Friday, October 28, 2016


Published by Abacus, 1994. Paperback, 237 pgs
Goodreads Description
      I erroneously checked Goodreads reviews prior to reading. Occasionally I'll check ratings between several books to narrow down what I'm reading next. This usually backfires for all selections, since they're never as high as I wish they'd be! This one is particularly polarizing. However, I wasn't in the mood for books on my shelves, and it was a recent and short library purchase for a quarter. If you are a regular reader of my reviews, you'll know I've been on a nonfiction and relationship-based fiction kick.
     As a fan of reading about complicated marriages, I'm not detoured by the bad behavior of main characters. While I find their actions repulsive, the life triggers that initiate affairs (and the role each player assumes) can be an interesting sociological study. Also, I like to read about love in all forms.....and luckily I'm far removed from this so it doesn't usually upset me while reading. My husband is my favorite person in all the world.
         The writing was really good. There's an excellent example of everyday casual cruelty when one of the characters is assessing his wife's cooking. He mentions that the lamb is overdone, and "no one in Harriett's family can cook, he has long decided, and the table invariably looks stingy- even on Thanksgiving."  The unspoken marriage bargains we negotiate was part of the story I related to, even though it was seen as monotonous and negative in the novel. For example, I'm the kitchen and laundry person, my husband changes filters and does the vacuuming.
      The letter writing back and forth, in addition to the use of pay phones, was a definite throwback. The strange descriptions of pre-cell phone era interaction was slightly nostalgic. This book is 22 years old, so the communication methods were written accordingly. I liked the pretty, clandestine atmosphere of The Ridge as well, which provided a stark contrast to the unfaithful couple.
     This novel was solidly in the three star range. There weren't many surprises, and I did feel more uncomfortable the further I read. I realize this is nonsensical- since the subject matter is clear. The icky feeling of being complicit in the affair was unnerving- espeically as the family situations worsened around the Holidays.The ending was sufficiently depressing and realistic. If you enjoy reading about difficult situations and unrequited love....and can handle deplorable characters, this is a quick read.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Published by W.W Norton & Company, 2016. Hardcover, 245 pgs
Goodreads Description

    Let's start with a silly complaint, shall we? I felt negatively predisposed to this book because of something trivial....the huge font and almost double-spaced sentences. I'd prefer the book to be shorter than look goofy in this format. Anyways, this is perhaps the most low-key book I've ever read. I would recommend this for very specific readers: those who enjoy pretty solid character studies with little action. The author had a truly unique ability to portray the few action scenes with little or no suspense. Depending on the reader, this could be a positive or a negative. Lasdun deftly explores themes of envy, introspection, heavy rationalization, and self absorption. I'm going to leave this review short. I had highlighted three passages of great writing, but all contain character spoilers. I'm curious about his other novels, but would probably stick with checking them out from the library. Just okay for me.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Published by Hay House, 2015. Hardcover, 227 pgs
Goodreads Description
      I just love this title. I'm working on loving kale, already adore coffee. Continuing my health knowledge quest, this was an entertaining, anecdotal account of the author's roller coaster weight loss and gain- with the main goal to achieve a sustainably fit mind and body. A nice departure from the more clinical, research-focused books (although this does contain some research), I liked the practical applications of his tips. Gianni's style also reminded me a little of AJ Jacobs, the author of Drop Dead Healthy.
     Gianni also reminded me of basic nutrition markers that I'd forgotten...such as the importance of checking your blood work periodically, paying attention to your heart rate, and being aware of whether you're using an aerobic vs. anaerobic fuel system when exercising. Also, stress sucks! There is a good discussion on our bodies response to stress and cortisol production. 
    A lot of health is simply paying attention to what our body is telling us, particularly how it responds to what we eat and what we do. The cultural studies into longevity were helpful, even in their varied results, because it highlighted what you shouldn't eat. "There is a long-established connection between culture, genes, and food." (pg 31). Assess, detox, think long-term. And have a good green smoothie. If you're entertained by memoirs about individual health journeys, particularly from a a YouTuber who has been on both ends of the spectrum, this book is for you.

