every year, as a show of the Capitol's power, each district is forced to send 2 of their children, ages 12-18, to compete in the Hunger Games. Think TV's "Survivor" but instead of voting each other off the island, they end up killing each other. When 16 year old Katniss Everdeen's younger sister is selected to compete, Katniss volunteers in her place. Now, she's off to the arena to face 23 other "tributes" from around the district.

I liked "Hunger Games" but I'm not sure I loved it. The concept is an interesting one, and it certainly was an exciting read. What is throwing me off a little is there is slightly more teenage angst going on then I would really like to read about. However, I did like the story enough that I plan to read the other 2 books in the series, "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay," though I predict some depressing things ahead.

I don't want to give too much away. My wife recommended I read this book, and I do like it...she's really good at picking books for me. I wouldn't recommend "Hunger Games" for anyone under about 16 years's somewhat intense at times.

I LOVED Hunger Games.  Our store got an advanced reader copy and I think I was the second person in our store to read this book.  Erica and I were trying to get everyone to read this book.  (One of our managers discovered Twilight and it was a huge hit in our store before it ever reached the conscience of mainstream America!)  I was having some trouble convincing people because it just sounds weird when you say, "You've got to read this awesome book!  It's about a distopian America where one boy and one girl age 12-17 from each district have to go to a battle to the death."  Sounds good, huh?  But it is.  I don't think it's nearly as gory as it sounds, and the strategy and government politics are extremely intriguing.  There is also an innocent love triangle to add to suspense.

"Catching Fire": This was my favorite book in the Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins. "Catching Fire" was a great bridge between "Hunger Games" and "Mockingjay". This book was longer than "Hunger Games" and I appreciated the extra detail. We learn much more about our heroes, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, and we meet some fun new characters, including my personal favorite, Finnick O'Dair. Overall, this was a really good book, but be sure you have access to "Mockingjay" right away because there is quite the cliffhanger.

Mockingjay": After reading "Catching Fire" I was a little disappointed with "Mockingjay", the conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy. It's not that "Mockingjay" was a bad book, it just didn't live up to the quality of "Catching Fire". I felt like some of the momentum was lost and the story was a little disjointed. I did enjoy the end of the book though, I just wish Suzanne Collins would have gotten us to that ending a little differently.

Overall, I did enjoy the Hunger Games trilogy. I think it's an appropriate series for teenagers on up. If you like post apocalyptic style stories, give these books a shot. I'd really like to discuss them with someone else who has read them.

I liked Cathching Fire and Mockingjay.  I knew Katniss would be in trouble with the government at the end of Book 1, but what happened in Catching Fire took me completely by surprise.  I couldn't believe it!!  I didn't find anything wrong with Mockingjay like Blogger did.  I found it interesting and I feel it flowed very well.

This trilogy is a great read.  There's lots of action and suspense, political intrigue, an innocent love, and hope in the face of catastrophe.  I loved this series! 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Regina Doman Can Really Retell a Fairy Tale

SHADOW OF THE BEAR     and       BLACK AS NIGHT    by Regina Doman

A friend of mine knew I loved retold fairy tales, so she recommended this book series to me.  I am so glad she did; I LOVE these books!!  I have only read the first two in this series.  (Regina Doman has two other retold fairy tales, Midnight Dancers and Alex O'Donnell and the 40 Cyber Thieves.)

Shadow of the Bear is a retelling of the Grimms' fairytale Snow White and Rose Red.  In the Grimm tale, a widow and her two daughters are visited by a bear, who is actually a prince.  In Regina Doman's retelling, Bear enters the lives of the Blanche, Rose, and their mother by accident, but soon becomes a regular visitor.  Blanche is unsure of this possible drug dealer, but the girls enjoy their evenings discussing classic literature and poetry with Bear.  But Blanche feels sure Bear has something black in his past.  Shopping the thrift stores for a prom dress for Rose, the girls spy Bear with an expensive Chalice at an antique dealer.  There investigation leads to a kidnappings and near death.  Though things are not what they seemed, a prince may still hide under a Bear's skin.

In Black as Night, Bear has gone on a trip to Europe while Blanche is working as a hostess at a banquet hall to pay for nursing classes at the community college.  Blanche has also been volunteering at the nursing home and visiting the sick and elderly.  Blanche goes into hiding and her family finds out she has been accussed of embezalment and drug dealing.  Bear wonders if people from his past have put Blanche in harms way, and if she is even still alive.  We know Blanche is safe with seven friars.  But Blanche isn't sharing any information with the friars, not even her real name.  Blanche isn't sure if people are really out to get her or if she's going crazy.  Can the seven friars keep her safe?  Will her prince come through?  Will she make it on her own? 

