Monday, October 19, 2015

Understanding Your Dog by Erica Peachley

Understanding Your Dog: An illustrated guide to understanding your dog's behavior, Erica Peachley. Bath, U.K.: Paragon Publishing, 2004, 2001. coffeetable hardcover book, 176 pps.

Understanding Your Dog is divided into four chapters concering the dog's nature, behavior, training, and problems. Complete with glossary, addresses, and index, this books is thorough and colorful. It offers practical suggestions and points to times when consulting a professional is necessary.

sapphoq reviews says: Erica Peachley is acquainted with her subject and writes well. Highly recommended. Your guests may learn something too!

Blondie standing on some grass alert and calmly waiting to find out what's next.
To copyright monopoly trolls: my photo, my dog, go away.

Dog Tricks: Eighty-Eight Challenging Activities for Your Dog from World Class Trainers by Captain Arthur J. Haggerty and Carol Lea Benjamin

Dog Tricks: Eighty-Eight Challenging Activities for Your Dog from World Class Trainers, Captain Arthur J. Haggerty and Carol Lea Benjamin. New York: Black Dog & Levental Publishers, 1978. small hardcover, 303 pps.

Blondie-- the older blond dog with a red field nose and black tongue on the left-- trotting on the sandy road is looking at Hermione coming out of the brush on the right. Hermione is a black and white dog, smaller who at first resembles a border collie with less hair. In fact she is  an Australian Cattle Dog mix with a bit of hound dog and retriever thrown in. She has black freckles on her white socks and her black tail with white tip on it  is low slung like those of Australian Cattle dogs. Note to copyright monopoly trolls: these are my two dogs, I took the photo myself, so go away.

I scored some old but well-kept books about dogs at a garage sale free recently. Dog Tricks was part of the haul. This little gem of a book became a valuable bit of my library as I discovered that my Australian Cattle Dog/ retriever/ hound dog cultivated secret dreams of being a trickster dog.

Hermione is Blondie's best dog buddy in the whole world. They met about a year ago and became walking companions. Blondie was diagnosed this past April [2015] as having terminal liver failure. Hermione came to live with use by her own choice at the end of August [2015] on a permanent basis. Both dogs are thriving from the arrangement.

Blondie's health has been steadily improving as much as a dying dog's health can be. She is happy, has a good appetite, solid fecal matter, enjoys hiking on a daily basis and swimming when we do that, and is pain-free. 

Hermione is delighted with all of the exercise that is now part of her daily routine, has made her peace with our two cats, and has several jobs around the backyard and homestead.

Both dogs love living together in the same pack.

But I have digressed.

sapphoq reviews says: The book Dog Tricks does exactly what it promises. There are indeed eighty-eight of them with decent directions, whimsical drawings, and a trick aptitude chart in the back. Highly recommended! Should you have a dog who wants to learn something else, grab this book if you get a chance! 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Richard H. Pitcairn and Susan Hubble Pitcairn

Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, Third Edition. Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM PhD and Susan Hubble Pitcairn. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale Publishing, 2005.  large paperback, 466 pages, including end notes, index, and recipes.

Although some of the general suggestions in this book are okay-- home cooking for animals, paying attention to the conformation of an animal when picking one out to take home, description of medical problems-- I am wary of many of the specific ideas in this book.

Rabies vaccinations or titres showing immunity are practically a must. There are no [non-alternative] peer-review journal articles to my knowledge that establish the effectiveness of Bach Remedies [r, tm etc, no copyright infringement intended] or coffee enemas for dogs or cats or human beings for that matter. And there is no way that I am adminstering any concoction containing deadly nightshade to any animals in my charge, period. I am just not doing that. Period. End of discussion.

sapphoq reviews says: It is dismaying that the Pitcairns do not footnote the research studies that they base their conclusions on. For this alone, I recommend giving Complete Guide a miss.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Data and Goliath by Bruce Schneier

Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World, Bruce Schneier. London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2015. e-book, 425 pps. incl extensive notes.

I have infinite respect for Bruce Schneier as a true authority on data, the collection of data, the mining of data, and why we ought to not be so lackadaisical about it. He is far from a luddite. In his most excellent book Data and Goliath, Bruce Schneier does not hesitate to point out the myriad ways that the interpretation of data can make life run smoother for us. He also forces the reader to concentrate on items that are uncomfortable for the average computer user to think about for long periods of time. Although I am more familiar with privacy and surveillance concerns than the average Joe, I found that I had to read this one in short breaks rather than all at once. It was a lot of information to take it.

sapphoq reviews says: The ideas that are uncomfortable are often the ones that are most beneficial to sit with. I found this certainly to be true in respect to Data and Goliath. Anyone with a brain ought to be asking what the corporation behind the offering of that "discount card" is doing with "their" data [and in the United States, we no longer "own our own" data]. These days, we ought to asking our states whether or not they are selling off our drivers licenses info too. The recent move by Twitter[r] to move operations to Ireland [except for those accounts residing in the United States] ought to be a clue that something continues to run afoul in the fields of Big Data. Read this book. And then tell me you don't care.

Be the Pack Leader by Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier

Be the Pack Leader: Use Cesar's Way to Transform Your Dog . . . and Your Life, Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier. New York: Crown/Archetype// Random House, 2007. e-book, 233 pps.

Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier  wrote Be the Pack Leader when Cesar was still married to his first wife Illusion Millan. Something about that failed relationship made this book poignant for me. No doubt in my brain that he loved Illusion and that her departure from his life left him wounded for a time. I indeed rejoiced when the television specials started up signifying Cesar Millan's return to his work with his beloved pack and the training of people.

[For those of you who don't know this bit of factoid, Melissa Jo Peltier is married to John Gray who is the producer of The Ghost Whisperer television series staring Jennifer Love Hewitt. There was an episode in which Cesar Millan appeared signing books at a bookstore! Cesar Millan also appeared on an episode of South Park giving tips to Eric Cartman's mom but I am less sure of how that happened.]

Americans do in general prefer to pamper their dogs and worry excessively over hurting the precious little feelings of their canines. There are other things that we ought to devote our time to instead. We ought to not be so casual about the process of dog-getting. We ought to do our research first into what breeds [or even mixed breeds] of dog might suit us and our lifestyles best, what energy level of dog might suit us best, what our own energy level is, what pitfalls and strengths do we bring to the relationship with dog, what are we willing to do in order to ensure that we develop a stable dog and not a neurotic mess of a caricature of a dog. When people tell me outright that they don't care for dogs for whatever reason, I am actually happy. The folks that don't like dogs and don't get dogs know themselves well enough to know that they ought not to.

