I became a pescatarian about four years ago, and since then I've been inching forward toward healthier eating. I'm not always that good at it. Sometim...more I became a pescatarian about four years ago, and since then I've been inching forward toward healthier eating. I'm not always that good at it. Sometimes dinner will be some greasy chips, or a pint of ice cream. But other times I'll eat something like an uber-healthy meal of a raw marinara made with tomatoes and red peppers, served over steamed spaghetti squash. My life is a measure of two steps forward-one step back.
So when I saw this cookbook available on Netgalley, I jumped at the chance to give it a little looksy. And am I glad that I did! The book is chock-full of great ideas for eating raw foods. Why eat raw? Well, what could be healthier? When you are eating food raw, you are eating it whole, with its fiber intact and without the nutrients cooked out of it. Not cooking it also means saving calories that may be added when cooking in oil or butter. That's healthier eating all around!
The author came to healthy eating at 39 years of age after finding herself plagued with health issues, which started with a valley fever infection at the age of 22.
The book stresses eating alkaline, as when our bodies enter an acidic state, we feel lethargic, bloated, dehydrated, and some suffer from chronic pain. The author has since converted her family to her diet by showing them how good the food can be!
One thing I was surprised to see was the use of the dehydrator in raw food preparation. It seems it gives it more of a "cooked" feel, when removing some of the water from the vegetables. The pictures of these dishes made in the dehydrator looked and sounded so good, I was inspired to buy a dehydrator (although I haven't had time to try it out yet). Dishes like the Rainbow Fajitas and China Bowl.
I tried the Spring Rolls, which are raw julienned vegetables in rice paper wrappers, with a simple soy marinade for dipping. They were rather tasty! And I selected from the wealth of desserts available and chose one that I've heard about for years and always wanted to try, which is a chocolate pudding made from avocado. The book has a recipe for Vermont Joe's Chocolate Moose, and it was quite tasty, too! It's mainly just avocado, cocoa powder, a little agave or honey, and vanilla.
This morning I tried a variation adapted from the recipe for the Happy Shake. My variation was a couple cups of spinach and water blended to a puree, then a frozen banana, a cup or so of frozen blueberries, and a handful or two of frozen cherries thrown in with 2-3 tablespoons of unsweetened Special Dark cocoa powder, and a drizzle of agave nectar.
Yum! It was like a thick, creamy, rich shake made from chocolate-cherry ice cream. And so good for me, too!
My final word: Looking to eat healthier? Cut calories? Eat whole foods? Check out this book and the benefits of eating raw. You won't regret it!(less)
Penn Cage is the mayor of Natchez, although he was previously a novelist and a practicing attorney. He is an honest and ethical man, and devoted to hi...morePenn Cage is the mayor of Natchez, although he was previously a novelist and a practicing attorney. He is an honest and ethical man, and devoted to his family. He has taken on the role of mayor in the hopes of saving his hometown from corruption.
Penn’s father Dr. Tom Cage has been the town's well respected doctor for decades. He’s seen it all. And now he is being charged with the murder of his old nurse Viola. Tom and Viola worked together in the ‘60s, during the heat of the civil rights movement. Now she’s been found dead, and there is video footage of her death, leaving Dr. Cage charged with her murder.
Henry Sexton owns the local paper and has spent decades investigating the local branch of the Double Eagles, an off-shoot of the KKK. He's been driven to uncover the truth when no one else seemed to care, attempting to connect the Double Eagles to countless murders from the '60s, and leading back to one of the country's wealthiest men Brody Royal. Henry has often felt alone in his battle for justice, and his attempts to bring closure and validation to the surviving family members of murder victims.
I was very excited for the opportunity to read this book, as the subject matter is right up my alley. However I was unaware that this is #4 in the Penn Cage novels by Greg Iles. It's always a little disappointing to enter a series partway through, with the constant allusions to previous novels. There are characters that are reintroduced and mentions of past events. However this book stands on its own just fine. There was no need for me to have read previous editions in order to follow this one.
Penn is a very likable and believable character, as is his father Tom. Penn is engaged to Caitlin, who is a driven Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Sometimes her fierce competition to be the best and break the next story can bring her at odds with Penn, as she resents when he holds back information that she could use.
