A variety of books have been published recently touting the benefits of a low carbohydrate diet. The research on this, however, is not new. Scientists have known for years that carbohydrates, even supposedly “good” ones like whole wheat, can cause serious health problems. The fact that humans are not genetically wired to tolerate a high amount of carbohydrates in the form of sugar and gluten, especially when they come in the form of genetically modified and highly processed items, has led to an epidemic of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. These books contain an array of scientific jargon and statistical data, but the main thrust is that these bad carbs spike our blood sugar and send us on a vicious cycle of hunger, craving even more of that which is bad for us, as we pack on the pounds. We don’t get the nutrients we need and we gain weight, suffering the health risks associated with obesity. In essence, fats don’t make people fat, carbs do.
One of the newest additions to the conversation is Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers by renowned neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter. While many previous books have concentrated on weight loss and other potentially devastating consequences of gluten intolerance, Perlmutter’s research hones in on the effects of all these bad carbs on our brains. He is convinced the research shows that the current emphasis on low-fat and low cholesterol diets to achieve weight loss, combined with a push for “healthy grains,” in addition to the detrimental results of eating processed foods full of sugar and bad carbs, is robbing our brains. He maintains we need fats and cholesterol to support healthy brain function. Permutter establishes carbs as the culprit in causing such afflictions as dementia, ADHD, anxiety, chronic headaches and depression among other ailments. In one particularly disconcerting chapter he presents at length the evidence he proposes exists between diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease.
This work is very timely as scientists continue to grapple with offering correct advice to the public in a field which notoriously produces conflicting information on a weekly basis from a variety of authorities from the government to the American Heart Association. The June 23, 2014 cover of Time Magazine ran the story “Eat Butter: Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong.” So the conversation continues! Whether you agree with the author or not, Grain Brain is a highly informative, thought-provoking and rather frightening presentation of the price we pay for our modern American diet of highly processed and genetically modified food, chock full of carbohydrates, while experts continue to insist that low-fat diets are the answer. Perlmutter does sometimes get a little overly technical for the average reader, but not so much that if you are really interested you can’t get through it. He presents his “Revolutionary 4 Week Plan” to heal the damage through better dietary and lifestyle choices, which includes a small collection of recipes, as a guide to “reprogram our genetic destiny for the better.”
Other recent books on the carbohydrate debate are worth checking out as well: Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis, MD and The Calorie Myth: How to Eat More, Exercise Less, Lose Weight and Live Better by Jonathan Bailor
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Let’s get the ugliness over with right away. Just One Evil Act, by Elizabeth George is overwritten. At 719 pages it taxes the patience of even the most ardent fan. I had to check the book out of the library three times in order to get through it. The local color in the Italian portion is overdone, and the use of Italian words to describe the most common of items as well as conversations is frustrating and baffling. Other than that, it is a Thomas Lynley novel featuring his sidekick Barbara Havers, so all is sort of forgiven.
It bears repeating that the Thomas Lynley series is ongoing. Just One Evil Act is #18 in that series, so to break into the series at this point would rob the reader of all that came before to shape the main characters. It’s a very convoluted back story.
As this portion of the drama unfolds, Barbara finds herself overly involved in the life of a neighbor Taymullah Azhar and his daughter Hadiyyah. Angelina, Hadiyyah’s mother, had taken her daughter to Italy where she hopes to begin a new life. A kidnapping ensues, and the Italian police take over the investigation. Against the advice of her Superintendent, Barbara attaches herself not only to computer hackers but also a tabloid journalist . A flying fiasco follows.
What looks like a happy ending midway through the book is no such thing. It’s just a kick-off to more red herrings, twists, turns, introduction to more non-essential characters and lots of running around the Italian countryside.
To tax the patience of the reader even more, there is an open-ended conclusion so we have more of this to look forward to.
I have extolled the virtues of Elizabeth George’s writing for many years. Hopefully, she will take her time coming up with the further adventures of Thomas and Barbara, preferably in English and under 500 pages.
I give the book 3 telefonos.
Happy reading from Beverly!
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Welcome to the world of Alexandra Cooper, an assistant district attorney in New York City and her partner, Mike Chapman. Although this is Alex’s fourteenth appearance in a novel, it is my first meeting. Her creator, Linda Fairstein, has reprised Alex’s role in the current Death Angel. Prepare yourself to be immersed in a tale intelligently written, captivating and instructive.
There are two main settings in Death Angel–Central Park in New York City and The Dakota, an historic luxury apartment building located on the west side of the park. Both are historically significant and both have stories to tell.
For example, The Dakota first came into prominence as the setting of Rosemary’s Baby, a nightmare unto itself. Also, years later it was the site of John Lennon’s death. As seen through Fairstein’s eyes there are other mysterious happenings on the upper floors overlooking the park.
The story commences with Alex and her partner being asked to investigate the circumstance surrounding the discovery of a body under a bridge in Central Park. Since there is a history of many attacks on those in the park including homeless and runaways, the case looks daunting. The rich and little known history of the park is woven throughout the narrative including the architects , the foresight of those who saw the need to set aside park land to avoid urban sprawl and the care offered to the park to this day. It is a great history lesson.
There is shocking realism on display, which is not unusual since Fairstein is a legal expert on crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence. Although the park is a sanctuary for thousands of New Yorkers and tourists alike, it is also the hunting ground for a deranged killer or two.
The core group of characters seen in Death Angel reveal behind-the-scenes techniques of those in charge of the protection of citizens. Their ability to follow the smallest of clues is instructive and enlightening.
In addition to learning about the history of Central Park, I also was reminded that it is not a good idea to walk alone there after dark with headphones on. Just saying…
Happy reading from Beverly!
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When it comes to learning about famous literary or historic figures, it pays to listen to the spouses’ point of view. Such was the case in The Aviator’s Wife about Ann Morrow Lindbergh and so it is about Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife in The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain.
Hadley and Hemingway (H & H) met in Chicago in 1920 when she was 28 and he was 21. An aspiring writer, Hemingway worked at low-paying newspaper jobs before it occurred to him that given time and space, he could write about his own experiences, of which he would have plenty.
He was encouraged by Sherwood Anderson to go to Paris where all the action was. It was the Jazz Age in Paris, and Hemingway lived a bohemian lifestyle with the likes of Gertrude Stein, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce to name a few. It was a fast-living, hard-drinking crowd with no apparent family values. When H & H had a son, Hadley could no longer keep up, and her husband’s interest and eyes wandered.
As much as she disliked bull-fighting, Hadley would accompany her husband to Pamplona, where he actually participated in amateur bullfighting. In addition, beside the fact that Hadley could no longer hold her husband’s interest, she seemed unaware that other women were flirting openly with him and in active pursuit mode.
As Hemingway’s work goes, I was never a big fan of The Old Man and the Sea with its simple declarative sentences, but I am curious to read The Sun Also Rises, which was written when he was married to Hadley.
Although this may not be the most stylistically perfect book, it provides insight into an American icon and what drove him. It also is a further reminder that often the most famous, intelligent, talented and handsome of men do not make the best husbands or fathers–Charles Lindbergh and Ernest Hemingway being prime examples.
In any case, Papa Hemingway, Hadley and Paris make for a good literary experience.
I give the book 3 9/10 picadors.
Happy reading from Beverly!
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What could be more refreshing to a reader than an historical, cross-cultural novel that’s fast and easy to read? Gail Tsukiyama has done it again in A Hundred Flowers. The author became known to me last year in the powerful Women of Silk, and she has followed up with an equally impressive work.
Set in 1957 China, A Hundred Flowers refers to Chairman Mao’s admonition that there be a new intellectual openness where ideas could flourish. Unfortunately, that was a ruse to identify dissidents who were arrested and sent to far-off labor camps for re-education.
This is the situation in the home of Kai Ling, an herbalist in the village of Guangzhou, China. Her husband Seng was arrested for writing a letter perceived to be anti-government, and she has heard little from him since he was sent away.
Kai Ling lives with her young son Tao, her father-in-law Wei and a family friend Auntie Song, and they pass each day together awaiting word from Sang.
The characters take turns narrating the story from their own perspective, and it is clear that each of them is suffering in their own way, some of it guilt. They long for the happy days of the past and look forward hopefully to the future, but the present is not that easy to endure.
To add to the turmoil in the home that Kai Ying has to manage, Wei falls from the kapok tree and has serious injuries. All the family members aid in his recovery by making special medicinal soups, reading to him and in general trying to keep his spirits up. He doesn’t understand why his father has been away so long.
In addition another character appears who has her own set of problems–-Suying. She is very young, starving, homeless and pregnant. Although this event could add more turmoil to this embattled family, the baby generates a caring attitude among all the family members and diverts their attention from
their own problems.
Because of the author’s previous work, I was not surprised at how deep this deceptively simply stated book is. It somehow gently points out the tribulations everyone goes through to one degree or another and learning how to cope with them.
It’s time to smell the flowers–A Hundred Flowers.
I give the book 4 herbal teas.
Happy reading from Beverly!
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It has been many years since I read Barbara Kingsolver’s transcendent novel, The Poisonwood Bible. Her latest work does not take place in far-away Africa, however, but in rural Tennessee. This is an area the author knows well since she and her family live on a farm in Appalachia. It is the setting for Flight Behavior.
Dellarobia Turnbowis a young mother toiling on a family farm. As she climbs a nearby mountain one day on her way to a tryst, she sees a remarkable sight. Through a clearing of trees, she sees a sea of quivering red which turns out to be monarch butterflies who have lost their way. Their natural habitat, a mountain in Mexico, has been deforested with resulting landslides, and the monarchs somehow found their way to Tennessee.
