Category Archives: Non-Fiction

A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic by Peter Wadhams

Reviewed by Teri Davis

A Farewelll to IceHow would you explain climate change to someone who does not believe it is a reality? How could you prove to anyone of the rising temperatures of the ocean or the melting of the Arctic?
Would they believe someone who has been a polar researcher for forty-seven years and is considered an expert scientist?

Peter Wadhams, who wrote this readable scientific data-driven report for the non-scientist, A Farewell to Ice, is one person no one could disagree with the disappearance of the polar ice.
Wadhams is one of the few people who truly understands the changes since 1970, he has documented the tremendous changes of the Arctic region as a polar researcher. His descriptions, evidence, pictures, and graphs tell a story of their own that is and should be frightening to every creature on this planet.

The Day Momma Made Me Dance by Patrice Brown

Reviewed by Veronica Alvarado

The Day Momma Made Me DanceAs any parent will attest, deciding how best to properly discipline a child is far from easy. It is truly a daily struggle and requires a careful mix of patience, sternness, and most importantly, love. In her new picture book, entitled The Day Momma Made Me Dance, author Patrice Shavone Brown offers her own perspective on the correct way to discipline one’s children.

Brown comes to this book with years of perspective and first-hand insight. A self-described visionary, motivational speaker, and go getter, Brown is also the single mother of two children. Immediately from the dedication, she positions her underlying viewpoint for the project: “A mother is strong when her children are weak, a mother stands when everyone else sits, and a mother loves unconditionally from the beginning of birth to the end.” This philosophy of tough love resounds throughout the book.

Corn, Cotton and Chocolate: How the Maya Changed the World by James O’Kon PE

Reviewed by Ray Palen

Corn, Cotton and ChocolateNo civilization in the history of our planet existed longer than the ancient Mayans. The historic period that they were at the forefront of lasted for 3500 years. This is an unheard of figure and, arguably, one which will never be beat. This civilization reigned from roughly 2500 B.C. to 900 A.D. However, most of what they achieved went all but unnoticed. There was no written or oral news to traverse the globe to describe their exploits and the impact they had on the planet and the rest of mankind. In essence, they were the ‘phantoms of history’.

CORN, COTTON AND CHOCOLATE: HOW THE MAYA CHANGED THE WORLD looks like a textbook, something you might have to purchase for your Social Studies class. It could also be a highly quoted text to aid in your term paper or thesis research. Sounds like some pretty dry stuff, huh? I am happy to say that in the hands of author James O’Kon, this eye-opening work was never short on surprises and could gladly hold the interest of any intelligent person seeking to learn more about perhaps the most influential civilization of all-time.

Rather than a straight chapter by chapter review I thought I would make things more interesting.

10 Things The World Can Thank The Mayans For

1. The Mayans were Cosmic Philosophers. They always considered themselves sky watchers and this need to understand the universe above and around us made them the earliest known astronomers. They were able to gain an uncanny knowledge of the harmonious composition of the cosmos. Yes, well before Carl Sagan!

2. They were the greatest agronomists in word history. They made famous the term cultivar. Not just an assemblage of plants or flowers but a natural process honed through careful cultivation. They can thank Columbus for spreading the word around his global journeys about the original ‘flower power’ people.

3. The invention of the number zero. This is nothing to laugh at (no pun intended). Mathematicians have proclaimed that one of the singular accomplishments of the human era, and the greatest intellectual feat of the Maya, was the number zero. This was a culture that was so introspective and intelligent that they were actually able to grasp the concept of something having no value — but still making it the starting point for numerical sequences!

4. Maize. Long thought to be a Native American find, Maize or as we more commonly refer to it — corn — was brought about due to sophisticated cultivation of high yielding grain. Some have called it the Maya’s greatest invention. They were eons ahead of the trend of genetic manipulation in creating food products — particularly, one in which people today cannot go to the movies without enjoying the ‘hot air-popped’ version of Maize.

5. The avocado. The fruit botanically known as Persea americana has grown in popularity in recent years due to its’ health benefits. This tropical delight is the central ingredient in the beloved Guacamole Dip. The Mayans cultivated Avocado trees whose origins may stretch back to the Cenozoic Era.

6. The Cassava and how it changed the way the world is fed. Cassava root was also mass cultivated by the Mayans and the ‘bread of the tropics’ took off in many different cultures throughout the world. This great source of carbohydrates stands behind only sugarcane and sugar beets in that category.

7. Bubble Gum. O’Kon talks about the mass-produced sticks of hard gum that used to accompany every package of baseball cards (long before collectors scoffed at the practice as lowering their value). We can thank the Mayans who took Chicle or the sap of the sapodilla tree and turned it into a substance to be chewed and enjoyed. Not sure if they actually blew bubbles with it or not…

8. Chocolate/Cocoa. Many of us, particularly the ladies, have a very personal relationship with chocolate. Can you imagine Valentine’s Day or Easter without it? It was the Mayans love affair with chocolate and cocoa in general, four millennia ago, that made this the treat of choice. Yes, they even made a warm, frothy beverage from it!

9. Cotton. This has long been attributed to the great cotton plantations of the southern United States. However, it was once again the expert cultivation of the wild cotton plant that turned this into the world’s most valuable and productive vegetable fiber. It also makes for some really smooth and breathable fabric for clothing.

10. Tobacco. Cigarette and cigar smoking, along with the second-hand smoke they produce, may be taboo in recent years due to the adverse health conditions they can cause. That being said, it is impossible to not recognize how every civilization has been touched by tobacco — from Native American peace pipes to the Marlboro Man. Again, the Mayans cultivation of Nicotiana paved the way for a vice that has been enjoyed by every civilization that followed them.

This just scratches the surface on all the terrific research James O’Kon applied to this text. A fun and interesting read. More importantly, you can feel O’Kon’s enthusiasm for the subject in every paragraph and that also elevates it far above your average textbook.

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Giant of the SenateSenator Al Franken of Minnesota has quickly become one of the most well-known U.S. Senators of the United States of America.

Giant of the Senate is an autobiography of Al Franken beginning his journey as a child growing up in Minnesota, to becoming a writer of Saturday Night Live and finally becoming a respected Democratic U.S. Senator.
“Here in America, of course, we’re all immigrants. Except, of course, for Native Americans against whom we committed genocide.” With the present political leadership in Washington, this quote is gutsy. Remember, he is a democrat.

Who could imagine a comedy writer being the unlikely Democratic candidate for a congressional seat?

Being a child of typical middle-class America from the liberal state of Minnesota gives a young Al Franken a strong, independent foundation for his future life choices. When his older brother became the first in the family eventually graduating from MIT with a degree in physics, Al made his own way by attending Harvard. Surprising, his brother became a photographer and Al, a comedian. How would your parents feel about those outcomes from a college education?

Pride of the Valley: Sifting through the History of the Mount Healthy Mill by Tracy Lawson and Steve Hagaman

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Pride of the ValleyA slightly different book for most readers but a very good read and especially if you have any interest in southern Ohio history. Pride of the Valley was actually the name of a brand of flour that was milled at the Mt Healthy mill. That mill was a historic fixture for many years.

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The Mt Healthy mill was built by Jediah Hill in the early 1800’s. Hill had moved to southern Ohio from New York and settled in the Mill Creek valley in what was to become Hamilton County. Hill’s mill was built for “harvesting” lumber originally and due to the tremendous growth in the area lumber was at the time a valued commodity.

No Surrender: Faith, Family and Finding Your Way by Patrick Bisher with Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

No SurrenderAfter 40+ books, writing about heroes is nothing new for Jon Land. What is new for him is writing about an actual warrior, instead of a fictional one, which is exactly the point of No Surrender and then some. This wondrously written tale, chronicling the improbable route Navy SEAL Patrick Bisher followed in becoming a true American hero, rings true as an inspirational catharsis of rare depth and pathos.

No Surrender is subtitled Faith, Family and Finding Your Way for a reason: Because that’s exactly what Patrick discovered were the true keys to surmounting obstacles life kept throwing in his way. He was only nine when doctors told him he’d likely never walk again due to a congenital hip condition, but you wouldn’t know that from his performance through Navy SEAL BUD/S training. Nor would you know that his decorated service in Iraq was performed with an artificial hip made necessary when a parachuting accident threatened to waylay Patrick’s dream yet again.

Those BUD/S chapters are among the finest I’ve ever encountered as a backdrop to military training, but this is no standard military tome, despite a sequence set amid Patrick’s deployment to Iraq. It’s a memoir rooted in Patrick finding his faith when he’d lost everything else and how that faith, along with God, carried him from the darkness of despair to the light of hope.

Ballplayer by Chipper Jones

Reviewed by Allen Hott

BallplayerPerhaps not only one of the haughtiest players to have ever played the game but also without a doubt one of the greatest to have ever played major league baseball. Chipper, or (L- a- r- r- y !) Jones as the New York Met’s fans like to call him, tells it like it is as he describes his long career in baseball. The idea that he spent his entire career playing with the Atlanta Braves and while he was there the Braves had some of the greatest years of any baseball franchise is pretty unusual in any sport. Chipper wasn’t the only reason they were so good but he was a very important contributor to that success.

