Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Inside The Criminal Mind

Inside The Criminal Mind by Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D is a very different look on criminals, their thought process, and why they behave the way they do. This book was originally written in 1984 and now is on its third edition, published in 2014. It's a groundbreaking look at the inner workings of the criminal mind. This new updated edition includes a look at new, modern topics such as computers, drugs and pharmaceuticals, video games, movies and TV, social media, and updated genetic and biological research. In this book he offers his solutions based on his many, many years studying this topic.

This is definitely not the typical crime book. Samenow's views contradict nearly everything we hear and read in popular media. Most people believe criminals are "born that way", or fall prey to influences completely beyond their control - poverty, abuse, etc. Samenow believes this is not true, that criminals have a certain thought pattern and can retrain their thinking to fix their behavior. This is definitely an eye opener. He draws on stories from his hands on research in the field. This is an extremely interesting book, and it's easy to read, as well. It's not written just for the academic, but for the layman. If you like to learn about psychology or read about true crime, this is the book for you.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Kidnapped By The Taliban

Kidnapped By The Taliban is the thrilling account of Dr. Dilip Joseph (co-written by James Lund). Dr. Dilip Joseph was working for an NGO, Morning Star Development. He traveled to Afghanistan on multiple occasions to oversee, provide medical care and train native medical workers to better serve the Afghan people, especially in rural areas with no health care options. The back cover reads:

"“Am I About to Die?”

On December 5, 2012, American medical doctor Dilip Joseph and two colleagues are driving back to Kabul, Afghanistan, after serving villagers that morning at a rural clinic. Suddenly a man waving an AK-47 blocks their path. More armed men jump out of hiding. For Dilip, it is the beginning of a nightmare—he’s being kidnapped by the Taliban.

Dilip and his friends endure a nine-hour march into the mountains, gruesome images of torture and death, and repeated threats of execution. Four days later Dilip is freed in a daring and deadly rescue that claims the life of a SEAL Team Six operator. Yet this is more than a story of desperation, survival, and loss. It is also a tale of surprising connection, compassion, and inspiration. As Dilip begins to view the Taliban not as monsters but as men, both he and his captors are challenged to reexamine everything that matters: courage, sacrifice, hope, and faith.

Flap Copy:

With a jerk of his rifle, the leader points up the mountain on the left. There is no path. I look higher and see more armed men at the top of a hill about two hundred feet above us.

Apprehension surges up in me like black oil from a well. These aren’t ordinary robbers. This is too systematic.

I’ve been kidnapped by the Taliban.

As we walk, I fear the worst—that when we reach the top, they will shoot us. God, however this is going to end, please don’t let them torture me to death. Let it be one shot and done.

It is amazing how quickly everything we take for granted can be ripped away. In the space of a few minutes, I have lost all control of my life. All I can do is take a step, draw a breath, and hope I will be given the chance for another.




Kidnapped by the Taliban is a story of both terror and triumph. After reading this dramatic and inspiring account, you will never view Afghanistan or the Taliban in the same way again."

This was such an absolutely fascinating and fast-paced story that I literally read it in less than 24 hours. I could've read it in one sitting, if I had time. Dr. Joseph and Mr. Lund brought together the story seamlessly, and I was impressed by the level of detail that the story included. Many stories such as these are blurry on timelines and events, but not this one. I felt like I was there as the story unfolded. I loved how Dr. Joseph showed us the true plight of the Afghan people, and showed their humanity. Amazingly, he was able to connect with members of the Taliban on a very personal and human level - talking about such things as families, careers, dreams for the future, and more. It also showed that many in the Taliban are victims of their environment - poor, with no other options, and raised steeped in this culture. They had dreams of leaving Afghanistan and going to other countries to seek education and a new life. As strange as it may sound, I felt sorry for several of the Taliban members portayed here. I believe Dr. Joseph when he said he had planned to try to help them leave the Taliban and discover other options for their life, and was sad when they all were killed and he lost that chance. I can't recommend this book enough - not only is it a quick, exciting read, it will also help you learn more about the Afghan people and put a face on their plight. The villagers are living under the threat of death from the Taliban if they don't cooperate, and with little food, poverty, and no real access to medical care or education, but their future is hopeful. I was very impressed with this book.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Just Babies

Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil by Paul Bloom is a little gem of a book. The cover is brilliant and is what initially drew me in to even taking a look at it. I really enjoy books about psychology, and this didn't disappoint. The description was really intriguing, so between that and the cover, I knew it was a must-read:

"A leading cognitive scientist argues that a deep sense of good and evil is bred in the bone.

