April 24, 2017

Recent Reads

37. The Spectrum: A Scientifically Proven Program to Feel Better, Live Longer, Lose Weight, and Gain Health
From page 17: ...nine factors related to nutrition and lifestyle accounted for almost 95% of the risk of a heart attack in men and women in almost every geographic region and in every racial and ethnic group worldwide. These factors were: smoking, cholesterol level, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, diet, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and psychosocial issues such as emotional stress and depression. In other words, the disease that kills the most people each year worldwide and accounts for the single largest expenditure of healthcare dollars is almost completely preventable just by changing diet and lifestyle in ways described in this book.

If that doesn't make you pick up this book, I don't know what will.

This first third of this book dives deeply into the fields of nutrition, stress management, guided meditations, and exercise. The information conveyed in these sections is clear and easy to understand with scientific studies as backup. These are the sections that I found most useful and in some cases mind blowing.

The second third deals with specific issues: lowering cholesterol, losing weight, lowering blood pressure, preventing and reversing type 2 diabetes, preventing and reversing cardiovascular disease, and preventing and treating prostate and breast cancer. There is really great information here, but there is a ton of repetition, as the solutions have already been outlined in the sections before this one.

The final third covers recipes, cooking and shopping tips. Honestly, this is the part I found least useful, but it would be pertinent information for anyone new to the ideas in this book.

In some ways, Ornish is preaching to the choir with me, but I reinforced ideas I already had formed, learned some new things, and have no doubt that I will re-read sections of this book for the rest of my life. Rating: 4 stars.

38. The Essex Serpent
I love the cover of this book, readers I tend to share similar reading tastes with have raved about this one, and it was long listed for the 2017 Bailey's, so I was really excited to get my hands on a copy. Unfortunately, it did not work for me, and the only reason I did not DNF it was because the writing is lyrical and poetic in sections.

In her GoodReads bio the author states that her "early immersion in old literature and the King James Bible profoundly influenced her writing style." I concur. There are sections that read like paragraphs that Dickens or George Eliot might have penned, and there are certainly biblical overtones, both of which I love, and yet I did not like this book.

The story centers around Cora Seaborne, Will Ransome, and the people in their orbits. She is a wealthy London widow, and their paths cross when Cora moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, where Will is the local vicar. The rumors that the mythical Essex Serpent has returned and is claiming human lives is the thing that this tale spins around. The push and pull of science and religion. Again, sounds intriguing right?

However, the story is told in the third person, and at no point did I know, hence care, about any of these characters. The parts I liked best were the letters that went back and forth between the various characters in the story. I also liked the unusual relationships (don't want to spoil anything so will leave it at that), and I especially appreciated how things ended without going the expected Hollywood route. Still, as mentioned above, it was the writing that kept me reading, and while this story didn't work for me, I will try another book by this author, as there are moments of luminous writing in this one. Rating: 2 stars.

39. Solanin
As I read this manga comic I realized something important about my reading tastes, namely, that while I love coming of age stories, I'm not as enamored by the "new adult" genre/stories. This book is the latter, hence the fact it doesn't get a higher rating is really because of that.

A term I see bandied about by Millennials is "Adutling." I often hear someone say "Adulting is hard." If you agree, this book is for you. Meiko is 24, a recent college grad, and working in a job that she hates. Her boyfriend, Naruo, isn't doing much better, and seems to have moved in with her, as with this part-time job he can't swing rent. The book follows both these characters as they struggle with the dreams they once had juxtaposed against the lives they are living. The black and white art is lovely, there are wonderfully poignant moments, and I liked it well enough. Rating: 3 stars.

April 20, 2017

Cinemascope: The Dressmaker

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Image result for the dressmaker movie poster

Released in 2015.

Plot line: A glamorous woman returns to her small town in rural Australia. With her sewing machine and haute couture style, she transforms the women and exacts sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.

I'm a Kate Winslet fangirl so maybe it's not a surprise that this is on my recommended list. I loved the setting and how the story unfolds and we learn things as the main character does. A very feminist story that I'd recommend for fans of historical fiction, fashion, and movies featuring a strong woman character.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

April 17, 2017

Recent Reads

34. Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History
Book blurb: Eating one’s own kind is completely natural behavior in thousands of species, including humans. Throughout history we have engaged in cannibalism for reasons of famine, burial rites, and medicinal remedies; it’s been used as a way to terrorize and even a way to show filial piety. Today, the subject of humans consuming one another has been relegated to the realm of horror movies, fiction, and the occasional psychopath, but be forewarned: As climate change progresses and humans see more famine, disease, and overcrowding, biological and cultural constraints may well disappear.

I listened to the audiobook which was well narrated by Tom Perkins.

One of my fave questions to ask at parties (I kid you not): Say you are starving and your survival is at stake. Do you feel differently about eating a person who is already dead, as opposed to killing someone to eat? Try it at your next gathering and report back.

This book hits my sweet spot on so many levels. Most people tend to be really squeamish about the topic, but if you're not a vegetarian, what's all the fuss about? Who decided that we can eat some animals and not others? Besides, if you think that cannibalism is awful, you might want to put it in perspective. Considering the horrid historical accounts of human behavior, eating your fellow Sapiens doesn't really seem all that bad.

This is a fun, informative, and eye opening book, and I learned so many things about the animal kingdom I had no idea about. I'll bet school would be much more interesting if some of these topics were incorporated into the curriculum.