It is easy to reinforce unacceptable behavior in a dog. What is "cute" in a puppy such as the fluffing of hair in order to make himself look bigger before hitting the top staircase leading out [yeah, I had one of them] is not endearing when the puppy becomes an out-of-control- sixty pound dog who then needs specialized behavioral rehabilitation and then whose owner needs training so the dog rehabbing will stick [or he would have gone to the glue factory]. My cute puppy was not born unstable. I made him that way. I did not know enough about animals, dogs, the several ancestors of dogs in him, or he himself to make for a stable pack leader. And I was blind to what I was doing to perpetuate his behavior that had started out to be cute but ended up to be total dog on dog aggression. Fortunately, that story had a happy ending for both of us and for the neighborhood.

My elderly dog who recently turned thirteen has been acting up in respect to loud cars going by on the roads when we walk. I think this is because I must have lost my balance one day this winter or had a non-calm reaction to a car that splashed us with rainwater or something. I've been working on correcting her from barking at the "louder" cars as they rumble down the streets. Today it dawned on me. I needed to follow through. Correction plus follow through. Today I corrected her barking with a quick sit command and then followed through by keeping her in the sit until she indicated that she was in a calm submissive state. Success! She has not barked at a car since. 

sapphoq reviews says: Cesar Millan pulls no punches. He says outright that it is the problems in us-- in our non-calm non-assertive non-leadership non-directive non-energy-- that create the problems in our dogs. If you want to know more about how to be an effective pack leader, you will read this book. And then read all of the Cesar Millan books. And watch the television shows. Because having a well-behaved calm submissive dog is so worth it.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

The Beginning of Everything, Robyn Schneider. New York: HarperCollins Publishers/ Katherine Tegen Books, 2013. e-book, 263 pps. including preview of another book.

Ezra Faulker was one of the cool kids in his high school. He was a tennis champ and therefore a higher-order jock. The crowd he hung around with didn't include his former childhood friends, including his former best buddy Toby.

But alas, there was a bad car accident. Ezra wound up hurt badly and was still attending physical therapy sessions and occasional trauma sessions with a trauma shrink of sorts. So high school has changed. The jocks and Ezra inhabit two different parts of the world now. Even the last girlfriend wound up with a different fellow-- one of his jock buddies.

Through a series of mishaps and coincidences [Yes folks, there really are coincidences], Ezra was thrown back into Toby's orbit and onto the debate team. The new girl by name of Cassidy also was added to the debate team roles. She didn't want this.

And some other stuff happened.

sapphoq reviews says: Robyn Schneider did a fantastic job of depicting the various cliques and factions in a typical American high school. Description of various neighborhoods in the area also seemed to be realistic to me. Toby's seventh grade event was grossly enjoyable. The Beginning of Everything depicts a high school boy who must find new reasons for being. I liked the book. Recommended.

There is some teen sex and groping, under-aged drinking, unsupervised parties, and a sort of suicide. Parents who object to these things may not want their teens reading this book.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Dealer's Dog and Other Tales of Non-Valor by William A. Patrick III

Dealer's Dog and Other Tales of Non-Valor, William A. Patrick III.[also: Dealer's Dog and other tall tales of non-valor]. self-published, 2010. e-book, 156 pps.

Although Dealer's Dog describes itself as fiction, it reads too true to me to really be fiction. I treated it as a semi-autobiographical lark into the memories of the coming of age of the author. No offence intended to the author. 

Whether it is wholly fiction or not, I chortled through the entire book. The characters were charming and horrid by turns, the protagonist-- a slacker kid named Ash who is forced by his mother to get a job-- was endearing, and the partying escapades were riotous.

And yet...

sapphoq reviews says: If you like slacker novels, then you will like Dealer's Dog. The stories are woven together in an effect that produces a feeling of, "Oh yeah, I remember stuff like that. There was this kid I knew..." This is the kind of book that the hired help will be reading to me and my cronies in nursing homes and assisted living places in order to stimulate our memories some years hence. For adults only please. Highly recommended.

A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian

A Manual for Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian. Durham N.C.: Pitchstone Publishing, 2013. e-book, 224 pps.

A Manual for Creating Atheists in its basic form utilizes the Socratic Method in order to talk people into basing their lives on reason rather than upon faith. This idea of converting people to atheism is a foreign one to me at best and not something that I have attempted to do in any way, shape, or form. Nevertheless, I did read through the entire book.

What I found was more than a bit of repetition which I could have done without, some antidotes which didn't peak my interests, and some clear definitions of terminology. While I appreciated the latter and the amount of research which went into A Manual for Creating Atheists, the premise wasn't my cup of tea. My preference is for each individual adult to believe and put into practice what makes sense to them without the rest of us always having to have an opinion about it. The same objections that I have to street evangelism hold true regardless of the topic being pushed.

sapphoq reviews says: The most valuable point in A Manual for Creating Atheists was the differentiating between faith and reason. Faith works backwards from the conclusion. Reason [and science] works forward from the evidence. I like scholarly attempts but this one by Peter Boghossian falls way short. The most strident atheists among us will appreciate this book and maybe even enact some of the conversation suggestions. The rest of us will shrug our shoulders. And the religious among us will not find anything valuable here. Not recommended.

The Sun Trail by Erin Hunter and Wayne McLoughlin

The Sun Trail (Warriors: Dawn of the Clans Series #1), Erin Hunter and Wayne McLoughlin. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2013. e-book, 249 pps.

     I read The Sun Trail with delight. Once again, this Erin Hunter book following the development of [fictitious] cat clans captivated me.

     A group of cats taking refuge in a cave are barely surviving due to lack of food. There is a discussion and then some more discussion. Finally, the group splits into two. One group stays in the cave. The other group sets off along the sun trail to find a new place to live that can sustain it. A young male kit sneaks off with the second group and his mother is forced to send the kit's older brother off to ensure his safety.

sapphoq reviews says: This book traces the early history of the cat clans. There is much to like about The Sun Trail. For those parents who monitor what books their kids are reading, I think this one is suitable for teens and pre-teens. The series has attracted fans which include adolescent boys. And who doesn't love cats? These cats are more rugged than adorable. Yet the magic of kittens is found in the pages along with the charm and dignity of older cats. Highly recommended for pre-teens, teens, and those adults who love cats.

Friday, April 03, 2015

El Mexicano Restaurant, Saratoga Springs, New York

     It was a clear and brilliant day. As I walked, I noticed a sign for El Mexicano restaurant just before the Stewarts on Broadway.

 The patio in front had lights on the arbors and a flashing open sign.

I was hungry so I went in.

I was immediately greeted by the pleasant aroma of food cooking. I took a table in the back and ordered. While waiting for my chimichungas and snacking on chips and delicious salsa, I looked around at the artwork on the walls and the tables, all done by Gabino Vasquez. He and his brother, Esteban Vasquez own El Mexicano.



     I ordered the eight dollar plate of chimichungas. Two chimichungas were set in the middle of the plate with lettuce and quacamole north and south, and fried rice with peas and carrots west, and beans east. The temperature was just right for consuming immediately. Although I was not impressed by the addition of once frozen peas and cubed carrots mixture to the excellent yellow rice, I was mollified by the excellent quacamole. A bottle of hot sauce and another of salsa verde were delivered upon request [for me, and those patrons who prefer spicier Mexican food]. A most excellent lunch!


