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Friday, June 10, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: How May We Hate You?

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Because my son and daughter-in-law both work in the hospitality industry (at two different hotels), this title intrigued me. My daughter-in-law especially has many times expressed how stressful it can be to meet the needs of difficult guests (which she does extremely well). After reading How May We Hate You? by Anna Drezen and Todd Dakotah Brescoe, I now understand.

The authors, both actors who have worked as concierges at New York City hotels, use their comedic gifts to give us an inside look at how hotel employees see those of us who come through their doors. Taking on subjects such as how clean your room really isn't, whether housekeepers truly do steal your stuff while you're out seeing the city, and what requests employees can or never will accommodate, Drezen and Brescoe have done a great job of lightheartedly exposing truth.

The book is a quick read, formatted in short (1-2 page) narratives interspersed with bursts of infographics and comics. There are transcripts of real interactions with difficult guests, as well as "Actually Helpful" sections that give the reader genuine tips on travelling and hotel stays.

What I appreciated about the book was the authors' decision to keep all guests and hotel names confidential. This book is not an expose, out to slam and embarrass anyone. Further, my sense is that both of them are thankful for their jobs (especially since said jobs have provided material for a book!) and the opportunity to help guests, especially those who make kind requests and treat them with respect. What is disappointing is the general sense of entitlement from so many hotel guests and how poorly they believe they can treat employees.

I received this book free of charge in exchange for a fair review.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Saving My Assassin

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Saving My Assassin, by Virginia Prodan, is a testament to courageous faith. As an attorney in Communist Romania under the brutal reign of Nicolae Ceausescu, she defended Christians targeted for minor offenses regarding the practice of their faith. Standing on the country's already-existing laws (laws the dictator had to abide by in order to maintain an alliance with the United States), she nonetheless angered government officials who wanted to silence those who dared to believe in the God of the Bible, rather than the god of the country.

As Prodan began to attract international media attention for her cases, the opposition to her actions grew. Continuing to defend her clients despite being detained, assaulted and threatened, the author finally found herself face to face and very alone with a man Ceausescu sent to kill her. What happens next is simply a mighty demonstration of God's desire that none perish, but all come to repentance.

Journeying with the author as she recalls her painful upbringing and how it brought her to saving faith in Jesus, I had difficulty putting the book down. Her life is indeed an example of just how much God can do with a life surrendered to His will...and His sovereign protection.

I received this book free in exchange for a fair review. For more information on the author, go here.

Monday, April 25, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Eating in the Middle

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I've never reviewed a cookbook before, but lately I've been looking for some good-tasting, easy recipes for my house full of men (and one almost-daughter-in-law). I've also been looking for how to keep from piling on pounds prior to aforementioned almost-wedding. Voila!  Eating in the Middle, by Andie Mitchell.

First, I really enjoyed sitting down to read the author's personal stories and thoughts. Not having read her book It Was Me All Along, I was curious to find out more about her life. Highly encouraging!

Then, I went though the book marking recipes I not only wanted to try, but felt were reasonable to try in terms of my time and the reality of how tired I often am at the end of a day. I was surprised at how many pages I marked!

Lastly, I made a couple of the recipes last week to see if they 1) were as easy as they looked and 2) tasted as good as they promised. I made the Chicken with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Feta, as well as the Lemon Herb Fish and Crispy Oven Fries. Both dishes turned out fantastic, and my family was happy. Voila!

Happy me, happy family.

For more on this book, go here. I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair review.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Night Driving

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When growing up Christian was just what you did, attending Christian conferences and singing Christian songs and reading Christian books and hanging out with Christian friends, life was easy. Those around you shaped your walk with Jesus and almost scripted how it would go with Christianese words to describe the pitfalls and peaks along the way. But once you reach early adulthood and nothing is scripted anymore, what do you do when suddenly you're at a loss for the God you thought you knew? Is something wrong with you when you no longer feel Him?

Addie Zierman, in her new book, "Night Driving," takes us along an honest, transparent, literal road trip that symbolizes the spiritual road trip her life is taking with or without her. A follow up to "When We Were on Fire" (here's my review), the book details her winter minivan trip with her two young sons from Minnesota to Florida in search of sun and that old "fire." Like most events to which we attach expectations, the trip falls short in some ways...but in the most important ways, she finds just what she needed.

I appreciate Zierman's honesty and am thankful for her willingness to lay her heart bare for those going through similar seasons with God. She reminds me that the answers to faith issues are not always scripted. Not only do I need to know that for my own life, but I need to remember it for others'.

