Thursday, October 30, 2014

Learn Scrivener Fast Webinar

N.B.: Scrivener is a complete writing studio developed by the wonderful and talented folks over at It is a word processor, research tool, organizer, e-book formatter and much more. It is not free but it is much less expensive than other word processors sold by larger companies. 


     On Wednesday October 29, 2014, I took a free webinar from the folks at: . I found out about it from Joseph Michael. Joe does not work for Scrivener. What he did was make videos about how to use Scrivener and start his own company.

     The webinar was designed to help NaNoWriMo participants use Scrivener in the quest to write 50,000 words or more of a novel during the month of November. This is my second year doing so but my first using a writing application. [Last year, I wrote my whole novel on a Windows Notepad].

     The sign-up process was easy. Directions were specific as to what url to go to before the start of the webinar and how to get admitted into the chatroom going on at the same time. I was relieved to find that I did not have to sign in through Facebook since I absolutely refuse to FB anything in my life. I signed in via a Twitter account. 

     I used a vertical split screen during the webinar. On the left was the chat room. On the right was Scrivener Coach Joseph Michael along with host Jeff Goins talking us through various tips on using Scrivener. Even I could follow what they were saying.

     The men graciously stayed longer than the hour scheduled. They taught us stuff for ninety minutes and then stuck around the chatroom for more questions.

     At the end unfortunately some folks who wanted to win freebies "right now" began a bitchfest about it. Such is what has happened since our society became one of entitlement. If it's free, it might me for me and I might even take three but I'm certainly not going to whine about it.

sapphoq reviews says: All in all, the webinar was an enjoyable experience for me. I do recommend it highly. While I may not buy into taking the advanced course, I was happy to know about it anyway. I admit to being the sort who wanders around saying to myself, "I wonder what this button does" and then clicking it in order to find out. Consequently, when it comes to many computer programs and apps, I learn best by experimenting. Still, the webinar did answer one question I had that I hadn't been able to puzzle through on my own. So yeah I highly recommend the freebie webinar, and the paid courses for those who are still having difficulty figuring things out on Scrivener. 


Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

A Street Cat Named Bob: and how he saved my life, James Bowen. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/ St. Martin's Press, 2013. e-book, 180 pps.

      James Bowen was trying to get clean off of heroin via an opioid substitution program in London. He was living in what is called "vulnerable housing" and busking with his guitar for a living when he happened upon a cat. James took the cat in with a thought to nurse him back to health. As a result, both James' and Bob's lives were permanently altered.

sapphoq reviews says: James Bowen's first book is a charmer. Easy-to-read, I found myself rooting for both James and Bob. Through Bob, James found a purpose in life. James started to make decisions that would keep both himself and Bob on an even keel.
     Bob is certainly an unusual feline. He is a ginger tom with many of the characteristics inherent to that coloration. [I also love ginger toms and have had several of them. Currently, one is in residence].
     The twelve step programs have become a sort of set of sub-cultures in the United States. Those who are threatened by other ideas about recovery will most likely reject this delightful book based on the facts that James was able to drink in moderation and that he elected not to attend Narcotics Anonymous. Culture is a funny thing. While informing us of where our roots are, it also limits our vision.
     It is clear that we are continuing to hear from James Bowen and Bob in the form of subsequent books and a charity set up for cats. For those who love cats and tales of human triumph over tough adversaries, A Street Cat Named Bob is highly recommended. 

Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner

Leaving the Atocha Station: A Novel, Ben Lerner. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2011. e book, 142 pps.

     Leaving the Atocha Station is Ben Lerner's first novel. We follow narrator Adam Gordon in 2004 during the Spain train bombing. He is a young man on a fellowship claiming to be interested in the Spanish Civil War. But he gets no research done. Instead, he spends his time generating poetic phrases under the influence of hash, conning women into believing his re-inventions of himself, and having crises generated by narcissistic injury.

sapphoq reviews says: Ben Lerner's first novel is a charmer. I was not exactly smitten by Adam Gordon. It was more than that. The lost poet in a foreign country has a certain appeal. The author described perfectly the process of becoming fluent in a foreign language. I too have had a sense of what others were communicating rather than literal translations. I liked this book. The author also has three books of poetry out and a new novel.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Don't Tell,edited by Roger C.

Don't Tell: Stories and Essays by Agnostics and Atheists in AA, edited by Roger C.      Toronto: AA Agnostica, 2014. 
ebook, 368 pps.

     It took me a bit to realize that the first word in the title is the word "Don't" followed by the word "Tell." It seems to me that I read it wrong. I read "Don." I couldn't figure out who "Don" was but I got the book anyway. I was glad that I did.

     Don't Tell divides up the stories and essays into ten parts. These ten parts are, in order of appearance, In The Rooms, 12 Steps, Book Reviews, Founders of We Agnostics in 1980 (Hollywood), Lord's Prayer, Many Paths to Recovery, Early History, An AA Pamphlet for Agnostics and Atheists, Controversy in The New Millennium, and Moving Forward. Each section has between two and eleven stories or essays in it. The construction of the book was logical. And the material was highly readable.

