Saturday, October 31, 2015

And West Is West

This excellent, fast-paced novel, which won the Barbara Kingsolver Pen Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, tells its larger story of government and financial corruption through engaging, unique characters. In this twisty tale, the reader experiences how easy it is for a moral individual to become a cog in a corrupt organization's schemes. And how quickly that same individual can become a victim the Powerful want to destroy.

The main characters are Ethan, a "quant" who writes software to make billions for his Wall Street firm without adding any value to society, and Jessica, a US Army sergeant who remotely pilots war drones that drop bombs on Somalia. The book moves back and forth between their stories, all the while maintaining your fascination with both. Wall Street and the US Army drone program would be interesting enough settings on their own, but the plots expand to include the international art world, the US prison system, the Nevada desert, a dysfunctional wealthy family, an aging hippy couple, and more. The author navigates these diverse worlds with ease. Each character, place and situation is believable, interesting, and memorable.

I highly recommend this superbly written book. At little more than 300 pages, it's a swift, engrossing read that leaves you thinking about the real issue that faces us all: if an individual can't change a corrupt system, how do they live a moral life?

The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients' Lives

I absolutely loved this book. Theresa Brown is a gifted writer. Not only is she a nurse, but she has a PhD in English and is a former university English professor. By the time I finished the book, I felt I not only knew her intimately, but also her patients.I am a retired nurse and a former nursing professor, so when I read the details of her 12 hour shift, I could relate to all that she did. However, I don't think you would need a medical background to feel like you were right there with her with every decision she made and every task she performed. The book is entertaining in that it gives a real feel for what decisions nurses must make on a typical day in the hospital.It not only covers routine tasks she performed, but the emotional toll that nursing requires and the responsibility nurses have for being an advocate for a patient. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Skylanders SuperChargers Official Strategy Guide

One of the best versions of game guides that I've seen in a while for game strategy! It gives the stats for the vehicles and the characters as well as strategy recommendations for using them in gameplay. It has the traditional well colored pages that I have come to expect with this games book. The maps appear to be a little vague but are still very helpful. There are some key differences to expect with this version of Skylanders that are new to this version and this guide is helpful in explaining those.

Madden NFL 16 Official Strategy Guide: Standard Edition (Prima Official Guide)

I would recommend this to this to anyone. It covers the new draft champions mode in Madden 16. It will also give you a breakdown of what attributes do as well as which positions you want to value each attribute which will help those new to Madden as well as those who are not.

This book also has many plays to give your offense and defense a head start , these plays are very effective on both sides of the ball and you will an edge on your competition with these as well. Memorize or refer back to these plays and make your own adjustments to fit a scheme that you create around them as well , this has helped out a lot. You will love some of the newer plays in madden 16 as well.

If you play MUT ( Madden Ultimate Team) it will also give you some help there as well. A well rounded book that covers fantasy , draft champions, attributes, top plays in madden 16 , MUT and more! This book is one that I trust and have gained a lot from.

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships (Nonviolent Communication Guides)

Initially I thought this book wouldn't be relevant to me since I didn't consider myself a "violent" communicator. A few pages into the book however, it became evident to me that despite my easy-going nature, I had much to learn about communication. Dr. Rosenberg identifies learned communication that disconnects us from each other and is at the very root of violence. He then offers a simple yet powerful 4 step model that leads to respectful and compassionate communication. One catch - while the model is simple, it can be challenging to apply, especially when we're upset. That's because most of us have learned to blame others when we're upset and it's hard to unlearn this behavior. However, use of the model deepens our awareness and it becomes very clear how destructive our habitual knee-jerk reactions are to both ourselves and others. The Nonviolent Communication model helps us to become conscious and choose to respond differently - that is in ways that are more likely to lead to positive and satisfying outcomes for everyone. If you'd like to transform your relationships, for example: learn how to really listen to others while not taking anything you hear personally (what a gift!), learn how to give and receive in ways that are deeply gratifying, and much more, this is a must read. Also, this model is applicable in all relationship types - perfect for couples, parents, teachers, managers, executives, counselors and anyone else interested in relationship building.
On a personal note, this book has been life-changing for me. I have witnessed truly amazing results in all my relationships including one relationship which had been a great struggle for me for many years.


NICHIREN provides a clear, dramatic, and easily accessible history of this "radical" Buddhist priest as he advocated for humanism in 13th century Japan. The artwork is wonderful! The story's tension between the rich and the politically powerful, and the average citizen is analogous to our current society. The government's attempts to subvert Nichiren's efforts, even to the point of plotting his murder, are tempered with the values of loyalty, friendship, and perseverance. The message to embrace one's beliefs throughout hardships and to speak up for justice until victory is achieved, is one many people may find inspiring today. I am looking forward to the sequel from the Sado years on!

Chilled: How Refrigeration Changed the World and Might Do So Again

Chilled is one of my favorite types of books. It deals with a subject that, until I opened the book, I didn’t even know I was interested in. Few things in the house seem more boring than the lowly refrigerator, it just sort of hums along, keeping things cold, and holding up the household messages. And yet, as Tom Jackson shows, it can trace its lineage back further than even the most dedicated genealogist. Finally, modern civilization is only possible with inexpensive and ubiquitous refrigeration.

