Category Archives: General Non-Fiction

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 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.

Fyodor Dostoevsky by Peter Leithart

Daravoe. Fyodor’s favorite memory. He could remember when his parents bought the three-room bungalow there, complete with thatched roof and clay walls. Oh to be in those woods filled with terror and excitement, to run through the quiet cottage, to explore! He felt the whole family become free as they entered the countryside. It’s where he first gathered literary material and had his first taste of grace.

Fyodor Dostoevsky
by Peter Leithart
Thomas Nelson Publishers
September 2011

Back in Moscow Fyodor and his siblings would often cower around their father. He was a good father, instilling them with the Word, and teaching them Pushkin, who would always stay close to Fyodor’s heart. But unlike their kind and compassionate mother, their father was given in irritable rages and tirades. However the children cherished his love and teaching of the arts, and his story telling at night.

After publishing Poor Folk, his first novel, a masterpiece unlike anything yet written in Russia, he became involved in numerous literary circles, listening to writers he respected. Deemed socially awkward and sickly, he was also known for his short fuse at such events. One night, while goaded into an impassioned speech, by a colleague, he met his demise, having been overheard by a spy. The next time he would see these friends, they would all be emaciated and standing in front of a firing squad.

Having been spared at the last minute, he spent years of exile in the bitter cold of Siberia. Sleeping in lice infested beds among criminals, he found the harsh conditions and his own sociological studies began to form the basis for one of his best selling novels.

Upon release, he kept on with his urgency to write and print his views. Sometimes hardly having enough money to eat, other times at the pinnacle of public admiration. He found love, he found lovers, and he met with loss. But then he found Christ, which radically changed him and the peoples adoration of him forever. Once despised he grew to be a most loved author.

As someone who enjoys Russian classic literature, I was eager to read this book. The author does a good job helping the reader gain more insight into Fyodor’s personal life. I did like the book, but I found a couple areas to be a little slow. However, it was really almost true to form for classic Russian works where the author most often fills pages with his views on the political state of his country. It was a short and quick read, I did enjoy it and I do feel it’s worth a read. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about Fyodor, or enjoys fictionalized biographies.

Heather Ring say 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.

Homeschooling for the Rest of Us by Sonya Haskins

This book is a great, easy, relaxing read for someone who is trying to decide if they want to homeschool and for those who are already but might need some fresh ideas.

Homeschooling for the Rest of Us
by Sonya Haskins.
Bethany House
January 2010

Haskins really makes you feel relaxed about your decision and lets you know that there is no mold to a homeschool family. Homeschooling can be done many different ways. She addresses all the main homeschool arguments like: socialization, relationships, and extracurricular activities. She also has very helpful advice for academics and gives you a chart to fill out to see what kind of learning technique might work best for your family.

As a homeschooling mother of three I found her book to be very enlightening, helpful and funny. She has some great ideas and covers all her bases as to what kinds of things you might come across as you homeschool.

I highly recommend this book for those who think they might want to homeschool. It’s a small book with a lot of information and will answer some of the most basic questions and get you on the right road to whatever works best for your family.

Becky Freyenhagen is a wife and homeschooling mother of three. She also reviews at Booya! Books.

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

Unveiling the kings of Israel by David Down

Unearth the history of the small nation of Israel. Using the bible as an amazing historical record and the archaeological discoveries continue to prove the validity and significance of God‘s Word.

Unveiling the kings of Israel
by David Down
New Leaf
July 2011

What an amazing hardcover book from New Leaf Publishing. I love history and add in Biblical history makes it that much more amazing. You will discover some modern archeological finds. The pictures are detailed and the pages are jammed packed with information that is easy to understand.

You will see relevant maps, gorgeous photos of the actual ruins. The pictures are amazing. This book is divided into twenty chapters that reveal archaeological finds. This would make a wonderful reference and encyclopedia to anyone’s library. Chapter titles include: Abraham came from Ur, Joseph to Moses, David as King, and many other wonderful chapters. You have passages of the biblical accounts included to support the validity. Appendix has a lot of information from the Tabernacle, charts, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

I was very impressed with this book and look forward to using it in our homeschool. My husband will be able to find some useful information when putting together bible lessons.

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.

Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal

One hundred and eighty three million people in this world play games at least thirteen hours a week. Every week. Why? Because reality isn’t meeting their needs. Let me switch this up a little: reality isn’t meeting our needs.

Reality is Broken
by Jane McGonigal
Penguin Press
January 2011

In the “real world” we get up in the morning, work all day and come home to go to bed. At work, we go through the motions of a never-ending litany of to-do lists without recognition and without progression. We know that we will never win the game of life. We just play it. Every day.

