Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Short Guide to a Long Life; David B. Agus, M.D.

A Short Guide to a Long Life; David B. Agus, M.D
Simon & Schuster - 2014

A Short Guide to a Long Life was a quick and easy book to listen to.  The format was easy to follow and the information interesting, although a good portion was things we've heard before read before. The doctor believes in a set of rules (65) to be exact, for living wisely. He believes that by following this rules we could minimize our risk for cancer, heart issues and strokes. Dr. Agus considers himself to be conservative in his beliefs. The book is divided into three sections: (1) What to Do, (2) What to Avoid, and (3) Doctor’s Orders.  
In the first section: What to Do, he recommends knowing your body, and monitoring your vital signs, sleep patterns, what you eat, times you feel lousy and times you feel great.  He has a rule about "Eating Real Food and Don't Let the Apple Fall Far From the Tree".  Eat fresh vegetables and fruit that are in season, not ones that are transported from foreign countries. He points out that by the time such produce reaches us, it has lost much of it's nutritional value.  He also recommends having a glass of wine with dinner, getting a flu shot, good hygiene, getting into a caffeine habit, knowing the health issues our grandparents dealt with, taking baby aspirin, taking statins if you are "over the hill (40+), never skipping breakfast, pursuing your passions and having children! People who have children are more likely to live longer and take better care of themselves according to Dr. Agus.

He also recommends avoiding: processed foods, fad diets, juicing, vitamins and supplements, airport scanners (ask for a pat down), detoxes, insomnia, sunburns and more.

I found Part (3) of the book, Doctor's Orders, a bit annoying. It covers things you should have checked by your physician and various screenings for age groups: 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's. It's very basic info most of us know and it's repeated again by age group tacking on a few extra tests as we age.

A few more pieces of interesting info for me was: 1951 was the last year "old age" could be used as a reason for death on US death certificates.  Top (3) causes of death in the US are: Heart Disease, Cancer and Chronic Respiratory Disease, while world wide the top (3) causes of death are: Heart, Stroke, Lower Respiratory Disease (Cancer is #7).

Overall, I'd say that I mostly enjoyed this one.

3.5/5 stars
(audio book from publisher)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Belzhar; Meg Wolitzer

Belzhar; Meg Wolitzer
Penguin Audio - 2014

Fifteen year old Jam Gallahue has not been able to bounce back from the death of her boyfriend, British exchange student Reeve Maxfield. Although the two only knew each other 41 days, Jam has been inconsolable. Her parents decide to send her to The Wooden Barn, a private boarding school for emotionally troubled teens in rural Vermont. It's part hospital and part school setting, and known for treating depression and other psychological issues.

At The Wooden Barn,  Jam is selected to be part of a special English class that studies the life and work of Sylvia Plath. A requirement of the class is that each of the five student in the class read Plath's novel, "The Bell Jar". In addition, they must do some journaling twice a week in an antique journal they are given. Through this assignment each individual is transported to a time in the past, a place they call "Belzhar, a word play on Plath's well known work, "The Bell Jar." It is through this assignment that each student begins to deal with their own personal situation that and the reason they ended up at The Wooden Barn.

I initially rolled my eyes when I thought about Jam becoming so unraveled emotionally over a boy she had known just over a month, but as I let myself suspend belief and go with the flow. I gradually began to enjoy the story. I liked how the teens bonded with one another as part of this exercise, by getting to the root of their personal traumas.  I do wish the characters were developed a bit more, and thought that the ending was wrapped up a bit too neatly.  Despite this I think readers, especially ones drawn to YA novels, will be happy they tried this one.

3.5/5 stars
(audiobook sent by published)

First Chapter First Paragraph ~ Tuesday Intros - The Boy Who Drew Monsters; Keith Donohue

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon.
Picador - 2014
"In the dream house, the boy listened for the monster under his bed.  An awful presence in the dark had awakened him in the dead hours, and he waited for the telltale sound of breathing.  Would there be breathing? Or would it arrive in silence, without warning? He would have no time to defend himself or save the treasures hidden in his old toy box.  The possibility of such an attack unnerved him, but he dared not move.  He did not dare lean his head over the side of his boat to check the space between the mattress and the wide blue sea of the braided sisal rug.  He did not dare turn on the lamp and flood the room with light and risk spooking the monster from its hiding place.  There was no breathing but his own, no sound at all but the thrum of his heart."