     There was a bit of new information for me in Don't Tell. I hadn't known the name of the atheist salesman who got drunk. [Jim Burwell held on to his atheism and his sobriety for the rest of his life. Bill overstates his case for Jim's change in beliefs in the Big Book]. I didn't know that Bill W. gave permission for the first Buddhist A.A. groups to re-write the steps to fit in with their atheism [Some Buddhists are atheists and some are not. The first groups referred to apparently were]. (p.23)

     Nor was I aware of how the designation "Conference approved" is being used to de-list freethinker A.A. groups from various Intergroups' meeting lists. (p. 97). The info about the protracted fight to get the Literature Committee to produce and publish a pamphlet tentatively titled "AA - Spiritual Not Religious" for newer agnostic AA members and those who are religious who wish to understand more about those of us non-believers who are achieving long-term sobriety (pp. 273 - 276) was news to me. [N.B. I read somewhere that the Literature Committee has finally produced a pamphlet about "alternative spiritual paths" which should be coming out at the end of 2014 and which does not include atheists or agnostics. ~ sr].

     The best parts of Don't Tell for me were some A.A. history that I didn't know about along with finding some essays by agnostic and/or atheist members with long-term sobriety.

sapphoq reviews says: Roger C. has done a fine job of editing Don't Tell. I especially appreciated the non-judgmental tone taken toward believers in Alcoholics Anonymous. This book is written for those of us in recovery who have found ways to remain in recovery without recognizing any gods. Believers in recovery who are not threatened by the subject matter (and who understand that there is zero evidence of any attempts by anyone in the book to de-convert them) may also be interested in reading this book. Professional helpers within various rehab structures which use the twelve steps as a basis for treatment ought to be urged to read Don't Tell. Highly recommended.



Storm by Brigid Kemmerer

Storm (Brigid Kemmerer's Elemental Series #1), Brigid Kemmerer. New York: K Teens/ Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2012. ebook, 295 pps.

     The book opens with Becca who is leaving self-defense class. She lives in Maryland where she is in high school but old enough to drive. She has a job at a pet shop, a best friend named Quinn, and a mom. Her dad left and hasn't been back.

She happens upon a beat down in the parking lot. The vic is the youngest of four brothers by the name of Chris. She runs the attackers off with her car.

The Merrills-- Chris, Gabriel and Nick (twins), and oldest brother Michael-- live sans parents. They are of a different sort. Storm is the first book of a series featuring Becca and family, Quinn, the Merrill brothers, and a few other people.

sapphoq reviews says: Brigid Kemmerer keeps the story line moving as she develops her characters. Storm uses the pentacle-- earth, air, fire, water, spirit-- to explain things. There are also New Age rocks on bracelets and their meanings. And a suggestion of rape and violence. Storm is not a book that I can endorse as reading material for teens whose parents are christian or otherwise object to the occult. Recommended for mature teens who are not triggered by rape and its aftermath. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why I Love New Orleans by Heather Graham

Why I Love New Orleans: A Collection of Blogs, Heather Graham. self-published, 2014. ebook, 132 pps.

     Heather Graham was Anne Rice's secretary for a time until AR relocated away from New Orleans. She is also herself a writer and organizes an annual writer's conference in the Crescent City.

     Why I Love New Orleans was a personal delight to me. I have fond memories from before the hurricane-- a paddle-boat that I saw outside of St. Francisville going down the Mississippi one night from my perch in some dark and misty wood, a concert at The Warehouse, Bourbon Street and environs, Cafe du Monde, Mardi Gras, the truckstop in Slidell, biking in the park near the zoo, and the zoo itself. Aside from the presence of one very large casino, I was relieved to read that NOLA continues with the same sparkle and zest that she used to. I'd heard from animal handler friends that the white tiger at the zoo had been saved during Katrina and was doing well in a different zoo. I knew that folks living in the ninth ward are still struggling to reclaim their neighborhood. And I was aware of some of the history behind the city that I too grew to love. There was much in this book that I didn't know. 

sapphoq reviews says: Heather Graham has crafted a fine short history and sightseeing catalog of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. At the beginning of each chapter was also a delightful photograph. For those who love New Orleans and for anyone with a curiosity about a fine southern town, highly recommended.

The Reason Revolution by Dan Dana

The Reason Revolution: Atheism, Secular Humanism, and the Collapse of Religion, Dan Dana. self-published, 2014. e-book, 43 pps.

     Dan Dana earned a PhD and founded M.T.I. [MTI, Mediation Training Institute]. MTI offers both seminars in various places and online training in mediation at the worksite. The mediation works website have a large variety of offerings for lots of money. Dan Dana has since retired but does still plug his books and videos on Twitter (r).

     I had several huge problems with The Reason Revolution. The first problem was the hype produced by the publisher which was either someone at Smashwords or Dan Dana himself. The book simply did not live up to it in my estimation. The second problem I had was the note on page 4 stating that there are no sources cited, leaving the problem of verifying any statements made up to the reader. This is largely unacceptable in atheist circles when christians and muslims do it. And it is unacceptable to me when an atheist does the same thing. Period. Uncool. Cite your sources next time, please. It makes a difference.

     The third problem I had was the writing itself. It simply was not up to the level of PhD writing. I think of PhD writing as the kind that I find in any of the Oliver Sacks books or in Scientific American magazines. And although attempts were made to illustrate why one should either reconcile one's faith with science or come over to the skeptics' side, I did not find the reasons listed to be persuasive. And as an atheist, I am part of "the choir!"

     The predictions of how wonderful the United States and the rest of the world will be when religious believers finally become a largely ignored minority didn't set well with me at all. I hated that list. It sounded like brainwashing. 

sapphoq reviews says: While Dan Dana has been recognized for his outstanding in the field of mediation, his short e-book The Reason Revolution fell far below the mark for me. Atheists and religious folks alike can certainly do better than this book. Give it a miss. Even for free, the thing is simply not worth the time it takes to read it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Worldview of Atheism by Jensen DG. Manebog

The Worldview of Atheism, Jensen DG. Manebog. self-published, 2013. e-book, 47 pps.

