Review: Coffee Shop Conversations Psychology and the Bible: Live, Love, and Lead Well

Coffee Shop Conversations Psychology and the Bible: Live, Love, and Lead Well
Coffee Shop Conversations Psychology and the Bible: Live, Love, and Lead Well by Jed Jurchenko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Coffee Shop Conversations” was of interest to me personally because of my academic field of interest (Psychology/Social Work) and its connection to faith. I don’t remember any books that I have read that combined the two in a complementary way before.

Summary: “Coffee Shop Conversations” demonstrates how psychology and the Bible can be used for better mental and emotional health. It begins with the author sharing his own personal journey through a crisis that helped strengthen his faith and outlook on life. He then goes on to select key psychological theories (attachment theory, choice theory, etc.) and matches them to Bible verses for application and study.

Pros: The best part of the book was the connection between Bible verses and psychological theories. I had never thought of this, even though I have read some of the Bible verses many times and psychological theories many times. Another aspect of the book that I particularly liked was the simple advice. Although the book teaches several theories, Jurchenko is able to break down those theories into a practical level that can be applied instantly. It covers a wide range of theories that demonstrate the complementary connections between psychology and faith in a way that I want to explore further.

Cons: The pacing of the first part of the book was a little too slow.

Overall, I would recommend this book for any student of faith and/or the social sciences that wants a deeper study of the connections between psychology and health. I especially recommend it for Christian counselors or counselors who are working with people of faith as clients. “Coffee Shop Conversations” does an excellent job of showing how faith and psychology can be used for greater mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

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What I Learned from Not Hitting the New York Times Best Sellers List

The other day, my friend Darrell asked me how it felt to not hit The New York Times Best Sellers list. What I said surprised him.

Sourced through from:

See on Scoop.itIndie Author News

Review: Kernel of Vedic Truth

Kernel of Vedic Truth
Kernel of Vedic Truth by Dev Bhattacharyya
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I chose to read “Kernels of Vedic Truth” for three reasons:
1. I have an interest in reading early Indian scriptures after reading the Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita in middle school.
2. I enjoy Deb Bhattacharyya’s translations of that literature
3. I had only read the Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita even though I knew of other literature.

“Kernels of Vedic Truth” is an exquisite pearl of a translation from earlier Indian scriptures. Bhattacharyya does an excellent job of translating abstract spiritual concepts with simple language. A good example of this can be found on page 124:

“The bee has taught me
how to be unattached while gathering honey
for all that hard work in making money
opens up someone else’s opportunity.”

Gems like this fill the text. It makes easy to read and digest.

Bhattacharyya also does an excellent job of also conveying the spirit and essence of the historical context behind these scriptures.

That being said, the book is more suited to people who have been acquainted with Indian literature before. The book rushes headlong into terms like agni, yuga, and people like Saunaka. If you are not familiar with the Mahabhrata and Bhagavad Gita, you may be completely lost.

Two more cautions:
(1) There are a lot of “begats”. Bhattacharyya does an interesting thing with the genealogies, graphics. It helps but there are still a lot of names.

(2) More footnotes are needed. There is an index in the back of the book, but it may be too late. I would have preferred more background because I was unfamiliar with this literature.

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Review: Writers of the Future Volume 31

Writers of the Future Volume 31
Writers of the Future Volume 31 by L. Ron Hubbard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a big fan of the “Writers of the Future” series ever since starting with Volume 28. Every collection of books featured the best and most imaginative in science-fiction and fantasy writing from writers who were more eager to write than to try to fit a publisher’s definition of a good book.

I found myself drawn to the fantasy and light sci-fi selections of stories this time around, compared to the sci-fi stories in the previous volumes. I didn’t like the non-fiction pieces (advice columns) as much as the other volumes.

Three Exceptional Stories I Liked:

1. “The God Whisperer” The first story that grabbed my attention was “The God Whisperer” which was a clever mixture of humor and satire using the ancient gods of the past in a creative new way. I have never seen anything like it before and kept reading to see where it would go.

2. “Switch” Another notable story was “Switch”, which reminded me strikingly of a great cop movie with great action scenes and a great plot. I was surprised to actually find such great action writing in such a short story!

3. “Stars that Make Dark Heaven Light” This was probably the weirdest of the stories I read (at least in the beginning and the end), but that weirdness is also what kept me reading. I wanted to know how weird the story could get. Throughout the story, there were allusions to “Romeo and Juliet”, so I assumed that the story would follow along that path. The story did, but it took some weird turns (especially at the end with the eggs). I was a little weirded out, confused, but happy that i read such a complex and engaging story.

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Review: Between The Dream

Between The Dream
Between The Dream by Richard Taylor, Jr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Between the Dream” is a raw and honest self-help book at life between the space between “I want to reach this goal” and “I reached my goal”. One intriguing aspect of this book that really stands out is the target audience for this book, young African-American males who may feel blocked from reaching success. This audience is often skipped over in traditional self-help books.

Taylor does an excellent job of encouraging that target audience with personal stories, encouragement, and practical advice written in a language that they will understand. Instead of the “here’s what I did” speech, Taylor opts for the “this is what I’ve been through and why I believe you can make it”.