From John Locke to Sigmund Freud, philosophers and psychologists have long believed that we begin life as blank moral slates. Many of us take for granted that babies are born selfish and that it is the role of society—and especially parents—to transform them from little sociopaths into civilized beings. In Just Babies, Paul Bloom argues that humans are in fact hardwired with a sense of morality. Drawing on groundbreaking research at Yale, Bloom demonstrates that, even before they can speak or walk, babies judge the goodness and badness of others’ actions; feel empathy and compassion; act to soothe those in distress; and have a rudimentary sense of justice.

Still, this innate morality is limited, sometimes tragically. We are naturally hostile to strangers, prone to parochialism and bigotry. Bringing together insights from psychology, behavioral economics, evolutionary biology, and philosophy, Bloom explores how we have come to surpass these limitations. Along the way, he examines the morality of chimpanzees, violent psychopaths, religious extremists, and Ivy League professors, and explores our often puzzling moral feelings about sex, politics, religion, and race.
In his analysis of the morality of children and adults, Bloom rejects the fashionable view that our moral decisions are driven mainly by gut feelings and unconscious biases. Just as reason has driven our great scientific discoveries, he argues, it is reason and deliberation that makes possible our moral discoveries, such as the wrongness of slavery. Ultimately, it is through our imagination, our compassion, and our uniquely human capacity for rational thought that we can transcend the primitive sense of morality we were born with, becoming more than just babies.

Paul Bloom has a gift for bringing abstract ideas to life, moving seamlessly from Darwin, Herodotus, and Adam Smith to The Princess Bride, Hannibal Lecter, and Louis C.K. Vivid, witty, and intellectually probing, Just Babies offers a radical new perspective on our moral lives."

This is a small little paperback (I was expecting a large, thick trade paperback style book due to the subject matter, and worried it might be a bit dry). Not including the notes, it's just 218 pages. It's written in an easy-to-read, entertaining, and engaging manner - it reads like a magazine article. It's a quick book to breeze through with tons of interesting content. I was especially taken by the experiments they do with babies - I had no idea studies like this were performed and found the results very interesting. As a precaution, Bloom does have some areas in the book that read as anti-Christian (homosexuality and Christians' beliefs and behavior toward homosexuals is discussed in a negative light). As another reviewer has mentioned, the best part to me is that much of the studies portrayed here and facts drawn from them corroborate what the Bible tells us about morality - we have the moral law of God written in our hearts ("But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people." -Jeremiah 31:33 KJV), and sin nature - despite God's moral law written in our hearts, we have an innate sin nature passed down from Adam, and we are born with it ("The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies." -Psalm 58:3 KJV; Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." -Psalm 51:5 NIV). I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading books about psychology.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Hope Crossing

Hope Crossing by Cindy Woodsmall is a three-in-one book that includes all three full length novels from her Ada's House trilogy. The book description reads:

"Hope Crossing…where Ada’s House stands as a haven for weary souls looking for kindness, faith, and second chances.

The Hope of Refuge
Two very different women are pulled by their strongest desires. Deborah Mast joined the Amish church and longs to marry her fiancĂ©, but he is changing. Cara Moore is forced to look into a life that was meant to be hers. Will Ada’s House help them realize their hearts’ desires or will it force them to accept what life has done to each of them?

The Bridge of Peace
Living out her passion for teaching, Lena Kauffman’s work is suddenly interrupted by a series of pranks and accidents targeted toward her and her students. When tragedy strikes her dear friend Grey Graber’s family on school property, the school board begins to blame her for the trouble. As grief and confusion take their toll on Grey and Lena’s friendship, they are both forced to face a new reality that may offer the peace and love they each long for.

The Harvest of Grace
Fleeing a terrible mistake, Sylvia Fisher dedicates herself to saving the failing Blank farm. When prodigal son Aaron returns, he is surprised by this unusual farmhand who opposes all his plans. Will Aaron and Sylvia’s unflinching efforts toward opposite futures mask the bigger picture—a path to forgiveness, grace, and the promise of love?

This three-in-one collection includes the entirety of the best-selling Ada’s House trilogy, now at a new low price!"

