Book Review: Who Told You That You Were Naked?: A Refreshing Reexamination of the Garden of Eden by William Combs

Capture Who Told You

I am a non-Christian. This doesn’t mean that I do not read works that focus on the Christian faith. I do, as I believe every faith has something good to teach each one of us. That’s how I took up Who Told You That You Were Naked? as my latest read. I completed the book within a week and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this one. Honestly, there is just so much to learn and absorb in this book that renders it almost impossible to rush through any of the chapters. One thing I can tell you about this book is this: take your time to read it, take breaks in between to allow your mind to savor what was just revealed to you, and see how it applies to your personal situation in life. It really helps.

 

A glance through the short blurb on the back cover of the book gives us some information about the author—William E. Combs. A retired Presbyterian minister, Bill Combs holds Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from the Fuller Theological Seminary. Leveraging his knowledge and experience in this book, the author reevaluates the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The key argument that the author makes is that—all our lives—we have misunderstood everything about “The Fall” and most of the message conveyed in the Bible.  Our definition of “sin” is misplaced. No, sin isn’t a series of transgressions; rather, it is the knowledge we have inherited from Adam and Eve, which permits us to identify and analyze good and evil.

 

The book has just 10 chapters, each of which present a set of questions to us at the end that help us question our own understanding of the content of the chapters and also include open questions that we could discuss with a group of others interested in the subject. It is my personal opinion that asking ourselves these questions can increase our belief and our connection with God. Who knows, this might help us keep away from questioning his existence each time we encounter roadblocks in life!

 

Of all the sections in the book, my favorite was that which talked about the reason why God put the tree with the forbidden fruit right smack in the middle of the Garden. He could have chosen to not have that tree around in the first place and, thereby, completely uprooted (pun intended) all chanced of Adam and Eve succumbing to temptation. To top all of that, God also offered this couple the choice of path they could take in this matter—eat the fruit or continue to be his obedient creations. The author has inspired me to take some of the lessons offered in the book quite seriously and alter some of my own habits to have more faith in God every living minute of my life. It might sound easy, but I know it will be quite an uphill task. But then, I am positive.

 

One flaw I noticed in the grand scheme of the book is the author’s inclination to speculate. He makes some presumptions throughout some parts of the book about the biblical content that are instances of unadulterated conjecture. Most theories he presents in the book are absolutely impressive and convincing; however, these other theories have little in the form of substantiation to help us truly believe them.

 

Nevertheless, this book is brimming with wisdom and insight from the author. Therefore, I recommend it to all readers looking for a sound Christian faith book. In addition to the author’s point of view on the diverse aspects relating to Christianity, you will also come across some instances in the book where he describes some wonderful stories about how God communicated with him and his wife and how that transformed their lives completely. I found some minor spelling and grammar mistakes, but these issues certainly aren’t enough to stop me from rating this book 3 out of 4 stars.

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Book Review: From Drift to Shift: How Change Brings True Meaning and Happiness to Your Work and Life

From Drift Capture

From Drift to Shift is a nonfiction book by Jody B. Miller. The author has presented the contents of the book as a collection of several real-life events encountered by people from different walks of life. These events seemed like roadblocks to these people initially and the impact of the events caused them to drift in life. Nonetheless, they managed to rein in their emotions and feelings of helplessness, transformed their mindset, put in dedicated effort, and succeeded in finding their true place in the world.

 

All of us want to be happy—that’s a given (unless, God forbid, we are some sort of twisted masochists). Nevertheless, recent polls and surveys have revealed that at least one-third of our population is unhappy. What is the root cause of this unhappiness? Is it a lack of self-esteem? Or, is it something more complicated than that? Jody Miller gets us engrossed in the abovementioned inspirational stories to provide us with answers to these questions.

 

In part one of the book, she walks us through the reasons why shifts sometimes become inevitable. Part two deals with when exactly we should make that shift, while parts three and four focus on how to shift and how to steer your life in the right direction after the shift, respectively.

 

The author’s narration is very graceful and she manages to convince us that we all need to make a shift in our lives at some point along the way in order to find balance, meaning, and happiness.  All the people featured in From Drift to Shift have successfully discovered their passion, given it their all, and come out as winners in their lives. And seriously, why remain stuck in suffering when making our way through it might lead us to a beautiful way out on the other side?