I found this story to be absorbing, if at times a little uncomfortable. The subject matter is often unsettling, but necessary. These types of stories are our history, particularly here in the south, and we mustn't forget our history, lest we repeat our mistakes. The KKK and other similar organizations are the most cowardly of all "activists". They perpetrate their actions cloaked in darkness and hoods and anonymity. They have a history of committing heinous crimes and cruelty, driven by a twisted belief that they are somehow superior.
For the most part, I loved this story. The first half felt like an A+ book that had me totally captivated as we unearthed all the mysteries that abound in Natchez and the civil rights era. The second half got a little overdone at times. I wasn't a fan of Penn's friend Kirk Boisseau, an ex-military friend and diver who felt a bit like a caricature. He at times was a little over-the-top, like some crazy surfer dude with ADD, and Kirk's relationship with his own girlfriend felt contrived and pointless.
But overall I have become a huge fan of Greg Iles, and the character of Penn Cage!
My final word: I loved this book so much I have already bought the first one in the series (The Quiet Game) in order to start from the beginning with Penn Cage.
This book shows the yellow underbelly of the cowards that fill the ranks of white supremacist groups, as well as the heroism of those who fight them, and who struggle to uncover the truth. The author has a wonderful quote from Aristotle that was very appropriate for this story:
“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals;
separated from law and justice he is the worst.”
This book spotlights both kinds of men, and does so expertly. Natchez will be burning in my heart and mind for a long time coming!(less)
This book was written by veterinary behaviorists, who understand both a dog's psychology and it's anatomy and natural behavior. These are the guys tha...moreThis book was written by veterinary behaviorists, who understand both a dog's psychology and it's anatomy and natural behavior. These are the guys that dog trainers learn from. They are called "diplomates".
This book is filled with good tips on dealing with specific issues, like how to introduce children to dogs, and how to teach them the proper way to interact with dogs. And how to deal with fear and aggression in dogs, and even otherwise mundane but highly difficult things like how to get your dog to allow you to brush its teeth. It includes example stories of purportedly real-life scenarios between owners and their dogs to help explain what went wrong between owner and dog, and what the owner could have done differently.
The book talks about the trouble with people misreading a dog’s body language. For example, people often mistake “guilt” in dogs, thinking that when they do something and look “guilty”, it shows they know they did something wrong. However they actually are simply submitting and relaying “I surrender”, because they know that the circumstances that seem to make you angry exist, but not that they are to blame for those circumstances. Such as a dog that has an accident in the house. It knows you get angry when that mess is on the floor, but it doesn’t associate the fact that it caused that mess that is making you angry.
Chock full of great information. This would be a great addition to the library of any dog lover!(less)
This was a curious story. The inclusion of a rare chromosomal condition like XP, which results in a boy that lives in the dark of night, voyeuristical...moreThis was a curious story. The inclusion of a rare chromosomal condition like XP, which results in a boy that lives in the dark of night, voyeuristically exploring his neighbor's lives, gives the story an offbeat feel. It reminded me a little of the movie Powder, and came off feeling part Powder, and part Gone Girl. There is a feeling that this family is living in a separate world. The book focuses around their neighborhood cul-de-sac, and the families that live there. You get glimpses into the lives of these people, through the eyes of Tyler during his nightly outings. The cul-de-sac lends a sense of isolation and a feeling that they are alone in this. About three-quarters in I was dreading the end of the story, and yet compelled to keep going. I couldn't see any way to have a satisfactory ending to the story. It was going to leave me miserable and unhappy any way it played out, from what I could figure. But I was driven to see whether the author could find a way to leave me happy when it was all over.
In the end, the story didn't leave me miserable at all, but I was left with the nagging feeling that it was a little bit of a cop out (sort of like the feeling you get when outrageous things happen in a series, and at the end you find out it was all just a dream and didn't really happen. That's sort of the feeling I had at the end of this story. But just a touch of it.). The story was believable, and didn't destroy all hope and leave me heavy and depressed and wondering why I just allowed myself to become emotionally invested in these characters for that. Although the final 10 pages or so fell slightly flat for me, the author did indeed find a way to end the story satisfactorily, and I loved this book overall. This one is bound to be a favorite of 2014 for me!(less)
This book follows a young Japanese girl Yoshi, and various characters that either directly or indirectly impact her life, which is shattered by the US...moreThis book follows a young Japanese girl Yoshi, and various characters that either directly or indirectly impact her life, which is shattered by the US napalm attack on Tokyo in 1945.
