Monday, April 25, 2011

The Help by The Help

The Help

I finished this book this afternoon after trying to drag out the ending as long as possible. I did not want to leave these characters behind; I wanted to continue on their journey with them, make sure they were OK ¨C I miss them already.

I have been hearing about this book and have read lots of positive reviews for the longest time but sometimes I get put off by books that have so much hype around them and end up passing them by. Oh how glad I am that I didn¡¯t do this with The Help. It is worth every glowing review, every recommendation and every superlative ever written about it.

The book is set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 and is narrated by three women in turn. Aibileen and Minny are black maids and Miss Skeeter is a white college graduate who mourns the disappearance of her old maid and wants to do something more with her life than marry a local boy and have her kids raised by maids.

The story takes us with these women as the embark on a dangerous journey to try and change decades of prejudice and pave the way for a better life for the next generations. Through the words of each of these women we learn how rife racism and intolerance was back in the 1960¡äs deep south. There are tales of unbelievable cruelty and humiliation but also tales of tenderness and real love. It was so good to hear a story told primarily from the point of view of the black maids too and refreshing to hear both sides in all its rawness; the distrust and even hatred on both sides. The book also successfully managed to avoid being sensational or over-egging the pudding. Despite the subject matter (which is so important) the book never feels too heavy or preachy: it is as light as one of Minny¡¯s famous caramel cakes and aswell as riotously funny and tender.

I implore you to read this book ¨C you will fall in love with Aibileen, roar with laughter at Minny and rootfor Miss Skeeter for 450 pages. And I guarantee that Miss Hilly is one of the best bitches you will come across in any book! She is truly awful but so brilliantly drawn and you will root for her to get her just desserts (pun intended).

I feel like I have lost friends now I have finished this book. It is a true gem and I highly, highly recommend.
Get it HERE

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The third and final part of Larsson's amazing trilogy doesn't disappoint, and will certainly be revered by those who have already feasted on Lisbeth Salander's two previous outings. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest picks up from where the second part finishes. Salander is laid up in hospital recovering from a bullet wound in the head, but she has inadvertendly started a chain of events in the most secretive of government agencies, and they are determined to cover their tracks at all costs.

This whole series must surely be one of the most original ever to be committed to paper - a thoroughly unique (anti?) heroine in Salander and revolving around a investigative newspaper? Good Heavens. Even so, this whole series has been a masterpiece of plotting on Larsson's part - it is a complex web, but the writing is stark and simple that one never really gets lost in its intricacies. And make no mistake about it, it's a page turner - Larsson is not afraid to throw in the odd curveball that you're really not expecting to mix it all up, and the story just keeps on going with unstoppable momentum. This really is the perfect finish, when all the cracks that appeared in the first two books start to creak and grown and eventually the whole things falls down in a crash and a cloud of dust. I simply didn't want it to end. Famtastic.

In short, I can't praise it highly enough - not only is the whole series a brilliant crime caper, but as all great crime stories should, Larsson takes a mighty swipe at the post-war Swedish political landscape at the same time(I love Micheal Dibdin's Aurelio Zen series set in Italy for the same reason.)

Anyway, I was hooked halfway through the first (and, in my opinion, weakest) on the series, but this one really cranks up the pressure. It truly is one of the greatest crime masterworks of the decade and its such a crying shame that Larsson died long before his time and is no longer around to produce such great stories. I, for one, will miss Salander enormously.