 

However, I found that the stories introduced and presented in the book were all extreme examples. I know that it is meant to show us that no matter how big the challenge, we can turn the situation around to actualize positive change in our lives. But—maybe—the book could have featured these inspirational stories peppered with a healthy dose of simpler, everyday instances that we could all relate to instantly.

 

Since the topic is about happiness and self-awareness—and one can never really have too much of either—I think it was quite considerate of the author to provide us with references to additional reading material to supplement our knowledge and understanding. I believe the art of shift cannot be mastered by just reading this one book; rather, it should be treated as a continuous learning process.

Jody Miller talks about the previous assignments and self-awareness workshops she attended and reveals her thoughts and apprehensions during those sessions in an attempt to put us at ease and show us that we are all just humans and deal with the same kinds of fears and strive toward the same goals. I love the genuineness and energy with which she puts words to paper. I appreciate that the author wrote in a humble, identifiable manner. For example, she talks about one of the self-awareness workshops she attended in San Diego, during which she was asked to step outside and bring back something from nature that embodied her in spirit. She writes:

 

“My ego wanted me to pick a seashell to represent how I would ride the waves to distant, exciting shores; or, to choose something like a feather to show that I had the strength to let go and trust the wind to guide me. It all sounded poetic, but I knew what I was.

I was a weed.”
This is a book that will inspire you to follow your dreams and desires, and everyone—from a CEO to a fresh-out-of-school student—will be able to benefit from it. I rate From Drift to Shift 3 out of 4 stars, only because of the number of typos that seem to have slipped in. These typos break the flow of the narrative in places and prove to be the only thing that put a damper on the power packed in this wonderful book.

 

Book Review: Yesterday: A Novel of Reincarnation by Samyann

Yesterday Capture

Yesterday, by Samyann, is a historical fiction book with a story that ranges across decades from the Chicago of today to the American Civil War of the 1800s and the most horrific conflagration of those times that we now know as the Great Chicago Fire.

This well-written novel tells us the story of Amanda Parker who saves the life of Mark Callahan—a mounted policeman—and drags his limp form through a litter of rubble and out of the path of a falling train. When Amanda gets hurt in the process, Mark manages to move her to safety and call for help. These events form a bond between the two of them and they end up seeing a lot of each other. They cannot shake off this feeling that they know the other from before. However, tragedy has always kept Amanda company. What’s more, death has always managed to claim all her loved ones without fail. That is why she strongly resists the pull she feels toward Mark. Amanda and Mark are sure of one thing though: they both want to uncover the mystery of how they were connected to each other in their past. The story introduces us to Bonnie, Jack, and Daniel, and we gradually learn the parts each of these characters played in the pasts of the main characters.

I loved how much research has gone into this story. There is a lot of history that we are educated on but never in a way that bores us. Every minute detail related to Amanda’s and Mark’s pasts has been woven seamlessly into the plot.

What’s really admirable about this book is how it is a healthy mix of romance and mystery. We get to learn much about the process of past life regression—something I have not seen dealt with in so much detail in any other book I have read to date. Modern day techniques of forensics also come into the picture and play their part in putting together the pieces of the puzzle involving the past of the main characters. The whole story is really enjoyable, and the storytelling itself is fast-paced.

The author focuses on generating some really warm, fuzzy feelings in the reader—and it really works! However, I feel that Amanda’s character could have been a little stronger. I know that she has had a difficult past, but she seems to use that as an excuse for her odd behavior at times. For example, when she knows she isn’t too good at handling regressions herself, she still attempts slipping into one of these sessions unassisted, gets hurt mentally by it, and runs out of the house to avoid the people she loves. At another time, she locks herself in a room for three whole days and goes on a drunken bender. I know I am being less sympathetic to the character, but I guess I have always preferred seeing stronger female leads in books. Note to Amanda: Stop wallowing in self-pity; you have a wonderful man (a soulmate at that) and a beautiful family!

