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The Price of Thirst: Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos
The Price of Thirst: Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos
by Karen Lynnea Piper
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.31
60 used & new from $13.14

4.0 out of 5 stars Water: A Basic Human Right or a Commodity for Sale?, May 19, 2015
This is an especially important introduction to one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century, the availability of potable water to all people. While Piper has a definite political position on this issue, her coverage provides details of the way that inequitable water policy is harming people all around the globe. The World Bank and IMF are clear villains here, but corrupt multi-national corporations and greedy politicians are also fighting against the basic needs of their constituents. South Africa, Egypt, California, several parts of South America: these are all examples of where people are finding drinkable and/or adequate water too expensive and even totally inaccessible. Definitely worth reading.


The Ghost in My Brain: How a Concussion Stole My Life and How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped Me Get it Back
The Ghost in My Brain: How a Concussion Stole My Life and How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped Me Get it Back
by Clark Elliott
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.48

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Story of One Man's Post-Concussion Ordeal, May 16, 2015
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When Clark Elliott was hurt in an apparently minor auto accident, he little realized the impact his concussion would have on the rest of his life. As we hear much that single incident would affect the rest of his life. And while we are hearing more and more about the devastating effects people suffer from concussions, The Ghost in My Brain gives us a unique look into the problems one man encountered.

It should be noted that this memoir is the story of one man's experiences, and these may differ significantly from those of others who are also "post-concussive." Not everyone has such severe impairments, and not everyone's concussion will have the same exact impact on the same exact areas of the brain, so what has helped Dr. Elliott may not be the "magic bullet" for every person who has suffered a traumatic head injury.

Still, his story is riveting and frightening in the ways that the post-concussion problems manifested themselves. Fortunately, the author was zealous in keeping notes of all the things that were happening to him over the years that he struggled without any hope of ever getting better. These notes, along with his education and career in brain science, helped finally find a way out of despair and back to almost normal living.

The book is not always an easy read, but it is also a wondrous one, as Dr. Elliott describes the incredibly intricate functioning of the "normal" human brain. His descriptions of the treatment he received from the two key physicians involved in his "cure" are also quite technical at times, but this too is a necessary part of the telling.

One thing the book did not discuss (nor have any other reviewers), but I wonder if the author had ever been diagnosed as being at least somewhere on the Aspberger spectrum. For example, he tells us that, as a child "I spent more than a year listening to single notes, then gradually two, and then three, on the piano, roughly eight hours a day, studying their individual sounds, and developing my ear." (p 212) Other personality traits he mentions, even the meticulous and almost obsessive note-taking after the accident, also fit a possible pattern. I mention this only because it would be interesting to understand if Aspbergers, if present, might have had some impact on the severity or nature of his symptoms. (Since I have only an advance reader copy, the planned list of Suggestions for Further Reading is not available, so it is possible that might include something related to this.)

Overall, recommended reading in light of the ongoing debate about the real effects of concussions in the lives of so many.


Coffee, Tea, and Holy Water: One Woman's Journey to Experience Christianity Around the Globe
Coffee, Tea, and Holy Water: One Woman's Journey to Experience Christianity Around the Globe
by A. E. L. Hudson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.81
45 used & new from $8.82

3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging writing that doesn't really get it, May 9, 2015
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There is something refreshing about a woman embarking on a global adventure, seeking more than just some kind of self-fulfillment, so I looked forward to reading Amanda Hudson's trip through five countries in three continents. She is a talented writer, effectively using humor and providing some excellent word pictures of her experiences, so the reading was quick and easy.

All that said, I have enough concerns about the book to give it only a mid-level rating. Ms. Hudson is typical of all to many American tourists in her descriptions of some of the conditions her hosts and their ministry partners were living in, expressing shock and wonder at things like unlit mudhuts in Tanzania, irregular electricity, dirt floors, and churches with few if any amenities we can come to take for granted in the US. Sometimes her attitude seemed to stereotype the very people the missionaries she was visiting have chosen as their neighbors, and I would hope no readers would take away these same attitudes after reading this account.

Another problem with the book is that she often seemed to be representing her experiences as being typical of whole countries and ministries. While a travelogue--which this really is, more than an indepth effort to "experience Christianity around the globe"--might not be expected to include lots of research, the author sometimes presents her isolated experiences as pictures of Christianity as a whole in the regions visited, not a valid conclusion.

So read this with its limitations, only a tiny glimpse of five individual ministries, not as any kind of real picture of global Christianity. For that, seek out books by people who have actually lived cross-culturally for years and have made themselves part of the communities they serve, not just drop in tourists with preconceived attitudes that don't get changed by the experience.