     Afterwards, I [along with all patrons eating there] were treated to dessert.

     The mashed banana fried and wrapped in a flauta with two dollops of whipped cream on the side and cinnamon was the perfect temperature. The flauta was crispy and impressive. It was an impressive ending.

Staff were friendly and attentive. Service was prompt. My total bill came to eight dollars plus tax. El Mexicano is a place I will go back to.

If you wish to go:
El Mexicano Restaurant
208 South Broadway
Saratoga Springs NY 12866
open seven days serving lunch and dinner

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cesar Millan's Short Guide to a Happy Dog by Cesar Millan

Cesar Millan's Short Guide to a Happy Dog: 98 Essential Tips and Techniques, Cesar Millan. Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2013. e-book, 145 pps.

Short Guide to a Happy Dog gives you the basics in digestible chapters. Cesar Millan covers dog psychology, natural dog laws, balanced dogs, pack leadership, and choosing the right dog for your household along with other stuff. 

A dog whose people refuse to or don't know how to be pack leaders will seek to fill the void. We blame our dogs for not doing what we want them to do, yet we do not create the proper environment for them to be able to respond to us. This is serious stuff. A large percentage of dogs who lose their homes find themselves in shelters, purebred rescue societies, or abandoned on the streets because of the improper actions of people. This alone ought to make caring dog owners everywhere want to learn how to be pack leaders and provide proper exercise, discipline, and affection for their dogs. But sadly, it does not.

Of the few dog owners that I was able to provide some direction to, two signed up for group obedience lessons, one took her dog to the vet where a long-term digestive condition was uncovered, one got through her puppy's teething stage successfully, and one hired me to exercise their dog. The rest of them continued to live with their "problem" dogs dominating their lives and the lives of their families. 

One "problem" dog was found dead by his dog house. He was four years old. He spent his life tied up there twenty-four/seven save for the times when he escaped and ran wildly around the neighborhood. Our animal control laws are such that as long as his humans gave his access to fresh water and food twice a day, what they did to him was legal. 

I salute everyone who have carefully chosen not to have a dog for whatever reasons. I did not know the four year old dog well. He was a beautiful Irish Setter that came to a bad end. He wasn't allowed inside the home due to allergies. He received hardly any attention, no exercise and no discipline. That dog would have been far better off had he never met that particular family.

sapphoq reviews says: Being a fan of all things Cesar Millan, Short Guide is no exception. Highly recommended to those who have committed to or are considering committing to a dog.

Cesar's Rules by Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier

Cesar's Rules: Your Way to Train a Well-Behaved Dog, Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier. New York: Crown Archetype/ Random House, 2010. e-book, 222 pps.

Friday night in our household is Cesar Millan night. The younger cat and I watch several episodes of Cesar 911 together. Of the three animals-- which include the older cat and the dog but not the frogs in tanks-- Sirius Black is the one most interested in the moving electrons on the magic box.

I have benefited from watching Cesar ever since I discovered him on television some years ago. An old guy who used to show Springer Spaniels and then switched to German Shepherd Dogs was the one who taught me how to train my dogs in formal obedience. Cesar Millan taught me how to train myself. 

Being the pack leader involves energy. I also include proper posture in the expression of this energy. My dog notices. 

The current dog is going to be thirteen years old on April 2nd [if she lives]. She has old age problems plus a current additional problem of a bacterial infection from eating rabbit turds. Other than the recent expression of her fascination with the wondrous snacks from heaven, she really is an intelligent dog. And she has been easy to train. I will miss her when she dies.

Cesar's Rules delineate the basics involving dog psychology. Chapters include techniques developed by other trainers as well as having a balanced pack and the stuff that makes Cesar Millan a great benefit to those dogs whose people get training from him. 

There is new material also. I had never heard of Dr. Ian Dunbar before reading this book. I was happy to have the information about puppies and off-lead work. If the next dog is a puppy, I am going to give that a try [in fenced-in and secure areas] also.

sapphoq reviews says: We are a Cesar Millan household. I endorse and highly recommend all of the Dog Whisperer's books. Naturally, this one also.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Living With Yorkies by Pruitt Farm Publishing

Living With Yorkies: Things You Should Know, Emily Pruitt of Pruitt Farm Publishing. self-published via Pruitt Farm Publishing, 2011. e-book, 62 pps.

There was a family yorkie that was sent to me when she was eight years old. I spent the first two weeks correcting her for biting me. She bit me whenever I put her in the car and bit me whenever I took her out of the car. After the first two weeks, she did settle down some but she remained a bit cantankerous for the rest of her life. She was a cute dog though, and smart too. She got the same obedience training that all of my dogs get and was subject to the same rules. She got to have a lot of fun with me and my dogified household. 

We went on numerous hikes and back-packing trips. I'd carry her when she got tired. She would sleep in the tent with me either on top of my sleeping bag or inside. The other dogs usually preferred to sleep right outside the tent and I had to drag them inside when storms were hitting. She swam some too. When I groomed her, she would pick out her own barrette for her hair. She would walk in my footprints or ski marks in the snow but refused anything that resembled dog booties. She was a determined dog for sure. She died of old age.

Living With Yorkies was written by Emily Pruitt, the daughter of yorkie breeders. She points out the good and the not so good about yorkies and also what to watch out for. My yorkie had chronic pancreatitis-- diagnosed before I got her but not treated until my vet discovered this fact in an old vet record-- but never did get any signs of hypoglycemia.

sapphoq reviews says: Anyone who is considering getting a yorkshire terrier for the first time ought to read Living With Yorkies first, along with doing other research. Highly recommended.

The Single Biggest Mistake People Make When Choosing a Puppy by Kayye Nynne

The Single Biggest Mistake People Make When Choosing a Puppy: And How You Can Avoid It, Kayye Nynne. self-published, 2012. e-book, 18 pages.

Kayye Nynne had the experience of owning a totally unmanageable dog in spite of lessons and doggie boot camps and doggie behaviorists etc. I have had that experience also. We both forgot that when our cute and adorable puppies grew, they would be big dogs and suddenly their endearing behaviors were a problem. I have since learned that "if it is unacceptable in a large dog, then correct it in the puppy."

Kayye Nynne recommends asking yourself a bunch of questions before going out to hunt up a puppy [or a dog] to bring home. If you would rather die than go tromping off into the woods or for a four mile walk, then don't get a dog that wants to do those things. Sporting dogs [and a few dogs in some of the other dog groups] are notorious for requiring huge amounts of exercise. The problem with dogs who want to exercise is that they want their human or humans to go with them. If you are of the can't sit still for a minute variety, then don't get a lap dog. Makes sense to me.

Attending a dog show and watching the dogs work in obedience is one way to get to know some of the purebreds. There are also dog shows for mutts these days. Attending a water trial or a field trial is also a good thing to do. 