I rate Yesterday 3 out of 4 stars. I am someone who likes to see mush levels at a minimum in romance novels, and this one was right up my alley. Unfortunately, the book contains a number of punctuation errors. This prevents me from giving it a higher rating. I recommend Yesterday to all those who enjoy historical fiction.

Book Review: Murdered by James Schannep

Murdered Capture

 

MURDERED: Can YOU Solve the Mystery by James Schannep is, according to the author, a work of fiction that features actual locations and businesses in conjunction with fictional and fictionalized elements—woven together to give the story a “noir” feel.

You (yes, YOU are one the main characters in this book!) are on vacation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. You are counting days to the Carnaval—touted as one of the grandest fiestas on the planet. You are a bit high on drinks and have gotten separated from your friends thanks to the pre-Carnaval crowd. There are non-stop drumbeats behind you—creating a sort of background score to the whole scene you are about to encounter. While roaming the streets and taking in the sights like every other tourist, you stumble upon the dead body of a woman. Just across from her is a revolver with a note that simply says “Pick Me Up.”

Here comes choice #1. Do you pick that gun up or just leave it there? And, that’s when the story begins…

I don’t usually opt for murder mysteries—especially if they involve gore. I read the blurb of the book and found it to be fairly “safe” in that area. Hence, I really was looking forward to reading it—for all the mystery and action. Once I started off with my first choice, I kept going ahead with the story not quite realizing how far I was moving ahead with it. I quickly found that reading the book gave you this feeling that you are actually reading multiple books at the same time—given the innumerable choices you get to make throughout the book—each choice leading you to a different flow of the story.

I found the writing style to be fresh. It’s not always that the reader gets to be “in” the story. I found just one grammatical error—nothing major—and it didn’t affect the quality of the reading in any way.

The tone of storytelling is quite youthful and upbeat. To be quite honest, however, though I enjoyed clicking on the choices and seeing where they landed me in the story—toward the end—the available choices could not keep me engrossed. I am not implying that the story was not engaging enough. I just feel that the chapters could have been a little longer—just enough to flesh up the characters a little more—before the choices were sprung on me. Also, some chapters just gave me one choice and still the text underneath it read “Make Your Choice.” That made me feel like there needed to be other alternative routes I could have been offered, but I had to go with the one choice that the author wanted me to take.

As an example, here’s an excerpt from the book:

Once out of earshot of the others, Danly says, “I need to spend a few hours at the consulate. Can you take a taxi back to the hotel? Take a shower, maybe a nap—I’ll check on Bertram and ring your room when I get back.”
“Sure thing,” you reply.
>Back to Rio
MAKE YOUR CHOICE

I did expect so much more from the story itself. Once you have reached the end of the book, it offers the reader a choice to start over with different choices. I went through the choices once more and went through the whole “new” version of the story. But, I did not find both versions compelling enough for me to go through the next sets of options and see where the story went from there.

I must add here that it is an interesting approach to mystery writing. One cannot deny that. However, it is the short length of the chapters and the lack of substantial character development that influenced my rating for the most part. I wish the story gave more of an opportunity for the readers to get emotionally invested in the characters more. I thus rate MURDERED: Can YOU Solve the Mystery? 2 out of 4 stars as my reading experience with this book was a little below my expectations. However, I would like to stress that this is just my personal opinion, as I have seen many other sites showcasing 5-star reviews of the same book. So, I guess it is just a matter of personal preference. I think the book will resonate with the YA-lovers the most.

Book Review: Health Tips, Myths, and Tricks by Morton E Tavel, MD.

Health capture

 

Everyone seems to be hung up on the pros and cons of the foods they consume. Some of us focus on those food items that help us lose weight, the sports lovers among us focus on foods that build their stamina, parents focus on foods that could help bring up healthier children, and some others just eat anything they fancy as and when they feel like it. So, yes, I have to admit that as someone who loves food and also cares a great deal about my health, I wanted to know what a reputed physician had to say about what I eat on a daily basis. Who wouldn’t want to have a doctor talk to them about things that mattered the most?

As a now-retired physician with extensive experience in his field of Internal Medicine and Cardiology, M D Morton E Tavel comes to the aid of millions like me who have been waiting for some practical medical advice; the sort of advice that could help us take better care of our health while steering clear from overspending on so-called miracle medical cures that are completely bogus.

Published in 2015 by Brighton Publishing LLC, Health Tips, Myths, and Tricks: A Physician’s Advice is non-fiction work that promises to have our backs when we stumble over false claims that promise better health, a longer lifespan, lower body weight, evergreen skin, shiny hair, healthy blood pressure levels, fitter bodies, and so much more. Divided into three parts, this book serves as a handy guide that serves us some positive health tips, busts some age-old myths, and pulls us from the dark well dug out for us by the quacks and “wannabe” medical practitioners. To someone like me who has been devoted to all books and content associated with food and health for years now, Dr Tavel seems to be a doctor with sound scientific knowledge and extensive experience; most importantly, he seems to advocate only those medical concepts that are backed by solid medical evidence.

Chapters 1–32 of Health Tips, Myths, and Tricks deal with recommendations for good health. They talk in detail about what we consume in solid and liquid forms and point out what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong with regards to food. With detailed explanations on what obesity is and a simple formula to figure out if we are underweight, overweight, or obese, Dr Tavel explains what people belonging to each of these three weight categories can do to help themselves.

As a science major, I have always wanted to see scientific proof for everything before I believe it. That’s exactly why I believe in what Dr. Tavel talks about in his book as he supports all his recommendations with scientific proof. Furthermore, when an author and a doctor tells you with so much confidence that dark chocolate is good for your blood flow, what else can you ask for from life?

After educating us on the good foods and drinks, Dr. Tavel then moves toward discussing day-to-day issues of modern man that include overuse of painkillers, following the dash diet, the danger of relying heavily on dietary supplements, and so on.

After reading the chapters of the book that dealt with the myths, I can confidently say that I am now more well-informed about what exactly goes on in our body when we indulge in energy drinks, spend on organic foods, and get picky about hard and soft water. In the initial chapters of the “myths” section, we get a glimpse into how the media has been irresponsible in spreading rumors about vaccines and their effects on infants. If you are a parent to a newborn, this book is an invaluable compendium of helpful facts for you.

It’s true: Health Tips, Myths, and Tricks throws some light into a lot of misleading information that we have been fed over the years that have affected our decision-making process with regards to our eating habits and our daily activities. However, the last few chapters of the book that deal with the so-called “tricks” failed to convince me too much. Agreed, Dr. Oz and many others quoted in the book may justifiably be called “quacks.” However, the author seems to blanket all ayurvedic and homeopathic treatments and practitioners under this smelly umbrella as well. As someone who has been living in India for years and has been enjoying the benefits of these branches of alternative medicine, I think the book needed to be more objective before making such strong statements against them. I have been suffering from allergic rhinitis for quite some time now and conventional medicine could not help me with this condition despite prolonged treatments. I found the answer in homeopathy. Thanks to the latter, I am free from nasal allergy now. Ayurveda has helped me combat my sinus mucosal thickening in a surgery-free manner as well — something that conventional medicine told me was impossible. So, though there are many quacks out there, not all practitioners of alternative medicine can be branded in this manner.

All said and done, will the book benefit readers? A big YES! And that’s why — after due consideration — I rate this book a 3 out of 4 stars. I haven’t found any major grammatical errors while reading. If one can ignore this one section that talks negatively about all forms of alternative medicine, the book is a treasure trove of sound medical advice. I respect the fact that Dr. Tavel has authored this book with a good intention to help the general public as much as possible. In his own words:

”As a member of the mainstream medical community, I and others have always sworn to the principles embodied in the so-called Hippocratic Oath that dates back to ancient Greece.”

One of the statements in this Oath is “If it is given me to save a life, all thanks.” I think someone who believes in this cannot possibly go wrong with his medical advice — at least not intentionally so.

I have already recommended this book to a couple of family members who I thought could benefit from it. I personally think that this book is for all of us, as we are all targets of medical shams and witness new health fads every single day. To make the deal a little sweeter, the book is an interesting read and — I can assure you — it will not lull you to sleep due to boredom. If only we had textbooks like these during school!