Category Archives: General Non-Fiction

Thomas Jefferson by Meacham

JeffersonJon Meacham understands Jefferson – the man – the politician – the statesman.

Thomas Jefferson
The Art of Power
by Jon Meacham
Random House
October 2013

Thomas Jefferson – our third President. What a statesman – politician – but most of all an outstanding person firmly planted in his beliefs and how our country should grow and become a great nation. Meachan brings out all of Jefferson’s outstanding ideas as well as his faults and shortcomings. Jefferson was a man of power and control – in a sense he was a manipulator – but did is in such a way that few were even aware they were being manipulated. Jefferson had some serious problems in and out of the White House. He knew the loss of his parents, wife and numerous children, but still he prevailed. Jefferson was a man of integrity – well liked by some – feared by some – and strongly disliked by others. He was really not a great favorite to become President, but he kept control and won. Jefferson was a practical politician more than a moral theorist. He was one of the most talented politicians of his generation and one of the most talented in our nation’s history.

I thought the book was a little too long but thoroughly enjoyed learning about the life of our third President. Recommended.


The Golden Reviewer, is an 80 something year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of fiction on top..

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Unstoppable by Vujicic

This is an awesome book! Imagine a man with no arms and no legs has been told he is a security risk, once he is told this, he lets his friends know how to pray through and that God is in control and he will take care of everything. He talks about how when was younger, that things did get discouraging and how he attempted suicide once, because he could not see what God had in store for Him. He did reach out to others and they asked him questions and became his friends and he also realized God had a plan for him.

Unstoppable
The Incredible Power of Faith in Action
By Nick Vujicic
Waterbrook Press
October 2012

This book is filled with inspiring stories from people he has met in his many travels throughout the World. One I can identify with is how Pastor Leon Birdd began his ministry with a story that sounds like a parable told by Jesus. He was working as a carpenter and driving a truckload of furniture in a rural area outside Dallas in 1995 when he saw a middle-aged man walking on the road. At first glance he thought he might be drunk, but as he drove by the man, he felt the Holy Spirit speak to his heart. He found himself stopping to offer him a ride. When he pulled alongside the man, Leon noted that he seemed to have trouble walking. Leon asked him “Are you Okay? The man replies suspiciously “I’m not drunk if that is what you are thinking.” Leon tells the man, “You seem to be having a hard time. I’ll give you a ride.”

The man, Robert Shumake, was telling the truth. He had difficulty walking because he had undergone several brain surgeries which affected his mobility but not his determination in helping others in need. For years Robert had been taking coffee and doughnuts to feed the homeless in downtown Dallas every Saturday morning.

“How do you do that when you can hardly walk?” Leon asked.
“People help me, and now you’ll help me,” he said.
“I don’t think so. What time do you do this?” Leon asked.
“Five thirty in the morning.”
“I am not going to drive you, especially at that hour,” Leon said. “Even the Lord isn’t up at five thirty in the morning.”

The next Saturday, though, Leon awakened at five o’clock in the morning, worried that Robert might be waiting for him on a street corner. He feared for Robert’s safety since the location that he’d suggested for their meeting was a rough part of the city. Once again the Holy Spirit seemed to be working through him.

Before sunrise he found Robert standing on a street corner with a thermos filled with five gallons of hot coffee. Robert asked Leon to drive him to a doughnut shop, where they loaded up on pastries. They then proceeded to downtown Dallas. The streets were empty. “Just wait,” Robert told Leon. With the big thermos of hot coffee they waited.

As the sun rose, homeless people appeared one by one. Nearly fifty people assembled for Robert’s coffee and doughnuts. Leon could see from the smiles and joy exhibited on these people as they accepted the hot coffee and doughnuts that Robert was sowing seeds and that he clearly needed help so he began assisting him each Saturday morning after that. In the months that followed, Robert’s health declined.

“Robert, what happens when you can’t do this anymore?” Leon asked one day as they packed up.
“You’ll do it,” Robert said.
“No, you really need to get someone else,” Leon insisted.
“You will do it,” Robert said again.