Lots of thought provoking action and suspense await readers in both of these books.  I thought the stories were excellent.  These are teen level books.  In Shadow of the Bear, Rose puts herself in a bad situation with a boy and has to escape out a bathroom window.  The evening discussion of poetry may be a little hard to follow for younger readers.  I thought it was refreshing and opened my eyes to some things I went and looked up to read.  I am extremely eager to read the third book.  Many characters in these books are Catholic; however, I don't think these books are exclusively for Catholics.  There's no sermonizing or anything in the stories that would turn-off non-Catholics or even non-religous readers. 

You can purchase this series for a discoutned price at  There is also a link at the top of this website.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bicycling Books

Booker...   Last summer I became more serious about biking.  I have the type of personality where I want to know as much as I can about a subject before I try it.  Sometimes this type is called Competent Carl.  So, I did a lot of looking to find the best bicycling books out there.  I obviously didn't look at every single book, but I looked at quite a few.  Here are my two favorites:


Every Woman's Guide to Cycling by Selene Yeager: Book CoverSelene Yeager is Bicycling Magazine's "Fit Chick".  She's also written a fantastic cycling book.  This book helps beginners start and veterans prepare for racing competetion.  The subtitle says the book has "everything you need to know, from buying your first bike to winning your first race".  That's no lie.  This book covers things I couldn't easily find in other books such as what to eat and when during different rides, solutions to common biking ailments, bicycle maintenance, essential skills and techniques for riding, an excellent explanation of heart rate and zones and how to use them properly in your training, year-round training plans, and more.  Mountain biking offroad is also covered.  And, there's really no reason why a man couldn't use this book, too, so don't let your husband shy away from refering to your book just because it says woman on it.  I am really thankful I found this book.


Training Plans for Cyclists by Gale Bernhardt: Book CoverThis book contains information about nutrition (though I found it too intense and rely on Yeager's book) and help choosing bikes and other gear.  But, I use this book for its training plans.  The Every Woman's Guide above does have training plans, but I like the plans in this book much better.  Benhardt's training plans are longer, so you don't have to be in shape or a serious cycler before beginning some of the training plans.  I also like how detailed the plans are while still leaving you some flexibility.  The plans are easy to follow and each type of ride is explained very well.  I don't think I would be trying to rides I am without the training plans in this book.  Last fall, I decided to first try a 30-mile ride.  The plan allowed six weeks of training.  It turned out I did the ride after three weeks of training.  This spring I'm going to do a 50-mile ride.  I'm following the eight week training plan in the book.  I'm confident that if I follow this plan and the nutrition guidelines and heartrate monitoring from Yeager's book, that I will be ready for it in 8 weeks.  The plans covered in this book include: 30-mile, 50-mile, 100K, Century, Multiday Tour.  Moutain bike plans include:  3-houir, 100-mile, 24-hour.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Sleeper You Might Have Missed


The Family That Couldn't Sleep is both a history of our knowledge of prions and the story of an Italian family struggling with a fatal disease passed through generations adeptly interwoven by D. T. Max.  The book opens at a gathering of family members in Italy.  The family is plagued by an extremely rare disease that manifests in a person's thirties and slowly kills them as they lose the ability to sleep.  Some believe this disease may be caused by a prion or something related to a prion.  A prion is a small chain of amino acids, basically a renegade protein that can wreak havoc in the brain.  D. T. Max does an excellent job of keeping the science understandable and interesting.  As we learn more about the family's history we also learn of the history of prions, including what they are, where they might have come from, how prions manifest disease in animals and humans, how prion diseases have spread, all way to our current age of dealing with mad cow disease and brain disease Creuzfeldt-Jakob Disease.  The stories of the Nobel Prize winning scientist are just as fascinating and startling as the rest of the book.  As the story unfolds we travel from the streets of Italy to the jungles of  New Guinea.  D. T. Max, who suffers from a neurological disorder, does a wonderful job of weaving the science and human condition together with sympathy and talent.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Discovering Catholocism for the First Time or for the Fiftieth Time, this Book Will Help

This book is a must read for every Catholic, especially those who have left the Church, or are disengaged Catholics (i.e. they go to Mass, but don't participate). Once you read this book, I guarantee you'll be motivated to become the best-version-of-yourself, the version of yourself that God wants you to be. Furthermore, you'll understand why the Catholic church offers you the best chance to achieve that.

