Amidst the backdrop of the construction of the Panama Canal, a South Dakota rancher is invited down as a personal favor to the President himself. There James Holt finds himself helping a mysterious young woman search for her missing mother amidst the political unrest of the Panamanian citizens in a zone occupied by American canal builders. Holt quickly finds that everything is not as it appears and danger lurks around every corner.

Though Saffire is a love story in some ways, it is much more of a historical mystery. Panama in 1909 comes to life throughout the story with all of its complexities of politics and cultures coming head to head in a buffered Zone. I enjoyed the story–both for its entertainment as well as the historical information it imparted.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

I’ve been a bicycle owner and user for years, but I confess I’m not overly knowledgeable in the things I need to need to do to take care of my bike or make optimum use of it. I found Anna Brones’ book, Hello, Bicycle: An Inspired Guide to the Two-Wheeled Life, to be a good resource to keep around.

While simple and straightforward, Brones gives a comprehensive overview of bicycle ownership and use. She addresses picking out a new or used bicycle, fixing a tire, and touring and camping with your bike. She even includes ideas for reusing a bicycle tube, recipes for camping with your bike, and bike shop vocabulary.

I recommend this book for anyone who owns a bike or is thinking of buying one.

The publisher provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

The family table is important to me, especially as a single dad of two kids. Ted and Amy Cunningham lay out in each chapter some values of the table (such as simplicity, hospitality, family time). Along with personal anecdotes, Ted and Amy include a family recipe each time, a family game to play, a devotional, and questions.

While many of the chapters touched on things that were already in practice for me, but I appreciated the reminders. There were also a few new ideas and thoughts that struck me. It felt like many of the recipes were dessert focused. As a parent, desserts are easy to come up with; I would have appreciated some more meal time variety in the recipes. But overall, I appreciated the book and would recommend it to families that haven’t spent much time around the table together.

In exchange for an unbiased review, I received a free copy of this book.

 

 

Punderdome is a party game created by the father/daughter duo who created Punderdome 3000, which I have never seen. I tried the game based on an enjoyment of puns and games. The game has two parts. First a joke is read and players guess the answer based on what sort of pun would work. In the second part players come up with a pun based on two categories such as “yoga” and “butchering.” Players might say something regarding “downward hog.”

The game works best if at least a few people in the group are good at puns. Non-pun makers tend to get drawn in. If you enjoy group games and humor, this is a good game to try.

I was supplied with a copy of this game in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

 

Bob Roberts shares with Western Christians lessons he has learned from Christians in the East in his recent book Lessons from the East. While being an American pastor, Bob Roberts has invested time and energy working with pastors in churches in Africa and Asia–areas where despite persecution in many cases, the Christian church is rowing and thriving. He contrasts these areas–often deemed as more primitive–with the American church that is in decline.

My one critique would be that it sometimes felt that the recommendation for the American church is a complete overhaul: switching from the current setup to a house church situation. I understand that this format has had huge success in the Eastern world, and I understand why, but I would feel more hopeful if there was moreĀ advice for churches to be able to start without a complete overhaul.

I did appreciate his insight though–especially in areas of loving our neighbor. Roberts focused well on shifting the focus of Americans from the church as the focus of Christianity to God’s Kingdom as the focus. His insight into the church in the world is an insight that more Western Christians should be aware of.

 

After having been to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore a few months ago I decided to pick up a book about one of the faces on the monument who was instrumental in creating many national parks. Darrin Lunde’s book The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt; A Lifetime of Exploration, and the Triumph of American Naturalist History was an enjoyable look into the former President natural legacy.

The biography begins with a look at the influences on Theodore Roosevelt at school a child that led to his proclivity to enjoy nature and desire to study it. An avid hunter,  Roosevelt was also a true Naturalist, studying animals in their native habitats as well as after preserving their hides and skeletons for scientific pursuits. While the biography is strictly a look at his biological naturalism–his presidency is mainly referenced as how it kept him from his outdoor pursuits–it also gives good insight into Roosevelt’s life and passions.

I recommend this book for readers who enjoy the outdoors, history and looks into the lives of historical personalities. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased book review.

After having been to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore a few months ago I decided to pick up a book about one of the faces on the monument who was instrumental in creating many national parks. Darrin Lunde’s book The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt; A Lifetime of Exploration, and the Triumph of American Naturalist History was an enjoyable look into the former President natural legacy.

The biography begins with a look at the influences on Theodore Roosevelt at school a child that led to his proclivity to enjoy nature and desire to study it. An avid hunter,  Roosevelt was also a true Naturalist, studying animals in their native habitats as well as after preserving their hides and skeletons for scientific pursuits. While the biography is strictly a look at his biological naturalism–his presidency is mainly referenced as how it kept him from his outdoor pursuits–it also gives good insight into Roosevelt’s life and passions.

I recommend this book for readers who enjoy the outdoors, history and looks into the lives of historical personalities. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased book review.

When I requested to read I Don’t Get You: A Guide to Healthy Conversations, I was expecting a very different book. I was expecting practical tips on conversation with others with whom you have miscommunication in a book. Instead I received a small booklet (less than 70 pages in a book that is about the size of a regular photograph) that focused on emotional purity in communication with the opposite sex. While the book wasn’t what I was expecting, I found it too be an enjoyable and helpful read (not to mention a quick read).

Emotional purity, like physical purity, keeps one’s conversations in check with members of the opposite sex. Author Sherry Graf describes five levels of communication (from basic fact sharing to sharing dreams and fears) and how each level is appropriate at different levels of relational commitment. The information is helpful for people in any relationship stage (single or married). I recommend this little booklet for anyone

I received a free copy of this booklet in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Swedish artist Maja Safstrom has produced a wonderful book highlighting her drawings of animals accompanied by different facts with each animal. Her drawings are simple, but compelling–slightly reminiscent of recent adult coloring books.

It is a short read. I went through the whole book in less than an hour quite easily. But it is also enjoyable. Her illustrations are fun to look at, and the accompanying facts are interesting. Some I knew, but some divulged new information for me. I would have enjoyed more. I also would have liked if the book contained information on where her facts came from.

The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts would be a good read for all animal lovers or those who just love learning new things. I would recommend this book for the illustrations alone.

I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review of it.

 

Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ve read a book by an African writer before. It’s been on my radar, but let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of African writers whose books are front and center in the book store or library. So reading Jowhor Ile’s new novel,And After Many Days, was a delightful journey into life in Nigeria during the 1990s. I felt like I gained a better understanding of Nigerian life.

The story centers around the Utu family and the sudden, inexplicable disappearance of their son. The story weaves back and forth through time, jumping into the past as the characters develop and age (the family has three children), and into the future as we eventually discover what happened to their son.

While the chronological jumping may be a little confusing, I enjoyed the story and would recommend it–a good introduction to African literature.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.