Project Fatherhood: A Story of Courage and Healing in One of America's Toughest Communities
Project Fatherhood: A Story of Courage and Healing in One of America's Toughest Communities
by Jorja Leap
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.60

4.0 out of 5 stars Behind the Headlines and Into the Reality for Many, April 24, 2015
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The statistics are familiar to us all: the high rates of imprisonment within the black community, the problems of fragmented families, high unemployment, and poor schools in so many neighborhoods. If you have read The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (and I highly recommend it), you have seen these problems detailed and decried. Now, with Project Fatherhood: A Story of Courage and Healing in One of America's Toughest Communities, we see some of the living out of all these problems in the Watts area of Los Angeles.

Dr. Leap has been meeting with a group of men coming out of prison and taking advantage of this program to find ways to break the disastrous cycles of poverty, unemployment, and broken families.

And these families are definitely broken. Many (most?) of the men have children by two or more women, and many are the closest thing to a father of these women's children. The women are sadly called "baby mommas" by many of the men even as Dr. Leap gently tries to get past that terminology, and this gives one more insight into the way relationships develop and continue generation after generation.

This project is tiny in relation to the huge scope of the problems it is trying to address. However, it is encouraging to know that there are these attempts being made. This is a book that should be read by anyone but especially those who may think that these broken communities could be changed if "those people" would just get jobs and settle down with their kids. The book may start a little slowly for some readers, but it is well worth your time to keep reading...and thinking about the reality of life as so many are experiencing it every day.


You Can Adopt Without Debt: Creative Ways to Cover the Cost of Adoption
You Can Adopt Without Debt: Creative Ways to Cover the Cost of Adoption
by Julie Gumm
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.08
37 used & new from $8.94

4.0 out of 5 stars A good little handbook and idea starter, April 20, 2015
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If you or someone you know is considering adoption, You Can Adopt Without Debt may be a good basic handbook for getting started. The author has included several chapters on all the many steps that will be involved, giving some short anecdotes about her own family's experience. She also gives a brief overview on the three basic kinds of adoption, some of which may be repetitive for those already well into adoption commitment but useful for beginners to the process.

After discussing these basics about how adoptions proceed, Ms. Gumm provides ideas that have worked for her family to reduce their overall spending in other areas so that they would have more funds available for adoption costs. She freely acknowledges how much the Dave Ramsey approach to finances has assisted their family, and many of her suggestions in this section will be very familiar to anyone who is acquainted with Ramsey's Financial Peace University. Still, it is good to have these ideas applied to the often expensive path to adoption.

A large part of the book gives ideas for how families can reach outside their own income and savings to meet the often heavy costs of adoption. She provides current sources for some grants, discusses how people might approach their employers for possibly adding adoption benefits to their overall package of perks, and then gives an array of ideas for fundraisers parents and/or their extended families, friends, and communities might want to consider. This last section was the most intimidating to me, as it seemed like many of the ideas would be far more than many families would be able to pull off as easily as those she cites as examples. However, there are enough different activities mentioned that a really committed family should be able to find at least some things to consider.

All in all, this is a book worth getting for anyone starting the adoption process. As with most resources of this type, some specific information is likely to be outdated in only a few years, but the ideas here will remain valuable for years, and readers can use her many online references to get the most updated data available.


Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don't Have to Do
Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don't Have to Do
by Phillip Cary
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.29
68 used & new from $5.92

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent food for thought but needs a much better presentation, April 17, 2015
Dr. Cary makes a lot of good points and provides material that should be helpful for many working with youth and young adults. However, I have given this only three stars, as the presentation is very repetitive and is likely to fail to interest those for whom it would be wonderful--the young people themselves. I'd love to see this re-done, perhaps by this author himself, in a much shorter, more clearly written format.


Stepdog
Stepdog
by Mireya Navarro
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.86
77 used & new from $5.51

4.0 out of 5 stars Light reading--well written, just not a lot of content, April 16, 2015
This review is from: Stepdog (Hardcover)
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Library shelves are full of books about "blended families" and the successes, failures, and trials that accompany the changes people must make when couples who already have children take the step of merging households. Mireya Navarro has added a new dimension, by focusing on how she had to deal with a pre-existing pet that loved his current family but was not ready to accept her.

To be frank, I ended the book not really liking the author very much. Her self-centered approach to many things, not just wanting the dog to adapt to her, did not endear me to her, and it was often hard to relate to the affluence that she seems to just take for granted. Still, I appreciated her consideration of the feelings of her stepchildren, by keeping their privacy intact. I would guess that her relationships with these two kids were not always smooth, but she did not dwell on any issues with them and spoke only positively of them. In this day of tell-all books, that was indeed refreshing.