What do you think, would you keep reading? Feel free to join in and post the Intro from one of your reads by linking below.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Animal's Santa; Jan Brett

The Animal's Santa; Jan Brett
Putnam Juvenile - 2014

I was so excited to see that Jan Brett had a new holiday book out for children this fall.  She is such a talented author/illustrator.  This book looked so cute, I even pre-ordered it.

In this story it's the first Christmas Eve for "Little Snow", and his older brother, "Big Snowshoe" tells him that the "Animal's Santa" comes tonight.  He tells Little Snow that none of the other animals know who the Santa is but in the morning they always find presents like, a bell, a puzzle toy, a heart-shaped wishing stone or even a stack of acorns.

Little Snow finds this hard to believe and thinks his big brother is fooling him.  As the story continues, each animal tries to imagine who Santa might be.  It's now time to snuggle into their dens for the night and she what happens in the morning......No footprints in the snow?  Who could Santa be?  Look up above and gifts begin to fall from the sky, with a special wish from a special Santa wishing all a very Merry Christmas.

The story is special, the beautiful illustrations pure delight and each panel engages the little ones as the other animals tell about Christmas past. A keeper for your personal collection. Children and adults will love this one.

5/5 stars

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Messy Baker; Charmian Christie

 The Messy Baker; Charmian Christie
Rodale Books - 2014
The title, The Messy Baker, got my attention especially since I love to bake, but make a huge mess in the process.

Comprised of some 75 recipes, almost every recipe has a beautiful gloss photo to show you what the finished product will look like.  I was surprised by the fact the recipes are not all desserts, as somehow the title and cover lead me to believe, but that's okay, I liked the variety of recipes.  Yes, there are muffins, cookies, tortes, scones, tarts etc, but you'll also find some recipes for things like pizza, waffles, cauliflower, fritters and more.  The recipes contained are not your standard run of the mill recipes that you tend to find again and again, but each recipe seems to be a new twist on a recipe that I wouldn't have thought of in this new way.

I liked that there were a few helpful lists about essential things to stock in your pantry. The author mention talks about how egg size matters (most recipes mean "large" eggs not medium or jumbo), and talks about how important it is not alter recipes when you find you are missing an ingredient (always set out every ingredient you'll need BEFORE you begin baking.)

The chapters have fun titles like: pastry; crumbly; dippable; sloppy; smudgy; gritty and drippy. The book is more about how the final product tastes, and judging with your mouth and not eyes, rather than obsessing about whether your final product is "picture perfect".

I tried and loved the Sea Salt Sticky Buns and, I'm looking forward to trying the Boozy Brown Sugar Whipped Cream to go with our Thanksgiving Pecan and Pumpkin pies.  Great book 
4/5 stars

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You ~ The Strange Library; Haruki Murakami

Here's my "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick for today.  Do you plan on trying this one? It's a short novel (just 96 pages) compared to the author's previous books. 

The Strange Library; Haruki Murakami
Knopf - December - 2014

From internationally acclaimed author Haruki Murakami—a fantastical illustrated short novel about a boy imprisoned in a nightmarish library.

A lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plot their escape from the nightmarish library of internationally acclaimed, best-selling Haruki Murakami's wild imagination.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Crooked River; Valerie Geary

Crooked River; Valerie Geary
William Morrow - 2014

Crooked River tells the troubled tale of sisters Sam, 15 and Ollie, 10. There mom died recently and they are hoping to stay living in Oregon with their father Frank, "Bear", McAllister and his very unconventional way of life.  Bear lives in a teepee and the money he earns comes from raising bees and selling the honey.  The girls love their dad and like being with him, and their grandparents in Boston have agreed to a trial period to see how things work out for the girls living with their dad.