I could talk about some of the specifics, but then that'd spoil all the fun for you. I assure you that it's full of fascinating and juicy tidbits. The author stays away from sensational crime stories, so if you are looking for recipes, look elsewhere, but if you are willing to have "no way!" moments, and are willing to annoy your loved ones by constantly saying "did you know?", move this up your TBR.

This will end up on my best of 2017 reads, and the only reason I docked a star is due to the fact that there are sections, like the final chapters, where the author gets side tracked and wanders off topic. Rating: 4 stars.

35. The South Beach Diet
First read in 2005, then again in 2012. Recently completed a full re-read.

This book changed my life, my health, my understanding of so many things. It was the first time I'd read a book that validated my sense of the notion that Big Pharma prefers us to be sick for many, many years. After all, that's where the money's at. It was the first time I undersrood that I knew what was better for me than my pill-pusher of a PCP, who wanted me to go on cholesterol meds. For how long? For life, she said. Wrong answer! Told her to give me six weeks and if my numbers didn't improve we'd have another discussion.

Changed my diet (and I mean that in the true sense of the word, not as a fad) as outlined in this book, and my number went back to normal. She was shocked, and asked ME how I did it. It's taken me a long time to realize that doctors are trained, and trained well, to help with meds and other high tech interventions, but they actually get very little education about the role nutrition and lifestyle play in preventing most diseases in the first place. All you gotta do is look and see what your health insurance will cover: primarily meds and other expensive interventions. And while I'm all for getting the expensive, maybe life saving interventions when needed, I learned that I needed to take responsibility for the prevention portion of the equation.

This re-read was to motivate and remind me to recommit to being as healthy as I can be for as long as possible.

A note on the meal plans: I no longer use the meal plan or recipes in this book, but use the guidelines to make tasty and nourishing meals that follow the spirit of the plan. Rating: 5 stars.

36. The Arab of the Future 2: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1984-1985: A Graphic Memoir
This graphic memoir picks up where the first volume left off, and the family has now settled in Riad's father's hometown of Homs. The author starts to attend school and tries to fit in, but this is Syria under the dictator Hafez Al-Assad, and with his blond hair the author is often mistaken for a Jew, and is treated in ways that shouldn't surprise anyone.

Being a child in an adult world is bewildering in the best of times, and I love how we get glimpses of moments small and large in young Riad's life, juxtaposed with the politics, religion, and poverty of the environment he now inhabits. His awful teacher reminded me of many nuns of my youth, and with her headscarf, she even looked like my tormentors of old, albeit without the short skirts and high heels. There should be a support group for kids who endured these type of teachers. In some ways this is the ordinary life of an ordinary child, but this particular child is lucky enough to also get exposed to different ways of being in the world. The art style is not one I love, but it gets the point across, and I really like how the colors used evoke the appropriate mood for the various settings in this book.

How often do we really think about how much children are affected in ways large and small by the whims of their parents? This thought provoking memoir does just that. I highly recommend this series, and cannot wait for the next installment. Rating: 4 stars.

April 13, 2017

Cinemascope: Fences

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Fences (film).png

Released in 2016.

Plot line: Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, the film adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play takes a passionate look at former baseball player Troy Maxson as he fights to provide for those he loves in a world that threatens to push him down.

This movie got Oscar nods this year, and Viola Davis won for her role in it, so I was curious to see if I'd like it. It is fantastic. The acting is superb, the lines hard hitting with not a wasted sentence. Not surprising as this is based on a play of the same name, and I plan on getting my hands on it as well. This is not a fun or entertaining movie, so save this for when you want to watch a realistic slice of life family drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

April 10, 2017

Recent Reads

31. Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature's Most Memorable Meals
This book is like following an Instagram user who loves books and food. The author selects texts that talk about food from fifty books (you've either read, or at least heard of them all), and then creates a meal from the text and takes a photo of said meal. The book is a collection of these texts and photographs, and it's quite fun to see how the text is interpreted. I especially enjoyed the little factoids at the end of each text. A note for foodies, recipes are not included.

This little book can be read in one sitting, but I'd suggest taking breaks to eat and nap between readings/viewings. Rating: 3 stars.

32. Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey
This graphic memoir is not labeled as such, but would work really well for kids, especially girls, fourteen and up.

It's the coming of age story about a young Turkish girl who struggles to reconcile her dreams with those her father has for her. Can she be both an engineer and a scuba diver like Jacques Cousteau? It's a delightful tale of family, friendship, and self-discovery, and while it touches on some of the social, political, and religious issues of the day, it does so lightly, and readers not familiar with the backdrop can read up on the events mentioned. When there are so many voices telling you how act, and who to be, how does one have the courage to listen to her inner voice? Can she please everyone she loves without making herself miserable?

I really liked the art, the use of collages, and the fact that unlike most graphic novels, there aren't many rectangular boxes in this one. The whimsical style and light watercolors work really well for this memoir. Like memory itself, there's a bit of disjointedness, but I was rooting for young Ozge the entire time. A lovely, and quite feminist read, that I'll be putting in the hands of my nieces before too long. Rating: 4 stars.

33. Oh She Glows Every Day: Simply Satisfying Plant-Based Recipes to Keep You Glowing from the Inside Out
Over the past decade or so I've been adding more plant-based meals to my diet, and I've dipped in and out of this cookbook several times. I also follow the authors' blog, which has a wonderful variety of meals to try. While I certainly have not tried all the recipes in this book, I can unequivocally say that the author is responsible for the large amounts of kale I consume every week. If you have yet to try The Best Shredded Kale Salad (page 117) and Protein Power Rainbow Quinoa Salad (page 99), start there. Delish. Rating: 4 stars.