Book Review: Peppers of the Americas, by Maricel E. Presilla

Peppers of the AmericasWhile not the pepper encyclopedia I was hoping for, I still found Maricel E. Presilla’s Peppers of the Americas to be informative and helpful. For those with the same hopes I had for the book, Presilla explains that this book is “not an encyclopedic catalog, but a highly subjective record of my own garden and kitchen encounters with these remarkable plants” (p.vii). Keep that in mind when considering whether or not to pick this one up.

The first eighty pages or so are full of dense text on history and archaeology related to peppers. There are then about 115 pages of peppers with pictures accompanied by Presilla’s subjective (see above), yet helpful notes—these pages are periodically peppered with pertinent prose on past and present particulars. About twenty-five pages of dried peppers written in similar fashion, seven pages of very general pepper gardening and tending, and 100 pages of working with peppers (vinegars, powders, recipes, etc.) conclude the book’s content.

I really like peppers, especially hot ones, and have grown and sold them in the past; so, I’ll probably find this book a bit more interesting than those who are looking for something more specific and complete. There were a tremendous number of varieties I’d not yet heard of, including a few I’m going to need to track down and try, and I appreciated Presilla sharing her experiences with them (taste, cooking, etc.). I certainly look forward to trying some of the sauces and ground spice mixes, but what I appreciate most are the properties and attributes of the fresh and dried pepper varieties.


*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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Book Review: The Economics of Neighborly Love: Investing in Your Community’s Compassion and Capacity, by Tom Nelson

The Economics of Neighborly LoveI expected there to be some overlap of between Tom Nelson’s The Economics of Neighborly Love: Investing in Your Community’s Compassion and Capacity and the arguments and jargon used by the Institute for Faith, Works, and Economics. What I did not expect was to read a book full of claims, anecdotes, and quotes with very little support for the thesis. Nelson wrote this book to encourage people to use free-market capitalism to love their neighbors with Jesus; it is written, however, in a manner that requires the reader to already understand what he’s talking about and to already agree with it. Written to encourage “human flourishing,” Nelson does not articulate what “human flourishing” means. Rather than use evidence and hard data to support claims made in the book (he does use some Bible passages in and out of context to support a few things), Nelson uses quotes from others to say the same thing, but does not quote the data and reason for what other authors have written.

I certainly do not mean to imply that there is nothing good in this book—there is; but I would not recommend anyone spend money on this. While one may argue certainly argue that we continue to speak, write, and do things despite there being “nothing new under the sun,” I found no reason to read this book over the better reasoned, supported, more concise, readily available, and accessible material that already exists. Instead of writing the book, a blog post of overarching claims and a short bibliography would have been more helpful so that people may actually discover for themselves what it is Nelson desires them to understand. To that end, I would simply suggest perusing the IFWE website and reading the oft quoted When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, which will certainly serve any reader well.


*I received a temporary digital copy for review from InterVarsity Press via NetGalley.

Book Review: Blessed Are the Misfits: Great News for Believers who are Introverts, Spiritual Strugglers, or Just Feel Like They’re Missing Something, by Brant Hansen

Blessed Are the MisfitsWe’ve never met, but Brant Hansen and I are great friends. We’ve never hung out, never spoken with one another, and don’t really have a clue who the other is, but we’re super tight. Okay, we exchanged a couple tweets back when I reviewed Unoffendable, copies of which I subsequently purchased for others and continue to promote every time someone looks at my library, takes one of my courses, or mentions US politics (so, like, every day). (Yes, I just unashamedly dropped a serious book plug in a review for another book. It happens.) But really, we’re brothers, and really get one another. Of course, since we’ve never had a real conversation you may be skeptical of my claims. I understand. But I just read Blessed Are the Misfits: Great News for Believers who are Introverts, Spiritual Strugglers, or Just Feel Like They’re Missing Something, and I’m pretty sure he’s been spying on me for a few decades and has used some sort of alien technology to tap into my brain and emotions (or lack thereof). Whatever the means, he knows me, and I know him.

If you want to know us—if you want to get us—read this book. If you want to relate, commiserate, and/or illuminate, read this book. If you’re not sure, read this book. Basically, read this book.

Introverts, logicians, autistics, head-cases, odd-balls, the lonely, normal people who know everyone else is weird: This book is for us. God loves us. Prepare to get got, and maybe even learn something about yourself along the way.

Extroverts, emotional nutcases, emoji lovers, the always smiling, hands-in-the-air-jumping-up-and-down-mega-church-praise-teams, people who know why “the CW” still produces shows and why people watch them: This book is for you. God loves you, and he wants you to know he loves us, too. Prepare to get us (or not…that’s cool, too), and love your fellow brother/sister with deeper understanding (or just love us…that’s cool, too).