     Jensen De Guzman Manebog, from Rep├║blika ng Pilipinas, has written a booklet which pretty much accuses atheism in what he views as its many forms of failing at morality. He makes a case against relativism as a working morality and he charges atheism with this relativism. Being good without any gods does not seem to hold threats of eternal damnation or rejection above the heads of the human puppets. Ergo, atheists lack morals because any morality that atheists do have depend upon human law-making rather than divine law-giving.

     It is indeed troubling in this day and age that atheist and atheist organizations should be continually called upon to refute such charges. Morality can and does arise in social groups without the use of or reinforcement by [christian] religious influence. Although The Worldview of Atheism employs logical fallacies extensively in its pages, the central message that non-theists are not getting through to believers that we too, as social animals, certainly do have principles is one that atheists ought to take to heart. A dialogue between believers of all ilk and freethinkers ought to take place with its central aim as clearing up such misunderstandings. I personally do not hold out much hope for such an event, since we are often subject to debates with each side winning points instead of to honest and open communication.

sapphoq reviews says: This book is full of poor arguments favoring Christianity. Doggerel which merely repeats that atheism is not logical fills up the pages of The Worldview of Atheism. Christian apologist C.S. Lewis is quoted extensively here. Both he and Humes make for much better reading for christians and others who are seeking out more intelligent thought. Skip this one.

Lasting Impact by Jen Slothower

Lasting Impact: How the murky world of concussions might be causing permanent damage even among those who will never go pro, Jen Slothower, NESN. Watertown MA.: New England Sports Network, 2013-2014. e book, 108 pps.

     Jen Slothower is a journalist who speaks out about football (and some other sports). Specifically, she has taken on player injuries-- concussions-- which can lead to permanent brain effects like CTE. C.T.E. stands for "chronic traumatic encephalopathy." Some N.F.L. players have it. They have a history of repeated dings, knocks to the head which result in concussions. At some point later on, 

          ...they develop cognitive problems, experience
          crippling memory loss or become deeply
          depressed."     (p. 24)

     Lasting Impact also points out some other scary things like how football players may deny head injuries or sequelae because they want to keep playing. Pros want the paychecks to keep coming in. They also do not want to lose their positions on the team. Kids playing school sports don't want to admit to injury because they want to keep playing regardless.

     While the N.F.L. does at time change rules and procedures, the changes trickle down slowly into school athletic departments. This delay is not good. Kids too can and do also suffer from repeated concussions and permanent side effects.

sapphoq reviews says: Jen Slothower has done an excellent job writing about concussions in sports, what can be done about it, and what is or is not being done. Highly recommended.

     The link below leads to a senior thesis from Spring 2008 submitted to Liberty University by Jen Slothower. I believe it is the same Jes Slothower. It makes for interesting reading. It is about christians who go into the field of journalism.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Common Sense Recovery by Adam N.

Common Sense Recovery: An Atheist's Guide to Alcoholics Anonymous, Adam N. Toronto: AA Agnostica, 2014. ebook, 63 pps.

     Within many twelve step program meetings, it is difficult to share honestly about one's non-belief. Bill W. was raised as a methodist and via the Oxford Group became more of an evangelical christian. 

     Surveys indicate that things are changing in the United States. Our younger folks make up the bulk of atheists and agnostics. And yet, there is a strong current of fundamentalism present in many rooms of recovery as well as in many treatment programs which are based on the twelve steps.

     I came in to recovery believing but that did not last. By the end of my first decade, I had checked out several more religions and found that I was comfortable in none of them. I read creation myths and other legends for Spanish class and that was the beginning of my abandoning religion for something else.

     Unlike Adam N., I do not feel like a spy or a double agent. I do feel a bit uncomfortable when people use recovery rooms as an excuse to heap testimonials and exhortations on what they imagine is a congregation of sorts. It seems to be that if some folks are willing to do this, they also ought to be willing to listen to an abbreviated version of another side of things. Generally, I do remind other folks that they do not have to be christian to be in recovery. I myself am an atheist. Other people may practice various forms of spirituality and ritual.

     Like Adam N., I have felt like I've needed to translate the steps and other literature into a format that I can use in order to remain in recovery. I was much relieved to find the books published by AA Agnostica. Although the focus is on AA or Quad A, I do think there is a need for secular alternatives to recovery such as S.O.S.

sapphoq reviews says: Adam N. shares from his heart his story and how he copes with being a non-believer in the ranks of Alcoholics Anonymous. For those in 12-step recovery who practice alternative spiritualities or no spirituality, recommended.

Coming Out Atheist by Greta Christina

Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Greta Christina. San Francisco: Dirty Heathen Publishing, 2014

     Greta Christina put out a call on the Internet for stories about coming out as an atheist. This book is the result. It is filled with quotes from atheists of various religious backgrounds.

     Greta Christina's involvement with the queer and bi-queer communities in San Francisco also inform her work. The simple question, "What do people want?" [or "What does the community want?"] lends itself to making activities that resonate with people and can lead in directions which are initially unexpected.

     Admitting to atheism-- either casually or formally, in front of a large crowd or a few people-- is not without its risks. Greta Christina covers those risks. In Coming Out Atheist, she reminds readers over and over again that there is no formula. Each person has to evaluate the risks and benefits for his or her self.

sapphoq reviews says: Although repetitive in places, Coming Out Atheist is a pretty good addition to the library of atheists old and new. Some overlap with Hemant Mehta's The Young Atheist's Survival Guide makes this book more valuable for adult atheists in adult situations. [Mehta's book is the best for younger atheists i.m.o.]. Although Greta Christina could have done a better job delineating resources for atheists who are in recovery from addiction, overall a satifying read with emphasis on developing community. The resource guide in the back is especially valuable to those folks who can access the Internet but are unable to or don't care to connect with atheists face to face. Highly recommended.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Format Your eBook the Free and Easy Way by J. Gunnar Grey

Format Your eBook the Free and Easy Way, J. Gunnar Grey. Humble Tx: Dingbat Publishing/ Smashwords edition, 2011. ebook, 49 pps.