First of all, the cover of this book is absolutely gorgeous. I was drawn in to choosing this book based on the beautiful cover - it just looked like it would be a great story and something that would be relaxing and enjoyable to read. I wasn't disappointed. I love books that include the entire series like this - I don't have to wait to buy the next book to find out what happens, and I can just read everything at once, which is how I prefer to read a book series. I hate that wait time between book, and collections like this solve that problem! All three of the books included here are heartwarming and engaging. I'm always leery of Amish fiction unless it's written by Beverly Lewis because with the way the Amish genre has exploded, I often find many of the Amish stories on the market today cheesy, badly written, or unrealistic - but Woodsmall does a great job writing an authentic and realistic, touching story. This is a big fat book with 1,028 pages and includes a character list and a glossary of the Pennsylvania Dutch terms used. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Christian or Amish fiction.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, November 3, 2014


When I first read the description of Motherless by Erin Healy, I knew it was a book I just had to read right away, even though I've never read any of Erin Healy's books before and wasn't sure what to expect. The description reads:

"A whispering voice at the back of my mind reminds me that I've been this way for some time. Dead, that is.
The dead have a very broad view of the living, of actions performed out of sight, of thoughts believed to be private. I would know. Losing both parents is a trial no child should endure, and Marina and Dylan have endured enough. They deserve the one thing I could never give them: a mother's love.

A mother's love, and the truth.

My children have believed a lie about me for years and years. After all this time I can still feel their hurt in my heart. But the tether holding me to them is frayed from years of neglect . . . and I have to find a way to make my confession before it snaps.

But when the truth comes out, what other beasts will I unleash?

"Why do we lie to the children?" someone asked me once.

"To protect them," I answered.

How terrible it is that they need protection from me."

Wow - what an attention grabbing description! This book doesn't disappoint. It takes you on an unstoppable journey through the past and present, weaving together several stories seamlessly. The "voice" telling the story is unusual and inspired, and definitely grabbed my attention from the start. Erin takes you on a journey and has you believing certain things, then the ride twists and turns and everything shifts. It's difficult to review this book without giving away any spoilers, but suffice to say, this is a gripping, suspenseful book and I highly recommend it. Perfect for lovers of Christian suspense, mystery, fiction, etc. You won't want to miss this one. I can't wait to read Erin's other books now. Also, the cover is captivating and beautiful and really drew me in.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

SWEET Cookbook Giveaway!

I recently reviewed Sweet: Our Best Cupcakes, Cookies, Candy and More - a totally awesome cookbook put together by the Food Network with their absolute best dessert recipes. It's one of the best dessert cookbooks I've ever seen - a full page color photograph for EVERY recipe, step by step instructions, and simple, easy-to-follow recipes that anyone can make. In short ... I love it! It's my new go-to for desserts.

Anyway, the publisher recently contacted me and asked me to host a giveaway. One of my lucky friends will win a copy of Sweet - the publisher will ship it straight to your house. Please enter, guys! It's such a cool cookbook and I know you will love it - besides, it's free to enter and free to win! What can you lose???

Just fill out this form to enter, and make sure to include my blog URL (ramblingsofacaliforniacouponer.blogspot.com) so they know who the entries "belong to" and can pick a winner:

Easy peasy! Good luck, can't wait to see who the winner is! :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


I was excited for the opportunity to read and review Churchless: Understanding Today's Unchurched and How to Connect with Them by George Barna and David Kinnaman. I belong to a large church that is active in soulwinning efforts, so books like this are great for insight on how to reach people. The book description reads:

"Churchless people are all around us: among our closest loved ones, at our workplaces, in our neighborhoods. And more and more, they are becoming the norm: The number of churchless adults in the US has grown by nearly one-third in the past decade. Yet the startling truth is that many of these people claim they are looking for a genuine, powerful encounter with God—but they just don’t find it in church. What are they (or we) missing? How can we better reach out to them? What can we say or do that would inspire them to want to join a community of faith? Containing groundbreaking new research from the Barna Group, and edited by bestselling authors George Barna (Revolution) and David Kinnaman (You Lost Me), Churchless reveals the results of a five-year study based on interviews with thousands of churchless men and women. Looking past the surface of church attendance to deeper spiritual realities, Churchless will help us understand those who choose not to be part of a church, build trust-based relationships with them, and be empowered to successfully invite them to engage."

I absolutely love how much research, time, and effort went into this book. This book is the result of extensive nationwide research that was conducted by the Barna Group. I truly feel like the research done was extremely credible and reliable, and that the whole book is based on the best information available. I was surprised at the hopeful tone of the book - a book on this subject matter could certainly be grim and gloomy, but this is full of hope and active solutions and suggestions to bring people to church. It's divided into 14 chapters with each tackling a facet of this immense topic. Chapters include Is Churchlessness a Crisis?; Our Cultural Moment; Profiling the Unchurched; Born Again and Unchurched, Disengaged and Dropping Out; The Intersection of Family and Faith; Why Churches Matter; and much, much more. This is an extremely important book for our current moment in time, and I feel it's important that every pastor, church staff member, and layperson alike read this book.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.