The entire theme of "Rediscovering Catholicism" is becoming the best-version-of-yourself, how you can do that, and how that can reawaken the Catholic church. Need an example to help you get started on your journey?  No problem, the Catholic church has the Saints to be our role models. These are people who were driven by a single-minded purpose to be the person God wanted them to be, and they didn't let the world get in their way. Need coaching along the way?  No problem, the Catholic church has the Sacrament of Reconciliation where not only do you receive absolution, but you get advice from the Priest. This entire book is filled with stories and examples designed to help you change your habits and be the person God wants you to be.

I've already started trying to live out what I learned in this book. I've been plugging away at it in 15-20 minute increments for quite a while now. I've been implementing some better habits because Matthew Kelly gave me some some ideas on habits I should be implementing. I'm eager to see the person I will be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years if I continue to stick with what I learned in the pages of "Rediscovering Catholicism".

I, too, really liked this book.  Matthew Kelly points out so many of the wonderful things we have in our Catholic faith and how we can use them better and appreciate them more, thus, enabling us to become the best-version-of-ourselves.  After reading this book, many times when I'm making a decision, I think, 'Will this make me a better version of myself?'  I like that question better than the What would Jesus do? thing.  We've also been able to use that with our children, too.  Matthew Kelly's book is easy to read and gives you practical steps you really can implement in your life.  I'm very glad I read this book.  Some people in the book club where we discussed this book thought the book was a little repetitive; however, I didn't think it was that much and I'm glad for some of the repetition because that's how we are going to get in our heads and start doing what he suggests.

Matthew Kelly also has a kids book out called  Why Am I Here? for kids.  This book does an excellent job of explaining to kids the concept of  the best-version-of-yourself.

Riotous Laughter But Not Twaddle

A WHOLE NOTHER STORY by Dr. Cuthbert Soup

A Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup: NOOKbook CoverI got this book to read to my kids because it was on sale for $1.99 on my NOOK.  (More about my nook soon.)  I didn't know what to expect from it.  Well, we loved it!!!!!  It is such a witty book.

There are so many books out there that are goofy and...junk.  However, A Whole Nother Story is goofy and hilarious, but not as Charlotte Mason would say, twaddle.  It is well-written with good vocabulary, an exploration of family dynamics, colorful characters, witty jokes, and time travel so you know you'll need to use your brain. 

The story is told by Dr. Cuthbert Soup, founder of the National Center for Unsolicited Advice.  Dr. Cuthbert introduces us to the Cheeseman Family who are on the run from corporate goons known only by numbers and an international spy whose partner is a chimp trained to impersonate other animals.  We eventually learn that Mr. and Mrs. Cheeseman invented a time machine, which many interested parties (named above) want to steal.  Mrs. Cheeseman was poisoned and killed, but if Mr. Cheeseman can get the time machine running again, they will be able to go back in time and save her.  This compelling chase adventure and suspenseful mystery are interrupted occasionally with some timely advice from Dr. Soup.  These segments add even more laughs to an already funny book.  If you want my advice, read this book!
Another Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup: NOOKbook CoverAbout every other day, my kids ask me to read the sequel Another Whole Nother Story.  And we'll be reading it very soon.  (We have to finish Detectives in Togas first.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Revisiting an Old Favorite

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson: Book CoverBRIDGE TO TERABITHIA by Katherine Paterson


This is one of my favorite books.  I read it again since I am using it in school with one of my kids.  It still touched me as I reread it.  I was riding my bike in the garage huffing and puffing with tears running down my face as I read it.  I remember exactly where I was the first time I got to the end of that book.  I was sitting in the backseat of our small car on driver's side.  I cried.  It was the first time I had read a book that didn't have a happily ever after ending.  I remember asking my parents, "Why did she have to die?  I don't understand.  Why did they make her die?"  It was a good realization for me, though. 

From the prereading activities, my child knew that the girl character was going to die.  At first, I was disappointed because he wouldn't have the shock that I had gotten to experience; however, after I thought about it, I thought that it was probably better that he was prepared for that.  My child doesn't handle surprises well and has a sensitive heart.

From using this for school, I learned Ms. Paterson wrote this book because one of her sons had a girl who was a close friend who was killed when she was struck by lightning.  She asked the child's parents to read the book first to make sure they approved.  She wanted it to be a fitting tribute to the children's friendship to paraphrase. 

I am so glad I was able to read this book in my youth.  It is definitely worthy of the Newbery Award.  I'm looking forward to watching my son enjoy this book and hopefully grow from this book, too. 