Robert was right. Leon Birdd became Pastor Birdd, an ordained minister with an inner-city mission supported by nine local churches and other donors. Although Robert died in 2009, the seeds he planted have grown into full-blown open air services with music and celebrations of faith. Now every Sunday morning, more than fifty volunteers join Pastor Birdd in feeding the bodies and ministering to the souls of hundreds of homeless in downtown Dallas.

This story was so inspiring to me, because I also have had multiple brain surgeries and have been looked at funny by others as well, so I can relate to Robert’s life.

This book was well written and the whole book was a testament to what God can do. When you put “Go” in front of “disable”, you get “God is able.” Let Go and Let God.


Shelley Walling is a 43 year male who is on disability retirement from complications from brain surgery. He was an Electrical Dispatcher for 11 years until the surgeries, he now enjoys spending time with his wife and two girls who are still at home along with four grown boys as well. He and his wife have an interest in sustainable and off-grid living and hope to live off-grid one day. He likes to read books about nutrition and medicine, Christian fiction and end times theology.

Victory Lab by Issenberg

Can it really be that a simple mailer from a PAC to just a few thousand – or even hundred – citizens and they’ll vote? More than that: they’ll vote how you want them to? Apparently it is because it worked in the 2010 elections. How? That’s what this book is about. Kinda.

The Victory Lab
The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns
By Sasha Issenberg
Crown
September 2012

The author starts with the tantalizing stories of election campaign strategies then detours to a history of campaign psychology and the use of quantifiable data and statistics. Going back a hundred years he treats history buffs to a story that most of us have never heard of. While interesting, the reader who was hooked by the intriguing campaign letter at the start of the book (read: me) is soon bogging down in a landslide of facts and figures.

Later in the book, if you can get there, you’ll find how campaigns use social and analytical sciences to help drive voters – the right voters – to the polls for your candidate. The behind the scenes stuff that was hinted at in the opening pages and also the title (“secret science”) never really materializes.

Some have likened the techniques chronicled in this book with Moneyball. The problem with Moneyball is that it didn’t work. We have the impression it worked because of the movie with Brad Pitt and the success of one team over a single season. Stats and data point innovations like the ones used by the General Manager for the Atheletics don’t work long term. Where are the Atheletics now? The problem? As soon as a new technique is utilized to success everyone else uses it thereby nullifying the technique and advantage. So a lesson learned should be that we need constant innovation to find that next key data point/ idea that can give us the edge. And in today’s world is this really a secret?

Bottom line: this is a text book of the history of social sciences, analytical data / quantitative methods, and psychology as applied to campaigns. While this is fascinating stuff if you are interested in a history lesson, it really doesn’t fulfill the subtitle’s promise. This isn’t for the casual reader. It doesn’t have secrets or a ton of behind the scenes stories that we would have liked. Go into the book with this understanding and you’re good.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Cleaning House by Wills Wyma

Remember back when we had to walk to school, uphill both ways, with no shoes, in the snow and everyone said “Ma’am” and “Sir”, and not a single instance of back talking ever? I do. It was in my grandparent’s dreams.

Cleaning House
A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement
By Kay Wills Wyma
WaterBrook Press
May 2012

All jokes aside, there is an issue with kids “these days” (Ugh! I’m not old enough to say that!) It’s called entitlement.

Maybe our parents, (I’m Gen X,) wanted to do for us better and more than their parents did for them and now we want to do more for our children than was done for us. It comes from love but even though our intentions are good and our efforts are made out of love we have somehow gotten off point. Our kids aren’t just more loved, but more sheltered; not just more cared for, but more spoiled.

Wyma’s moment of clarity came when her teen son wondered aloud whether or not he would have a Porsche or a BMW for his first car when he turned 16. Where would he get this car? From Mom and Dad of course. With no effort on his part, unless you count living 16 years. So Wyma decided to do something about this unrealistic sense of entitlement: she would put her children to work.

This isn’t a book about how we can utilize our children to get more chores done. This is a book about preparing her children for the real world, teaching them responsibility and self confidence based on reality: you are awesome because you do awesome things, not because “Mommy loves you!”