The bombing was truly tragic and barbaric. However I do know that the Japanese government/army was out of control. They'd become greedy bullies, trying to get more and more land and resources, by any means necessary. I've read about what they did in Nanking, and it was hideous.
I have loved this book from page one. I love the ease with which the author writes, making it an easy yet captivating read. And perhaps part of the reason that I love this book is that so much of it takes place in Japan-- a place that I grew up hearing about, given that my family lived there for three years before I was born. I grew up speaking common Japanese phrases and eating with chopsticks, and surrounded by Japanese decorations and dolls and books. So this book was a very comfortable fit for me.
I loved so many of the characters. Yoshi was a treasure-- smart, beautiful and hopeful. Cam was a charmer. Billy Reynolds and Cam's brother Mike were all likable. There's also some difficult characters-- those who have good and bad sides to them. Hana, Kenji, Anton and his wife. This book is full of complicated characters that can't be easily characterized as "good" or "bad" or "likable"-- although some do seem to turn "bad" over time.
Yoshi's mother Hana doted on her when she was a girl, thinking she was absolutely perfect. But time and perhaps mental illness began to wear her down, and Yoshi found herself alone, even when her mother was there.
My final word: The author has won me over with her writing. Her description of Japan, the people and the culture is beautiful! Yoshi is a strong character, not giving in and losing herself to all that life has dealt her. A number of wonderful, positive male characters as well (sometimes books with strong female characters portray men as villains or dolts). This book brings the tragedy of the Tokyo bombing (as well as other areas of Japan) to light-- a revelation for those unfamiliar with this time period. I think this whole period in history has been downplayed in our schools, to make the US appear to be victims of the Pearl Harbor bombing without really recognizing the hideousness of our own deeds perpetrated on civilians following that event.
Simple premise. A boy scout troop on an isolated island off Prince Edward Island. A contagion spreads rampant across the island.
I'd initially wondered...moreSimple premise. A boy scout troop on an isolated island off Prince Edward Island. A contagion spreads rampant across the island.
I'd initially wondered whether this was going to turn out to be a story for pre-teens. Uh, no. While it was mainly about kids, it was vulgar and violent at times, and definitely not geared toward kids.
My final word: Creepy and gross with a Dean Koontz-esque kind of feel, I really enjoyed this story. It's a quick read, fun and will make your skin crawl! It's rare that you find a horror novel that not only has a good plot, but is so well executed and written. (less)
The year is 1828 and Agnes Magnusdottir, along with two others, has been condemned to die by beheading for the murders of two men. But the government...moreThe year is 1828 and Agnes Magnusdottir, along with two others, has been condemned to die by beheading for the murders of two men. But the government has spent too much money on the axe to be used for the beheadings, and they can't afford the upkeep of the prisoners until their execution. So Agnes is sent from the prison to the home of Jon Jonsson of Kornsa, the District Officer of Vatnsdalur, and his wife Margret. They are ordered, as part of his duty as District Officer, to take charge of Agnes until the date of her execution. The family is not happy about these orders, but feel they have no choice but to perform their duty.
This novel is a fictional story based on actual events. As the author explains in her Author's Notes: "Agnes Magnusdottir was the last person to be executed in Iceland, convicted for her role in the murders of Natan Ketilsson and Petur Jonsson on the night between the 13th and 14th of March 1828, at Illugastadir, on the Vatnsnes Peninsula, North Iceland." Many of the events int he book are drawn from local history and lore.
Little by little, the life of Agnes is laid bare to the reader, and as heartbreaking as it is, you realize that it is nothing uncommon. This is the life of orphans and paupers.
However this novel is uncommon. It's a modest story, slowly pulling you in, absorbing you bit by bit. It is heart-wrenching at moments, and you yearn for Agnes to find some relief from her fear, and to find love and affection.