Professor Povey's Perplexing Problems: Pre-university Physics and Maths Puzzles with Solutions

Here we have 14 chapters listed as topics that one would expect in any introductory physics textbook with problems/puzzles related to the physics topic. In total there are 104 problems, e.g. there are 17 under Geometry, 12 under Mathematics and Gravity, and anywhere from 3 to 9 under Statics, Dynamics and collisions, Circular motion, Simple harmonic motion, Kinematics, Electricity, Optics, Heat, and Buoyancy & hydrostatics. Then there are chapters on Mad inventions & perpetual motion and Estimation (This chapter is too short so I recommend that you add Guesstimation 2.0 by Lawrence Weinstein to fill in when you get stuck and need a break). Each problem is labelled with from one to four stars (*) indicating the level of difficulty (Not too difficult to exceptionally hard). I found the stars to be well-chosen. Jump to “The Deadly Game of Puzzle Points” at the end of the book to learn how to build up your score perhaps to reach the level of Expert Puzzlist.

My advice: because you are going to have to get through all of them eventually, start with the single stars. Many of them you will be already familiar with and you will begin to feel good with your successes. The author, however, has a “mean streak” in that he has some single starred puzzles followed by multiple starred extension

The Last September

THE LAST SEPTEMBER is the story of marriage --- one not of romance or intimacy but of doubt, insecurity and, ultimately, trauma. Emotionally raw and terribly realistic, the novel tells the story of a young wife who, never fully secure or content in her marriage, must face the loss of her husband and the unresolved feelings that entails. Yet author Nina de Gramont balances the sorrow found here with some interesting themes such as forgiveness, grief, love and the power of poetry.

Charlie and Brett met at a college party hosted by Charlie's brother, Eli, years ago. They shared a magical night together and then went their separate ways. After just that one night, Brett developed a deep affection for Charlie. But Eli warned her that his brother was a womanizer, so she did her best to move on. And, in fact, Brett ended up engaged to Ladd, a childhood friend of Charlie and Eli's. Just before Brett and Ladd were to be married, Charlie comes back into her life. She walks away from her engagement and enters into a whirlwind yet ultimately unsatisfying relationship with Charlie.

Pope Francis and the New Vatican

This is another excellent publication done with all the expertise of National Geographic. One learns about Pope Francis, reads his words from his faith and his life, and one gets to visit through the Vatican through the marvelous pictures. Here is a person who knows Christ and has such a lively and simple faith from that acquaintance. The pictures of Papa Francisco show that bulldog determination at times and also at most others the joy from walking with Christ. " gaudius magnus, Habemus Papa."

MAGNIFICENT book. Incredible pictures, brief, meaningful commentary, and of a fine quality.
Photographer spent six months, and captured Francis as I have never seen him. Displays or brings out a full range of emotions. Joyous, touching, amazing.... It will be here on my coffee table for the foreseeable future.
And will make Christmas shopping easy this year.

The Simple Art of Salt Block Cooking: Grill, Cure, Bake and Serve with Himalayan Salt Blocks

I started reading "The Simple Art of Salt Block Cooking" because it interested me. I'm always interested in different styles of cooking and what they bring to the table, so to speak. My first introduction to salt block cooking was in other cookbook about grilling. I was a little taken aback though. Cooking with salt I get but on a salt block? Would that over-season? After reading, I learned it does not, if you're doing right. Salt block cooking does take some effort. At least in the preparation and that's where it kinda loses me. When cooking with a salt block, temperature is key and good meal hinges on the time spent in getting the block up to proper temp.

Don't me wrong, everything made with it looks insanely delicious. One can even chill salt blocks and use them for food display. Just about any food imaginable can be heightened by using a salt block. There are desserts featured like salted pecan turtles and cherry marshmallow chocolate “kisses". I just don't like the idea I could possibly scrap a meal because it was over salted or that I spent good time in preparation and it might be under seasoned
. Then again, I'm not that great of a cook and someone else could take these recipes and excel. I will say Jessica Harlan and Kelley Sparwasser put together a good cookbook with great recipes and beautiful pictures. If you're a cook who is not afraid to explore with culinary techniques, salt block cooking is a good road to take.

Exclusively Kamado: 50 Innovative Recipes for your Ceramic Smoker and Grill

I'm always interested in reading new cooking techniques and Exclusively

A Kamado is a ceramic grill that can apparently do just about everything based on the pictures and recipes included in the book. There is braising, broiling, baking, deep-frying, grilling, pan-frying, poaching, roasting, sautéing, searing, stir-frying, and toasting. Amazing that one piece of equipment (of course with the appropriate accouterments) can do so much. Once a saw the recipes, it all made sense.

I've always been indifferent about grilling because I associate it with bbq, but Sidioriak changed my mind. Almost every recipe in his book I can really get behind to enjoy myself or make for a friend/family member. My favorites recipes are the Zesty No Fry Buffalo Chicken Croquettes, Duck Confit Egg Rolls, Grilled Caprese Salad Bites and the Turkey Ball Dinner. There are so many more recipes that Sidoriak offers for any type of pallette. From steaks, pizza, vegetables to puff pastry baked brie, the kamado can give the cook exactly what they want. There is a little bit of effort, but no more than stove preparation, but with the added benefit of more flavor and shorter cooking times because of the kamado's design.
Kamado by Paul Sidoriak drew my attention. Sidoriak opens his narration talking about how he started cooking and leads us to his current cooking of today, which is primarily centered around the kamado.