If you get a mixed breed dog, that dog may have the personality of one of its ancestral breeds, the temperament of another, and the work ethic and interests of a third. Complicating the issue is the idea that within any litter of puppies, whether purebred or mongrel, each puppy is an individual and can vary greatly from its litter mates.

Kayye Nynne recommends using the Puppy Assessment Test that evaluators use to pick out potential service dogs. I think that is a good idea.

sapphoq reviews says: If you are a first-time dog owner, recovering from owning a disaster dog, or do not have your own way of evaluating a potential adoptee dog, then read The Single Biggest Mistake People Make When Choosing a Puppy. Highly endorsed.

Must Love Dogs by Greg Dinneen

Must Love Dogs: How to Form Friendships with Dogs and Teach Your Dogs with Kindness, Greg Dinneen. self-published, 2015, 2009. e-book, 66 pps.

Must Love Dogs is full of white space. White space makes it easier for people like me to read books. I don't necessarily need larger print. I do need lots of blank space between sentences and paragraphs, the more the better. Although Greg Dinneen's e-book tops out at 66 pages on my e-reader, if regularly spaced there would be much less of it.

My initial impression was something like, "The beagles they got in Australia must be really different from the ones they got here" [in the U.S.A.]. I have to admit to being astonished that he got his beagles to walk off-lead safely. Beagles and safety are two words one does not find together often on this side of the pond. My second impression was, "Greg Dinneen doesn't care for Cesar Millan much" [or a Cesar Millan counterpart in Ozland]. 

I wasn't expecting stuff about horses. But there was bits of stuff written by someone years ago and I liked that.

sapphoq reviews says: Must Love Dogs was free when I picked it up. I don't know whether to recommend it or not. So, that's up to you. If you are looking for tips by a professional, then-- no. Otherwise, maybe. As long as it is free. 
I've had quite a few dogs now over the years [and cats and frogs] and have obedience trained my own dogs and helped a few random strangers out with theirs on occasion. Disciplining a dog is not the opposite of loving a dog. And I do follow Cesar Millan on Twitter [tm] and I watch his stuff on the television. 
On the other hand, the stuff about horses was fascinating reading and I may have to look up the old manuscript from which Greg Dinneen quotes.

Doggyvision by Wendy Darr

Doggyvision: How Dogs See, Wendy Darr. self-published, 2014. e-book, 35 pps.

sapphoq reviews says: Doggyvision was a delight to read. It is a short but fairly accurate description of what colors dogs can see. Also contained within are whimsical photos of dogs with added captions. The one on page 7 re: Doggy News Hour is especially adorable. The cover picture is of Wendy Darr's samoyed Casper, now passed on. Thirty five pages of science tidbits and whimsy is a winning combination. Highly recommended.

Butt Ugly Dogs by Dizzy Daphne

Butt Ugly Dogs: A Photography Survey of the Top 10 Ugliest Dog Breeds in the World! (Butt Ugly Stuff, #1), Dizzy Daphne.  self-published: Butt Ugly Books, 2014. e-book, 42 pps. with pictures!

sapphoq reviews says: Butt Ugly Dogs lives up to its title. The ten breeds of dogs in this book are uh, different. The information provided by the author Dizzy Daphne is accurate and spot-on. Each breed mentions has at least one picture, a profile, history, temperament, and "Rude Comment." This book was short and sweet and free when I got it. Recommended to those canine-philics and others with a sense of humor.
N.B.: The pictures in this book are "Royalty free images reproduced under license from stock image repositories." (p.41). They fit well and are much appreciated.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Franchising McChurch by Jon Mark Yeats and Thomas White

Franchising McChurch: Feeding Our Obsession with Easy Christianity, Jon Mark Yeats and Thomas White. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2011. e-book, 161 pps.

     Franchising McChurch is a wonderful book. I suspect that it was written with Christian pastors and church workers as a main audience. Nevertheless, there were many gems to be found in the writing of Jon Mark Yeats and Thomas White.

     The book takes issue with those who run their churches on the business model with pastors [or sometimes, "spiritual directors" in cases where rather than giving sermons, someone just throws the switch on a video] acting as C.E.O.s. Anything worth having is worth working for. This is as true of a meaningful Christian walk as it is of anything else. "Theotainment" is my new word of the day (page 92). 

     The authors state that Christian churches are traditionally good at either winning new souls [converts] or discipleship among members who are already believers but not both. They suggest that the number of people on the membership rolls is not a good enough indicator of success. Some churches, especially as they become mega-plexes, lose something in fellowship when there is more than one Sunday service. When music is choreographed and services are split according to musical or other tastes, the church body becomes splintered. People expect theotainment these days rather than true involvement with the work of their local churches.

     Yeats and White do an excellent job of describing various church structures (p. 135 on) and three things necessary for true success (pp. 94-95). So what is in this book for me as an atheist?

     I review books. I seek out books whose authors demonstrate excellent command of the language [yes, I read books in Spanish also but haven't reviewed any of them here] regardless of their political or religious affiliations. I don't usually read books that suck. Most of the books that I review are books that I own that I've chosen to read. A few books are from a place that has an active paperback exchange. By and large, I read mainly e-books because of my ocular motor dysfunction problems. It's easier for me that way.

     Back to the question: what is in this book for me specifically as an atheist? The information itself was excellent as was the thesis behind Franchising McChurch. Most valuable to me personally were the authors' thoughts on control-- (pps. 54 and 60 for examples). I have found that people controlling or attempting to control other people is a problem that is not limited to some congregations. As the authors state, in order to [attempt to] control someone, we must dehumanize them first. When I want to control the thoughts and actions of another adult human being, this desire points to something not quite right within me. I strive in my own life to restrain myself from the impulse to control others. A friend or lover who takes people hostage is not appreciated. A non-professional who enjoys "writing treatment plans" for others is wasting time and effort. When I [attempt to] control others, I miss out.

N.B. I don't have children. The rules may be different for raising kids but I don't profess to know anything about that.

sapphoq reviews says: I really enjoyed this book. Franchising McChurch has much to say about the state of Christian churches in the United States and ought to be read by any pastor or church leader who is seeking to emulate the best from early Christianity. Serious Christians will also benefit. Highly recommended.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Forged by Bart D. Ehrman

Forged: Writing in the Name of God-- Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are, Bart D. Ehrman. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2011. e-book, 256 pps.

Bart D. Ehrman is a scholar and college professor who has written some books about God, Jesus, The Bible, and Christianity. He was converted to evangelical Christianity in high school and first attended Moody Institute where he studied apologetics. [The word "apologetics" has nothing to do with apologizing. It actually involves composing arguments and defenses in favor of Christianity]. Ehrman went on to obtain a PhD from Princeton. He is fluent in [the reading of] several languages which include Hebrew and Greek. 

I attended several brief informal classes of Greek. Armed with a Greek New Testament and a Greek dictionary, the three of us did not get very far. I perhaps might try again but in a different setting with a different style of teaching.

