Saturday, December 4, 2010

What Einstein Told His Cook by Robert Wolke

What Einstein told his Cook, by Robert Wolke, 2002, 350 pages, softcover.

Kitchen Science Explained

This title may not sound interesting, but the book really is. "This book explains the science behind both the foods themselves and the tools we use to prepare them." In simple question and answer format, this book is like having a scientist at your elbow while you are cooking. It answers those pesky questions that arise, like "how can you soften hardened brown sugar?" "What does "carmelize" mean?" "Why does chocolate melt in your mouth?" "Can a potato remove the excess salt from over salted soup?" "How do the various cooking oils compare?" "What is the difference between baking soda and baking powder?" "What makes ground beef brown?" "What is a calorie?" "Can eggs be frozen?" "How is coffee decaffeinated?" "How do microwave ovens work?" "What's the best kind of frying pan?"

There are 9 chapters covering over 100 questions with full answers and explanations in common sense, every day English. These include 1) Sweet Talk, all about sugars, 2) The Salt of the earth, about--what else?--Salt, 3) The Fat of the Land--about oils, butter, gravy, 4) Chemicals in the Kitchen, about spices, powders, 5) Turf and Surf--about fish and meat, 6) Fire and Ice, about heat, calories, freezers, 7) Liquid Refreshment--coffee, tea, soft drinks, 8) Microwaves, and 9) Tools and Technology--thermometers, pressure cookers.

Wolke is a professor of chemistry and the author of the Washington Post column Food 101. He is wonderful at answering those food questions you always wondered about but didn't know where to look to find the answer. There are also recipes demonstrating the scientific principles Wolke is explaining, like perfect gravy. "He is informed, amusing and delivers clear answers as well as good, in-depth science." He has a website: with a link to some of his columns and his other books, as well as recommended links to interesting science websites. I'm looking forward to reading his other books, which answer questions about everyday things unrelated to cooking.

Available through the library, but you may have to request it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef

Son of Hamas: A gripping account of terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices.

by Mosab Hassan Yousef

From inside the front cover:

Before the age of twenty-one, Mosab Hassan Yousef saw things no one should ever see: Abject poverty, abuse of power, torture, and death.

He witnessed the behind-the-scenes dealings of top Middle Eastern leaders who make headlines around the world. He was trusted at the highest levels of Hamas and participated in the Intifada. He was held captive deep inside Israel's most feared prison facility. His dangerous choices and unlikely journey through dark places made him a traitor in the eyes of people he loves--and gave him access to extraordinary secrets. On the pages of this book he exposes events and processes that to this point have been known only by a handful of individuals. . .

Yousef is the son of the founding leader of Hamas, internationally recognized as a terrorist organization and responsible for countless suicide bombings and other deadly attacks against Israel. An intregal part of the movement, Mosab was imprisoned several times by the Israeli internal intelligence service. After a chance encounter with a British tourist, he started a six year quest that jeopardized Hamas, endangered his family, and threatened his life. He has since embraced the teachings of Jesus and sought political asylum in America.

(Asylum was granted just this summer after many people spoke up on his behalf.)

This is a true story that reads like a novel. It is well written, and very interesting. It told me many things that I'd never heard before and helped me to understand the conflict in the Middle East better.

Available at the library.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Terrorist Hunter by Anonymous

Terrorist Hunter--the extraordinary Story of a Woman Who went undercover to Infiltrate the Radical Islamic Groups Operating in America.

"The remarkable memoir of an Iraqi woman who escaped from captivity in Baghdad and became America's leading undercover counter-terrorist expert."

From the front cover:

"Here is the story of an anonymous counterterrorism expert, who, in disguise, has penetrated front groups of anti-American terrorist organizations operating in this country. In this edge-of- the-seat memoir, she chronicles her escape from Iraq to Israel, following a great tragedy that befell her family at the hands of Saddam Hussein. She also details how she became involved in intelligence gathering for the United States. She was able to infiltrate and identify dangerous terrorist organizations and entities working undetected in the United States."

This book was very informative and scary. Our country is in danger from the radical Muslims in our country that are being allowed to do whatever they want AGAINST America. They build schools where they teach their children songs with lyrics that say "death to America." They build mosques where they preach "kill the infidels"--and they mean US! They rely on OUR laws that provide for freedom of speech, to say whatever they want to say, teaching their people to hate us--to kill us.

from page 86:

Having a good meal in their bellies seemed to cause the men to let down their guard and we began to speak. I talked only a little, very humbly, extremely cautious to make my cover story credible. There I was, sitting with members of Hamas, the terrorist organization that had claimed more innocent Israeli lives than any other. I, a Jew and an Israeli, a woman alone with fifteen men. Very dangerous game I was playing in this unbelievable scenario. . . .

