When God Made You

This was a fun book for me to read with my kids (ages 5 and 7).  When God Made You, by Matthew Paul Turner, is a engaging story about how meaningful each child (each one of us) is to God.  Obviously a spiritual tale, the story helps children know that the really are children of God and that he knows them individually, just as our earthly parents know us.  For anyone seeking to find a story to help their young one’s understand their place in the universe, this is a good read.

A Shadow Bright and Burning

A Shadow Bright and Burning tells the story of a young woman with special magical talents – Henrietta Howell.  The story begins with her wallowing away her time at a home for girls, facing the abuse of the head master.  She is soon rescued by a sorcerer who believes that she is the answer to a particular prophecy … that she will lead the sorcerers in their battle to defeat evil demons and demigods.  The story takes Henrietta on an adventure studying with sorcerers and magicians, learning to control her powers and ultimately battling the demons in her life.  A very good start to a new series.


The Tunnels:  Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill, by Greg Mitchell, is a very interesting story about tunnels built under the Berlin Wall.  The story takes place shortly after the Berlin Wall was constructed, in 1962, and detailed the stories of those who actually dug the tunnels, the network media professionals looking for the big story to share with the American people and the people who were able to escape East Germany and live in the west.  Mitchell also describes those who failed in their escape attempts and their consequences, which often included death.  The book includes photographs of the tunnels and the personalities and is a great read for anyone interested in the Cold War.

Grain Free Cooking

Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain Celebrations is a great cookbook for those who have sensitive dietary issues or just for those who have chosen to go grain-free for other reasons.  When I received the book, I scanned through the pages and was surprised and the variety of meals that were covered.  I actually read a number of the titles to my wife because she was a little skeptical as well.   We did make several of the recipes and found them delicious and they tasted much as we would have expected if we used the traditional recipes.  While no one in my immediate family requires grain-free meals, I do have several in my extended family who do and I look forward to sharing these recipes (if not the whole book) with them.

The Drawing Lesson

A very interesting, unique method for teaching someone how to draw.  At first blush, the book looks like a long comic book (about the size of some of the old Far Side or Calvin and Hobbes comic books sitting on my bookshelf).  However, once you delve into it you find a story that begins with a young woman and boy — a boy who is frustrated that he does not and cannot learn how to draw.  The book is, in actuality, a drawing lesson and the young woman teaches the boy different techniques, shows how to execute them and also helps to recognize when you might not be doing things quite right.

I found the book to be first, entertaining, but mostly it was a nice lesson on how to draw with the correct technique.  A book that could be used and enjoyed by novice artists at any age.

The Travelers

The Travelers, by Chris Pavone, is a fast-paced thriller about a journalist who becomes an unwitting spy.  The book travels the world from South America to Europe and back again a couple times, while spending quite a bit of time in the States.  I will say that the timeline moves forward and back a little bit, which I found a little confusing at times.  All in all, it is a pretty good thriller.  The book does have some graphic language and other scenes and, while I understand some language within the dialogue, having graphic language as part of the narrative seems excessive and unnecessary to me.

We the People

We the People, by Juan Williams, is a look at how Americans have helped shape the Constitution over the years.  As I read the preface, I felt that the book was purporting to show how modern Americans have become new “Founders” and that they were all doing something the original Founders would have approved.  The book looks at conservative and liberal thinkers (both politicians and non-) who have made America what it is today.  While I was reading the book, I couldn’t help but think that many of the changes to our present day Constitutional theory would be frowned upon by those who crafted the document.  However, the book does provide a good history lesson for those who wonder how our country has changed in the last 200+ years.

The Boxmaker’s Son

The Boxmaker’s Son, by Donald Smurthwaite, is a very satisfying read.  It is a fictional story, told like a selective biography of a boy’s life.  The chapters are not chronological, but each chapter tells the story of an incident in the boy’s life and compares it to another situation in his life.  The stories are sprinkled the thoughts of a boy, the insights of a grown man and bits of advice from his.  The story is a reminder that even though someone may not appear great by worldly standards, they can still be great leaders and teachers.  You will likely find yourself thinking about your own childhood and the lessons learned from seemingly small situations in life.

Tasting Rome

Tasting Rome is a new cookbook by Katie Parla and Christina Gill.  Having spent a few days in Rome several years ago, I was excited to see this book and try out some of the recipes.  I wish I could give it a higher rating.  As a travel book with recipes, I would rate it very high.  However, since I was expecting the reverse — a cookbook with some travel stories — I was disappointed.   There are some nice vignettes about Rome and the culinary traditions.  I learned several things about Rome’s food history.  And there are certainly good recipes, but I was disappointed that there were so few pictures of the dishes.  Also, I found that many of the recipes were a little too exotic for my taste.  I guess I am more of an Italian food tourist than a purist.  If you are looking for some of the more exotic Italian recipes, this book is for you.

Hunters in the Dark

Hunters in the Dark, by Lawrence Osborne, is a dark story about a young English teacher who leaves Thailand to wander aimlessly through Cambodia.  I can’t say that the story is suspenseful, but it did shed light on life in modern Cambodia and it did have it fair share of twists and turns.  Robert is a naive, young man who meets with taxi drivers, fellow foreigners and friendly and decidedly unfriendly natives, many of whom are not quite who they seem to be at first blush.  Robert seems to have an ability to touch the lives of those he meets, at times avoiding death (though seemingly unaware) and at the end, ends up where he begins.

Having lived in Thailand for a couple of years, I was hoping that the book would touch more on Cambodian life and culture, but I was disappointed.  Happily, it did touch on some of those aspects, which allowed me to relive some of my fond memories of Southeast Asia.