But in games we have a chance for more according to McGonigal. In games we voluntarily add obstacles and challenges that don’t present themselves in “real life.” We have an opportunity to do things that we are good at and – more importantly – feel like we have a chance to succeed. In games, players are presented with challenges that have consequences far more epic (author’s term) than daily living would ever provide. And yet, they give these challenges to us knowing that we can overcome them with enough focus and effort.

McGonigal’s work was so mind-rocking obviously right that (as an active gamer, fitting the definition above) when I read it I found myself simultaneously blown away and nodding my head, “Yes, this is exactly right!” Non-gamers sometimes struggle to understand why gamers play so much and get so into their games. They mistakenly assume that we are hiding from the “real world” or making up for social dysfunctions. The truth is far more enlightening and if properly understood, which this book does a great job or explaining, gaming not only becomes an obvious outlet but starts to become recognized as paradigm that the so-called real world is moving to.

Let me give an example: if children just want to play games and also children seem to have a hard time staying focused on school work why wouldn’t we attempt to motivate through the use of gaming? How about a game that teaches? That’s not just a theoretical question but is becoming a recognized option. Games teach something, why not utilize them to teach subjects that students struggle with?

This book was so much of a game changer, pardon the pun, that I used the ideas presented to create an alternative reality game at my job. My direct reports are required to hit certain metric goals each month so I layered the game on top of “real work” providing an instant reward and achievement layer for when they hit those metrics. I also provided an overarching narrative and a monthly cycle of challenges giving my representatives the ability to voluntarily take on additional challenges that should they achieve victory would also result in higher “real world” results. The results over the last five months of playing this game, called Alt-Life, have been amazing. Not only is work more fun, but metric results are amongst the highest that I’ve even seen in a group of my direct reports.

McGonigal is right. Reality is Broken will change the way you view the world and hopefully the way you play it. Very highly recommended.

Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on current events and Christianity.

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

Originally Published at

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent

I challenge anyone who does not believe that well written, well researched, history can be every bit as fascinating as the best novels to read Last Call and still hold that position. With a panorama of remarkable characters set against the backdrop of a social issue that makes the current abortion debate seem somewhat milquetoast Daniel Okrent has served up a smashingly good read that both illuminates our national past and present.

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition
By Daniel Okrent
May 2010

Prohibition was not something that arose overnight. The battle that led to the enactment of the eighteenth amendment took place over at least a half a century. On the surface it seemed a marvelous social experiment. Imagine a place where there was no alcoholism, no drunkenness with its attendant evils of crime, poverty and abuse. This was the drive behind Prohibition. When it was finally enacted it seemed that the dream had come true. A golden age was dawning. In fact, the dream had simply become a nightmare. The light at the end of the tunnel was a train.

There are several powerful lessons to be reaped from this look at our past. One of the most striking, and curiously encouraging, was the realization that both sides of this issue were totally willing to lie, cheat, and steal in order to advance their cause. The reason I found this somewhat “encouraging” is because I was of the opinion that we had grown worse in our national character in this regard over the
last few decades. It seems that we have in fact always been this bad. You might expect this from the “wets” who represented the vested interest of the liquor industry, but it seems that the fanaticism of the “drys” led them to believe that almost anything was justified in pursuit of their envisioned utopia. (This should have been a red flag regarding the results they ultimately achieved.)

Another lesson that stands out is that when it comes to social engineering the results of our meddling are rarely what we expect. The same applies to the economy of things. When Prohibition was passed some of the vineyards in the Napa Valley rushed to uproot their grapes and plant other crops. Of what value
would grapes be with wine virtually illegal? Ah, but there is a huge gap between virtually illegal and completely illegal. People were still allowed to produce their own wine for home consumption but you can’t make wine at home without grapes. Grapes that sold for under $10 per ton some ten years earlier peaked at over $300 per ton during Prohibition. A lot of grapes had to be replanted. Likewise, the
expected fall in criminal activity following the enactment of Prohibition seriously failed to materialize. Just the opposite occurred. With the advent of Prohibition there was suddenly serious money to be made in criminal activity. Every increase in enforcement activity forced organized crime to become more organized. It could strongly be argued that National Crime Syndicates owe their start directly to Prohibition.

Most people would point to Viet Nam as the first war the USA ever lost. Militarily speaking that is likely true. But Prohibition was where we lost our dream, or at least where the dark behind the dream could no longer be hidden. We created a great land of freedom and opportunity and even though other cultures paid the price for our “opportunity” we could ignore them since their stories weren’t really told. We had the slavery issue, but we fought a great heroic war that brought “freedom” to the slaves and even though it would take another hundred years for them to share in our opportunities we could overlook that and sing the praises of our Civil War heroes. Then we finally enacted Prohibition and nothing could stop
our glorious social momentum; nothing except a train wreck. And while Okrent gives a quite balanced appraisal to the players and motives on both sides of Prohibition, even he has to concede that the light at the end of the tunnel… was indeed a train.