Monday, October 17, 2016


Published by BenBella Books, Inc. Hardcover, 328 pgs
Goodreads Description
      I almost didn't read this because the logic of eating mostly plant-based and unprocessed foods seemed like basic common sense. Then I ended up taking eight pages of notes. I will do my best to create a succinct summary of advice I found the most useful. After note-taking, I realized many of the points I appreciated most (such as the example of Vitamin C found in the apple) were contained in the Goodreads description (so read that too!) 
       The quick rundown by Campbell says "The ideal human diet looks like this: Consume plant-based foods in forms as close to their natural state as possible ("whole" foods). Eat a variety of fruits, raw nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and whole grains. Avoid heavily processed foods and animal products. Stay away from added salt, oil, and sugar. Aim to get 80% of your calories from carbs, 10% from fat, and 10% from protein. That's it, in 66 words. In this book I call it the whole food, plant based diet or WFPB).
       The history behind reductionist thinking (moving away from usefulness and applicability by focusing on one element to the exclusion of the big picture) vs. wholistic reasoning was the bulk of the book. Through graphs, studies, and explanation of how research was conducted to prevent bias, Campbell paints a vivid and disturbing picture of how our tendency to view results in a bubble is alarming. "We create specialists to help us solve each problem as if it stood alone. As a consequence, we fail to see interconnections and we fail to see the whole." (pg. 174).
My favorite Sections/Quotes:
1) The modern healthcare myth
2) What to ask yourself when you hear a health claim (Is it true? Is it the whole truth, or just part of it? Does it matter?)
3) How to tell if a health intervention matters.
4) "....Diet deals with so many diseases and conditions that you begin to wonder if there isn't just one basic disease cause- poor nutrition- that manifests itself through thousands of different symptoms (pg 135)."
5) Undisputed global warming implications of gases like Methane (CH4) that are associated with modern industrial livestock production....potentially 72 times more harmful than CO2 levels that are often touted, with Methane being far less known in the public.
6) The unsustainable practices of current food economy (how we use land and water for animals).
7) Reasons why the shift in thinking about food paradigms is so difficult.
8) The incredible interactions between enzymes in our bodies. I'm a person of faith, and while looking at charts on the Krebs cycle and metabolic pathways in science classes bored me beyond description, I look at it differently since I've aged- with awe and appreciation for the miraculous complexity of our bodies.
9) Nature ("genes") vs. Nurture ("nutrition") and what roles each play. 

     Please excuse if this seemed like a regurgitation of facts. I added so much to my knowledge of nutrition and found the insights quite profound. I recommend this to anyone who simply wants to be more informed, regardless of whether you adopt all his tips.

Saturday, October 1, 2016


Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2016. Paperback, 384 pgs
Goodreads Description