     I've been preparing my first e-book for publication and I am quite frankly scared out of my mind. I remember reading that the Midrash says "all beginnings are hard." Ain't that the truth?

     At last, I have found one book that tells me how to format my e-book in simple words using lists and illustrations. That book is Format Your eBook the Free and Easy Way. By using Calibre []and Sigil [], J. Gunnar Grey says I should be able to do this.

sapphoq reviews says: I wrote Up the Rebels last year in thirty days and have been proofreading it so it can be ready to submit as an e-book. November is fast approaching and I am getting reading to write a second novel. Hopefully, my first novel will be ready to hit the digital waves by then. If so, I promise to name a character in the second book Gunnar or Grey. Highly recommended.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Obedience by Will Lavender

Obedience: a novel, Will Lavender. New York: Shaye Areheart Books/ Crown Publishing/ Random House, 2008. paperback, 289 pps.

     Professor Williams teaches a college course called Logic and Reasoning 204 at Winchester University in Indiana. The fall semester is short-- six weeks-- and there are no pictures of the face of the professor to be found anywhere. Unlike other professors, he wears jeans and sneakers to class. He also says the f-bomb. The first class, like Professor Williams, is a mystery. He announces that a female by the name of Polly went missing in August. He says if the class cannot figure out who kidnapped her by the end of the six weeks, she will be killed.

     Mary is a student in the class as is an ex-boyfriend named Dennis. There is also Brian, a young Republican whose brother had recently suicided. They become a sort of trio as the six weeks wear on. The three students take a road trip.

sapphoq reviews says: Will Lavender has written a truly creepy book. Although the dialogue did not move fast enough for me at times, I read Obedience in one sitting. It was a story inside of a story. The plot intrigued me in spite of my misgivings about a six week fall semester and the Winchester students' obsession with finding out what an unknown professor looks like before the beginning of class. The Milgram experiment was rather sneaky I thought. The point of obedience to a higher authority regardless of the consequences to another human being felt a bit lost in the parade of characters. Even so, I do recommend it for adults only.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Killing at Cotton Hill by Terry Shames

A Killing at Cotton Hill (Samuel Craddock Series #1), Terry Shames. Amherst NY: Prometheus Books, 2013. ebook, 205 pps.

     Retired police chief Samuel Craddock lives in a small town in Texas. An old friend is murdered in her kitchen. Samuel gets involves seeing as the current police chief likes to drink more than anything related to work.

sapphoq reviews says: I enjoyed the small Texas town feel of A Killing at Cotton Hill, complete with regional accents. The scenery reminded me of places in Texas where I've been. The conversations were realistic. An absence of curse words, gratuitous violence, and graphic sex scenes make this book readable for those who are sensitive to that sort of thing. There are a few secrets revealed which may trigger survivors of childhood abuse but the way those things were described was with sensitivity and respect. The mystery itself was engrossing. In short, I love this book and I will be reading more of the series in short order. Suitable for mature teens and adults. Highly recommended.

Why Math Isn't an Awful Nerd by Jason Marshall

The Math Dude's Why Math Isn't an Awful Nerd, Jason Marshall. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2011. e-book, free, 15 pps.

     The Math Dude a.k.a. Jason Marshall has a day job as a research scientist. That makes him pretty cool. What's also cool about him is that he has a website and a podcast devoted to explaining neat math stuff to the masses. And vids too. 

     Math teaches you how to think. Math is also fun. If you don't think so, you ought to check out at least the videos. 

sapphoq reviews says: My only complaint is that this book at fifteen pages was way too short. "Free" is great-- and Why Math Isn't anAwful Nerd was free when I downloaded it-- but I want more. And I'd be willing to pay for more. Longer. Because that's how cool Jason Marshall makes math.


ASK ANNA by Anna Koontz and Dean Koontz

ASK ANNA: Advice for the Furry and Forlorn, Anna Koontz and Dean Koontz. Lebanon IN: Center Street Books/ Hachette Books, 2014. Page Perfect NOOK e-Book, 103 pps.

     Anna Koontz is writer Dean Koontz's golden retriever. In this book full of whimsical and cute pictures of Anna and of various other dogs, Anna gives advice to other dogs on such matters as size versus the owl, leg extensions, expressions of love, and anxiety over when the two-footeds leave the house.

sapphoq reviews says: Anna made it through twenty two out of twenty four months of training for Canine Companions for Independence. She flunked out due to birds. All monies from ASK ANNA will go to that program. I think that is sweet and certainly a worthy cause. A cool book with photos of dogs that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. Recommended.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wrestling with Our Inner Angels by Nancy Kehoe

Wrestling with Our Inner Angels: Faith, Mental Illness, and the Journey to Wholeness, Nancy Kehoe. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/ Wiley, 2009. Hardcover, 149 pps.

     Those who bear the label of mental illness often find their religious beliefs and other spiritual things important to them ignored by clinicians in their day treatment program and other counseling settings. It seems that there is something like an axiom that says, "Don't tell the counselors that stuff" and that is rather unfortunate.

     I remember the days when anyone who had an obvious disability was assumed not to have a sex life/ or their issues with physical intimacy were ignored by therapists. Not to listen respectfully to people who are charged with telling professionals about the things that give their lives meaning is to ignore the whole person. The labels take precedence over any sort of religious [or sexual, see above] feelings.