Wyma takes readers through 12 months of her life as she moved from basic skills like cleaning their room and picking up their clothes to ever more complicated tasks through getting a job. Her monthly goals were achievable, malleable enough to fit the age of each of her children (4-14) and just hard enough to inspire a true sense of accomplishment when the child completed the task.

The end result? Confidence based on real achievements, self respect and respect for others, creativity unleashed, and a family bonded tighter than ever. This book was so inspiring that I’ve chosen to adapt several of the steps to my own system of reward/punishment at my home (which was similar to some of the systems shown in the book, where there are stars given for completed tasks and stars removed for incomplete tasks, then a tally is done at the end of the month which determines cash payout.)

The only down side to listening to the book, available at ChristianAudio.com, is that I found that I really wanted to make notes and refer back to them. This is a book about planning and doing, which may not fit well with the audio book format. If you aren’t a big reader, or you listen to books in the car then this one is well read and a good choice. But all things even, the paperback is the way to go in my opinion.

A great idea book, written in an engaging way, this book is highly recommended.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on Christianity, Zombies, and anything else he wants to.

This audio book was provided by the publisher, ChristianAudio.com, as a review copy.

A Chance in the World by Pemberton

The true story of a young boy – age three – taken from his mother and placed in the clutches of a cruel foster home.

A Chance in the World
by Steve Pemberton
Thomas Nelson
January 2012

Steve cannot remember anything about his mother. He, however, hopes each day for her return to take him away from the horrible Robinsons. His young life is a living hell. The Robinsons, on the surface, seem to be a loving family, but people have never seen their dark side, Steve is forced to do chores, beaten daily by his foster father and nearly starved. He is a boy with great courage and determination. He will not let this family defeat him. He will someday find his family and everything will be all right.

Steve finds his only refuse in a box of books given to him by a kind stranger. He emerges himself in the books – discovers a world he can only imagine exists and dreams of finding his true home. He is a fair complexioned boy with blue eyes, an Afro, and a Polish name. Who is his father? What happened to his mother and his family? He dreams of finding them someday, If he does find them – will it be the happy reunion he so desperately wants it to be?

A Chance in the World is the unbelievable story of a wounded-abused-broken little boy who overcomes all odds and becomes a man of strength and determination.

Steve Pemberton is Divisional Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for Walgreens.

I liked the book. Readers will weep with this broken little boy – you will feel each and every hit of the belt; his fears; his hunger. You will dream his dreams and pray he will find his family.

Highly recommended.


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is an 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top..

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Farm Fresh Southern Cooking by Algood

It’s 70 degrees with an early evening summer breeze. The trees in the garden are dancing with glowing lanterns. Large picnic tables, simply dressed, rest in the shade of the branches. On the patio, family and friends eagerly await the cuisine that has yet to grace the tables. Suddenly senses come alive as platters of food float past the hungry crowd in the hands of the preparers.

Farm Fresh Southern Cooking
by Tammy Algood
Thomas Nelson Publishers
April 2012

A cacophony of smells waft from the tables as craw fish-stuffed mushrooms, fruit salsa, roasted eggplant dip, golden brown goat cheese medallions and roasted bacon pecans begin to clutter the once simple cloth. Guests begin to ‘mmm’ and ‘ahh’ as the food slowly disappears from the dishes. But don’t get full yet, these are just the appetizers.

Replacing the now empty wares, the second course has made its way past the delighted and expectant faces. Cold summer peach soup, coconut corn fritters, mashed potato patties and garlic spinach sauté are just a few of the sumptuous dishes inviting more bellies to growl. Just wait till the breads come out! Fresh chive spoon bread, dried pear bacon bread, revival strawberry bread and blue cheese biscuits.
By now the Sun’s rays paired with a delectable feast, have caused mouths to long for refreshment. And just in time, beads of sweat drip from the chilled Southern breeze cantaloupe limeades and the Just Peachy frozen cocktails, as they float around the circle on laden platters.
No detail is overlooked as the entrees finally make their appearance. There will be none left wanting for more after this veritable feast. The table begins to groan under the weight of the Skillet fried chicken, sassy pecan and beet sandwiches, spiced lentil chili, nut-crusted catfish and spiced pork pot pie.