Everyone should read this book just to be informed.

Embrace Me by Lisa Samson

Lisa Samson is one of my favorite Christian authors of fiction, and I highly recommend her books.

from the back of the book "Embrace Me":

"When a "lizard woman", a self-mutilating preacher, a tattooed monk, and a sleazy lobbyist find themselves in the same North Carolina town one winter, their lives are edging precariously close to disaster. . . and improbably close to grace."

"The Christy-award winning author of 19 books including the Women of Faith Novel of the Year "Quaker Summer", Lisa Samson has been hailed by Publishers Weekly as a "talented novelist who isn't afraid to take risks, and one of the most powerful voices in Christian fiction."

from page 37:

"If there's a smaller room than mine here at the hotel, the occupant must sleep standing up. I'm guessing mine served as a storage closet at one time. To the left of my bed the wooden floor forms a narrow aisle between my single bed and a grid of rough shelving that checkers the wall. Linen storage in the old days, maybe? Cleaning supplies as well? I could use some cleaning supplies. Today I'll find some, and I will scrub this place from floor to ceiling. Maid service is extra."

from page 107:

"I place a phone call to my father before he leaves for work the next day. "So where's Mom these days?"

He huffs his condescending laugh, but I hear the fear around the edges. "Have you gone a little crazy, son? You know as well as I do that your mother is dead."

As well versed as he is in political maneuverngs, I hear all the earmarks of keeping something under wraps: accuse the accuser, and employ the "everybody knows that" defense.

"Then dead people make phone calls." I tell him about the series of calls.

"Oh, Drew. It's just some crazy. You're on the air now. It could have been anybody."

"It was her voice."

"You were twelve when she died. How can you be so sure? Look, I'll meet you at Chapel Hill. I'll take you to her grave."

Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire, Rafe Esquith

Teach like your hair's on fire--The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56, by Rafe Esquith

"In a Los Angeles neighborhood plagued by poverty and violence, there is an exceptional public school classroom called Room 56. The fifth graders inside are either immigrants or children of immigrants; most live in poverty and few speak English as his or her first language. They also play Vivaldi, perform unabridged plays by Shakespeare, and go on to attend the finest universities in the country. Rafe Esquith is the teacher who helps them achieve these accomplishments."

A fascinating story about a wonderful teacher we can all learn from! "Esquith gives any teacher and parent the tips, techniques, excercises, innovations and visionthat have made him one of the most celebrated teachers in the world." His students come to school at 6:30, voluntarily, and stay well after 5:00. They treat each other with respect and they work hard, learning to handle money, read great literature, tackling algebra, and learning to play instruments, in addition to their normal curriculum.

Esquith has written at least 4 books, and all of them are worth reading if you enjoy a good story and want encouragement in your relationships with the children in your life. Our country would be so different with hundreds of teachers like Esquith!

SLAVE My True Story by Mende Nazer

From the back cover:

"At age 12, Mende Nazer lost her childhood. It began one horrific night in 1993, when Arab raiders swept through her Nuba village, setting fire to the village huts and murdering the adults. The raiders rounded up thirty-one young children, including Mende, who was eventually sold to a wealthy Arab family in Sudan's capital city, Khartoum. So began Mende's seven dark years of enslavement. Normally, Mende's story never would have come to light, but when she was sent to work for another master--a diplomat working in London--she made a dramatic break for freedom."

I found this book completely unbelievable! I had no idea people were still being captured and sold into slavery. While I was reading this book, my Mom was reading a book called "Disposable People", a book that tells about the millions of people enslaved right now across our world. All unbelievable!

"Slave" is a very interesting, readable story. It starts out with Mende's childhood in the Nuba tribe in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, one of the remotest places on earth, where the people lived in mud huts and were hunters and farmers. The first 100 pages of the book tell about life in the village. The next 120 pages tell about Mende's 7 years as a slave, with the last 100 pages telling of her life after she escaped. ALL of it is interesting.

Available at the library.

Games for Math, Games for Reading by Peggy Kaye

These books are wonderful for the early elementary grades.

from the cover of Games for Math:

"These witty, imaginative and entertaining math games offer a welcome improvement over the counting drills and fill-in-the-blank workbooks that have bored children for generations. When children play a clapping game to learn about counting or a dice game to learn about multiplication, and bake brownies to learn about metrics, chances are good they'll develop mathophilia rather than mathophobia."