     Nancy Kehoe is a nun and also a clinician who started some groups for adults in treatment. The groups were optional. Most who attended had religion but a few did not.

     It is unfortunate that people in addiction treatment with sincerely held atheist leanings are often short-shifted. Their non-beliefs are viewed as deficits by staff who often have New Age-y sort of philosophies. Nancy Kehoe has done something else. Instead of judging those labeled mentally ill as having bizarre beliefs, she allowed each individual to shine. I liked that a lot.

sapphoq reviews says: This is a pretty good book for clinicians and outpatients who wish to communicate respectfully about topics that are considered taboo within mental health communities. Recommended.

Among the Enemy by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Among the Enemy: A Shadow Children Book, Margaret Peterson Haddix. Toronto: Scholastic, Inc./Simon & Schuster, 2005. hardcover, 214 pps.

     Among the Enemy is sixth in the Shadow Children Series. The shadow children are any who are born after the first two of a family. Each family is limited to two. Thus, the shadow children are illegal. The Population Police take their job seriously.

     Three children are taken along with others to a "work camp" but the trio make an escape. They are injured, shot at, and hunted. Fortunately, one of them is able to make his way to the home of some sympathizers. The trio all live. Some other things happen too.

sapphoq reviews says: I did not read the other Shadow Children books. There is a bit of bias in Among the Enemy towards people who pray. Even so, I enjoyed this book. The pace was fast, the plot had some intrigue and twists, and the solutions to some of the problems that the trio were faced with were novel. This book is suitable for children. Recommended.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Fourth of July Creek, Smith Henderson. Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers, 2014. e book, 390 pps.

N.B. This novel has cuss words in it and depicts some sex and quite a bit of violence. If you object to that, then don't read Fourth of July Creek. Please read the book first before you consider letting your teens read it. Thanks.

     Fourth of July Creek is a fine novel. Set mainly in Montana-- with some other places thrown in-- Smith Henderson evokes the wilderness and those who live there in order to get away from the troubles of society. But even so, dysfunction has a way of following. 

     Social workers can also have their share of the stuff that takes the fun out of living. Pete Snow is an alcoholic. Lots of folks know that about him. He is not the only alcoholic caught up in the dramas of the backwoods, but he is the one we know the most about. There is also a drunken judge and some boozy friends. And an ex-wife gone party bananas in Austin Texas along with a teen-aged daughter.

     Pete Snow endeavors to do his job. He checks up on kids and their families. He takes kids away when he must. He does alright with some of those kids and fails drastically with others. He meets up with an irate father by the name of Jeremiah Pearl. Mr. Pearl doesn't cotton to him much at first. He always has his loaded shot gun. 

     Mr. Pearl is a christian of the end-times variety, waiting for money to fail and the antichrist to rise up from the dead and take over America. His apocalyptic thinking is of the extreme sort, very much unlike that of some of my fundamentalist christian buddies who attend church on Sundays and who may at times greet each other with the word "Maranatha" or visibly shake their heads at the evening news.

     Pete Snow has a life that is falling apart when he hears some news from Texas and must take off immediately for Austin. I'm not going to tell you any more of it. Read the book.

sapphoq reviews says: Smith Henderson did an excellent job with Fourth of July Creek, his first novel. The characters were vivid. The plot moved along nicely. I was transported into the story itself. A most excellent book and highly recommended.

Mike O'Connor

Why Don't Woodpeckers Get Headaches? And Other Bird Questions You Know You Want to Ask, Mike O'Connor. Boston: Beacon Press, 2010. ebook, 163 pps.

Why Do Bluebirds Hate Me? More Answers to Common and Not-So-Common Questions about Birds and Birding, Mike O'Connor. Boston: Beacon Press, 2013.  e-book, 155 pps.

     Mike O'Connor owns The Bird Watcher's General Store in Orleans, Massachusetts. He was asked to do a column for a local paper. These two books are among the results of that column. The titles-- Why Don't Woodpeckers Get Headaches? and Why Do Bluebirds Hate Me? act as clues to the whimsy and the humor enclosed within their pages. The illustrations are also not to be missed.

sapphoq reviews says: I was very pleased with the writing style in Mike O'Connor's books. They were an easy read, yet contained enough new information to keep me reading. If you don't know when or why you should clean out your bird feeders, you owe it to your feathered "friends" to get both of the books. If you don't know why you should not buy mixed seeds, ditto. Even if you do know those things, read the books anyway. Highly recommended for all who like birds and want to know more about them. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hacking Facebook and Websites-- Be Safe by Techdroids

Hacking Facebook and Websites-- Be Safe, Techdroids. self-published, 2014. e-book, 32 pps.

     Techdroids started out furnishing information about various tech products on the internet while still in high school. His info was solid. He included pictures of the products he discussed on a variety of sites. I figure by now he is well on his way to a college degree or more. [Techdroids reloaded can be found still in some places. I think it is the same young man but I am not 100% sure].

     Hacking Facebook and Websites was very thorough in the subjects addressed. How to compile, how to do an EICAR test, how to create and disable several kinds of viruses, phishing, hidden codes, trojan horses, how to hijack, SQL injections, and IP addys were all included. All of the information in this book was helpful.  

sapphoq reviews says: Techdroids has written a solid introduction to some proof-of-concepts involved with hacking computers and phones. The instructions were clear, easy to follow, and they worked well. There was nothing about this too short book not to like. Highly recommended to those interested in security, pen testing, and other related subjects.