Navarro is an entertaining writer, and her anecdotes about a probably neurotic dog will keep you reading. If you are a dog lover, you may appreciate the great lengths (and expense) the family went to to keep Eddie from problems--for example, dog walkers at very high per hour costs to come take him out several times a day. The book is relatively short and could be a good beach book or for reading on an extended plane trip. Just don't expect to end it feeling you have gained any great insights.


The New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature's Salvation
The New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature's Salvation
by Fred Pearce
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.30
54 used & new from $14.33

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent presentation from a little-publicized point of view, April 8, 2015
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The New Wild is an intriguing read, one that I recommend to anyone interested in the environment, in climate change, in preservation of endangered species. Fred Pearce's take on the "problem" of invasive species is a little-publicized approach, yet the endnotes show that he is not alone in his questioning of the relentlessly negative picture painted of "invasive species."

I particularly appreciated his discussions of what really defines a "native species," especially when placed in opposition to those seen as alien or invasive. Why are tomatoes or potatoes "native plants" in the US when we know the history of their importing? What about birds that fly in and establish, on their own, colonies on islands where they had not existed for eons? How many generations does it take for them to become "native?"

This is a book that raises some good questions about whether a non-native specie is necessarily "bad," discussing some of the ecological value that some of these may provide. For example, he cites several plants that survive and thrive on "disturbed" (ie, urban or over--grazed) lands, providing more food for native insects and small mammals and often revitalizing the soil more effectively than the native plants they may displace.

Overall, The New Wild helps remind the readers of the sometimes unintended consequences of attempts to completely eradicate alien species, asking each of us to consider carefully before backing massive extermination efforts. The one weakness of the book is that Mr. Pearce does not adequately balance his concern for overly zealous efforts to eradicate "invasive species" to recognize that some of these campaigns do have merit. Elms and American chestnuts were decimated throughout much of the US in earlier years because of imported insects, just as the emerald ash borer currently threatens millions of ash trees throughout the Midwest. Are there other trees to replace the species that are lost? Of course, but there is still a huge, even if short term (in ecological time) loss to environments and economies. A little more balance in discussing these kinds of really destructive situations would have been welcome.

That being said, I recommend The New Wild for anyone interested in the natural world around us. It provides some good balance to more publicized, and perhaps less helpful campaigns against these "invasive species."


Miracle Gro Ultra Lite Hose, 50-Feet
Miracle Gro Ultra Lite Hose, 50-Feet
Price: $24.97

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still another hose with problems with coiling and uncoiling, April 6, 2015
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This hose is a nice light weight, fastens tightly at the tap, and is generally easy to work with while it is laid out and being used. The materials are also certified to be safe if the kids (or you) want to use it for catching a quick drink.

However.

While the description talks about this being easily handled--"it lays straight, preventing pigtails and making uncoiling a breeze"-the hose does not readily reform into the kind of coiling needed to put this on a standard hose holder, and it took little bit of a fight to get it into some semblance of storage order.

Difficulty in handling is not unique to this hose; still, avoiding kinking and smooth coiling were supposed to be key features of this hose. Because the hose did not live up to these promises, I have given this only three stars.

Not a bad product, just one that isn't special enough to justify the relatively high price.


Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime
Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime
by Scott Simon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.14
62 used & new from $8.82

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An okay memoir but far from the best, April 4, 2015
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I like Scott Simon. I appreciate very much his calming voice and interviews on Saturday mornings on NPR. I liked his previous book, Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other, chronicling the adoption of his two daughters.

I feel the need to start out with these commendations, because I have a feeling that there will be many who will choose to dislike this three star review only because of their loyalty to Mr. Simon. I get that. And three stars, after, isn't all bad.

It's just that this book is pretty thin gruel. It is touching to share some of the memories that Mr. Simon and his mother rummaged through as she lay dying in the ICU, but it may be more than a little off-putting for many to see how lightly heavy drinking and less than faithful relationships are discussed and laughed over. It is good to know that a childhood that could easily be depicted as deprived or mismanaged has instead been a source of warm nostalgia, but it still makes this a tale sometimes difficult for the reader to truly enjoy.

And then there is a strange absence of his mother's current husband. Why is he so totally not included in the ICU times? Near the end, Simon mentions that "my mother's husband" chose not to be there at the end because he had already said his goodbyes. Somehow, there seems to be a whole added story that should have been included in this little book.

In the end, this no doubt has helped Scott Simon work through some of the loss of his dearly loved mother, and it may be worth a quick light read for his most ardent fans, but I can only give it a lukewarm recommendation for most readers, even those of us who are regular Saturday morning Scott Simon listeners.


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