 You must read il NOW 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

One Thousand Gifts is the beginning, a game of sorts, to list one thousand things in life for which to be grateful. Ann Voskamp discovers that with each listing, her joy enlarges and she is soon addicted to the joy, in the very best of ways. It’s easy to dismiss this itemizing as an amusement for the immature, but as I began my own list, I chanced upon a switch.
  • motherhood
  • that breathtaking moment when I first saw Lake Huron, horizon melting into sky
  • that perfect Labor Day at South Jetty in Florence, the warm sand, collection of seashells, children digging, laughing, running from waves
  • encouragers
  • dried desert mud that crackles under your bare child feet
  • the park bench across from the White House in D.C. that supported my lonely, peaceful lunch breaks in ‘93.
  • music
The ticking of the thanks triggered something. It’s like when a circuit breaker trips in the house leaving you powerless and dark, only you don’t know where to find the electrical panel to reset it. This is it, my friends! It is the giving of thanks that corrects the problem that caused the breaker to trip in the first place. A ground fault is one reason why the power can go off, and Ann Voskamp identified the root cause of this fault: ingratitude. Breaker! Breaker! Let’s give thanks!
Ann scatters herself, her humanity, just right throughout this book, and I am left knowing that she is an authentic woman who has deep places of pain just like the rest of us. We learn of the death of her little sister, her mother’s mental illness, her own dark interior struggles. And so I connect, I engage, I truly learn.
I had shadows of doubt about Ann Voskamp at various points in OneThousand Gifts, but Ann is like that children’s word game where Grandma loves poundcake but hates chocolate cake, she loves Pringles but hates chips, and you have to know that Grandma’s secret is that she only loves things that begin with “P.”
So it is with Ann. She loves the Christian mystics but hates the idea of wisdom found outside of Christ; she loves to run with the moon and lie prostrate in fields but hates nature worship; she digs deep into her soul to share it raw with the world but hates narcissism. You have to know that Ann’s secret is that she is indeed a woman after God’s own heart.
I did come to a certain point in the book where I thought I couldn’t go on. Voskamp spends an entire chapter describing a bubble of soap, its shape, its color, its chemical composition, more of its color. It was the night I had hit the wall of exhaustion and emotional overload and my husband had to tuck my crying eyes into bed, pulling the patched quilt up over the worry, hurry, fear, condemnation, the crush of life that threatened to undo me, then he finished the dinner I had abruptly left and tended to the four children’s bedtime. And I’m supposed to draw comfort and wisdom from the sudsy bubbles?
I still don’t completely get it, but I understand that a writer has a certain style, and Ann Voskamp is a poet and I love words like she does, though we may play with them differently. So I will let her talk about suds in the sink all day long if she wants because in the end, I rose large the next morning, new grace upon me, and I remembered how much I loved bubbles as a child, the endless joy in swooshing the wand to create the perfect sphere to run after and chase with the wind, and the sheer delight in catching it before it burst into another dimension.
Here’s the thing. I am working really hard at this thing she calls eucharisteo–what Christians know as the Eucharist, or communion, the taking of the bread and wine. This charis grace, chara joy, eucharisteo thanksgiving. I’m working harder than I have in a very long time, because I have to or I will shrivel. There are some tools in this book to help this jumble of myself to begin to conquer life-smothering fear, to reach for a firm grip on His everlasting love for me, to give thanks in all things in such an unceasing way that the power is restored in this short-circuited woman.


Friday, April 22, 2011

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts

Would you like to become a better communicator of love to your spouse? Would you like to reap the rewards of having a spouse whose "love tank" is full, and keeps yours full as well?
Love is a choice, not an emotion. Gary Chapman explains that after the "falling in love" stage of a relationship, which can last up to two years, we settle back in to reality. The rose colored glasses are removed and we begin to see our spouse for the person they really are, warts and all.
When the sparks begin to fizzle, Hollywood tells us that it is time to move on to another relationship. Chapman, on the other hand, reveals that we now have the opportunity to solidify and deepen the relationship through learning how to effectively communicate our love for our spouse.
He introduces us to the five love languages: quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service and physical touch. Each of us express our love using these different languages and their dialects. If our language is different from that of our spouse, our expressions of love may not be understood and appreciated.
This book helps us identify and use the love languages that are meaningful to ourselves and our spouse. Chapman uses real-life examples to illustrate each language, with a dash of biblical passages to support his material.
The love languages are simple, and they work -- not only between husband and wife, but with children as well. My wife and I are polar opposites in love languages. By learning to express our love in ways that are more meaningful to each other, our honeymoon is thirteen years strong.
Get this book, read it, share it, apply it, and your "love tanks" will never be empty again.
Larry Hehn, Author of Get the Prize: Nine Keys for a Life of Victory



Thursday, April 21, 2011

Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)

So, the 'Hunger Games'. What a blazing book that was; 'Battle Royale' meets 'Big Brother'. But the first book only really got the story started. The main attraction of the book were the Games themselves, and only tantalising glimpses of the dystopian world were given.