I was taught about the perfect nature of the Bible and that all of it was literally true without any mistakes. I accepted this for several years until I started noticing contradictions in both the Hebrew and the Christian Bibles [Old Testament and New Testament are what we called them back in the old days]. The phrase "follow the evidence" means "follow the evidence wherever it leads, even when it doesn't lead where you want it to go." These days, I attempt to follow the evidence and the money.

Forged is a Bart D. Ehrman for the rest of us-- those of us who are not college students studying this stuff and not biblical scholars-- packed with information. Even so, I found that I did have to give this Ehrman book two full reads. Its pages contained some things that I was familiar with as well as quite a bit of new information.

I didn't realize that the pagans of old did not put an emphasis on the idea that one religion could be true and the rest of them false. Before Christianity took hold, pagans didn't care about such things. Worshipping the gods involved doing the proper prayers and whatever sacrifices were called for. Christianity was the religion that introduced the notion that some religious doctrines could be truth and others not so much. These days, some of the pagan camp fight over things like which gods can be invoked together and how pagan leadership positions are determined and whether or not Satanists are witches [some are and some aren't; also some Satanists are atheists and some are literal believers] and how the latest event went. This is not to say that the ancient days were better. Had I lived then, the appendicitis attack that I suffered in my late twenties would have killed me if something else hadn't gotten me sooner.

On page 19 of Forged, I found that we know about over one hundred forgeries pertaining to Christian writings between the first and fourth century C.E. Page 21 advised that a fellow named Cerinthus actually wrote Revelations, not a fellow named John and certainly not the apostle John. Ehrman pointed out correctly that Palestinian boys were not routinely taught even rudimentary Hebrew and that more than ninety percent of the population were illiterate.  Other pages broke down who wrote each book of the canonized Christian Bible, who wrote some of the books that were not accepted, definition of many terms, and the reasons behind forgeries back in those times. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were not actually written by those four apostles. The early church simply gave those gospels the names. There were many gospels floating around and believers had to be able to distinguish the ones they were using from the ones that they weren't.

Ehrman also pointed out that the literalism that is popular today was not how even the Puritans perceived the Scriptures. The current fundamentalist Christian movement started in the late  1800s [references below] at the earliest. Although Ehrman identifies as atheist, he does have some Christians among his fans. 

sapphoq reviews says: I found Forged a bit of a challenge to read but worth the effort. For those interested in what modern day [and some ancient] scholars are saying about the Bible, highly recommended.  not updated since August 11 ?2014.

References re: fundamentalist Christian movement origins:   [discussion on fundamentalism on a chat board]

Although I am an atheist, I do read some well-written Christian books as I find them. My next review will be on Franchising McChurch written by Christian pastors Jon Mark Yeats and Thomas White.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas

A Three Dog Life, Abigail Thomas. Austin Tx.: Hartcourt Inc., 2006. e-book, 129 pps. including sample chapter of another book.

A Three Dog Life was a fortunate mistake. I was fatigued and browsing through some e-books for sale. My fingers slipped off the tablet but on the way, they hit the buy button. So I decided to read the book I had bought.

Abigail Thomas and her husband Rich lived in New York City. One night, he had a bad accident. That was the beginning of the upheaval. Rich was hospitalized. He had to have his forehead rebuilt. He didn't even look like himself anymore. He evidenced some personality changes. Abby found that she could not keep him at home. He was in one rehab hospital and then had to be moved to Lake Katrina.

I'd heard about Lake Katrina from some other members of a traumatic brain injury support group. "The art program is fantastic," they said, "but everything else sucks." I've been to the town of Woodstock-- where Abigail Thomas moved in order to be closer to Rich-- and some other places around the area.

The author settled into a nice little house with the dogs. The dogs were very good at comforting her, keeping her company, and providing companionship and entertainment. Rich had severe short-term memory loss along with some psychosis which dictated his placement in Lake Katrina. Abby goes up to see him once a week, usually Thursdays.

At one point in my life, I had three dogs. It was a fun time for me but I was also much younger. I find that one dog is enough now. If pressed or the right dog came around, I suppose that I might do two. But I'm not looking for the second dog.

My own dog stayed right by my side during those first few months after my traumatic brain injury when I was sleeping twenty two hours a day. I had a few of my own personality changes. Even my taste in reading changed. Although not free from mental and other complications, I am fortunate not to have any psychosis. I also consider myself fortunate to be able to maintain myself in the community rather than have to go live in Lake Katrina or somewhere.

Abigail Thomas indicated in her book that the art program at Lake Katrina is wonderful [so that has not changed]. She offered no complaints about the care given to Rich there [so hopefully that has changed]. She claimed that Rich will sometimes say things about situations that he has no knowledge of. I leave that to the reader's own judgement. My own cognitive difficulties demand that I take a pragmatic approach to life.

sapphoq reviews says: I was very interested in what Abigail Thomas had to say because she is a family member. I've read books by t.b.i.-ers [or t.b.i. survivors] and books by clinicians and a few books by clinicians who have had brain injuries themselves. I'm not sure that I've ever read an entire book by a family member. Now I have.
A Three Dog Life was a breezy read. The author's talent for words clearly showed in the pages. I liked her and I liked Rich too, or what I know of them from the book. Rich was quoted as saying some lyrical almost poetic things mixed in with things that demonstrated his aphasia. I came away knowing that Abigail Thomas loves her husband very much. She did not get into whining or complaining about how "horrid" his brain damage made her life or anything like that. I highly recommend this book to survivors, family members, and anyone that knows someone with a traumatic brain injury.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

The French House by Don Wallace

The French House: An American Family, a Ruined Maison, and the Village That Restored Them All, Don Wallace. Naperville ILL.: Sourcebooks, Incorporated, 2014. e-book, 328 pps.

Don Wallace and his wife Mindy fell in love with Belle Ile, a small island in the Brittany province of France. They found a house for sale and bought it. The French House details their financial and cultural struggles to restore their home as well as their love affair with the island. Although they were summer residents [and not true ex-pats], I enjoyed this read.

I have my own dreams about finding a tiny island someplace to go live where the people are friendly but not pushy and there is clean water to swim in, a warm climate, maybe a few mountains and woods, and lots of birds. I enjoy traveling. Although I cannot afford to go to the more glamorous places yet, I meander around in the woods or on trains every chance I get. Consequently, I am a fan of Paul Theroux and I also read ex-pat books whenever I can get my hands on them.

There are pictures in The French House of the house itself, some old walls and scenery, and people. They were decent pictures which added to the enjoyment of the book for me. I like old walls and ocean shots in particular.

I also liked that Mindy spoke good enough French and that Don was picking up French [with some humorous mistakes] as fast as possible. I think it is important to adapt to our environments-- which includes foreign countries-- rather than expect that the world will adapt to us. Should I ever re-locate, it is my intention to become fluent in the language and culture of the place I pick. I do not want to live in a planned community of ex-pats who speak primarily English and go to the franchise stores that are available in the states.