Dig into the bucket of local chilled wines, because this magical evening of feasting is yet to be over. No one can have this kind of spread without topping it off with decadent desserts. And here they come! Caramel-drizzled apple pie, sweet on you persimmon fudge, hot apricots foster, plum-centered picnic bars and bourbon pecan clusters.

Sit back, get comfortable, let the breeze whisper in your ear and enjoy your company, because a night like this is meant to be repeated.

This cookbook is fantastic! As someone who cooks on a daily basis, it’s always great to get fresh ideas. Not only are the recipes exquisite, they are fairly simple. I love the added hints, and the vibrant colors of the book. It is very well laid out, and even gives information on local markets. Everything about the book this pleasing. Much more than I was expecting when I ordered this. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who even remotely cooks. My only fear is the few friends I know who will be trying to steal this from my kitchen!


Heather Ring says that books are her plane ticket into another world, “I’d feel lost with out them. Reading is a part of me. However I am also an avid lover of the outdoors and pouring into my creative outlets. But I think my biggest passion, is spending time with my family and friends.”

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Lit! by Tony Reinke

There are tons of books that call Christians to live intentionally: have a plan, have a goal, work towards that goal. Mostly, these books deal with intentional Bible reading, church going, loving neighbors and so on. I’ve read books on how to watch movies, but I’d never seen a book focused on reading intentionally until now.

Lit!
A Christian Guide to Reading Books
by Tony Reinke
Crossway
September 2011

Reinke takes reading and breaks it down to the basics then builds up a case for reading as a way to find divine truth. The first several chapters (Part 1) are spent on the so-called basics of Christianity, including the author’s testimony, and an orthodox break down of Christian theology. This is important to building the firm foundation we need when approaching sources of information (both from “Christians” and “non-Christians.”)

Part 2 is all about fleshing out the subtitle of this book: a Christian Guide to Reading Books. (Since the book hasn’t given its life to Christ, I recommend instead “A Christian’s Guide to Reading Books” hence the title of this review.) Here Reinke spends time giving advice on how to read, what to read, how to decide what to read and so on. He make the case that if the average reader spent an hour a day on reading we could have read his book 2.5 times in a single week. As a big believer in reading being a requirement for continued human growth, this resonated with me. I found his comments about using an e-Reader to be too much opinion based on his experience and detrimental to his overall message. After all, if reading is a discipline we should develop then we can approach any reading device (paperback or eReader) with the same discipline. And I’ve found that many people who would not carry around a book will carry around their eReader.

This is a book that is a must read for all Christians who want to flex their brain muscles and live intentionally interacting with and understanding the culture around them as well as preparing for those interactions. A smart and well written love letter to reading in general and a call to read better. Highly recommended.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on Christianity, Zombies, and anything else he wants to.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Super Mario by Jeff Ryan

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, what company’s name was synonymous with video gaming so much so that many people didn’t realize that it was a company but rather the occupation itself? If you said, “Nintendo” then this book is for you.

Super Mario
How Nintendo Conquered America
By Jeff Ryan
Penguin / Portfolio Hardcover
August 2011

Starting during the explosion of the arcade, this book chronicles the growth of Nintendo as an entertainment company through its renewed dominance in the market with the Wii and DS systems. More than a history lesson, though, Ryan takes the readers through and behind the scenes of what happened giving life to the facts and enlightening those barely remembered moments of the past.

Every chapter is a detailed and delightful mental stroll down memory lane. From the origin of Mario to his use in dozens of games through the years, Ryan’s attention to detail rewards readers and fans of Nintendo and gaming. Some details I, as an avid gamer growing up during this time in America, had never heard. For instance, I had no idea that Mario’s creator Shigeru Miyamoto created not only Donkey Kong and Mario, but was the driving force on games like Zelda, Pokemon, and Nintendogs. In fact, it seems like every game that Nintendo has made over the last 20+ years that has been a favorite of fans has been helmed by this video game genius.