I usually let my child choose the books we read in literature from a list I've approved of.  This was a book recommended in the book What Stories Does My Son Need: A guide to books and movies that build character in boys by Michael Gurian.  I admire and respect Michael Gurian very much.  He is probably best known for his book The Wonder of Boys.  I think he gives excellent advice and he has a fantastic understanding of boys and how they learn.  Boys and girls are different so their learning styles are different, their needs are different, and their responses are different.  He does a great job of explaining/proving this and how we can best respond.  Another book of his that I really like is The Good Son: Shaping the moral development of our boys and young men.  This book does not rely heavily on any particular religion.  Even one who is not inclined towards God can still enjoy this book and learn how to help moral development.
What Stories Does My Son Need? by Michael Gurian: Book CoverThe Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian: Book CoverThe Good Son by Michael Gurian: Book Cover

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thrilling Murder Mystery Series

THE PAWN by Steven James
This the first book in the Patrick Bowers series. Patrick Bowers is an FBI agent who specializes in environmental profiling. Basically, his theory is that criminals have patterns and go through the same things as normal people do, so by looking at the patterns of the crimes, one can identify where and who the most likely criminals are. I'm not doing it me it's cool.

In "The Pawn", Bowers is called to North Carolina to track a serial killer who leaves a Pawn with each body. The killer, called "The Illusionist" is murdering young women throughout the Asheville, North Carolina area. Once Patrick Bowers is on the case, The Illusionist steps it up a notch, and Bowers fears that he has finally met his match. Complicating things is that 2 of the murders seem out of place, and Bowers is still struggling with the death of his wife and his new role as father to her 17 year old daughter.
I really enjoyed this book. Apparently it's by a Christian publishing house, and there are occasions in the book where Bowers is really seen to struggle with why God lets things happen the way they do, but it's not the focus of the book. The mystery kept me guessing until the end, and, well, I was wrong. If you like a good mystery, give "The Pawn" by Steven James a try.      

THE ROOK by Steven James

This is the 2nd book in the Patrick Bowers Files series, which is up to 4 books at this time. In this installment, Agent Bowers is in San Diego, investigating a string of 14 fires that the San Diego police believe to be the work of the same arsonist. At the same time, Bowers stumbles across some mysterious murders, and a possible corporate/government cover-up. All the while, the mysterious "Shade" seems to be pulling every one's strings. This is a fast paced thriller that didn't disappoint after the successful first book, "The Pawn". I look forward to reading the next 2 books in this interesting, thrilling series.

THE KNIGHT  by Steven James 

 The third book in the Patrick Bowers Files is my favorite of the four books thus far. I think it's because this book was a bit more focused than the others, but still having enough twists and turns to keep me guessing until the end. Patrick Bowers is almost as cool as Jack Bauer. In "The Knight", Bowers is struggling against a serial killer known only as Giovanni. In addition, he has a budding romance and the on-going struggle of learning to be a parent to his teenage step-daughter. Oh, and there's the little matter of the retrial of his first big collar, who also happens to be one of the darkest killers Bowers has ever captured. All this, and Bowers is still struggling to find his faith, which doesn't dominate the book, but is a neat addition by Steven James, who happens to be a Christian Author.
THE BISHOP by Steven James

 The 4th book in the Patrick Bowers series, "The Bishop" is actually my least favorite of the 4 books. I still enjoyed it, but it did feel a bit disconnected at points. It was almost as if there was too much going on. The serial killers Agent Bowers is chasing in this one almost take a backseat to Bowers on-again/off-again romance, and to his issues with his step-daughter. I also found this book a little more predictable than the others have been. I'm still looking forward to the release of book #5, which is called "The Queen", later this summer, so this book was still good enough to keep me interested. I think it was just a little bit of a let down after the terrific 3rd book, "The Knight".

Gourmet Cooking and a Dash of History



Neil Flambe and the Marco Polo Murders by Kevin Sylvester: Book CoverNeil Flambe is a prodigy gourmet chef.  At age 14, he currently runs his own high-end restaurant.  Neil may be the best cook in Vancouver...and he knows it.  My kids love cooking and history,so how incredible to find a book that combined them both.  But, they really didn't like it at first. Mostly because Neil is not such a nice guy, though his cousin Larry offers lots of laughs.  I told them to hang in there, maybe Neil will learn he should be a nicer person, so they did.  Towards the last third of the book, they didn't want me to stop reading.  Neil does learn the errors of his ways, makes amends with people, and discovers the murderer who has been been using information from Marco Polo's secret journal to kill off some of Vancouver's best chefs.