That’s all you need to know. The rest is in the book. So…I guess wait until it’s published on November 28, 2017 (sorry, duplicating mine would get me into some serious trouble), or preorder it to make those numbers spike on release day (that’s a good thing for authors and publishers), or just go buy it now (if you’re reading this after 11/28/17, obviously).

Thanks again, Brant, for another gift from your God-given gift. I’m glad you listened to your friends and endured the self-effacing writing process to bless us with one more.

God bless all us misfits who only fit because Jesus perfectly shapes us. (Newsflash: We’re all misfits.)


*I received a temporary, unpublished digital copy for review from W Publishing Group via NetGalley.

Game Review: Deal or Duel

Deal or DuelThe tremendous success of a Broadway play has prompted a surge in products related to Alexander Hamilton. Deal or Duel: An Alexander Hamilton Card Game is one of those, but it’s also a fun and worthwhile game in its own right. One need not know anything about Hamilton in order to play the game, but it makes it that much more interesting if one has some inkling about some of the characters (face cards). Most cards have some sort of trivia (perhaps something about the person on the card) or a little narrative (like on Monopoly cards) that have absolutely nothing to do with game mechanics but do make the product much more interesting, entertaining, and sometimes (for me) educational. It’s a game of strategy, sabotage, greed, and dueling, and you’ll love it.

My playtesting group consisted of six players (the game requires two to six), male and female, ages twenty to thirty-nine, all of whom enjoy a variety of game types. From the moment I opened the box for the first time to the end of the game was about two hours, which isn’t bad for learning to set up and play a new game at max capacity, and we were entertained throughout. No one read any of the cards ahead of time to get an idea of what was coming, and we were quite surprised when a couple Hamilton cards (you’ll know what they are when you read the rules) demolished everyone early on. We don’t think that’s normal and likely due to poor shuffling of a brand new and organized deck of cards, but it didn’t kill them game either—it just made us play smarter.

We noticed a few things that could be improved. The game comes with a paper mat for play organization, which is helpful but too small for proper placement of cards when dueling. (It’s not a big deal. We just had cards overlapping to make sure they were in the correct spots to start.) The rules state that used Hamilton cards go on the bottom of the pile, but we found a discard pile to be much easier to us, and used the open spot above the Hamilton card slot on the mat for this. The rules make no mention of a discard pile for face cards, but some Hamilton cards require them to be discarded, as opposed to the “Debtor’s Prison” that is sufficiently explained and has a large spot on the mat. We created a discard pile (from which face cards never recover) in the last free spot to keep track of them. Noting and distinguishing discarding face cards from prison should be addressed in the rules, but we made it work as we assume it was supposed to be handled (unless “discard” meant go to prison, which is articulated in a different way on different cards). There is also the possibility that one has no playable cards on one’s turn, which the rules again do not address. Do we discard one and draw another? Do we lose a turn? This is quite ambiguous given play order in the rulebook, so that certainly needs clarification. The variety of cards and types leaves this as an unlikely possibility, but we ran into it on the last turn just as I won *flex*, meaning upon the player’s next turn there may have been a problem with the inability to play if no cards could be played beforehand, which would likely have been the case.) In the grand scheme, these are minor issues that can be thought through and worked around, but should be addressed.


Overall, we had a great time and would (will) play it again.


*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: NIV Kids’ Visual Study Bible, by Zondervan

NIV Kids' Visual Study BibleZondervan’s NIV Kids’ Visual Study Bible contains hundreds of labeled images, scores of infographics, and countless easy-to-understand study notes in page margins. Provided images, both photographic and illustrated, are from an array of sources, each noted in fine print below the image. The infographics are beautifully simple and informative (parents will likely want to reference these for their own use)! The study notes are likely to be helpful for young readers, and when addressing controversial issues (e.g., the meaning of “day” in Genesis 1) the contributors include several brief interpretations, which is good for young readers and will lead to good questions and discussions with more mature Christians.

This hardcover copy is a brick, and I doubt any kid will be carrying it around. It may be more helpful as a stay-at-home Bible. I imagine the imitation leather editions may be a bit more portable, but not by much. While the layout is quite reasonable and easy on the eyes, there’s still a lot of wasted space in the set margins wherein study notes are place, which contributes to an increase in physical size.


All in all (NIV translation aside), I think kids will find this niche Bible interesting and helpful, but won’t want to carry it around.


*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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