Agnes is returned to Kornsa, where she had a family for awhile in her childhood, and gains a family again before her death. She was fostered as a young girl by Inga and Bjorn until Inga died.
Agnes requests as her spiritual attendant Assistant Reverend Thorvardur Jonsson, otherwise known as Toti. He is unclear why Agnes has requested him, and is uncomfortable with the assignment. He is still in training, and nervous about attending to a murderess. But he, like the Kornsa family, performs his duty as ordered.
Toti and Agnes form a bond as he permits her to pour out her soul and rehash her past.
One of my few complaints is that I would have liked to have seen more development in the relationships between Agnes and the family members. I would have liked to have felt warmth between them growing, and her opening up to them. Her relationship with them remained rather stilted.
My final word: This was one of those gentle reads, at times so entrancing it is almost hypnotic, like being rocked to sleep. Affective and sensitive, it moved me and it is beautifully lyrical. I would consider this novel to be rare and extraordinary, and it will carry you along to the bitter end, if you allow it, with tears streaming down your face as you take those final steps. But you aren't alone. Agnes is with you.(less)
Julia is a freshman in college. She is coming out of an unimaginable year in which she lost her brother, and her life is finally beginning to feel nor...moreJulia is a freshman in college. She is coming out of an unimaginable year in which she lost her brother, and her life is finally beginning to feel normal once again. Then she meets two men. One man, Marcus, is a young man she met in class. He's cute and seems sweet, and she is comfortable talking with him, bantering lightheartedly.
The second man is an older man she met at a cafe on campus, and she feels a shared sympathy with him, as he seems to understand her pain over losing her brother. Sam is intense and almost ingratiatingly easy to get along with.
Julia makes her choice between these two men, but then begins to wonder whether she made the right choice. Both men accuse the other of dishonesty and dangerous behavior. At the same time, there are rapes occurring on campus, and both men appear as possible suspects. Could either of them be guilty of such a thing? And then there is a third man thrown into the mix, just to confuse things further.
Before you know it, Julia is being consumed with paranoia, trusting no one. She no longer can trust her own judgements, and doubts her own decisions. And then she finds herself in real danger, and doesn't know which way to turn.
I think this story was really character-driven. It flits through alternating perspectives, and you are always inside of the head of one of the characters, seeing things through their eyes. You are fed little bits of the story, and it builds slowly. And even though you are in the heads of the characters, you still aren't sure what the truth really is.
This is one of those stories that I feel seems to have a moral or lesson to be learned from it, but I'm not really sure what it is. What is to be learned from all of this? I don't know. How NOT to be? Where poor judgement will get you? How foolish the young can be? Perhaps it isn't intended to have a moral to the story, but it has that feeling.
The story felt a little choppy at times. There were some things that sort of left off unfinished or vague or simply alluded to. But overall it had a good flow.
My final word: This book was very easy to read, and the characters were pretty well developed. I found myself on the edge of my seat for much of it, not sure where it was going to go. There were so many suspicious characters introduced that you just weren’t sure “whodunit”. It was enjoyable, yet left me with a frustratingly disappointed feeling that I can't quite put a finger on. Although I was left with the feeling that the story was somewhat...insubstantial, I found it overall to be a worthwhile read, and I would give the author another go-around.(less)
Alice, a school teacher, is always so put together, in control, and health conscious. She didn't have a very good role model for motherhood growing up...moreAlice, a school teacher, is always so put together, in control, and health conscious. She didn't have a very good role model for motherhood growing up, so she feels inadequate as a mother, and is happy with her one daughter and desires no more children. Her husband, Duncan, is reliable, dependable, calm, patient. He's a good man, but has perhaps become a little too predictable.
Georgia is Alice's best friend. A cake maker, she is more easy-going and creative and free-spirited. She had a wonderful mother that she lost at a young age, and then became a substitute mother herself to her younger sisters. So she is confident in her role as a parent. However she yearns for another child and has been struggling to have one for years. Her husband John is a chef and restaurateur. He is passionate and unkempt, and seems perhaps a little uninvolved in the life of his daughter. (You later realize it isn't that he is uninvolved, but that Georgia is such a good mother and so in control that there really isn't anything left for John to do for his daughter but love her).
