Sunday, June 30, 2013

Relatively Dead by Sheila Connolly

Relatively Dead is a good title for this book. It is an historical paranormal mystery romance. After moving to New England with her boyfriend, Abby begins sensing the ghostly residue of people whom she later learns are her distant ancestors. As her relationship with Brad goes downhill, she finds solace in searching out more mysterious ghostly encounters with her friend Ned as she traces her family tree to find out why she is sensing the dead people. Abby herself also seems relatively dead-ish. She doesn't find her boyfriend interesting, and he does not find her interesting either. They both seem like rather dull people. Even when her friendship with Ned becomes more than just a friendship, they both still seem rather bland. There is a lot of historical information included about the New England area. I got this book free to review from Netgalley.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition by T. Colin Campbell

Whole by T. Colin Campbell

This is just quite a complex book. I really cannot write a review that will do it justice. The author redefines holisism as wholism - explaining how the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and the wholist paradigm encompases reductionism, which is today's tendancy to break things down to the smallest parts and examine each individually.
This book is as much about philosophy as it is about diet.
As far as diet goes, the author recommends eating "whole, plant-based foods, with little or no added oil, salt, or refined carbohydrates like sugar or white flour." He explains that we do not need to consume animal protein - milk, meat and eggs, and that over a very small amount, animal protein is carcinogenic to us and should be avoided. He also explains that our health care system has profit as it's goal rather than health. It really is an eye-opening book and I highly recommend it.

Doors by Daniel Brako

Interesting story. David is a psychologist and when one of his patients, Hans, tells David that he has been visiting other worlds via doors that he only can see since invoking them, David decides to show Hans he is wrong, by invoking the doors himself. Instead, David finds that the doors are real and a threat to his sanity. When Hans is murdered and David is framed for his death, a chase begins from door to door and world to world as the Doorkeeper tries to subdue David and keep knowledge of the doors secret.

The Girl With No Name: The Incredible True Story of a Child Raised by Monkeys by Marina Chapman, Lynne Barrett-Lee

The Girl With No Name by Marina Chapman
Marina's story is an interesting one. At age 4 she was kidnapped and then abandoned in the jungle in Columbia. I am not sure why someone would kidnap and then abandon her. Anyway, she lived with a group of monkeys for 5 years and became feral. When she finally saw some humans and chose to leave the jungle with them, they were wild animal traffickers who sold her to a woman who ran a brothel. Luckily, she was young and still acted like a monkey and none of the men were interested in her yet. When they became interested in her, she ran away and lived in the streets with other orphaned and abandoned children until she got a "job" as a slave working for a mafia family - not a step up, and then was finally rescued by a kindly neighbor.
This book ends when Marina turns 14 and there is supposed to be a sequel telling about the rest of her life coming out.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

After The Ending by the Lindseys

After The Ending by Lindsey Fairleigh
Written mostly as a series of e-mails - which is so weird since it is a post apocalyptic novel and how on earth is the internet working and if it is, why do they only use it for personal e-mails and why on earth is there not a lot of important communication and information being shared on the internet if it is working after an apocalyptic virus is purposely set upon the earth by the military which killed most people leaving the survivors with all kinds of odd superpowers like esp and telecommunication and being able to telepathically communicate with animals and heal oneself etc...?
The e-mails are between best friends Zoe and Danni, separated by distance when the virus strikes, but both survive and try to find one another with the help of Zoe's brother who Danni has always had a crush on and now, after the apocalypse, even though he has sex with everything that moves, he apparently loves Danni and so settles with her because his past of having sex with every other female on earth who he could meant nothing to him and she is happy and ok with that. Ick.
I got this book free to review from Netgalley.
It has some errors in it - perhaps those were corrected in a later edition of it?
It ends with a major cliffhanger - not even a real ending of it's own at all.
Not cool.
Has potential, but the whole internet thing was not properly thought out at all.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed: Growing Up With Undiagnosed Autism by Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed by Jeannie Davide-Rivera
Jeannie tells her story of growing up with undiagnosed Asperger's - mainly because when she was young, Asperger's was not diagnosed at all. It was not a recognized condition. At age 38, she finally found out that she had Asperger's and was thrilled to finally have a diagnosis and reason for all of her difficulties in life including the inability to hold a job, make friends or understand other people. The author seems angry in the book, and her parents sound like they had their own mental issues. There is something seriously wrong with a mother who calls her five year old daughter a bitch. The book was not well written and could have used an editor. Many parts of it had interesting insights into Asperger's and autism, but a lot of it sounded like griping and making excuses for her poor pitiful life.

Cry of the Giraffe by Judie Oron

Cry Of The Giraffe by Judie Oron
They too are my people.
This fiction story, is based on the true story of Wuditu, an Ethiopian Jew, one of the Beta Israel, called falashas which means strangers, who escaped from a life of persecution in Ethiopia beginning in the late 1980s to go to Israel. Although there were many outsiders trying to help the falashas, the Christian people of Ethiopia and Sudan believed that the falashas were evil murderers who killed their Lord and who would put the evil eye on people and curse them and they hated and persecuted the Beta Israel, just as Jews have always been persecuted throughout the world. As Wuditu fled with her family to try to get to Yerushalem, they were separated and when her younger sister became ill, Wuditu left to find work and help. For several years Wuditu was forced to be a servant, then a prostitute, then a slave before she finally was found and rescued and reunited with her family in Israel. The story is sad and touching.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

14 by Peter Clines

14 by Peter Clines
Spine chilling, mind thrilling, bizarre and creepy with fantastic plot twists, this is a book that I could not put down. I really loved the first part of the book up until the part where they started the machine and then it went from incredible sci-fi to gore/horror and I am just not into that and did not like that part. At that point I kind of skimmed through the gross details to follow the plot to see how it ended. The book is wonderfully well written and has a great plot except for the gross parts near the end. If you like the horror genre, then you will enjoy the whole book.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Becoming Indigo by Tara Taylor

Becoming Indigo by Tara Taylor
I got this book free to review from Netgalley. It is a well written interesting story about a girl named Indigo who has graduated from high school and is living in an apartment with two friends and working. Indigo apparently has psychic powers and through her mother, meets Annabelle who gives psychic readings in the back of her angel store. Indigo gets a job working for Annabelle and learns all about how to read cards and give psychic readings while living her just out of high school partying life. The book promotes the concepts of past lives and crystals and spirits of dead people who have not yet "moved on" and angels and guides who speak to Indigo. It is based on the author's life and experiences with her own clairvoyant gifts. At the end of the book, Indigo goes to theology school. I suppose that is an attempt to blend the psychic and religious worlds.
I did like the book and it is well written, but I do not like the whole psychic reader/past lives/crystals and clairvoyance stuff. I knew someone whose mom joined a cult years ago that was into all of that stuff. She even named her cars like the character in the book and she asked me if my car had a name and told me that all of her cars had told her their names. I find that whole topic really creepy and icky. Sorry. But the author is a good writer and the book is well edited although the formatting in the copy that I got has some words runtogether in quite a few places. Perhaps that is because it was a preview copy.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sisterland: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
Not what I was expecting. In this complex story told by Kate/aka Daisy, we got back and forth from Kate's childhood through adulthood and her present life. Daisy and Violet are identical twins who share "senses" - esp-like - in which they can sometimes see the future and know things about others. In high school, after some drama, they are known as "witches" and so, Daisy changes her name to Kate when she is in college to escape her weird past. Vi, however embraces the weirdness and becomes a psychic. Kate goes on to have a nice suburban family life - with a few twists that occur when she colludes with Vi in making predictions and in Kate's friendship with Hank, a friend who is a stay at home dad. I found the story to be funny, sad, gripping and unsettling. I liked the book and could not put it down, but I was not thrilled with the ending. I got a free copy of this book to review from Netgalley.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Whistling past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall
“My daddy says that when you do somethin' to distract you from your worstest fears, it's like whistlin' past the graveyard. You know, making a racket to keep the scaredness and the ghosts away. He says that's how we get by sometimes. But it's not weak, like hidin'... It's strong. It means you're able to go on.”Starla Claudelle, nine year old narrator of Whistling Past the Graveyard

Looking at the civil rights era from a child's point of view, this story is raw, poignant, touching and beautiful.

Nine year old Starla lives with her grandmother in Mississippi in 1963. Her mother left when she was three years old to go to Nashville and become a famous singer and her father works on an oil rig and her grandmother, Mamie, resents raising her. She is constantly in trouble due to her extreme curiosity and spunkiness and tendency to speak before thinking and stand up for what she thinks is right. When she gets caught at the 4th of July parade while she should have been home on restriction due to breaking Jimmy Sellers's nose which he deserved for picking on five year old Priscilla, she runs away.
Eula, a black woman who has just picked up a baby that she saw someone leave on the steps of a church, picks up Starla as well when she sees her walking down the road.
From there, Eula and Starla and baby Jimmy go on a two week adventure on the way to Nashville to go to Starla's mother.
Starla sees and is shocked by the way that black people are treated and at one point they are taken in by Miss Cyrena, a black school teacher and Civil Rights Activist. When Miss Cyrena shows Starla her school, Starla is saddened that the black children don't have a playground or swing sets like the children at her school do.

I think this book would be a wonderful book to read and discuss in high school English classes. It is a totally excellent book and I highly recommend it. I received it free to review from Netgalley.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Secrets in the Shadows (Leroy's Sins, #1) by T.L. Haddix

Secrets in the Shadows (Leroy's Sins, #1)
This is a romantic mystery that deals with some heavy issues.  After Lauren's uncle attempted to rape her when she was 16, her cousin Margie disappeared.  Left emotionally scarred, Lauren carried on with her life and now owns her own bakery.  When her uncle returns to the area though, old wounds are opened and scary things begin to happen.  So many different people are mentioned in this book that is set in a small town, that it felt a bit like tuning in to a soap opera that I had never seen before and it was difficult to keep up with all of the characters and their relationships to one another. 
I enjoyed the book and look forward to reading others by this author.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Guardians Inc: The Cypher by Julian Rosado-Machain

Fun story, but needs editing.
I got this book free to review from Netgalley.
Fifteen year old Thomas's parents have disappeared in a cruise boat in the Bermuda Triangle and his grandfather is now raising him and looking for a job to increase his income. Thomas finds an unusual ad in the classifieds and he and his grandfather both go to the job interview. They are ushered into a world of magic and Thomas's grandfather is kidnapped by the Warmaster - head of the bad guys. Only Thomas, or his grandfather, can decipher the mysterious clues that will save the world. Since his grandfather is now working for the bad guys, Thomas needs to be the one to decipher the clues first. With fauns, elves, and magic galore, this story has the potential to be fantastic. It has some awkward wording in areas and could benefit from better editing and the character development is rather shallow and could use more development. I think kids will like it though.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Butterfly Lane by T.L. Haddix

Butterfly Lane by T.L. Haddix
This second book in the Firefly Hollow Romance series features John Campbell and his wife Zanny. Zanny had been raised by her grandmother and her abusive father and has quite a bit of bad feelings in her past to overcome. When she and John are thrust into a quick marriage, they do their best, but circumstances and her past cause trouble in paradise and they separate for a while. Throughout many difficulties, their love for one another continues to grow as they finally learn to communicate openly with one another.

Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health by Gene Stone, T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell Esselstyn

Forks Over Knives by Gene Stone
This book is based on the movie. I liked the movie better, but if you can't see the movie then reading the book is a good option. The authors explain why a plant based whole foods diet is best and healthiest for both people and the planet. They explain why we don't need to eat dairy or meat products to get enough protein and how meat and dairy products can be very damaging to our bodies. I checked out the book to see the recipes and I am not impressed with them. I don't see any recipes that l plan to make in this book

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hope After Faith by Jerry DeWitt

Hope after Faith by Jerry DeWitt
Well, my goodness. What to say? Jerry shares his story of his life in the Pentecostal religion - growing up in it, becoming a pastor, and trying to make a career as an evangelist or pastor searching for the truth so that he could bring about a huge revival in the Christian religion. During his seeking in his lifetime he followed some rather bizarre teachings of some rather odd groups. Perhaps that is the norm in Pentecostalism? I am not familiar enough with it to know. After failing repeatedly as a pastor/evangelist and encountering some nutcase preachers, Jerry studied the Bible and turned to a goal of taking Jesus as his personal savior and leading people to do that rather than the faith healing speaking in tongues orientation of the Pentecostal religion that he was raised in. He learned that the Bible was written by mere men and not dictated by God, which freed him to open his beliefs more away from depending on correct interpretation of the Bible. Eventually, when faced with the fact that he no longer believed that praying did anything, he declared himself an atheist and quickly found a group of atheist ex-preachers to belong to.
Basically, he traded one hat for another; one group for another. Same song, different verse. He is still preaching and trying to help people and bring people to "the truth", but it is just a different "truth" or different gospel than that of Pentecostalism or Christianity.
Now his religion is atheism.
I think that many non-Pentecostal Christians will just look at his experiences and feel that the group and beliefs that he was following in Pentecostalism were the "wrong" beliefs and that if he had just been in their group with their "correct" teachings, then he would not have been lead astray. The idea that his mother took his sister who has Down Syndrome to a faith healer to be healed of Down Syndrome just shows to me how totally ignorant the Pentecostal religion can be, and not only Pentecostalism I am sure, but other Christian groups who share similar "healing" beliefs.
However, every religious group has beliefs that can be seen as ignorant by outsiders.
The book is interesting and I enjoyed reading it.

My Beef With Meat by Rip Esselstyn

My Beef with Meat by Rip Esselstyn
My Beef with this book.
My main beef with this book is that Rip Esselstyn has sold out. He has partnered with Whole Foods and advertises on his web sites for many different products. He even has his own food product line now sold in Whole Foods. That is fine for him and I have no problem with him making money. However, profit driven advice is not necessarily the healthiest thing for you. I got Rip's books because I am reading "Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition" by T. Colin Campbell and he advocates strongly for a plant based whole foods diet. I have also read books by Michael Pollen who shares the same viewpoint and since Rip's first book, "The Engine 2 Diet" has a forward by T. Colin Campbell, I thought that they shared the same views.
Rip, however includes lots of highly processed foods in his recipes and diet suggestions, things that have more than 5 ingredients, many of which are unpronounceable chemicals. Michael Pollen would not approve. Furthermore, Rip replaces fats with sugars. Many of his salad dressings include maple syrup. I personally don't like sweet salad dressings. I make my own salad dressings with EVOO and vinegar - usually balsamic, red wine and apple cider vinegars all mixed or perhaps with some fresh garlic, ginger, lime juice or lemon juice. I do not think that is any less healthy than a salad dressing made with maple syrup.
Rip does explain that large amounts of oils are unhealthy, but I think that in moderation, they should be fine.  Rip also includes tons of soy in his recipes. He tells us not to believe everything we believe about soy, but admits that "there is not yet conclusive evidence" about it, and it "may in fact both help and hurt us" but, "like most natural ingredients...don't do anything bad to you if you don't eat too much of them." I feel the same way about EVOO and coconut oil thank you.

I have made some of the recipes from this cookbook which, by the way, are not made up by Rip himself, but by his friends and family. I made the "Crispy Polenta Strips" which are coated with "corn flake crumbs (from a canister, not from your old cereal boxes!)" - definitely a highly processed food. They were ok.
I also tried to make the "Spicy Italian Eat Balls" which lists 1 cup wheat gluten as an ingredient. I looked up wheat gluten online and it was listed as seitan, so I bought that and used it in the recipe. That was the wrong ingredient. What is needed in that recipe apparently is vital wheat gluten, a dry wheat flour rather than wheat gluten aka seitan which is a lumpy moist wheat product. Rather than meat balls, I had mush, which I put in a loaf pan and baked like meatloaf. It still did not stick together and was just mush, but it tasted ok. I will try to make it again using vital wheat gluten and see how it turns out.
Lastly, I made the "Lime-Ginger Tofu Cubes", soy - and I used Braggs Liquid Aminos instead of low-sodium tamari sauce because the low sodium sauce still has 710 mg of sodium per serving as opposed to the over 900 mg in the regular sauce while the Braggs has 160 mg of sodium per serving. The Lime-Ginger Tofu Cubes were very good.

I do think that Rip brings up some good issues about healthy eating in his book and many of the recipes seem good as well. I continue to be skeptical about all of the soy ingredients and the egg replacer and many of the highly processed foods that he includes. I don't think that is truly a whole foods diet and I am not sure that replacing meat and dairy with processed soy and other processed items is the best diet. I think it would be better to leave the soy and processed foods out and stick to just whole foods.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Unexpectedly different.
The story of Karou, whose name means "hope", is a rather unique and different one. A high school student in a performing arts school in Prague, she is sketches the monsters who are part of her life, while everyone else believes they only come from her imagination. Karou has been raised by four Chimera, though she, herself is human, and she regularly runs errands for Brimstone, purchasing teeth for him from collectors. Her entire life is a mystery and she has lived with an unexplained emptiness and longing, never knowing why or what her Chimera family really does or anything about their existence or hers. Then she meets Akiva, an angel, a seraphim who was bred to be a warrior, whose very presence seems to fill the emptiness within her.
Akiva loves Karou, and he knows who she is. As she learns about her past, the concept of war is explored. In reality, are there good guys and bad guys in a war? Are there winners and losers? Or are the participants in a war merely pawns?
Very good book, and I look forward to reading the next one.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ethan by P.T. Michelle