In Catching Fire, we delve deeper into the history and mystery of this futuristic world. We learn a a few things about how Panem came to be, but also many more questions are raised. Did you think things would become less complicated for Katniss and Peeta after the Games ended? Far from it. Everything becomes far more complicated, and events spiral beyond their control.

The genuinely terrifying President Snow, a snakelike being who smells of blood and roses, is as threatening and hateful when he's not present as when he is. He's angry at our heroes, and getting angrier by the day as the unrest in the downtrodden districts grow. Katniss and Peeta are playing figurative chess with their lives as well as their loved ones. But there seems to be no escaping the power of Snow, and the revenge he brings crashing down upon them is horrific, devastating and, I will admit, completely unexpected.

In fact, that's the whole thing about 'Catching Fire', although the first 'Hunger Games' was an excellent book, it was a little predictable. This isn't. Every chapter seems to end on a plot twist, and your breath will catch in your throat as you fear for what could happen next.

On the downside, 'Catching Fire' is the second part of a trilogy, traditionally the weakest book in three because it neither has the advantage of starting the story nor finish it. Stories are followed up from where they left off, and some are started but not finished, obviously ready for the final installment, but 'Catching Fire' doesn't feel like it's own book. Plus, you could practically split this book in half, each half in very different places, with different stakes and different characters, and both almost completely inconsequential of each other, so it can feel a bit...tacked on at times. Plus 'Catching Fire' does sometimes retread familiar ground, making it feel a bit lazy here and there.

But honestly, these are just nitpicks. If you liked the first book, as I did, then you'll be just as delighted (and terrified) by this one. And, without spoiling anything, the last few chapters could be some of the finest, scariest, most heart-stopping moments I've ever read, and left me gagging for the final book.

If 'Hunger Games' left you hungry for more, then 'Catching Fire' will set you ablaze. Essential reading, for young adults and adults too. Not for the faint-hearted!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants (movie tie-in, mass market)

I was truly 'swept away' by this book. It was so full of fascinating insights, wonderful (though not always lovable) characters and a story line that I couldn't put down. I loved the fact that all the anecdotes were taken from old circus history and I'd never heard of the great circus trains of mid 1900's America. As a bonus Ms Gruen has included some superb photos from circus archives that really complement the narrative.

Jacob Jancowski is studying for his final exams in veterinary medicine when the death of his parents leaves him in dire straits, both mentally and financially. In his confusion and despair he finds himself wandering, and before he comes to his senses he's jumped a train and entered a new life. It's a life full of highs and lows, a fast learning curve for a fresh faced lad from an Ivy League University.
Jacob, however, finds his niche and so unravels a wonderful story of an unknown time in a traveling circus.
Alongside this runs the current day Jacob, an old man in a nursing home, waiting out the end of his days, when the circus comes to town....
I loved the way the two stories were woven together at the end of the book, but I'm not going to give anything away. You'll have to read it!

My book of the year this year was Joanne Harris's "Gentlemen and Players", but at the last minute I think this book has pipped her to the post!

 Read more HERE 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide by Stephenie Meyer

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

I think the main audience for this book are going to be people who are already fans of the Twilight series. If you are the kind of fan who has read the books more than once, checked Stephenie Meyers website and read the extras she has there, then this is not the book for you. Much of what is written is already on her website and if you were capable of keeping characters and plot lines straight the first time through this is not going to add much to you experience. The majority of the book is a list of all the characters and then details about their personal backgrounds. Very little of this is new (and often it is a direct transcript from the books). There is some interesting extras about Alice and one or two other characters but most of what there is, is repetitious and leaves you with more questions than answers (eg. the Denali sisters mother creating an immortal child - the books tell you she does it, so does the guide, neither tells you why.) However if you are the kind of fan who struggled to keep the characters and themes straight and would like all your information in one place (although the Stephenie Meyer website actually has a lot more of the extras and out-takes than the book does), then you'll find this book very useful.