“Between the Dream” is an excellent book if you need motivation after facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but don’t want the sugar-coated talk found in most self-help books. It is best suited for its target audience (young African-American males), but the story (a man moving forward with hope toward a dream) is something that will connect with everyone.

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Review: The Arc of the Universe: Episode One

The Arc of the Universe: Episode One
The Arc of the Universe: Episode One by Mark Whiteway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The most interesting aspect of “Arc of the Universe” is the moral ambiguity in the central crisis of the book, letting an entire civilization of beings live or die. For me, the way Whiteway’s main character Quinn, tries to resolve in the context of losing his son and then re-gaining his son under unusual and strained circumstances is what kept me reading. Throughout the book, Connor (Quinn’s son) has a mysterious connection to the Consensus which compels and frightens Quinn at the same time. This relationship is unfolded through conversation and action throughout the whole book and will lead to an interesting, open-ended conclusion. (If you are fan of “Stargate:SG-1, this is sort of similar to the incident with Daniel and the “Ancients”).

I also liked the well-developed world that Whiteway’s characters live in. I have been a fan of Whiteway’s other books ,“The Lodestone Trilogy” series, and always admired the complexity and development of the alien worlds that Whiteway creates. The aliens in Whiteway’s books have well-established languages, cultures, and personalities that reminded me of Star Wars.

The book also reminded me of another theme that is present in the author’s book, the use of a motley crew of freedom fighters against the establishment. In this case, the establishment is the “Consensus”, which is supposedly good, but their intentions are not. I enjoyed that aspect of the book (as I did in “The Lodestone Trilogy” series).

That being said, I did have some issues with this book compared to Whiteway’s other series. For me, I felt a little confused by all of the different groups of aliens in the book. It was hard for me to keep them all together in my head. In “The Lodestone Trilogy”, there was one well-structured rigid alien society. In this book, there were a lot more. At first, this was interesting (like in a “What kind of alien will I read about next?” kind of way, but it got a little overwhelming after a while.

To sum it all up, though, I still enjoyed what I read. “The Arc of the Universe” gave me the same experience that I would have while watching a good sci-fi show. Whiteway does an excellent job of creating an alien world and letting the humans and aliens get lost in it and find themselves again. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Quinn and Connor try to understand their new places in the world after such a mysterious turn of events. It was an exciting ride.

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Review: Flesh Without Soul

Flesh Without Soul
Flesh Without Soul by Pochassic
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have never been a fan of most zombie books or movies (except “Sean of the Dead”), but I have been a fan of Pochassic’s work. I was particularly drawn to the book description in this title, because it didn’t sound like the typical zombie book with the “worldwide plague that turns everyone into zombies” theme. That theme is present in the book, but it is turned on its head.

Instead of an accident causing the zombies, it is the humans who do, deliberately, as part of a fanatical “end of days” apocalypse. Pochassic begins with this disorienting theme right from the beginning with a mix of characters who don’t seem to be who they first appear to be. As you read further and further, the story centers around Michael’s fanatical belief in himself and his cult along with his sister, who is brought (unwillingly) into the cult. (What I thought was particularly ingenious was the way Pochassic’s villain created zombies and his justification for doing so.) The dynamics between Michael, his sister, and one of his female apostles is a very interesting and developing dynamic that helps flesh out the leader of this cult.

After awhile, the Army steps in along with Lt. Commander Jane. In typical typical “I’m going to do what it takes to save the world” fashion, she begins barking orders and shooting. That however, breaks down, because the zombie “plague” takes an unexpected and drastic turn (which I did not see coming!). As a result, Jane becomes less of a undaunted hero and more of an actual human being who just wants to keep alive as many people as possible, even if it means sacrificing. That created another dynamic as well.

The book ends in a very unexpected way. First, the character of Michael ends up in a place that I did not expect. Second, the protagonists Kara and Jane are changed in ways I did not expect. Thirdly, I did not expect “Grandma” and her children to encounter what they did after the “plague” was over either. The most unexpected wildcard was Shelbi, Michael’s confidante, who turned out to be more manipulative than I made her out to be. It was basically an overall unexpected ending.

I enjoyed the book and found myself getting deeper into the story as I went. I even Tweeted my comments on the book (a few can be seen on Twitter with the hashtag #FleshWithoutSoul). I would have liked to hear more about the background leading up to Michael’s development as a cult leader. What gave him the idea for zombies? What was the final straw that pushed him to do what he did? The book includes some snippets, but I’d like to know a little more.

Beside that, my only other issue was the military terms. The book also featured a heavy dose of military references in the latter part of the book when the fighting became more intense. At the beginning, this was interesting, but it did kind of wear on me after while. The book did change gears, quite suddenly, when the cavalry broke in, however.

Overall, this book was an engaging read for a non-zombie-lit reader like me. I kept reading because of the mystery. Pochassic leads reader to several plot changes and you’re never quite sure if what you think happened actually happen. I would recommend it for anyone who wants a more unique twist on the “zombies are coming” routine.

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