Soon after their mom dies the girls stumble upon the body of a woman floating in the nearby river, for whatever reason, the girls decided to keep their sighting a secret.  Especially after they find strange fresh scratches in "Bear's" face and hands that he doesn't want to talk about, and the fact he left the sisters alone the night before the body was found, and won't talk about where he was 

Soon evidence mounts against "Bear", who is seen as an outsider in the small rural community. Bear is arrested, but the sisters are determined to prove their dad is innocent. They begin some amateur detective work on their dad's behalf.  As the investigation begins, ghosts speak to Ollie, a girl so traumatized by her mother's death that she refuses to speak. When she does speak, others do not believe her. Her sister calls her a baby and does not believe spirits exist.

Narrated in short alternating chapters by Sam and Ollie, I enjoyed this coming of age mystery of sorts. I admired the sisters devotion to their father. The girls got themselves into some sticky situations, but because of their ages, it seemed both foolish and yet plausible. The characters well developed and I also liked the older couple who watched out for the girls. Overall, a very good debut novel.
4/5 stars
(review copy)

Winter Street; Elin Hilderbrand

Winter Street; Elin Hilderbrand
Little Brown and Co

I typically enjoy an occasional dose of easy, breezy holiday books, especially those with great setting.  Winter Street, by Elin Hilderbrand seemed to fit the bill.  In this story, set on Nantucket Island, the Winter Street Inn is preparing to host their annual Christmas party.

Unfortunately the Inn owner Kelly Quinn has just found his second wife Mitzi kissing Santa Claus, and to make matters worst, Kelley learns it just wasn't a spirit of the holiday kiss, but that his wife and the man whose been playing Santa year after year have been carrying on for years. The rest of the Quinn family has issues as well, and for this family it looks like it will be a "Christmas to forget, rather than one to be remembered."

I had a hard time with this one and really didn't care about any of the Quinn family characters and their tales of woe. To me, the story seemed too contrived and poorly executed. Fortunately it wasn't a long story, but it was a disappointing one.
1.5/5 stars
(audio book)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Revival; Stephen King

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon.

 Revival; Stephen King
 Scribner - November 2014
Fifth Business.
Skull Mountain.
Peaceable Lake.

"In one way, at least our lives really are like movies.  The main cast consists of your family and friends.  The supporting cast is made up of neighbors, co-workers, teachers, and daily acquaintances.  There are also bit players: the supermarket checkout girl with the pretty smile, the friendly bartender at the local watering hole, the guys you work out with at the gym three days a week.  And there are thousands of extras--those people who flow through every life like water through a sieve, seen once and never again.  The teenager browsing graphic novels at Barnes & Noble, the one you had to slip past (murmuring "Excuse me") in order to get to the magazines.  The woman in the next lane at a stoplight, taking a moment to freshen her lipstick.  The mother wiping ice cream off her toddler's face in a rode side restaurant where you stopped for a quick bite.  The vendor who sold you a bag of peanuts at a baseball game." 

What do you think, would you keep reading?
Feel free to join in and post the Intro from one of your reads by linking below.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

St. Vincent ~ 2014 Bill Murray

St. Vincent -- Touted as a comedy, this was one movie that yes, made us laugh, but also had us searching for tissues as the emotional tears flowed as well. 

Bill Murray is "Vincent" a grumpy, Vietnam Vet who drinks too much and gambles too much. He lives with his cat in Brooklyn, and has no money, and little prospect for happy senior years. New neighbor, Maggie, (Melissa McCarthy) and her young son Oliver (Jaeden Liberher) move in next door.  The newly divorced, mom works long hours at the hospital, and Vincent volunteers to watch Oliver after school for a fee.  While Vincent teaches Oliver how to toughen up, and takes him to places most kids have never seen, Oliver begins to see the kinder, caring side of Vincent that others do not see.

Do yourself a favor and be sure to see this movie, sometime soon. I hope you will love it as much as we did.  This is one of those movies where the theater sat silent and no one left until the screen went dark.