The Young Atheist's Survival Guide by Hemant Mehta

The Young Atheist's Survival Guide: Helping Secular Students Thrive, Hemant Mehta. Denver: Patheos Press, 2012. ebook, 134 pps.

     High school is a time of change for adolescents. Some are on the way to defining themselves along the atheist spectrum and others have been there for several years. The majority of students in the United States profess some sort of faith. For those who don't, they may find an inner strength in standing up for the Constitution.

     Hemant Mehta recounts some of their stories in The Young Atheist's Survival Guide. Especially poignant for me was the student athlete in Oklahoma who refused to mouth a prayer after a basketball game. Unfortunately, this happened in 2004. She was unable to obtain the support that is so readily available to students who are defining their non-belief today.

     The coach told her to go to the lockers. But that wasn't enough. A conversation was held the next day with someone higher up. She was kicked from the basketball team. No adult even had the courtesy to tell her. Instead, false accusations were made. The student athlete became a home-schooled teen. 

     When high school kids are allowed to "vote" on including a prayer at their graduation or told that their speeches will not be read first by an authority, they figure they can run rampant over the rights of minority students. One such minority student was a non-theist valedictorian. The speeches of other kids were wildly applauded. His speech-- not so much.

     The humiliation of having to sit in the hallway during "Bible story time" in a public school is not quickly forgotten. Also not forgotten is what a second grader went through when she admitted that the story of Cain and Abel made no sense to her. Having an entire auditorium of kids scream "god bless you" at a student who does not share the predominant faith is not something a high school teen should have to go through. Having kids shout out the words "under god" during the pledge at another teen who also has no faith is also mean-spirited.

sapphoq reviews says: From a Sunday school class told to draw a christian and then draw a non-christian to bullying principals, teachers, and administrators who really ought to know better, there is plenty to get angry about in this book. Perhaps the anger will drive you into action. For those who don't really understand what the big deal is about secular students in the public school system, The Young Atheist's Survival Guide is a must read. For the rest of us who do get it, this book might propel some of us into action. Highly recommended. And yes, for the record, I am an atheist.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Thoughts on the Role of Religion in Politics and Media by Hemant Mehta

Thoughts on the Role of Religion in Politics and Media, Hemant Mehta. Hyperlink Atheism and Religion Books, 2011. e-book, 285 pps.

     Thoughts on the Role of Religion in Politics and Media is a series of blog posts in book form from Hemant Mehta. Some conservatives have found him "not to be friendly," especially when he is opposing issues that project the importance of christian faith over the rights of an individual-- such as when the Senate voted in an anti-abortion bill. One of the speakers called to testify was a Jewish woman who dared to say the word "vagina." She carefully explained that her religion is in favor of medical abortion when the life and or well-being of the woman is in danger, regardless of how far along the fetus was. She was kicked out for saying "vagina." 

     I am acquainted with Hemant Mehta via his Twitter(tm) feed. I have found him to be quite friendly. Because people don't agree, it does not logically follow that one side of the disagreement is mean, bad, evil, or unfriendly. That is part of the risk that we entertain when we use our freedom of speech. There is bound to be at least one human being who disagrees with what we say.

     Religion in the public schools is not a democracy thing. The majority does not get to monopolize any religious expression. Students-- contrary to what is popularly supposed-- are allowed to pray and to read their sacred religious texts during school time when not engaged in instructional time. Teachers must be careful not to take sides. Calling a student worthless because he opposes a graduation prayer is not okay. Principals who allow a prayer at a school graduation to continue even after it has been legally disallowed are subject to certain legal penalties. The christian nursery school which rejects a three-year old applicant because he is living with his dad and another man yet accepts a large chunk of federal monies is in gross error. 

     Hey, if you eat the whole cake, there won't be any left.

     In this country at this time, adults have the freedom to choose their own religion and to not choose a religion. When religious feeling enters into law-making, people not of the same religious persuasion are bound to lose out. The pregnant jewish woman whose religion teaches her that she ought to abort when she learns that her fetus is dead loses out because she is legally over the limit when this is found out. A teacher or school administrator who tells students that they are going to hell, ought not to move to San Francisco because that place is full of sinful and godless queers, or refers to a student who wants to uphold the separation between religion and public schools as "an evil little thing" is morally and legally in the wrong.

     Now we have a tradition that tells us it's okay to insert "In God We Trust" on our dollar bills although the nation's motto was changed in the fifties. We have a tradition of reciting the added words "under god" when we recite the pledge. Tradition tells us that we are stuck with the stuff that we didn't effectively protest years ago. Those atheists and particularly high school atheists who are endeavoring to keep the message of the Constitution clear in these days often wind up doing so at great personal cost to themselves and their families.

sapphoq reviews says: The Friendly Atheist(tm) is someone whose work is worth getting to know, regardless of one's religious or political outlook on modern world issues. His writing is clear. His message is succinct. Highly recommended.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

!Shut Up! by Dvorah Adler

!Shut Up! An Ancient Mantra for Complete Happiness (The Simple Truth Your Guru, Therapist, AndGrandmother Forgot to Tell You). Dvorah Adler. self-published, 2005. e-book, 133 pps.

     At first, I didn't know quite what to make of !Shut Up! The words and sentence structure were different from what I had come to expect in most books. But I gave it a careful read anyway.

     The essential message is that whining doesn't do one much good. It is better to accept and move on. What we didn't do today we may be able to accomplish tomorrow. So shut up. And then shut up and be happy.

sapphoq reviews says: There is something more to the book than simple advice. !Shut Up! is an Art of Living Foundation book. The Art of Living is a yoga sort of foundation headed up by [a guru by the name of] Sri Sri Ravi Shankar [not the musician by the same name] whose own guru originated transcendental meditation.