A lot of the book appears to have been compiled not by Meyer herself but by two fans from the Twilight Lexion. The website has a lot more reviews and it would be sensible to check these out before committing to the buying this book at its current full purchase price (I wouldn't have regretted buying it had it been half the cost). I thought there would be a lot more explanation and "secrets" but there is very little. There are a lot of character profiles giving eye colour (very little variation with vampires of course), physical build, date of transformation (often just detailed as "unknown" - which struck me as odd, surely the author should know?) And them some facts about them, as previously mentioned, most of the facts are things you already know from reading the books, or just stuff that is irrelevant to the plot. I guess the real idea of this guide is to allow you to imagine the physical characteristics of the characters more fully, rather than actually allowing you to know more secrets about the Twilight-Saga-world. 

Better order now here

Monday, April 18, 2011

63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read by Jesse Ventura

63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read

Does our wonderful government lie to us? Of course. Many times each day. The government lies to us sometimes because we as Americans are too stupid and don't know when to shut our pie holes. Just look at the current state of media. The major news outlets spin news and falsehoods as facts to get our current president elected. Why is this not in James...err. Jesse's book?
Then we have what is branded as reality TV which borders on pornographic tripe that we suck up to make our otherwise dull lives better. Why doesn't James (Yes, his name is James) write about this? Why is the majority of his finger pointing at Republicans?
Since the turn of the century we have had eight Democrats and ten Republicans who have served as president. You might even make the case to say the Nixon and Ford should count as one since they filled only one term. In that time Democrats held majorities for at least forty continuous years. So whose fault is it?
It is the fault of the American people. We elect this human debris and then think we can sit back and do nothing. We are the laziest generation ever and it is getting worse with the mediocre kids we are raising. And what it worse is this poser being allowed to even spews this garbage.
James Janos (his real name) was never, never, and never a Navy SeAL. He was a frogman with the Underwater Demolition Teams. Big difference. He never saw combat from his drunk platform at Subic Bay Naval Base. And even if he were in Vietnam he still would have been lucky to see true combat.
Then he joined one of the worse biker gangs in American...the Mongols. He was not only a member but a full-patched member and the chapter Sergeant at Arms. To become a full patched member you must do something pretty intense or it won't happen. Where the record of this disappeared to we will never know. Maybe it is a conspiracy? Jesse claims that people who get into the presidency have been pre-picked years in advance. Maybe the same thing happened in the case of James Janos (aka Jesse Ventura, "The Body", Mongol moniker).
This book is interesting in that all it does it use old material to show our government has done some not-so-great things in the interest of our national security. Sometimes national security is a scary place to venture Mr. Ventura. Sometimes crazy ideas are floated with no intention of ever coming to fruition. Ideas alone are not a conspiracy to all you nut jobs out there who think it does. Julian Assange is not a hero. He was just the punk kid who got the crap beat out of him during school. All of you nut jobs love to spread the hate of the government but none of you ever has one idea how to protect us from people who don't care how nice we are unless we are dead nice people. Our collective minds do not want to believe that JFK was killed by a lone gunman because we can't imagine how one person could accomplish the task. But we are all too happy to think that our government which can not run the DMV, Post Office, IRS has the ability to conspire to dupe some loser like Oswald. But then we further believe in this spirit of the individual and how they can achieve great things on their own. So what is it going to be? It can't be both.
For special operators Jesse is a joke. He is just another entertainer posing as a substantive person of thought. But after the curtain is pulled back all you have is a steroid abusing, military poser, gang member/criminal and not the second coming. Maybe he is the weak minded person he was talking about in the past. Buy the book to be entertained.

Purchase it now to grab discount

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin

Please Look After Mom

Some books change us. They change the way we look at ourselves, the way we interact with those closest to our hearts--the way we’ve loved those people, or the way we’ve missed them or honored them or taken them hopelessly for granted. This is one of those books. This is a book that alters the way we remember.

I’m an author, so this is where my own writerly fail-safes kick-in, warning of hype and hyperbole...but even in reflection...I’m not speaking falsely.

Please Look After Mom isn’t merely a story of familial loss and longing, of the many veils of shame and surrender beneath one roof. This tale is a door, and once you cross its threshold, you’ll never be able to go back to that comfortable place you came from. Your perceptions will be transformed. Permanently.

When Park So-nyo, an elderly mother from a rural town visiting her children on her birthday, vanishes over the event horizon of a crowded Seoul train station, four narratives unfold--four dimensions of loss, anger, blame, and sacrifice--four angles of persistence. (Perhaps it’s no mere coincidence that the number four in Korean is a homonym for “death.”)

But as the four pillars of one family are shaken by this mysterious disappearance, we are also enriched as we learn about the wealth of emotional currency that has been exchanged over one lifetime--tender payments, and the debts owed, from children to parent, from husband to wife, from an aged mother to...herself.

This book is four stories, four echoes, four promises, and four lamentations--that make a whole.

This is your gentle warning, dear reader.

Read more reviews HERE

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Healthy Home: Simple Truths to Protect Your Family from Hidden Household Dangers by Myron Wentz, Dave Wentz

The Healthy Home: Simple Truths to Protect Your Family from Hidden Household Dangers

I recently had the opportunity to attend the official book launch of The Healthy Home in Vancouver, BC Canada where Dr. Myron Wentz and Dave Wentz did their first presentaion of the book tour to be in 16 cities in North America. The presentation on stage by the two authors included video, animation, scientific tests done right on stage and quizes that the audience participates in. The book itself is amazing. It is well written and lots of picture type diagrams and comments that are easy to understand. You can read more scientific descriptions in the book as you go along or just read the information in short chapters that take you through each room in your house. It offers quick and easy solutions. You can do it all or just make a few changes here and there. I was blown away by some of the information about toxins and dangers we all live with daily. It can be read in one gulp or pick and choose what room or subject you are most interested in at the time. It is life changing and especially if you get a chance to go to any of the FREE, yes free presentations in a city near you. Also then after purchasing your book, register it online at [...] to assess your home and receive bonus information on subjects in The Healthy Home book. As an added incentive to purchase this book, all profits are being donated to the Children's Hunger Fund. The authors are not receiving a cent. Their mission is for the world to be healthier and free of disease.


Found good price on Amazon

Monday, April 11, 2011

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides) Matthew Inman

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides) [Paperback]

 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (and other useful guides) is the first book from The Oatmeal, an eclectic web comic. After a self-titled release, which was more of a magazine publication, the March 2011 edition is a professionally published soft cover book with even more comics and a pull out poster. This book contains all of the web comics published in the first year of The Oatmeal, and over 25 never before seen comics.

For anyone who hasn’t read The Oatmeal before, it’s an excellent web comic covering subjects like web design, copy writing, and corporate recruiting, but also obscure and hilarious topics like “How to Tell if Your Velociraptor is Having Pre-Marital Sex.” Saying that it’s difficult to describe The Oatmeal is an understatement. There is a simplistic and unique art style combined with witty and intelligent writing, but that isn’t very uncommon as most professional comics are well-drawn with good writing.

What really sets The Oatmeal apart is that these comics have a knack of pointing out those little nuances that everyone can relate to, and even when covering a niche subject, it’s presented in a way that is incredibly entertaining for people who have experienced it firsthand, but it’s still pretty funny for anyone unfamiliar within that niche.