I received this book free of charge from "Blogging for Books" in exchange for an impartial review. For more information on Addie Zierman, go here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Five Days at Memorial

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What a superb work of investigative journalism!

"Five Days at Memorial," by Sheri Fink, takes an excruciatingly honest look inside New Orleans' Memorial Hospital in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Beset by flooding, power failures, extreme heat, and a plethora of miscommunications with rescue personnel from a variety of organizations, doctors had to make unheard of decisions regarding patient care. Unfortunately, some of those decisions were truly horrific.

More than just a recounting of facts, Fink delves deeper into the issues of medical ethics during catastrophic failures of infrastructure. With limited resources, how exactly are doctors to determine which of their patients should be rescued first? Should it be the able-bodied with the best outlook for survival? Or the most fragile, even if transporting them in such condition could put them at greater risk? Without clear policies and procedures, some of the medical staff at Memorial made decisions that would later put them before a grand jury to face charges of manslaughter.

You will not be able to read this book without making a judgment call as to what you believe to be the way to best honor the lives most vulnerable in a natural disaster. As for me, I found myself horrified at the audacity of Dr Anna Pou, who led the lethal injections of patients she deemed too difficult to evacuate--even as helicopters arrived outside.

Sheri Fink has done an outstanding job with this book, and I believe she has honored everyone who was in Memorial Hospital for those five days with a transparent and thorough account of the chaos.

I received a copy of this book free of charge from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers in exchange for a fair review.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Burning Proof

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If you're looking for a fast-paced page-turner with a solid plot, pick up Janice Cantore's latest novel in the Cold Case Justice series, Burning Proof for a few days (or less, depending on how quickly you read). The sequel to Drawing Fire, this book finds Long Beach Police Department detective Abby Hart still trying to solve the mystery of the Triple Seven murders that killed her mother and Long Beach PI Luke Murphy's uncle. As this plot line unfolds during the book, Abby also finds herself drawn into a cold case Murphy is working with his partner, Woody.

However, before she can effectively do either of the above, Abby has to struggle with professional trauma and burnout after she pulls the trigger in an officer-involved shooting. Questioning her ability to even continue in law enforcement, she retreats to her aunt's home in Oregon. While there, however, she also has to face the unresolved relationship with Ethan, her boyfriend...especially since her feelings for Luke Murphy grow stronger every day.

With plenty of interesting twists and turns as realistic characters work out realistic crimes, this book is both suspenseful and heartwarming. It ends with some big questions answered and others hanging in mid-air for the next Cantore novel. I can't wait!

I received this book free of charge from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for a fair review.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: He Wanted the Moon

This is one of the most unique books I have read in a long time. He Wanted the Moon, by Mimi Baird, is at the same time a biography, a psychiatric case study, and the lifelong achievement of a daughter's goal to connect with the father she never knew. 

Dr. Perry Baird, a noted dermatologist, had his life demolished by bipolar disorder, or, as it was called back in the 1940s, manic depressive psychosis. A multi-honored graduate of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Baird had a successful private practice and a young family when he began to experience manic episodes that led to repeated forced hospitalizations. Subjected to brutal treatment in several hospitals--including weeks of continuous immobilization in ice cold wraps and straightjackets--he lost his wife and family through divorce. While experiencing the loss of colleagues' friendships and the revocation of his medical license, Baird nevertheless sought to write down the internal narrative of his illness and treatments so as to preserve it for medical history. More than anything, he sought to help scientists understand the manic experience so that a cure could be found. He left a jumbled manuscript that records his life during a particularly difficult eight month period in 1944-45. 

Meanwhile, Baird's oldest daughter Mimi was seeking to understand why her father went away and never returned. Her mother divorced Dr. Baird early on in his psychiatric struggles and remained silent when Mimi inquired as to where her father had disappeared. It wasn't until her 50s that Mimi found the clues that would unlock the story of her life, and over the next 20 years she would painstakingly complete her father's work. 

As someone who worked for nearly 20 years in a psychiatric hospital, I found this book particularly compelling. It is sad to read about the outdated methods of dealing with bipolar disorder before lithium was discovered (just shortly after Baird's struggles with the disease), especially the prolonged, cruel physical restraint. I find the subjective accounts of Dr. Baird's manic episodes to resonate strongly with what I experienced in working with such patients. And the threads of this father-daughter tapestry add a dimension to the book that wraps it up in a fullness of emotion. 

I received a free copy of this book for review purposes from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers.