Friday, August 18, 2017

Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival

This book shines light on, well, light.   The authors literally want America to turn off its lights.  These sentences best sum up the book’s central theme: 

“As a nation, we are sick because we don’t sleep.  We are fat and diabetic because we don’t sleep. We are dying from cancer and heart disease because we don’t sleep”.

“If you sleep at night for the number of hours it would normally be dark outside, you will only crave sugar in the summer, when the hours of light are long.  It is the “perennial adaptation” or the chronic, constant intent to hibernate, that causes overconsumption of carbohydrates and obesity and its attendant high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and inevitable heart failure” 

I loved this book because the authors never attempted diplomacy when addressing man-made diseases.  If you are obese or if you are a vegetarian or if you think fake sugar will help you lose weight or if you still think that carbs are important (year-round) you will be set straight.  You will be served the real dope - unceremoniously, emphatically, and with a touch of hyperbole. I wasn’t surprised to learn that the book was first published in 2000; the author’s blunt instrument delivery (which I found refreshing and amusing) can now only be found in red state/blue state polemics (which I do not find amusing).  The authors of this book are not afraid to step on your toes to make a point.

The book is well-researched with almost 100 pages of end notes.  I always like to see that and it is especially appreciated in a book that makes Big claims, as this one does.

I do think the authors get side-tracked a few times on the basic nutritional advice (eat more fat and protein, few carbs, and no added sugar, whatsoever).   I happen to agree with all of that stuff, but I am somewhat new to the perils of 24 hour light made possible with electricity and made much worse with electronic intrusions.  I would have preferred more about the cost of progress…you know, the “What have we lost?” aspect.   I don’t mind when my laptop does context switching, or when my 14 year-old does context switching in a casual conversation, but I’m not crazy about it in my books.

This was a good book with a ton of very useful information for how to live a better, more healthful life.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review: The Kept

The Kept The Kept by James Scott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I did an audio version of this book and it was superbly narrated by Kate Udall. Flawless performance.

A random selection from the audio cd section of the library, I had no idea what I was in for.

This is a very dark story of a barren woman - a midwife - who began taking babies to raise as her own. It is set in the late 19th century, during a brutally harsh winter in upstate New York. Years of wrongdoing are halted and life unravels on a single day of unspeakable violence.....and her unholy deeds catch up. They seep into every corner of every hour and she is condemned to outrun her fate while trying to connect with her 12 year old, Caleb. The two of them, while bent on revenging the deaths of their loved ones, also tear at the world, trying to wrest peace and understanding from its hollowed soul.

The extremes of sadness, regret, malevolence and sacrifice are hard to take. The author does a fine job of folding his reader up in these extremes. I felt like I was chained to all of their iniquities and could not be free until I had finished the book.

The ending was ambiguous and since I like my redemption crystal clear, I promptly made up my own ending. You will probably do the same.

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Review: The More They Disappear

The More They Disappear The More They Disappear by Jesse Donaldson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This work of fiction closely examines a single rural town in Kentucky where every family has been touched by the evils of oxycontin. It is a fast read, with a good old-fashioned linear approach to the storytelling - and the story lent itself quite well to that. It is not hard to imagine entire communities forever changed by the opioid epidemic. Although it is fiction, what the book illustrates IS happening. It is happening right now, right under our noses.

You will find many of the characters in this story very endearing; some you will want to run down with your car.

The author does not lecture. He doesn't need to. Instead, through the events in this story, he expertly reveals how the darkness of oxy addiction reaches deeply into and across families, vaporizing goodwill, and butchering hopes and dreams.

I could not put it down.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: The Commoner

The Commoner The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An extraordinary tale - I was hypnotized by Haruko and her daughter-in-law, each who chose a certain kind of captivity. Chose it! Oh, and fame and fortune, too. But, that bondage.

Superbly written. I have only just discovered John Burnham Schwartz and, boy, I feel lucky.

The attention to authentic details of royal rituals and post WWII realities truly transport the reader to a strange land at a strange time; this is captivating.

Chapter by chapter, the reader experiences life through a royal family lens and watches the souls of these women being put through a blender, albeit a royal one. Combined with an awareness of the year (on the calendar) it boggles the modern mind. Their pain speaks to all that they have lost, but it also speaks to all that any woman loses as her life and her sacrifices march through the decades, indifferent to the dreams she held high in younger years. Finally, it holds a message of hope. Things can and things do change.

This book is a true gem.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: Elementary, She Read

Elementary, She Read Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A scandalously smooth read ~ the only thing missing was the beach and ocean in front of me and the unplanned sunny nap at chapter six. This was a fun break from my reading routine. Plenty of authentic tributes to Sherlock were sprinkled throughout. The culprit was well-concealed until the end. There were enough layers of drama to keep the reader committed, too. I grew very fond of Gemma - the central character.

It is precisely what it promises to be - a diverting and charming mystery!

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Review: No One Is Coming to Save Us

No One Is Coming to Save Us No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The books starts out very strong. Page after page the sentences clutch at your heart; they are so soulful and pithy and truthful. This author has a gift with casual dialogue.

It is described by many as The Great Gatsby cast in the American South and without any white people. That works for me, as does the central message, which was (for me) surviving the bad things which will happen to you in this life.

There is something in this story for every man, for every woman.
It will touch you, although I don't think it will leave you feeling a 'lightness of spirit'.

The storyline itself needed more. With all of the characters seeming to have had their very souls on a hard diet for decades, I found myself seeking events and happenings for relief.

A very well-written book, though.

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Review: Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan to Boost Brainpower, Increase Focus, and Maximize Performance-in Just Two Weeks

Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan to Boost Brainpower, Increase Focus, and Maximize Performance-in Just Two Weeks Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan to Boost Brainpower, Increase Focus, and Maximize Performance-in Just Two Weeks by Dave Asprey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I read this book, I kept asking myself how I could have missed the work being done by Dave Asprey these past seven years. Because it is my hobby, over the past two decades I have read the books of every nutrition-focused, human optimization guru out there. Or so I thought. It was my 20-something kids, who, knowing what I like most, kept asking – “Have you read Dave Asprey, mom? You know about Dave Asprey, right? What about Bulletproof, have you read up on that, mom?”

So, last week, I picked up Head Strong. I’m so glad I did. While Asprey covers many different realms of optimizing one’s existence on this blue planet, his message is organized, and it helped me synthesize much of what I’ve learned over the years. Sure, he wants to sell his coffee and his products but this does not detract one iota from the genuinely fresh and forward-thinking approach he uses to self-regeneration. Chapter by chapter, you get the distinct feeling that your entire life is a tablua rasa; a clean slate that YOU get to populate with decisions to improve your being. All of the industries that want to keep us sick, or tired, or fat, or that just cannot retreat from their harmful message (think fast food, big pharma, medical care providers, and many other garden variety pushers of poison) – he not only leaves them in the dust, he makes the reader feel that these flawed authorities are truly secondary to this important search for the things that will make you stronger, clearer and more effective. Somehow, via facts and the personal stories he shares throughout the book, he gives the reader permission to take (back) ownership of his own mind, body and spirit.

Asprey's enthusiasm is authentic and that matters. The candid reports on his self-experimentation were a big plus for me because each one served to confirm for me the very best way to decide how to make changes in your life – you have to try things. Then, stop and think. How does it make you feel?

You are the best judge of this. Just you.

Great book.

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