      Okay. There are some extremely polarizing reviews! Luckily, I formed my opinions well before taking a Goodreads glance. I'll provide a small backstory on my food/exercise journey so there's a foundation for this review. I've been regularly exercising for years. I used to run on the treadmill in college, then found the benefits of interval training through Beachbody programs in 2009 after my daughter was born (Insanity by Shaun T was my first if you're curious). However, I was such a cardio junkie I refused to try any weight training....I thought it was mainly a "manly" exercise and I was worried I would look too muscular and not feminine. Two months ago I incorporated some of this in my routine, and it really has changed the way I feel. I'm embarrassed it took me 10+ years to try it.
       Rectifying these things, that only left my relationship with food. I love sugar. I love ALL the sugar. Since I do high intensity workouts, I never read food labels. As long as I was eating one dessert a day, portions that weren't wildly out of control, and good boxed cereal, what was the harm? Nothing really, but occasionally I didn't feel great. I had a pumpkin recipe where I was curious if I could swap the sugar for a substitute that wasn't artificial. I ran into the ingredients stevia and truvia. Googling the two sent me down a rabbit hole of information. I was at the library the next day and this book caught my eye on an end cap.
      There is a lot to gain from some of her tips. The one star reviews of people who think she's lying or refuse to read her "crap" are unfair. While I won't be following all of them, namely buying only organic coffee beans and making your own brew every day vs. Tim's or Starbucks (sorry lady, that's my treat), I still think her facts are sound. With any guide, you have to pick and choose what advice you think is realistic and suitable for your lifestyle.
My big takeaways:
1) A smaller ingredient list on a box is usually best (more natural, less additives)
2) Good websites for baking materials (Thrive Market!)
3) The sickening 15 ingredients to avoid
4) The top items you should buy organic if you can afford to
5) How much/what type of fish you should eat
6) The best alternative sugar options (maple syrup, honey, stevia leaf)
      I understand food is crucial to our well-being. She loses points on her extremism and almost offensive sections on the perils of Wal-Mart over other grocers. It's insensitive to assume that everyone has access to a Trader Joes, Whole Foods, or even Kroger. She also bashes certain diet plans. I understood the main point- to highlight the detrimental effects harsh plans can have on health (as well as the difficulty sustaining these diets long-term), but the manner was definitely off-putting.
     I still think people should read this book- her data can be confirmed by other dieticians and basic physiology, and much of the info simply makes good sense. If you've read this book or others like it, I'd love to hear your thoughts and comparisons.


Published by Tor, 2016. Hardcover, 384 pgs
Goodreads Description

     An excellently bewitching story!! Heuvelt is on my radar in a big way. I was half-paying attention to a YouTube video while washing dishes a few weeks ago. When I heard mention of a creepy novel set in Black Rock Springs- featuring a small town witch with eyes and mouth sewn-shut- who wanders the streets and enters homes at will, I couldn't help but take notice. It reminded me of reading Ticktock by Dean Koontz when I was a teenager. The cover of my edition of Ticktock featured a cloth doll with stitches for eyes, and the image (if not the story) were unforgettable. Book Riot's Liberty Hardy mentioned Hex shortly thereafter, and when traveling to Malaprops bookstore during a trip to North Carolina and finding a signed copy, I knew it was fate. My copy also came with a needle and thread insert for "sewing things shut". Shudder.
        The plot is strong and the characters are surprisingly developed for this type of genre. I've had experiences where the core set of horror characters feel plopped into a scary setting promptly before they are killed. Besides the initial chilling reaction (and wondering when/where the supernatural object/person is going to strike next) the victim is given little further thought. Hopefully that's not just me. Not the case here.
      Another strong point concerned the blending of technology with this crazy 17th century curse on a modern day secluded town. Instead of sticking this story conveniently in a pre-cellphone era, Heuvelt embraces the opportunity to add an intelligent layer to the narrative. For example, the witch is tracked through the "HexAPP", cleverly making the citizens aware of her whereabouts (and if she needs hiding) at a moment's notice. There was always a building sense of foreboding, while simultaneously infusing a few lighthearted tech jokes.The governing Council's efforts to prevent growth and keep outsider questions at bay-while still procuring funds for the town- was also ingenious.
      I read this three days ago, and have found more ways I appreciate the set up of the scenes and pacing. From the justice system, to the manipulation of the characters, to the rules/indoctrination of the town, and the terrifyingly plausible way that people react to fear and uncertainty, Heuvelt did a bang up job.   
      The author is Dutch, but I'm still surprised this hasn't received more attention in the United States. Perfect for lead up to Halloween, and I give kudos to Heuvelt for listening to his publisher and updating the dutch version for American readers. He's fluent in multiple languages, a strong storyteller, and has won the Hugo award (and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for short fiction). Apologies for giving you part of the jacket cover bio, but I wanted to stress the writing chops of this author. I'm thrilled that he is young and will hopefully have a long career ahead of him. Another checked book in my favorites of the year column!