It is unfortunate that people of all walks of life consider that they are entitled to government-given happiness or are somehow owed a living. Don and Mindy Wallace have more money than some folks do. Even so, they went after what they wanted and were willing to make the necessary sacrifices to get it. Some may criticize this last paragraph as a straw man sort of argument but I am leaving it in here anyways. Those are my own thoughts.

sapphoq reviews says: I liked The French House. Highly recommended.  [partially blocked by a "sign up for Pinterest"].

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Haunted by James Herbert

Haunted, James Herbert. New York: Jove Books, 1990. paperback, 338 pps.

James Herbert is an English writer apparently of some fame. Haunted is the first book by him that I've ever read.

David Ash is a skeptic of the supernatural who investigates paranormal claims for a society. The society employs psychic mediums but is not interested in furthering the cause of charlatans who give the genuine mediums "a bad name." Some of the claims of hauntings or ghosties are falsified but some others aren't. 

David is hired to investigate a ghostie at the Edbrook Manor. It is a tragic story that he finds there-- three young siblings had been left to the care of an old auntie after their parents died in a horrific car crash in France-- along with a terrifying dog and lots of dust and unkempt grounds.

Things happen. David drinks a bit to take the edge off of his nerves. There is an attractive young woman of course. And two past stories of investigations included within the pages of this novel.

To be fair, I know a bit about cold readings and how to fake psychic phenomenon. Even so, the story drew me in until the end.

sapphoq reviews says: Although the descriptions of the places in Haunted were a bit sparser than I like, the characters were well-developed and the whole book was eerie. I like that in a book. For a mature audience who are able to separate fantasy from reality and who want a good English horror, highly recommended.

"Free Smart Phone or Tablet from Sprint" Offer

I had occasion to contact the Sprint 800 number recently. While waiting for a customer service rep, a recording advised me that "You are eligible for a free smart phone or tablet" and to ask about it after my business was concluded.

A customer service rep answered my call.
My business was concluded.
I asked.
I was placed on hold.

Someone else-- with a thick accent-- picked up my call. The tablet was indeed free and she would be happy to write down my address. I had to ASK about how this would affect the cell phone bill. I was told something like the "easy payment no contract plan for data" was ten dollars a month. Did the tablet hook up to wifi? I asked. Well, yes. But I would still be required to pay the ten bucks a month for data. [There are other legal ways to do this]. 

"Then the tablet is not really free," I postulated.
The accented voice informed me that the tablet worth three hundred dollars was indeed free but in order to use it, I had to [my words here] cough up an extra ten bucks a month for "data."

If I wanted the smart phone instead, the same extra ten bucks a month for "data" would apply.

"I understand what you are saying," the voice told me, continuing to insist that either item was free, as long as [my words] was willing to give them ten more bucks a month.

I declined the offer.

sapphoq reviews says: A free tablet is not really "free" if I am required to pay for "data." Free ought to mean free with no strings. Free with no added charges. Free for my use with a dongle or off-line or as fodder for a campfire if I wish to. Free to give away. Obviously, the word free has been corrupted. Bad enough that most of the public telephones and telephone booths have gone by the wayside. Bad enough that cell phones have become almost necessary. Bad enough that some number of people cannot stand to be disconnected from their wireless communication devices for the length of a meeting or a movie.
So no thanks, Sprint. Not interested.
And no thanks to any cell phone company with the same come-on. 
It may not meet the criterion for false advertising. But it ought to.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

A Dirty Job, Christopher Moore. Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009. e-book, 330 pps.

One of Sir Terry Pratchett Discworld novels had a Death character who even had a granddaughter! I love all of his books. The notion of becoming Death is one that tickles my imagination. Christopher Moore has a novel called A Dirty Job which I have just finished reading yesterday.

     "I have been chosen, so don't fuck with me."
                                                             ~Charlie Asher, page 93

Charlie Asher had a run-in as his wife died but his newborn daughter lived. This set of events introduced him to single parenting. He and his daughter live upstairs in the apartment building in San Francisco. The storefront on the first floor is his shop.

San Francisco is a wonderful place. It was the perfect setting for A Dirty Job. I appreciated that very much. Visiting places in literature where I've been in actual life is pretty cool. 

Charlie Asher wasn't planning to become a death merchant, but like any dirty job, someone has to do it.

sapphoq reviews says: Christopher Moore has a delicious sense of humor that I have enjoyed in the other books of his that I've read. Once again, I found myself laughing out loud as I read this one. A Dirty Job has so much going for it in terms of excellence. This one left me guffawing. Highly recommended.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving: A Novel by Jonathan Evison

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving: A Novel, Jonathan Evison. Chapel Hill NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013. e-book, 358 pps. including preview of another Jonathan Evison novel.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving tells a [fictional] story about a man whose marriage is ending. Ben Benjamin suffers from depressive thoughts, mainly concerned with his lack of achievement and lack of success in his life. Down on his luck, he takes a course in professional caregiving. He is hired by Trev, a late adolescent suffering from Duchenne's [Muscular] Dystrophy. Trev is in the later stages and running out of time.

At first, Ben and Trev spend their time in Trev's home that he shares with his mother and then they branch out to trips to the mall and stuff. There is a sameness to Trev's routine, even when he is out. It is this sameness that drives Ben a bit bonkers at times.

Ben Benjamin and Trev go on a road trip. Along the way, they meet up several other people and a few of them are given rides in the specially equipped van. There are some funny things that happen along the way at various tourist traps, bars, and motels. Nothing and no one remains the same.

sapphoq reviews says: I enjoyed this book. I could relate to the job that Ben had as well as the opportunity to travel with someone in his care. Recommended. 

The Frugal Survivalist Disaster Preparations Under $500 by James Dakin

The Frugal Survivalist Disaster Preparations Under $500, James Dakin. self-published, 2006, 2013. e-book, 119 pps.

sapphoq reviews says: Unlike some shorter books dealing with how-tos, there is no evidence that James Dakin copied the ideas of others in his book The Frugal Survivalist Disaster Preparations Under $500. This alone is cause to recommend this free [at the time of my purchase] e-book. For those who are just getting into emergency prep on limited budgets, highly endorsed and recommended.

Python for Kids by Jason Briggs

Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming, Jason Briggs. San Francisco CAL.: No Starch Press, 2012.  e-book, 953 pps.

I love No Starch Press. I haven't met a book from No Starch that I didn't absolutely love. And I love Python the programming language too. So when I saw Python for Kids, it was practically a given that I would purchase it. Coding is fun and so is this book.

The first chapter of Python for Kids gives easy to follow instructions for installing Python onto one's computer. There are distinct advantages to coding with Python. It comes with a full library. It is user-friendly. It makes sense.

The rest of the book is devoted to actually using Python [and some nifty exercises at the end of each chapter], vocabulary, and then creating two games with Python.  There is also a companion website called for those who want more.

sapphoq reviews says: Jason Briggs did a fine job with Python for Kids. All instructions and concepts were easy to follow. This one is a winner! If you don't know how to code, you really ought to learn at least one language. This book comes with the highest recommendation.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Crap Taxidermy by Kat Su

Crap Taxidermy, Kat Su. Berkeley CAL.: Ten-Speed Press, 2014. small picture book, 95 pps.