Ethan by P.T. Michelle
I got this book free to preview from Netgalley. I did not realize that it is an insert novella into a series when I requested it. I just thought it looked interesting. It is a fantastic book and now I am going to read "Brightest Kind of Darkness", the first book in the series. Ethan is a short novella insert explaining things from his point of view. Nara is the main character in the main series and when Ethan begins going to a new high school, after being expelled from the last one, he notices that Nara is different in many ways and he feels drawn to her. I am still not sure what is going on with Ethan. He has nightmares about demons and draws them during the day and hears demonic voices talking in his head. To me, that screams psychotic or since this is a ya paranormal book, demon possessed? He also has been followed by ravens all of his life. He is portrayed as a kind person who can communicate with animals and likes kids, but feels rejected by his parents and tormented by the demons who fight him in his dreams and whisper in his head.
I liked the book and can't wait to read the others in the series.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fireflies by P.S. Bartlett

I really really enjoyed this book a lot - until the ending. The author is a very good writer and tells a good story. I enjoyed all of the romances and the twists in the plot and Ennis's evolving "powers". The ending scenario, however, was totally unbelievable and not well thought out to me.
I do look forward to reading other books by this author. I got this book free to review from Netgalley.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

The Last Lecture
The last words of a remarkable man as he was dying of cancer.  Everyone should read this book.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Composing Amelia by Alison Strobel

Composing Amelia by Alison Strobel
I had a bit of a difficult time enjoying parts of this story due to the character's depression. I kind of skimmed some of those parts because it is realistically written and I find depression to be rather depressing. I did think it was a well written interesting story and I liked the author's questions and explanations at the end.

The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn

The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn
I give this book 5 stars for the book part itself, but 3 stars for the recipes. The book does an excellent job of explaining why a plant based whole foods diet is the healthiest way to eat. It also has interesting stories about firefighting and the author's life and some nice looking exercises that I may try.
My favorite story is the one that ends with "Don't eat bear balls. Eat healthy, delectable, plant-based foods so that you will never fall over on your cat."
The recipes, however, make me a bit sad.
I want simple to prepare, whole foods, plant based recipes.
Many of the recipes in this cookbook look good, but are quite labor intensive. I am going to make some of them, but am going to try to simplify them some. I also was saddened by the amount of soy included in the recipes. There is a lot of tofu, textured vegetable protein and other soy products included in many of the recipes in the cookbook part of this book.
There are also a lot of milk substitutes recommended, and unless you make them yourself, those are processed foods. The author states, on pg. 52, "Cow's milk is fine for a calf who wants to gain one thousand pounds in less than a year. Whenever possible, humans should stick to breast milk until the age of two, and then make the switch to a milk substitute." While I agree that it is ideal to breastfeed babies until the age of two, I think that milk substitutes are not necessary and even may be detrimental especially soy milk.
I enjoyed reading the book and found it to be well-written and interesting and I am also reading sequel to this book "My Beef With Meat".

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Towering by Alex Flinn

Towering by Alex Flinn

Once again, Alex Flinn has woven a wonderful tale.  In this modern day retelling of the story of Rapunzel, Rachel is a girl who lives in a tower visited by a woman who is not her mother, every evening.  Her hair grows fearsomely fast and her tears have healing powers.  When she is 17 years old, she dreams of a boy with dark hair and green eyes.  Wyatt, also 17 years old has gone to stay with Mrs. Greenwood, a friend of his mother's after a tragic experience.  From her house, he hears a beautiful voice singing.  Not to mention the ghost who spoke to him and her journal that he found.  Drawn inexplicably, he finds Rachel in her tower. That is when things get dangerous. Fantastic story!  I totally loved it and highly recommend it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally

Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally
Eighteen year old Kate has been raised to be a purity ring wearing self-righteous Christian. She has believed and done everything her church has taught her and does not understand how anyone else who goes to her church could ever behave differently.
The summer after her senior year, she works at a Christian camp as a counselor and gets her first boyfriend, experiences lust, and realizes why some people do break the rules that her church teaches. As she begins to understand other people a little bit, she is able to see how selfish and self-centered she has been and she is able to forgive her best friend, and herself and she starts to open her mind a little bit to understand that everyone does not believe everything her church teaches and that can still be ok.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

True by Erin McCarthy

I am a bit torn about how to rate and review this book. While parts of it were ok - Tyler's family dynamic reminded me a bit of The Outsiders - much of the plot seemed "off". The whole part about Rory's roommates paying Tyler to have sex with her so she would not have to be a virgin anymore is rather a horrid thing and the fact that she did not seem upset about it is just wrong. Rory is a self-deprecating wimp and I am tired of wimpy female characters.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
This is a charming book of letters back and forth between the author, who lives in New York, and the employees of a bookstore in London that she purchases books from. The letters begin in 1949 and for several years, we see that Helene sent care packages of food via catalog order to the bookstore employees because at that time, many foods were rationed and difficult to procure. It is cute and interesting and a fun read.