Alice and Georgia met when their daughters were babies, and they have been best friends ever since. After years of Georgia attempting to have another child, and failing, Alice offers up her eggs to help her friend achieve her dream. But shortly before the birth of the child, a shocking revelation rocks Georgia's very foundation, and everyone is left trying to navigate the confusion and pain in the aftermath.
This story is really character-driven. From the slow building of Georgia and Alice’s lives, and the dynamics between them and their husbands and with each other, to additional characters like Georgia’s sisters. The characters are what really make this story.
The story is psychological in nature, delving into the complexities of friendship, of lines crossed, of families fracturing. It really shines a light on a fascinating concept, which I don't want to divulge, for fear of giving too much away. But this story actually had twists that took me by surprise, and that is rare.
Told through alternating points of view, switching back and forth between Alice and Georgia, as well as through alternating times, from present to months before and back to a year before, you do need to pay attention to keep track of what is going on.
The book is divided into three parts. First the Prologue, which is present day.Then Part One, which flips around from present day to past, building up the storyline and characters a bit at a time. Then Part 3, which moves on from the present day.
My final word: This story was fresh and original. Like a bread crumb trail, it shares little tidbits, allowing the story to slowly build incrementally. Absorbing and emotional, I loved this one! It was able to reach deep within me on occasion and touch someplace precious, but perhaps more importantly, it was able to surprise me. That is something even more special. This is one of those books bound to be a favorite of 2013! (less)
This book may be a guide to helping gardeners coexist with wildlife, but it doesn’t read like a reference manual. It is almost like a memoir of the li...moreThis book may be a guide to helping gardeners coexist with wildlife, but it doesn’t read like a reference manual. It is almost like a memoir of the life of a gardener.
It is full of wonderful ideas for attracting wildlife to your garden, and living cordially with them when you succeed.
The author suggests keeping a “nature journal”. The author will sit in the garden with the journal and jot down her observations-- what she did (fertilizing, trimming, planting), what she saw, problems noted-- so she can see how her actions affect the garden, and what changes she may need to make. She also notes wildlife spotted, and what can be done to keep them coming around without causing conflict in the garden, or where they may need to be deterred.
The author also gives examples of how nature will take care of things, if you just leave it alone and allow it. She relays an example of discovering horned tomato caterpillars. But when viewing them with a magnifying glass, she then noticed little white rice-shaped bits on the backs of the caterpillars. She realized that parasitic wasps had laid eggs on the caterpillars, and those eggs had hatched into larvae which were now feeding on the caterpillars. Problem solved!
If you are a gardener, or if you enjoy welcoming wildlife into your yard, but want to avoid conflict with it, this book is for you! Interspersed with charming, homey illustrations, it is like taking a walk with the author through her backyard while she teaches you a thing or two about nature and living harmoniously with it.(less)
I got nervous with the first paragraph, with its rather ostentatious narration that had me second-guessing my decision to review this book. However I...moreI got nervous with the first paragraph, with its rather ostentatious narration that had me second-guessing my decision to review this book. However I am happy to say that, while this story remained highly narrative, it settled down with all the pomp and circumstance.
Coll kills a man and goes on the run, leaving behind his pregnant wife and family. This story primarily follows his escape and time on the lam.
Occasionally I got confused over who the narrator was, as it kept changing perspectives. It would just say “she”, and I’d have to try and figure out who “she” was.
The writing was so stilted that it read like one of those movie scenes of chaotic imagery, flashing from one scene to another with very little dialogue.
This book reminded me of “The Wake of Forgiveness” by Bruce Machart, I recognize that this novel is well-crafted, but I found myself a bit bored at times. As stated earlier, it is primarily a narrative novel, and I enjoy dialogue.
My final word: There is a fair bit of vulgarity, but it stays true to the Irish culture and characters. I didn't really like Coll. There were few times that I really viewed him as a vulnerable and likable man, but most of the time he was just a selfish coward. Overall I liked this story, but it was a little slow for me. (less)
This is the story of three women, held captive and tortured for years by a sadist, and now 10 years free and still attempting to deal with the results...moreThis is the story of three women, held captive and tortured for years by a sadist, and now 10 years free and still attempting to deal with the results of their ordeal. One of the women is on a quest to find out what happened to her friend Jennifer, the fourth girl who died during their captivity.