"The games are easy to follow and easy to play; A busy working parent can read a game in a few minutes and start to play right away--anytime and anywhere. Most require no materials at all, or only the simplest things--pennies and paperclips, cards, dice. And the games are helpful for all young children, whether they are having problems or not."

(The same holds true for the reading book. The games are simple, and require no preparation.)

The only problem with these games is taking the time to play them, but I think they are just as helpful, if not more so, than workbook pages. It's been awhile since I've needed to play them, since my children are teens now, but we did enjoy these books.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Survivor's Club book review

From the back of the book:

"Each second of the day, one of us faces a crisis, whether it's a car accident, violent crime, serious illness, or financial trouble. Who beats the odds and who surrenders?. . .. .in this book are gripping true stories, astonishing scientific research, and the author's own adventures inside elite survival schools and the government's airplane crash evacuation course."

Think--"Drama in Real Life" from the Reader's Digest. That's what these stories remind me of. True stories of people who survive unbelievable things. There's the woman who trips and falls on her knitting needles, not realizing for several minutes that one of them has punctured her heart. And the woman who falls 6 miles from an airplane and survives. And the woman who survived a mountain lion ripping at her neck and face. There are stories of people who were in the twin towers on 9-11 and survived, and stories of survivors of the holocaust. There are stories of our American soldiers, and the types of training they endure, as well as stories of emergency room patients. All fascinating!

Interspersed with the stories are interesting scientific facts and research, as well as advice on how to BE a survivor. For instance, did you realize that people who attend church once a week live six years longer than people who don't? While this is not a Christian book, per se, the author gives God credit for answered prayers and supernatural intervention.

There is way too much in this book for me to do it justice in this small review. Let me just say it's one of the best non-fiction books I've read and I had a hard time putting it down. There were many of the stories I enjoyed repeating to my family, they were so interesting. The library has it, and it would be a good book for a reluctant teen reader--even if they just paged through and read the stories, and skipped the advice sections.

"God @ Ground Zero" book review

God @ Ground Zero tells the story of a crisis chaplain who spent several weeks in New York City listening to people share their stories in the weeks after 9-11. He spent time with the firefighters--just listening. He spent time at Ground Zero, helping to dig through the rubble, and listening to the workers there. He spent time listening to individuals he met in the city. There are a lot of different stories in the book. Everyone the chaplain met had a story to tell. All of them are interesting, touching, inspiring, some heartbreaking, and through them all, the chaplain just listens. That's the thing I took away from the book--how helpful a listening ear and a simple touch are to someone who is hurting.

The Little Professor of Piney Woods

I happened upon this book by accident one day in the library. I don't remember what I was looking for, but I saw this title, and knowing Piney Woods is just down the road, so to speak, from Pearl, I checked it out.

The Little Professor of Piney Woods is the story of Professor Laurence Jones, who came to MS from the North in the early 1900's with a desire to start a school for the rural black children. He taught a few children to read sitting on a log under a shade tree, and that was the beginning of his school. It wasn't easy for him. He had to overcome poverty, ignorance, racial barriers, and sickness, but in time, a school was built with the blessing of the white community, a miracle in itself. It's a fascinating story of people coming together and pulling together to accomplish a near impossible task. I loved it!

"The Shack" book review

"The Shack" by Wm. Paul Young.

Published in 2007, I'd be surprised if you've not heard of this book. It's been the #1 New York Times Best Seller, and has over five million copies in print. People rave about it, and either love it or hate it. I loved it. I think the author did a wonderful job of both telling an enthralling story and making God real to the readers. It is not a "preachy" book, but it has a strong message of love and redemption. It's a very hard book to describe or categorize. It just has to be read and absorbed!

From the back cover:

"Mackenzie Allen Philips's youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later, in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.

Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever.

The Shack wrestles with the timeless question: Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain? The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him."

"The Shack is spiritually profound, theologically enlightening, and life impacting. . ." Steve Berger

". . . The beauty of this book is not that is supplies easy answers to grueling questions, but that it invites you to come in close to a God of mercy and love, in whom we find hope and healing."
Jim Palmer

"This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" did for his. It's that good." Eugene Peterson

Going Rogue by Sarah Palin--book review

"On September 3, 2008, Alaska governor and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention that electrified the nation and instantly made her one of the most recognizable women in the world." -- book cover

I enjoyed this reading this book. Far more than a political commentary, Palin recounts her life of growing up in the wilds of Alaska, marrying and having children, deciding to get involved in politics, the importance of her faith, and the trials of being a working mother. I learned a lot about Alaska, the largest state, by far, in our United States. Palin makes Alaska sound like the most beautiful place on earth. Sarah Palin's description of "politics" --both Alaskan and Presidential--and all that includes, was fascinating-a true, behind the scenes look at the way laws get made and things get done--or don't get done, as the case may be. I loved reading about everything that goes on in order to elect a president for this country. I enjoyed reading about Palin's children, and the things they did together as a family. Her faith shines through every sentence of the book. Palin is a Christian who applies God's laws to her everyday life--both at home and in the political arena.