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The book traces his beginnings growing up in a small town in north Florida where he was religiously schooled in the correct way to play baseball by his dad. His dad played college ball at Stetson University and was offered a contract by the Chicago Cubs but since it wasn’t for much money and since Chipper was “on the way” his dad opted to stay on at Stetson as their baseball coach. But more importantly he worked at developing his son into becoming a tremendous ball player.

A Tempered Faith: Rediscovering Hope in the Ashes of Loss by Jennifer Sands

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

A Tempered FaithThere are so many stories regarding the events of September 11, 2001. Some are told by the family members who lost loved ones on this day and others are told by the survivors. The stories are very sad; but, at the same time, they are all unique and very intriguing. It’s difficult to imagine what the relatives and friends of people who were killed on September 11 went through at the time and for the years that followed this terrible assault on America.

Jennifer Sands tells us her personal story. She met her soul mate, Jim, through a dating service. The two were surprised that they went to the same school, lived in the same town, etc. but never met each other. They got married. Jennifer worked as a pharmacist and Jim worked for Cantor Fitzgerald at the World Trade Center. They enjoyed a few short, wonderful years together. They both had a love for Scuba diving in the Cayman Islands.

Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway’s Secret Adventures, 1935-1961 by Nicholas Reynolds

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Writer, Sailor, Soldier,SpyAuthor Reynolds holds a PhD from Oxford, is a former Marine who also worked as a CIA officer eventually settled into the role of military historian. It was while he was helping gather information for a new exhibit at the CIA Museum on the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), that Reynolds ran across several documents referencing Ernest Hemingway. That in itself was not so surprising as anyone who has read any of Hemingway’s work is aware the author worked as a war corespondent and also lived in Cuba as Castro came to power. However, his findings went far beyond that. He was surprised to find hints that Hemingway had once been associated with the NKVD which was the forerunner of the KGB, served as a spy for the US but also later a supporter of Castro. Make no mistake, this not some drily written tome of historical facts and documents. Reynolds seriously researched Hemingway’s life during each of these times and wrote a book filled with the author’s fascinating adventures. An author who already had a reputation of living life mostly out of bounds. How much research did the author do? There is roughly 80 pages of notes at the end of the book before the index.

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Much has been written about Ernest Hemingway already. Most people with any interest at all in the author knows of his 4 wives, his penchant for adventure regardless of the danger, his reputation as a hard drinker and his periods of deep depressions. This book gives readers a ring side seat into the larger than life figure explaining why all of those things happened to him. One of my favorite tales was of Hemingway actually patrolling the US coast line looking for German subs, a job he was sanctioned by the military to do. He was not just looking for them, his desire was to find and sink one. It isn’t just that he did this that makes this so interesting. It is the enthusiasm he put into the project that is. In many ways, he seems like a man who has never outgrown the little boy playing at war. One of my biggest surprises was how easily Hemingway was able to work his way into situations. He started as a writer covering WWII but slowly wormed his way into working for the OSS under the code name ARGO as a spy. He managed to get himself very close to the front lines, and even managed to fly for the RAF.

Intelligent Field by Surendra Kumar Sagar

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Intelligent FieldIntelligent Field by the immensely gifted author, Surendra Kumar Sagar, is a mind-expanding look at what he refers to as the Intelligent Field, a sort of Traveling Cosmic Mind that controls nature, but it’s the `Information` in the field and the flow of such information in the field that is responsible for everything that happens in the universe , including the imparting of Intelligence to the field. As mentioned in the Foreword of the book, within this `Intelligent Field` is a universal mind, that gives us “consciousness.”

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Intelligent Field is a follow-up, of sorts, to Sagar’s book, Six Words. Both Intelligent Field and Six Words have a cross-disciplinary approach and are deeply philosophical. In Intelligent Field, as in Six Words, a wide variety of topics get incorporated into a heady mix, with Sagar always optimistic in the potential for the human race, but also pointing out how events unfolding in the United States and globally could lead to the possible end of human life on the planet Earth.

Sagar is not a prophet of gloom and doom in Intelligent Field, but he does mention that humans are getting closer and closer to midnight, as far as the Doomsday Clock goes. There is still time left to pull humanity back from the brink of potential extinction, but it can only be accomplished only if certain measures are taken before it is too late.