Of course, first I must state the obvious and point out the crazy coincidence that this book was released right around the time that the three girls were rescued in Cleveland after ten years of captivity.
The story was intriguing. And at times the writing could be quite engaging. However one thing that really bugged me was the dialogue between the girls. It felt unauthentic, stiff and formal. Usually I am a dialogue reader-- it's what I prefer. Not this time. I came to dread the dialogue, as everything else in the story was so much better written. And there were times the story was just plain preposterous.
My final word: This story had its moments. It wasn't generally gratuitously violent or gory. (Considering the context, I feared I may be walking into something like the movie "Hostel", and was happy to see it was not.) Some of the writing was pretty good, and the story kept me guessing, wondering what would come next. There was a nice twist at the end that made the story ultimately satisfying. But I struggled with the dialogue and some of the characters, and some things were just plain ridiculous. I recommend this book, but not without reservations.(less)
Georgia and Graham move back to Miami, where Georgia grew up, after they fall on hard times. They move into a ramshackle houseboat with their 3-year-o...moreGeorgia and Graham move back to Miami, where Georgia grew up, after they fall on hard times. They move into a ramshackle houseboat with their 3-year-old son Frankie, who is mute and hasn't spoken in a very long time. Georgia soon takes on a part-time job as an assistant to Charlie, a "hermit" who lives in a secluded stilt home in the middle of Biscayne Bay. Before they know it, Georgia and Graham will find themselves going through more changes than they ever expected when moving to Miami.
I saw author Susanna Daniel speak at a local book festival a few years ago, and was so charmed by her and the story of her debut novel Stiltsville that I immediately bought her book at the festival, had her autograph it, and looked forward to reading it. However I got bogged down amid so many other books that I had to read, and the book just fell off my radar beneath my other priorities. But I've never forgotten it, and it still has a place of honor on my TBR shelf in my bedroom (which holds the books which I most wish to read).
Now forward to 2013, and I get the chance to read Daniel's latest novel Sea Creatures, which also is about the stilt homes of Stiltsville in Biscayne Bay, Miami. I excitedly accepted the offer, especially since I live in South Florida (although on the opposite coast) and love the "idea" of Stiltsville. I wasn't quite sure what to expect with Sea Creatures.
Well, let me tell you, I was delighted. Some of the characters weren't very well fleshed out, like that of Georgia's father, but perhaps that suited the story, as her father was rather absent from her life most of the time, as he was often preoccupied with his own interests. But overall I loved the characters, and I loved the story and the setting.
Georgia is a strong, but somewhat confused woman, caught in a whirlwind and unable to get her bearings. She is doing her best, trying to muddle her way through the trials strewn in her path, but realizing that perhaps she has been going about it all wrong.
I found Georgia's husband Graham frustrating. He was hard to like at times. Of course, her son Frankie was suitably adorable.
But my favorite character was "the hermit" Charlie. An introvert, he realizes that he is better off living away from society and with minimal interaction with others, especially after a tragic event that left him shattered. He now leads an austere life in Stiltsville as an artist, and hires Georgia to assist him.
I loved Charlie. I loved his reserve, his social awkwardness, his creative genius, his hidden warmth. And on top of it all, he broke my heart.
I’m not a mother, but I thought that the author relayed a mother’s love beautifully, as she struggles to figure out how to do best by her son.
And there are times throughout the book when Georgia reflects on what motherhood really means, how it changes a woman, how her dreams and desires shift to accommodate the position. When once you may have done reckless and impulsive things, you begin to hold back, thinking of your children and the fact that they need you.
And mothers are flawed and human, and simply do their best, and often find themselves feeling inadequate and falling short of their expectations for themselves.
My final word: Why have I put off reading the author's debut novel for so long? After reading Sea Creatures, I am now eager to pick up her debut novel and experience her writing once again. She writes with authenticity and warmth and honesty, and her stories take place in my backyard, making me feel as if I've come home after a long, hard day and settled in my favorite chair with a cup of hot tea...and, of course, with a great book. Loved, loved, loved it!(less)