I am a non-hindu, non-yoga type, non-guru seeker type of Westerner. I am wary of organizations and foundations which are associated with gurus because of personal reasons involving a once close friend. I hesitate to recommend !Shut Up! although I did enjoy some of the humor in its pages and the message of self-acceptance. Guardedly recommended. 

[This e-book was free when I got it].

Poems for Recovery by Kyle Crosby

Poems for Recovery, Kyle Crosby. self-published, 2014. ebook, 19 pps.

Kyle Crosby writes poetry from the heart. His poems address things like bullying, isolation, abuse, shame, recovery, and therapy. I was happy to read that his wife is supportive. I wish him the very best. I encourage people to get the e-book of this young aspiring poet.

[The e-book was free when I got it].

A History of Agnostic Groups in AA by Roger G.

A History of Agnostic Groups in AA, Roger C. Toronto: AA Agnostica, 2012. ebook, 40 pps.

     In 2011, two Alcoholics Anonymous groups were kicked from the list of A.A. meetings in the Greater Toronto Area. Reason: the groups used a modified form of the twelve steps. Agnostics, atheists, and secular humanists in recovery have a long history of conflict with christians in recovery. To be sure, some christians get along with non-believers. But some percentage does not. Unfortunately, the percentage that does not "won" the G.T.A. vote during that particular session.

     Jim Burwell was the first known non-theist in Alcoholics Anonymous. He was the fellow who contributed the "as we understood him" part of the third and eleventh steps. He got sober and stayed sober for thirty years or so until his death.

     A History of Agnostic Groups in AA provides history ranging from the first known agnostic group in Chicago to Los Angeles, Austin, Des Moines and more. Toronto was not the first area to deny a Quad A group listing. Indianapolis We Agnostics group was-- in 2010. They were kicked out again in 2011 after a brief re-instatement.

     The appendices in the back of this too-short book include a secular version of the twelve steps. Rather than ending a meeting with the Serenity Prayer, folks in agnostic groups generally hold hands and recite "Live and Let Live" together. And that is the indeed the slogan that fits.

sapphoq reviews says: Although A.A. as a whole does not kick out individual members who are non-believers, it is troubling that several areas have voted to kick out whole groups. This is in direct violation of what Bill W. wrote in the July 1946 Grapevine magazine, quoted on page 24 of the e-book:

You may download to your computer and save, you may upload to any site.
n.b.: This is a correctly attributed quote. So bugger off copyright trolls and
copyright monopolists and others of the same ilk.

For those in recovery interested in secular versions of working the steps [n.b.: which have always been optional], absolutely highly recommended.


Sunday, October 05, 2014

How I Unfriended God by Joel Douglas

Average Joe(l): How I Unfriended God, Volume 1, Joel Douglas. self-published, 2014. e-book 15 pps.

     "Why do people believe in god?"

     That was the question asked of a religious instructor who was teaching in Average Joe's classroom of captive children. That got him thinking. He began asking himself why he harbored that belief. As a teacher, he knew he had never researched this question or even read the bible totally through.

sapphoq reviews says: I hope to read more by Joel Douglas. Although short, How I Unfriended God makes several good points about why people believe [it's easier, for sure] and what happens when an adult turns a critical eye towards religion [nothing is guaranteed, anything can happen]. Highly recommended for those who want to read about atheism for everyday people.

"Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived." Issac Asimov said it. I took the picture of the garden spider and altered it using my copy of legally obtained software. You may download the picture and save it to your "My Computer," rename the picture for your files, upload it to the internet at will. No credit or link-back is necessary to use this picture. Copyright trolls and copyright monopolists, you are not welcome here. Go away. Far far away. 


Saturday, October 04, 2014

A Time to Mourn, collected by Reverend Aaron Zerah

A Time to Mourn: A Simple Collection of the World's Great Spiritual Prayers, Poems, Stories, and Blessings to Comfort the Soul in Grief, Aaron Zerah. British Columbia: A to Z Spirit Publishing, 2013. e-book, 116 pps.

You may at this time obtain a free copy of this book and three other books written by Rev. Aaron Zerah from if you want to.

     Reverend Aaron Zerah is an interfaith minister. I picked up A Time to Mourn because I was curious. I was pleasantly surprised by the collected works in this e-book. Besides bible verses, there were also Jewish prayers, Sikh prayers, Buddist and Taoist teachings, Hindu prayers, and other stuff. The index and the heading on each page worked. That was also much appreciated.

sapphoq reviews says: Aaron Zerah has collected some fine and comforting words in his e-book A Time to Mourn. Perhaps not suitable for most atheists and agnostics. For those with an interest in writings from other cultures and those in need of comfort, highly recommended.  

Friday, October 03, 2014

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

Bless Me, Ultima, Rudolfo Anaya. Boston: Grand Central Publishing/ Hachette Book Group, 1972, 1979. e-book, 225 pps.

     Bless Me, Ultima is both a classic and a book that has experienced banning. In this haunting fiction about a family living in New Mexico-- and particularly a boy named Antonio and the curandera Ultima who comes to live with his family-- ways of power are described along side the ways that humans have of being with each other. Antonio experiences many changes and he grows up.

sapphoq reviews says: Rudolfo Anaya's book transported me to New Mexico. His lyrical breath-taking descriptions of the beauty of the llano and a disappearing way of life touched me greatly. The use of New Mexican folktales added to Bless Me, Ultima greatly. I think it is a great compliment to the authors who have written books good enough to be banned or censored. I hope someday to have one of my books in that category. 
     Bless Me, Ultima was banned because of religious beliefs expressed in it. The mixture of Catholicism and folk beliefs occurs throughout the world. Missionaries have allowed this intertwining in order to win converts. I found it odd that such a thing was a reason to ban this fine book. Highly recommended to all mature readers who are able to tolerate and embrace present cultural realities as they relate to the path of shamans.