Even though the 2008 election is long over, Sarah Palin is still letting her voice be heard. If you'd like to understand her better, or just want an enjoyable book to read, pick this book up and read it.

"Girl Soldier" book review

"Girl Soldier-- A story of Hope for Northern Uganda's Children" was shocking and unbelievable. It's a story that I wouldn't have read if it hadn't been true, due to the gruesome horrors described in it. It wasn't an enjoyable read, but it was educating. More than 30,000 children have been been kidnapped and forced into being soldiers in Uganda--forced to carry a machine gun--forced to kill family members and friends--forced to march long ways with little or nothing to eat, but what they are able to scavage for themselves--forced to become hard and inhuman in order to survive.

The book weaves together Grace Akallo's story--kidnapped at age 15, and forced to endure savagery, starvation, rape, abuse and other horrors--with Faith McDonnell's historical and spiritual insights on Uganda's wars over the past 30 years--to tell the story of Uganda's forgotten children. It is a story we all need to know, because these are children just like ours, and their story deserves to be heard, and it demands a response. How can we sit comfortably in our American homes and ignore the suffering of these little ones? Even though the book was written in 2007, and things may be some different in Uganda now, the children who were kidnapped, and their displaced, refugee families will never be the same. The country will take years and years to recover.

"For most of us, the enourmous monolith of the suffering of Africa is impossible to imagine, much less enter into. This book represents a significant door." Michael Card

"Girl Soldier is not fiction, yet that fact becomes harder to believe with every page we turn. How did we not know about this sooner? Why are we not doing more?. . ." Adrian Bradbury

"The world has ignored these innocent children for decades as the turmoil in Uganda has escalated into one of the world's biggest humanitarian crises..." Rev. Robert W. Duncan

If you'd like to read more you can check out these websites:

Book Review "The Help"

The book club at the Pearl Library is reading "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. While I'm not in the book club, I'd heard about the book and decided to read it. I loved it. The characters are so real that after reading the book I felt like I'd actually peeked into their lives. The book is set in Jackson, MS, in 1963, and is the story of several white women and their colored maids, and the laws--both written and unwritten--that govern their lives. "The Help" is not primarily a "Civil Rights Story", although the Civil Rights Movement is a part of the story, but rather a story told through the eyes of 3 women--a young, white college graduate, trying to make her way in a man's world--a black maid, raising her seventeenth white child--and another black maid, who is the best cook in town, but can't keep a job because of her sassy mouth. These women, and their friends and families, allow us to walk beside them for a year, and learn from them, and wonder how we'd have acted had we lived in Jackson, MS at that time. I guess there may be some who read the book knowing exactly how they acted in Jackson in 1963, but I was just a child living in a northern state, so all I can do is ponder.

From the back of the book:

"Stocketts characters, both black and white, are so fully fleshed they practically breathe."

"Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter show that people from this troubld time came together despite their differences and that ordinary women can be heroic."

". . . a story that made me weep as I rejoiced for each of humanity's small but steady triumphs over hate and fear."

I hated to come to the end of this book. I wanted to keep reading, to find out what happened in each of the lives of the characters. I hope this author will write another book soon.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Books and More Books!

I have loved reading since I was in the third grade. I lived in a small town, where I was allowed to ride my bicycle to the library, and check out as many books as the library limit would allow. These I would take home, and finding a quiet spot, I'd read for hours, until my Mom would call me for lunch, or supper, or chores. In a day or two, I'd be riding back to the library for another basketful of books, and on and on, throughout the summer. The characters in those stories became my friends, and taught me many things.

But long before I was able to read to myself, my sweet mother would read aloud to me and my sisters. During the summer, we would push a baby buggy down the street to the library, where we'd fill it with picture books, and push it home again, ready for an afternoon of adventure. The Sneeches, the Elves and the Shoemaker, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Teddy Bear of Bumpkin Hollow, Flicka, Ricka and Dicka, and many, many more became a part of my childhood. I look back on those carefree days with such gratefulness. This poem says it all:

You may have tangible wealth untold;

Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.

Richer than I you can never be--

I had a mother who read to me.

(Last stanza of The Reading Mother by Strickland Gillilan)