Tuesday, September 23, 2014

dust tea, dingoes & dragons (Book Review)

I wasn't sure what to expect when I received (at no cost to me) a review copy of dust tea, dingoes & dragons by R.F. Hemphill.  I thought it sounded like a fun read, so I decided to go for it.

As always, first I'll give you the publisher's description:
Millions of people around the world travel for business every day.  In fact, American companies spend $225 billion per year on business travel.  Jet lag, boardrooms, and high pressure deals—that’s what international business brings to mind, right?
But how many of us take the time to truly appreciate what we observe and experience during these trips?
R.F. Hemphill spent 10 years and 4 million airline miles developing a startup a global electric power and distribution company that is now in 21 countries with $18 billion in annual revenue.  But in all that time, is was his travel experiences that meant the most to him.
dust tea, dingoes, & dragons: adventures in culture, cuisine & commerce from a globe-trekking executive is a collection of letters Hemphill wrote to his father over his decade of intense travel.  Practical, poignant, and often very humorous, this books is about the uniqueness of cultures, the diplomacy of building business relationships, and, ultimately, of living life to the fullest.
From camel hooves for dinner to signing an infidel form just to get a drink to bacon-flavored popcorn, Hemphill brings a unique observation to many of the experiences that go unnoticed during business travel.
As the description says, dust tea, dingoes & dragons is a collection of letters that Mr. Hemphill wrote to his father over the course of about ten years.  The author spent much of that time traveling through Asia and Europe.  Most of the trips were for business:  Hemphill was a founder and senior executive at AES, a global electric power corporation.

The start of the book is about business:  meeting with executives and government officials, negotiating, making deals.  I was looking forward to the promised "culture" and "cuisine" parts!

My patience was rewarded as I read on.  Most of the book deals with culture and cuisine, largely describing the differences between the specific foreign culture and ours in the US.  It's told as a story with some lists of observations mixed in.  To give you a flavor, I'll share a paragraph about France:
As we were leaving Aix to go on this drive, it was decided that since we were on vacation, it was authorized to have ice cream for lunch.  Ice cream doesn't really stay with you.  By mid-afternoon, however, we were getting pretty hungry.  We decided to get something to eat in the small town near the vineyard, at the Relais Cézanne, which the guidebook explicitly recommends as a terrific place for whiling away several glorious hours sitting on the patio in the sun-dappled afternoon.  It neglected to mention that you could sit there getting sun dappled all you wanted, but you couldn't get anything to eat at any time other than the narrow window officially allowed for lunch--12:00 to 2:00.  At other times of the day you may read the menu, but you may not order from it.  We found this confusing, but attributed it to tourist naiveté and the peculiarities of dealing with such a famous establishment in such a famous location.  Little did we know ...
For the most part, the accounts of business trips don't include tourism.  However, the author includes some letters about personal travel.  To me these are descriptions of traveling with the fabulously wealthy.  One example:  a group of 38 toured Asia in opulent style for about three weeks.  The group included an expedition photographer and two administrative facilitators from a travel agency.  (Remind me to hire an expedition photographer for our next family vacation.)  It was interesting to read because I will never travel that way.  (Which is fine, but that's another blog post.)

dust tea, dingoes & dragons is, as I'd hoped, a fun read.  Parts are quite funny.  The author includes some clever jokes and puns, as well as some that will make you groan.  It may not be exactly politically correct.  It contains a few instances of mild profanity and at least one allusion to adult themes.  I didn't find these offensive, but some readers might.

This book won't be everyone's cup of (dust) tea for everyone, but I liked it.

Links for more information:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Kassidy's Crescendo: Sisters in Spirit (Book Review)

Kassidy's Crescendo continues the story of the Sisters in Spirit, a series by Marianne Evans that previews the Pure Amore imprint from Pelican Book Group.  I received the ebook, at no cost to me, for review purposes.