I have a category of books reserved for days when I need to laugh. Crap Taxidermy is one that belongs in that particular collection. This small book is packed with bad examples of taxidermy from places all over the world. Some of the featured places are both Koreas, Palestine, and Germany. Some of the stuffed dead animals have pasted eyes instead of the glassy eyeballs, goofy expressions, or really bad poses. And there are some morphs too, animals that appear to be combinations. 

sapphoq reviews says: I did not view any large game animals or animals hunted for the sake of weird trophies hanging on the wall in Crap Taxidermy. Those who especially sensitive to viewing examples of animals who have died regardless of the circumstances of their deaths would do well to stay away. So too any vegans or other non-meat eaters who are against this sort of thing. The bonus instructions for how to stuff a mouse were accurate. [I did that once for a demonstration in some sort of field days/career thingy]. Highly recommended for the rest of us. 

Politics and Pasta by Vincent Buddy Cianci and David Fisher

Politics and Pasta: How I Prosecuted Mobsters, Rebuilt a Dying City, Dined with Sinatra, Spent Five Years in a Federally Funded Gated Community, and Lived to Tell the Tale, Vincent Buddy Cianci and David Fisher. New York: St. Martin's Press/ Thomas Dunn Books, 2011. e-book, 314 pps.

After reading The Prince of Providence, I didn't think I would like Politics and Pasta but I actually did. The latter tells the same story as the former but with a different emphasis. Sometimes people really do go to prison who don't deserve to be there.

I wasn't on the jury. I had never even heard of Buddy Cianci-- an ex-mayor of Providence, Rhode Island-- before reading this pair of books. I have been to the outskirts of Providence but not downcity. I don't know what evidence the jury heard but evidently the prosecution did enough of its job so that Buddy did wind up in the fed pen at Fort Dix [N.J.] for time just shy under five years. The evidence must have been compelling enough for one charge to stick.

On the other hand, having read both books, I am not prepared to give Buddy a pass on his temper or his tumultous marital life. It was difficult for me to believe that "everyone lied" about whatever happened during the three hours or so that a fellow claimed to be too afraid to leave. At the same time, the claims that money wrapped in tin foil being passed around in the open were difficult for me to believe.

Would I myself want to be an intimate of Buddy Cianci? Sleep in his bed? Share his daily life? No. Did he belong in prison or were his outbursts [which he denies in his book] related to some untreated medical foe or both? I really cannot say, nor am I qualified to.

The two books shared some material yet the point of view could not have been more different.

sapphoq reviews says: David Fisher did an excellent job helping Buddy Cianci get his version of the events out. The writing came across as folksy and friendly. Although I could not reconcile the two histories, I think both The Prince of Providence [reviewed before this book] and Politics and Pasta are worthy of reading.  I would have liked to have heard more about Buddy's incarceration but that may very well be my personal preference. While I don't excuse personal violence inflicted upon others in the form of threats and explosions, I do recommend Politics and Pasta.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Prince of Providence by Mike Stanton

The Prince of Providence: The True Story of Buddy Cianci, America's Most Notorious Mayor, Some Wiseguys, and the Feds, Mike Stanton. Toronto: Random House, 2002, 2003. e-book, 470 pps.

I have never run into Buddy Cianci, the subject of The Prince of Providence and a former mayor of Providence, Rhode Island. Vincent Buddy Cianci Jr. grew up in an Italian family in the Italian section of Providence. He went to law school and at some point ran for mayor on an anti-corruption ticket as a Republican. He was mayor several times and then once more. There was an extensive investigation of corruption and bad things happened.

I have only been to Providence twice and both times the trip was really to the outskirts. Once I went with friends to a dog show. That was pretty neat. I got to hang out with a retired champion. The next day we went to a huge hardware store. That was also pretty neat. But I haven't really been to Providence proper or to any of the places that the book talked about. I'd like to see City Hall and the waterfront and the gay bars and the places that Cianci used to live in. Maybe I will go on tour through some of the old mansions [I like architectural stuff] and then go hang on the beach. There is a beach there, yes? If I'm lucky, I will run into Dennis Aiken and tell him he done a great job!

Buddy Cianci has now published his own book Politics and Pasta, in the year 2011. I read the sample and I will probably read the rest of it and review that one as well.

sapphoq reviews says: I enjoyed The Prince of Providence. Mike Stanton illustrated the two sides of Buddy Cianci. Buddy could be charming or vicious, depending upon whether or not people were doing as he wished, according to Stanton. Highly recommended to anyone who likes a good true political story.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek by Terry Shames

Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek (Samuel Craddock Series #3), Terry Shames. Buffalo NY: Prometheus Books, 2014. e-book, 225 pps.

Jarrett Creek is broke. A deal with a water park promoter fell through and now a son of a banker is dead. Who killed him? Samuel Craddock is called from retirement and he has to find out. Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek is much better than this short summary might imply.

sapphoq reviews says: I enjoy the writing of Terry Shames and have quickly become a fan. I failed to anticipate whodunnit in this one-- a mark of a mystery well-told for me. If you like mysteries combined with a touch of life in a small town, then the Samuel Craddock Series is for you. Highly recommended. 

Fives and Twenty Fives by Michael Pitre

Fives and Twenty Fives: A Novel, Michael Pitre. Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2014. e-book, 317 pps

I believe Michael Pitre when he says he was there in Iraq. Fives and Twenty Fives is his first novel. It is a fictional Iraq in which a platoon is out fixing potholes blended in with the aftereffects for some members of the platoon. From the interpreter to the people he met along the way before landing in the somewhat safe haven of the Army as a terp to the leaders and the grunts, the smell of war is intermingled in its pages.

All of my paternal male relatives have served in various wars and actions. Of those who came back, they were changed. Those who didn't make it back live on in my memory.

As a youngster, I didn't understand the why behind wars. As I got older, I learned about the huge vastness of empty grayness between the over-simplified version of black-and-white that we were compelled to learn in school. 

My quarrel today is not with the veterans. My gripe is with the president who felt it his duty to show up in Saudi Arabia to honor an old now dead king and to greet a new king who is more of the same. Because Big Oil is more important than lost lives and because beheadings in the background become white noise that he can somehow sleep through. Those kings in Saudi Arabia support beheadings of the citizenry and human rights advocates who dare to disagree. Five beheadings happened during the first week of the new king's rule. I don't understand how the president was able to sleep at night in that country knowing that human beings were suffering and continue to suffer cruel deaths.

We as a country have to wake up and smell the gasoline. Campaigns for us to lessen our usage have failed. We need to develop our own resources in our own country NOW so that we can become independent from those other countries who provide us with oil but would just as soon kill us all or place us under the bondage of Sharia as look at us as human beings. We are the infidels who must rise up.