This cautionary tale of the environment gone awry is a major theme in the story. As scientists arrive on the scene to assess the situation, Dellarobia, named after the wreath, becomes active in the research involved. Her education had been halted due to the responsibilities of parenthood, but her natural curiosity and innate intelligence took over.
In addition to this tale of climate change is the story of a woman who has found her life tedious and unfulfilling. She has lost connection with her husband, lives in a home owned by her in-laws and poverty is grinding her down. Then came the monarchs. How she deal with these elements, including the church and the arriving scientists and media is a unique look into an all too possible situation.
Thanks to Barbara Kingsolver, the reader is given a view of a style of life not ordinarily mentioned. I do not find her preachy at all, just realistic. At one point in the book, for example, the locals are warned by the scientists about leaving a smaller carbon footprint-–they could perhaps fly less. This advice was given to people who had never had occasion to cross the state line.
If you haven’t done so yet, become acquainted with the world of Barbara Kingsolver; Flight Behavior would be a great start.
I give the book 4 recycled water bottles.
Happy reading from Beverly!
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One of the reasons I have always enjoyed the legal thrillers of John Grisham is I believed, as a lawyer, he knew what he was talking about. With each new book I learned something new about the law, especially the need to retain the highest quality defense. In his latest book, however, I’m not sure what he’s getting at. The Racketeer, which is one who retains money illegally, perplexed me. What on earth is going on?
Malcolm Bannister is doing time in a Federal prison camp near Frostburg, MD As an attorney unfairly convicted of a white collar crime, Bannister is approached by inmates who want his expertise and legal advice in filing appeals. It is information he received from one of his fellow inmates that drives the story.
A federal judge has been murdered, and the FBI has no leads. Bannister, however, has inside information on the crime and cuts a deal with the FBI. Under rule 35 of the Federal rules of criminal procedure, an inmate may gain a pardon or reduced sentence by solving a crime. In this case, there is the Witness Protection Program, a new identity and a huge reward as soon as the Grand Jury hands down an indictment. But things are not as they seem.
Bannister is wilier than the reader assumes, and his double-crossing defies understanding and any sympathy. The linear movement of the story ceases, and soon the reader has to contend with a huge ruse with a major character never seen or alluded to before.
Eventually, the two plots come together to make some sense, but by this time I’ve checked out. There are too many banks ,too many visits to safety deposit boxes, too many trips to Jamaica and Antigua in a private jet and too much exploitation of the law for me.
I can understand the use of clues, schemes, conspiracies, drug money greed and corruption, but when the author in the Author’s Note admits to laziness, lack of research and all those things that bring credence to his work, I feel duped. Hasn’t he heard about the 5th Amendment? Is there such a thing as rule 35? I’m too lazy to look it up.
This might be a good read when you’re heading to Antigua in your private jet to move illegally gained funds.
I give The Racketeer 3 hammocks and a pina colada.
Happy reading from Beverly!
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Prepare yourself for a short ocean voyage from Santa Barbara, CA to the island of San Miguel, the westernmost of the Channel Islands. If the voyage feels familiar, it’s because author T.C. Boyle loves these islands and visited Anacapa Island in his last book, When the Killing’s Done.
His newest book, San Miguel, has the same spirit as his previous work, but it is not as plot-driven. It depends mostly on three strong female characters: Marantha Waters, her adopted daughter Edith and Elise Lester.
It was the late 19th century , and Marantha Waters did not enjoy good health. Her husband Will, a Civil War veteran, thought the fresh air of an island sheep ranch would be just the thing. Unfortunately, the sense of isolation, the relentless wind, sand and the ever-present sheep did not improve her health. Although Marantha had kitchen help, life on the island was still very hard on her, and she relied on her adopted daughter Edith.
As Edith grows, she longs to leave the island and her over-bearing stepfather, but escape is not easy. The author doesn’t spend much time on Edith’s fate, and I felt I wanted more from this story line.
We then skip to 1930 when another family arrives to work the ranch. Elise, age 38, and her husband Herbie have high hopes but soon experience the privations of the previous families. Mutton is always on the menu.
The story becomes a day by day journal of their existence, replete with all that nature can throw at them and a complete sense of seclusion. Actually, Elise becomes adept at making a life for her family which grew with the birth of two daughters.
When World War II began, the Pacific coast was not quite as safe as it used to be, provision delivery was sporadic and everyone was on edge.
Since anything written by T.C.Boyle is better than most anything I’ve recently read, I can forgive the unevenness of the story. Although it goes in spurts and starts, I never lost interest.
I encourage readers to give T.C. Boyle a chance. He’s so worth it.
I give the book 3 7/8 California dreams.
Happy reading from Beverly!
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