From the publisher:
The stage calls, and the Sisters in Spirit are ready to take inspirational music and performance to a whole new level.

Concert promoter Drew Wintower is a diamond in the very rough. He's a genius at promotion and production, but he's nobody's believer. He's all about tangibles and feeding the public appetite.
Kassidy Cartwright belongs to a Christian performance group that has captured his attention–if not his personal convictions. Once his life and heart intersect with this stunning lady, sparks ignite.
On the surface, Kassidy is strong and faithful. Beneath it all a longing builds to find the kind of forever love that two of her friends have embraced. She never expects God to answer that prayer in the form of Drew Wintower–his world is completely secular.
When a concert tour brings them together, Kassidy discovers a solid core of goodness and promise in this compelling man. As transformation occurs, can she hold on through Drew's spiritual growth spurt? Will Drew be able to convince Kassidy that his newfound faith is authentic–not lip service or an attempt to win her heart?
As I wrote above, Kassidy's Crescendo continues the story of the Sisters in Spirit performing group, a story which began in Aileen's Song.   These books are about not only the activities of the performing group, but also the personal lives of the four young women who are its members.

This installment, as you have certainly surmised, focuses on the character of Kassidy.  As the Sisters in Spirit prepare to launch their first tour, they meet Drew Wintower, who will promote and produce the tour.  He and Kassidy are powerfully drawn to each other.  However, she is reluctant to test the waters because Drew is not a Christian, while Kassidy's faith is the most important aspect of her life.

The Sisters in Spirit novellas can be read as stand-alones; you'll be able to pick up enough history by starting at any point.  However, to get the full picture and to learn about each of the four young women, I recommend starting at the beginning of the series.  These books are most suitable for teen girls and young women.

Links for more information:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Elderly Parents With All Their Marbles (Book Review)

As my husband and I get older, we are increasingly aware that our parents are aging, as well.  They're all in good health, thank the Lord, but at some point they might need some help.  I don't think everyone is like my 91-year-old mother-in-law, who still pulls weeds and paints fences!

I received a copy of Elderly Parents With All Their Marbles, at no cost to me, for review purposes.

From the back cover:
Sooner or later, it could happen to you! Anyone who has ever had to care for elderly parents will see their own situations reflected in this witty yet practical guide to surviving the ordeal. You’ll feel like you’re right by Pam Carey’s side as she outlines 49 essential points for navigating the trials of elderly living, the medical issues, and the inevitable loss that eventually comes. She illustrates each point with her own sometimes hilarious and often poignant experiences.
In Elderly Parents With All Their Marbles, author Pamela Carey tells the story of her parents' later years.  Carey was their primary caregiver, so she had the privilege as well as the burden of walking with them through some difficult times.  This book reads like her journal, providing not a cold, clinical account, but one infused with emotion.

The fifteen chapters contain 49 rules, such as these:
  • Rule Eleven:  A caregiver will earn a medical degree without the diploma.
  • Rule Nineteen:  Someone younger than eighty should accompany elderly parents to the doctor.
  • Rule Forty-Six:  Set small goals and accept small accomplishments.
Each chapter mixes events with advice, so the reader can learn from the challenges the author has faced.  The book is laced with humor, but as you can imagine based on the topic, it's not all light-hearted.

I liked this book and read it in just a few days.  I'll keep it for future reference.  Perhaps the part I'll value most is the appendix, which contains definitions, notes, websites, and phone numbers.  It covers various types of facilities (e.g., assisted living and different kinds of nursing homes).  It offers resources for finding a caregiver and finding a facility.  It defines medical-legal terms such as living will and DNR.  It provides general descriptions of, and links to learn more about, various government programs (e.g., Medicare, pharmaceutical assistance programs).

I recommend Elderly Parents With All Their Marbles if you are in, or think you may be approaching, the stage of being a caregiver for a parent.  For more information, click the book title (the Amazon page offers a "Look inside" preview) or visit the book website.