Not everything in the book worked though. In fact, some of it “flopped like a koi.” Ryan used that quote to describe the Virtual Boy. And if you think that was oddly misplaced in the narrative then you and I agree that parts of this book are written in what I can only describe as a forced cool. From quotes about video games either selling a million copies “and a bag of chips, or [they] were whack” to others that refer to pop culture in ill-fitting ways, Ryan’s choice of words distracted instead of added to the narrative. Not always, but enough.

This book is a treasure for gamers and fans of Nintendo and is highly recommended in spite of the author’s interesting and sometimes distracting writing style.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on Christianity, Zombies, and anything else he wants to.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

A Different Dream for My Child by Jolene Philo

This is a very inspirational book. It’s for anyone dealing with any type of health issues with their children. Not just for those families who have terminal ill children. Having a child with medical issues this was a very touching and inspiring book. Granted I don’t face many of the challenges like the families in the book. I can relate to the the stories in many ways. Each child has their own challenges that are hard to deal with. We sometimes feel alone.

A Different Dream for My Child
by Jolene Philo
Discovery House
August 2009

I have spent countless hours in Dr. offices and hospitals and I don’t foresee an end to this for quite sometime. I needed the encouragement that this book had to offer. Having a child with disabilities can take you places you never knew existed both physically and emotionally. What we planned for the future of our child is different than God’s plan.

Each chapter begins with a Bible verse. Then each section is around 2-3 pages. They have personal stories from families that the author has interviewed or the authors personal experiences. The families talk about how they faced each challenge that came their way. You will cry and laugh. Only someone with a child with medical issues can truly understand what it is like to deal with a sick child. This book is for those parents, extended family, or even for someone who wants to help out the family. The chapters each touch on different challenges faced along this unique road of having a unique child. Each chapter ends with a prayer/meditation and questions to help the reader reflect on the issues at hand.

A child is still a blessing, no matter what the diagnosis is and this books reminds you of this. No matter how much we love our children, we recognize that they are ultimately God’s child, and we trust Him to the One who loves them more than we do. Our job is to take the best possible care of them while they are here on earth, then trust the Lord when it is time for them to go home with Jesus. Whether they go home to be with Jesus in childhood, teens, or as an adult they are gifts from God. We are here for a little time. He trusted the gift in our hands to care for.

If you know someone who has a child who is seriously ill, or with any type of disability- get this book into their hands. This book is like a lifeline.

Thank you, Jolene for sharing your amazing and inspiring story. I needed this book.


ReneeK is a sweet tea addicted mamma who loves to cuddle up to a good book. She blogs at Little Homeschool on the Praire and writes about family, homeschooling, having a special needs child, and about whatever else tickles her fancy.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Dewey’s Nine Lives by Myron with Witter

Dewey is a small town library cat living in Iowa. His “mama” librarian Vickie Myron found him one morning, half frozen. In the book return box, Dewey lived for a number of years – 18 to be exact – at the library. He is one of those cats who instantly knew who needed comfort, is having a bad day, needs a hug, or for him to set in their lap.. Dewey created a community. Vickie wanted the library to be more than a place to check out books. She wanted it to be a place where people could come. Read, relax, fellowship or do absolutely nothing. With Dewey’s magic she did exactly that. Dewey has passed away, but his love lives on in the lives he touched.

Dewey’s Nine Lives
The Legacy of the Small-Town Library Cat Who Inspired Millions
by Vickie Myron with Bret Witter
NAL Trade
November 2011

There are some interesting stories in the book about Dewey, but for the most part is comprised of nine inspiring stories about other amazing cats told by their owners to Dewey’s Mom. These stories come from all over the world as Dewey touches the lives of so many people in many different places. You will thoroughly enjoy reading about Tobi, Mr. Sir Bob. Christmas Cat, Marshall. Church Cat and all the other cats and what effect they had on their “Mamas or Daddies”. Dewey wasn’t an angel but he came mighty close to being one.

Dewey’s stories will inspire readers to laugh, cry and believe in the magic of animals to touch and change individual lives.

Highly recommended. This is the second book in the Dewey Series. Also recommend you read the first book – Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat that Touched the World – and learn more about Dewey and his magic. A delightful read.


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.”.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.