Ronnie Meek is is a guy who likes to share good reads with other people and warn them about boring or bad stuff. His personal blog is It’s In There Somewhere where he is currently blogging through the New Testament.

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

The Wisdom of Pixar by Robert Velarde

Those of us who have children have long known of the overt morality of Pixar’s movies and now Robert Velarde’s new book sheds light on the topic for everyone. Written in 2010, this book covers all the Pixar feature length films through the fantastic Up. Each chapter focuses on a specific virtue in relation to one specific movie (with some overlap, of course.)

The Wisdom of Pixar
by Robert Velarde

Toy Story is tied to identity; Finding Nemo to family; A Bug’s Life to justice. Each chapter has a brief bio of the movie with some interesting facts, but the highlight of the chapters is in digging deeply into the films to pull out the moral of the story. This is very important in an American culture that many feel has lost its way. How often do we think on what a movie is really telling the viewer? The deeper question becomes: if the movie’s only moral is that we should take vengeance then is it really a movie worth watching?

Velarde does an expert job at showing us how to look at movies critically – not just asking the question, “did I enjoy it?” but “was this a good movie?” in the literal sense of the word. While I believe that parents and interested movie buffs will enjoy and learn from this book it is important to note that most of the values in the book are tied to Christian values and there is no secret that Velarde intends this book for believers.

If you are a parent or a Pixar fan then I highly recommend this interesting and informative book that is in the same vein as the philosophy of or Tao of series of books although from the Christian perspective. I was almost as enamored as I am with the films themselves, which says a lot of how much I enjoyed the book.

Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on current events and Christianity.

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

Hellhound On His Trail by Hampton Sides

Prisoner #416-J in Missouri State Penitentiary at Jefferson City is a slender, fair-skinned man in his late thirties with raven hair flecked with gray at his sideburns. He is a person hard to describe or remember – a model prisoner the guards overlook. He has spent most of his adult life behind bars. Today is the day #416-J will escape (in a bread box no less) and be on the run for many months just under the radar.

It is a happy time in Memphis. Tennessee. The third annual Cotton Carnival, Memphis’ answer to Marde Gras, is about to begin. The barge carrying the cotton king and queen is scheduled to arrive shortly after sunset. It is also a time of unrest. The sanitation workers are on strike. The garbage is piling up on the street of Memphis and the Major refused to negotiate. Martin Luther King Jr, is scheduled to lead a peaceful march in support of the workers.

Prisoner #416-J, or Eric Galt as he calls himself, is in Puerto Vallarta pertaining to be a photographer making a movie. The manager of the hotel where he is staying doesn’t know what to make of his mysterious new guest. Gault is meticulously dressed, is a fidgety gringo who mumbles when he talks and drives a two-door Mustang hardtop.

Former Governor George C.Wallace is running for President of the United States. He is making white supremacy the centerpiece of his campaign. Wallace’s hatred of the back man and King in particular is widely known. King is extremely troubled by Wallace’s popularity. King is crisscrossing the country promoting his upcoming Poor People’s Campaign. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover has been obsessed with King for decades. He has carried in a semi public feud with King and the SC LC.

Wallace’s campaign in Los Angeles draws Galt. When did he return to the United States and under what alias? His hatred for blacks and King is growing to the boiling point. He leaves Los Angeles for Memphis and begins stalking King. Martin Luther King Jr, is shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee by an unknown assassin who escapes under the very noses of the Memphis police. At 7:05 pm at St, Joseph Hospital is pronounced dead. Who is the assassin?

Every able bodied man and women of the FBI and all police departments are looking for who. Clues point to a man named Eric Galt, but who is he? Galt, under an alias, is eventually caught by Scotland Yard trying to board a plane to Brussels. He is returned to the United States and put in solitary confinement in the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary – one of Tennessee’s tightest maximum security prisons. By a quirt of faith he escapes and for several days is on the run. He is captured, by accident, in the rugged mountains surrounding the prison and returned. He later died in 1998.

The question is – who is Eric Galt? Some believe he is James Earl Ray or is he. How did an uneducated small time criminal, using so many alias, allude the FBI for so long? A 65 day search that took investigators to Canada/Portugal/England in the most massive man hunt in history. Did he have help – where did he get his money? Was there a conspiracy?

Highly recommended. A very interesting read – a hard book to put down.

Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for She 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.