Secondly, we ought to continue to develop modes of transportation [cars and like that] which are "green," that is depend upon renewable sources to run.

But we, in our own stupidity, will not do these things. We will continue to have presidents who kiss foreign asses for Big Oil.

sapphoq reviews says: A true winner of a novel. Highly
recommended. Must read. It is haunting. Read this one.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black. Boston: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers/Hachette, 2013. e-book, 340 pps.
Holly Black on twitter-- @hollyblack

     Teen Tana lives with her father and younger sister Pearl. Her mother became infected some years ago and died. The first chapter of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown depicts Tana waking up the morning after a party in a bathtub. Things are not good.

     Due to an outbreak of vampires, the streets are not safe after dark. Even at home, one must ensure that windows and doors are shut. Vampires can squeeze in when taken by hunger. Coldtowns have been established in places which used to be large cities. If someone is turned by a vampire and does not successfully throw off the infection, he or she is obligated to show up at a Coldtown. A few non-vampires also live in Coldtowns for a variety of reasons. Tana and a couple of cohorts do show up.

     Despite the popular show of a wild vampiric ball on television, the truth in the Coldtown where Tana shows up is far less glamorous. An ancient feud between vampires is going on. Tana gets involved. Through a series of missteps and adventures, she survives uninfected.

sapphoq reviews says: Holly Black is a popular author and it was easy for me to understand why as I read through The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I enjoyed the book, the first of a series. Suspense of disbelief came early for me. The teen characters reminded me very much of the teens I had known when I was in high school. The depiction of life in a Coldtown was inventive. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is suitable for teens [and some of us adults too]. I highly recommend this one.

n.b.: Parents, if you object to the subject matter in this book, it is your responsibility as parents to monitor what your teens are reading. I just write the reviews.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

The Homing Instinct by Bernd Heinrich

The Homing Instinct: Meaning & Mystery in Animal Migration, Bernd Heinrich. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. e-book, 297 pps.

     I was delighted to discover that Bernd Heinrich hunts deer. We have far too many deer-- more than our ecological landscape can support-- and those who hunt [and use what they hunt] are doing evolution a favor by culling the herd. Most folks in Maine are either starving or they hunt and that's the way of it.

     The Homing Instinct is a fascinating book. I read it all at once on a night waiting for a snowstorm that didn't come. There are all kinds of nifty things in it-- and all of it is field observations backed up by laboratory research. I found that whether animals pass on their migratory routes to their offspring or the offspring are driven by instinct makes a difference, that we had one native locust in the United States [related to the grasshopper but not the same as the grasshopper] which went extinct but via climate change and glacial melt, many corpses of said locust were found and scientists did DNA stuff on them, that some communal nesting arrangements allow for an extra species of bird to fill in the spaces and stuff like that. Stuff I like as an avid birder and nature child.

sapphoq reviews says: Bernd Heinrich continues his personable but scientific expository style in The Homing Instinct. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Your God is Too Small by the citizens of Atheist Republic

Your God is Too Small: 50 Essays on Life, Love, and Liberty Without Religion, Atheist Republic. self-published: Armin Navabi, 2014, e-book, 300 pages.

Armin Navabi is the founder of Atheist Republic.

     Atheist Republic has blogs, forums, a coming soon podcast, a news section and more on the site I didn't know about it until I happened upon the free e-book containing fifty essays by bloggers under the atheist republic umbrella. 

     Published via Smashwords, the common criticism lodged against many of the other self-published authors there does not hold true for Your God is Too Small. I found zero mistakes in grammar and spelling. To anyone who hesitates at the Smashwords label, go ahead and download this free e-book. My only criticism is that the urls to the videos were omitted in the individual essays. I don't know whether that is a stipulation from Smashwords or an oversight by the citizens of Atheist Republic.

     There is a lot to love about Your God is Too Small. I relished the section on Islam. Although some percentage of the populace makes it a practice to not criticize the doings of any religious organizations, the essays included about Islam make it clear that Atheist Republic citizens don't hesitate to take on any topic of necessity. Several essays address the human rights violations and atrocities evident within modern-day Islam as well as the idea that it was not that long ago that mainstream Christian churches also shared in implicit guilt as related to genocide [Rwanda, Hitler, and the Crusades all spring to my mind]. Circumcision of both males [common in Judaism] and females [in some predominantly Muslim countries] is treated as the mutilation that it is. Even slaughtering beef using kosher methods is not given a pass.

     Some of us within the atheist communities who have been experimenting with a "Live and Let Live" laissez-faire approach to more fundamentalist believers have discovered that those believers do not feel bound by the same principle in dealing with us. I don't know of any studies done to support my own anecdotal observations about the clashes on Twitter (tm, no copyright infringement intended) which occur between atheists and believers. Making a statement like "I am an atheist. I don't believe in any gods" or even "Jesus Christ is my personal savior" or "There is no god but Allah" is quite different from "Atheists are scumbags" sort of statements that flow from some Christian and Muslim accounts. Fundamentalism of any variety is dangerous. One only has to research "Charlie Hedbo" to find illustrations of why that is so. Your God is Too Small also reminded me that atheism is punishable by death in some countries today. We atheists cannot afford to sit back and congratulate ourselves on our blossoming presence on social media.

sapphoq reviews says: I have been looking for a new country. I think I will join up at Atheist Republic and observe where the citizenship there takes me. I highly recommend Your God is Too Small to atheists and other freethinkers and to those non-atheists who are interested in an intellectual exploration of what life might be like on our side of logic.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cool, Hip & Sober by Bill Manville

Cool, Hip & Sober: 88 Ways to Beat Booze and Drugs, Bill Manville. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2004. e-book, 705 pps.

     For those who don't know, Chit Chat over in Pennsylvania is officially "The Caron Foundation." Bill Manville refers to Chit Chat in his book. He was doing a radio show at the time that this book was published. Many of the questions included in Cool, Hip & Sober came from callers or are composites of questions phoned in by callers to his show.

     The title of the book is a bit misleading. There are not really 88 ways offered to beat active addiction. But there are 88 questions and extensive answers. Manville proposes the standard route these days to recovery; time in a detox if needed, then a rehab using the Minnesota model coupled with attendance at [primarily A.A.] meetings. Manville includes those who are addicted to other drugs besides the drug alcohol in his use of the word alcoholic. While I am not entirely comfortable with that decision, I don't have to be. The terminology works for the audience that Cool, Hip & Sober is aimed at.

     Cool, Hip & Sober grew on me. At first I thought to myself nothing much new here. Yet I kept reading and through the professionalism [which Manville attempts to escape in his answers] quite a bit of common sense shows through. Manville does not pussyfoot around sore subjects. He tells it like it is without giving into that misnamed monstrosity "tough love" that folks not in the know of the history of said phrase appear to relish tossing around.

sapphoq reviews says: Bill Manville's Cool, Hip & Sober holds appeal to a general mixed audience. Recommended for anyone with basic questions about addiction and recovery.