Ungifted by Gordon Korman

Ungifted, Gordon Korman. New York: Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, 2012. e-book, 172 pps.

     Some will recognize Gordon Korman as a prolific author of children's books. Ungifted is a cute book about a middle school boy named Donovan Curtis. Donovan whacked a school statue with a tree branch and there were consequences to his actions. The superintendent of schools was the one who caught him. Much to Donovan's surprise and the surprise of his entire family, he is sent to the gifted school.

     The gifted kids in his new classroom are portrayed as if they had Asperger's along with their superior I.Q.s. One is stuck on plaids, another does social stuff even less well than the others, and all of them are bad at sports. Donovan is a welcome addition to the class in spite of not really belonging there. 

sapphoq reviews says: The gifted kids I have known-- the ones who aren't Aspies anyway-- are prolific at social skills and at sports in addition to excelling at schoolwork. In spite of this small misgiving, I enjoyed Ungifted and I think middle school kids would also. Highly recommended.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Jesus, Interrupted by Bart D. Ehrman

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them), Bart D. Ehrman. New York: HarperCollins e-books, 2009. ebook, 211 pps.  [n.b.: 24.95 a year to read and comment].

     It was with some eagerness that I finished Misquoting Jesus and began Jesus, Interrupted. This book, published in 2009, describes specific doctrinal disagreements and viewpoints of Jesus in the New Testament present in the Gospels. Jesus, Interrupted also speaks to the issue of forgeries present in the present-day Canon. I understand that this is a dicey subject for those who sincerely believe that their god directly inspired the authors of the New Testament books but I don't know how to lessen the potential impact of the material. Ehrman gives us what acclaimed biblical scholars have found out.

     The four gospels were not actually written by eyewitnesses/ the first four apostles. They were written after the death of Jesus Christ, years afterwards. Early Christians were common folk who did not speak Greek, the language of the learned and of scholars. [The New Testament books as they have come down to us are all written in Greek]. The story of Nicodemus and being born again is actually a Greek double entendre which does not work in Aramaic [or in English]. What Jesus was reportedly saying to Nicodemus [and the story itself is in doubt because of the Greek literary structure] was that one has to be physically born the first time plus born FROM ABOVE [and not "born again"].

     The development of what books to include in the Canon took many years and did not happen overnight as I'd been led to believe. There is a Third Corinthians [not written by Paul, as it turns out] and an Apocalypse of Peter [which almost made it in instead of Revelations]. And it turns out that the authorship of II Peter is in doubt. Back in the days of antiquity, it happened that folks authored stuff under the name of the more prominent so that their ideas would receive some exposure which would otherwise had been denied them.

     Bart D. Ehrman devotes the last bit of Jesus, Interrupted to explaining how it is that a Christian can know these things and still believe. Although Ehrman is an agnostic, he does not argue that Christians should de-convert.

sapphoq reviews says: I believe that Jesus, Interrupted should be read after Misquoting Jesus. The latter book delves into considerable detail regarding the controversies that early Christians had with each other. It is also helpful to have a New Testament handy when reading this book. Highly recommended to all thinking adults with an interest in the New Testament and Jesus Christ.

Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, Bart D. Ehrman. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, first edition, 2005. e-book, 180 pps.

on Twitter (r) [no activity since August 2014].

     Bart D. Ehrman had a Christian conversion experience of the born-again variety in his teens. He attended Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, and Princeton Theological Seminary. He remained a Christian even as he first discovered conflicted bible passages and errors. His Christianity finally gave way to agnosticism when he could not reconcile a loving god with suffering.

     The problem of conflicting Bible passages is not a new one invented by so-called liberal atheistic bastards who seemingly want to dump all gods from the public discourse. In 1707, John Mill published what was to become a classic in the field of textual criticism of the new testament. (page 63). Mill reported "thirty thousand places where different manuscripts, Patristic ...citations, and versions had different readings for passages of the New Testament." (quoted from page 63). Ehrman notes on page 12 that there are no surviving original manuscripts, period. I would have liked to have known this years ago but the church preachers kept that from me and my friends.

     Misquoting Jesus makes it abundantly clear that what we have are a variety of copied manuscripts which were copied from copies from copies... And that many of these copies do not agree among themselves because scribes altered things, added things, left out things as they went along. Many specific examples are given.

     But Misquoting Jesus does more than that. It is an introduction to the idea of textual criticism for the average reader. The simplistic idea that because several more copies of something survived than a few copies of something else means that the former is more "important" or "authoritative" [referred to in Dr. Paul Meier's apocalyptic fiction book The Third Millennium] is patently false. Different physical climates influenced how much of which documents survived as much as which libraries of books and manuscripts were burned. This basic tenet of textual criticism is something I had never even thought about before reading Misquoting Jesus.

sapphoq reviews says: Ehrman carefully delineates what is known about early Christianity and its spread, the various cultures and languages of various people, and the politics which rendered some influence on what is regarded today as the Canon. I found Misquoting Jesus to be an excellent book full of dangerous ideas for fundamentalist Christians. Ehrman is careful to point out the differences between getting bogged down in doctrinal disagreements and believing the central messages that Jesus had for the people. As such, I highly recommend Misquoting Jesus to any thinking adults who have an interest in the New Testament.