We just finished the book this morning while we sipped our chai lattes.  If you read the book, you'll understand.

 I thought the book would have a lot more descriptions and explanations of the cooking and dishes, which it did not.  That was disappointing.  I would recommend this book for upper elementary to middle school kids, who have an interest in cooking or history and like mysteries.  Without relating to this book with a special hobby, it may be hard to keep their interest.  (We read this book as a read-aloud and I edited the often used phrase "what the heck" to "what in the world".)

Crucial Conversations, Crucial to Prepare For

Booker and Blogger--


Blogger read this books for work and suggested I read it, too.  He thought it could help us communicate better.  I said I would, but didn't have plans to do it too soon.  Then he used two things he had learned from the book (even before he finished the whole book) and really helped our conversations and avoid misunderstandings.  I was convinced, and read it as soon as he finished.  I like it.  I read it faster than I think it's meant to be read because I think you really need to let each skills set revolve around your head a little.  However, the authors give plenty of ways to help you use these skills, remember these skills, and use these skills.  I wish I had read this book before I got married.  I think so many misunderstandings and hard-feelings would have been avoided over the years.  I usually avoid crucial conversations, but now I see the importance of having them, and being prepared for them.  This book will help you communicate better with your co-workers, employer, friends, neighbors, kids, and spouse.  You should really read this book.  --Booker

One of my goals at work this year was to read the book, "Crucial Conversations" by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler. "Crucial Conversations" tackles the topic of how to maintain your cool and progress through meaningful dialogue when the stakes are high and emotions are running higher. This is definitely a talent I could use, and I understand why my boss gave me this goal.

I thought this was a good book, though it did take me more than a month to get through. As with any non-fun book, it read a lot slower than "Harry Potter" or "Percy Jackson." And...well...I didn't read it for 2-3 hours every night like I would those type of books. But, it was good reading. I learned a lot, and I think I picked up some good strategies that I can apply.  I've already successfully applied some of these strategies in conversations with my wife, and these conversations went significantly better than history would indicate they should have gone.

If you think you need to work on your conversation skills because you find you struggle to get your meaning on the table when emotions run high, or you tend to lose control when the stakes rise, I think "Crucial Conversations" would help you. I'm going to get made fun of by a lot of the people I work with who read this blog, but I'm really glad I got assigned this book as a goal.           --Blogger

One of my All-Time Favorites


This is the first in a long line of fantastic books in the Amelia Peabody series.  They are written under the premise of old journals and papers found in a mysterious trunk, so the book is first person from Amelia's point of view.  She lives in England during the late 1800s.  She inherits a fortune so she travels to Egypt to follow her passion for archeology.  It is a scandal that a woman would travel by herself, but Amelia doesn't let any feminine expectations hinder her.  Along the way she befriends a young woman in need of a friend and has a grand adventure in Egypt attempting to solve the mystery of the mummies' curse.  I love this book for so many reasons.  First, it incorporates real historical events and people; I enjoyed learning about the time period in England and in Egypt.  I love mysteries, especially mysteries where nothing gory or unspeakable happens.  Though there are some murders, there is no gore and it's usually a bad guy.  This book also has action and a little romance.  After all that in one book, what else could you ask for!?  And, each book in the series gives you adventure, mystery, romance, and history!  The romance is delightful in that Amelia hints and things with phrases such as "the benefits of marriage".  It's really hard these days to find a romance in a book handled with care and tact.  I couldn't recommend this series enough.

Interestingly, the author's real name is Barbara Mertz.  Elizabeth and Peter are her children.  She got a degree in Egyptology, but found it was hard for a woman to get a job in that field at the time.  She eventually became a writer.  I am so glad she did.    --Booker

The First Post-dun dun duuhhh

What book should I review first??  It was a hard decision.  But before my first review, I'm want to spend a few moments explaining what I hope this blog will be.  I'm planning on reviewing a mix of adult fiction and non-fiction, teen and juvie books, and picture books.  Not all of the reviews will be on the lastest books so hopefully you'll find some treats you might have missed.  I hope these reviews will help people find books and movies they'll enjoy or avoid wasting time on something they wouldn't like.  I also hope you'll let me know what you think about the books and movies that are reviewed on this blog.  I love to hear others' opinions...what they liked or didn't like.  And, please, let me know if there is something you don't like or do like about the blog, so I can modify it as I go along to make it the most helpful it can be.  Thanks for reading.