There are a lot of list comics, and they have a tendency to break things down pretty well. For example, take computer ownership. “The Three Phases of Owning a Computer” are: The Honeymoon, where “your new computer is capable of anything.” From there it progresses to The Comfortable Phase where “you and your computer are bffs 4 life. You know all of it’s secrets, and it knows all of yours (including your dirty porn habit).” Finally Phase 3: Behold the Dinosaur, “booting up gives you an idea of how long an ice age can last.” That’s more or less the experience, and The Oatmeal is great at pointing out those little things.

Details like your passive aggressive Facebook friend who posts “well rehearsed retorts without mentioning anyone by name” or what it’s like to hug someone with an awkwardly mismatched height, or even the minor differences between a motorist getting cut off who ragingly curses the person that did it versus a pedestrian being cut off and politely apologizing for stepping in the other person’s way and the polite and forgiving response given to the accident. They are little moments that we have all experienced at some point, but never since George Carlin has someone been able to capture and articulate those everyday moments so well.

In his comics that discuss niche topics, they really resonate with people who are familiar with the niche. Copy writers love comics like “Ten Words You Need to Stop Misspelling” and “How to Use an Apostrophe” which may not sound like funny subject matter, but The Oatmeal pulls them off with spectacular results. Similarly “How a Web Design Goes Straight to Hell” provides insight into the web agency world and showcases some very familiar (and annoying) aspects of agency/client relationships. “The 10 Types of Crappy Interviewees” is my corporate recruiter friend’s favorite comic because, like the other comics, the subjects are pretty funny to begin with but when you’ve experienced them in real life they’re really hilarious.

There are also informational comics that just present information about common topics like beer and coffee to more obscure topics like tapeworms and the male angler fish. Some comics are just ideas, like “How to Track, Hunt, and Kill a Unicorn,” that don’t really have anything to do with any industry, but they’re just funny.

All in all this is a great collection, and it’s a great value. The book itself is $14.99 and it comes with the “Why I Believe Printers Were Sent From Hell” pull-out poster which as of this writing is $11.95 from The Oatmeal’s online store, so if you were considering buying the poster, it’s well worth the three dollars to just buy the book unless you’re OCD about folds in the poster or something.

The only criticism I have isn’t for the content as much as the format. Whenever a compilation of web comics is put together for a book, it raises the question “why should I buy this if I can read all of the comics online for free?” The Oatmeal handles it by adding over 20 comics that can’t be found on the site and the free poster which makes it a great value. At the same time, the people who are most likely to buy it are fans of the website which means that they’ve already seen about 70 percent of the book, and after reading the new comics there’s nothing more to check out. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great collection, but it would be even better if the comics were supplemented with excerpts from The Oatmeal blog. In their published books, web comic Penny Arcade provides commentary on where the ideas and inspiration from each comic came from, which provides a lot more to read, and I would love to know the origin of things like the Bear-O-Dactyl and “7 Reasons to Keep Your Tyrannosaur off Crack Cocaine.” Maybe if this book does well, a collection of the second year’s worth of The Oatmeal‘s comics will be released with commentary or blog posts. It all depends on what’s next to come out of author Matt Inman’s mind.

Matt is a pretty humble and down to Earth guy. I met him briefly on his tour promoting the book. For someone that has a book that’s in the top 5 on the New York Times Best Sellers list, and a blog that Time magazine recognized as one of the best in 2010, he doesn’t show an ounce of ego. At the end of the signing he looked pretty tired, but still took the time to sit down and take an interview with someone about marketing and how he promotes The Oatmeal. On his website and in person he is very grateful to fans, and deserves every bit of the success that he’s earned.

If you like the comics on there’s no reason not to pick this book up. You’ll chuckle at most of the comics, but then you’ll find that one special comic that really resonates with you and end up laughing hysterically, and it will earn a place in your heart.

More details on Amazon 

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone

 With Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese immediately places himself as a budding new novelist to watch. While he respectfully acknowledges his friend and mentor John Irving as his greatest influence, I would argue that Cutting for Stone could stand with the best of Irving's classic works, if not rise above them.
Cutting for Stone begins with Sister Mary Joseph Praise and how her course was changed to arrive at Missing Hospital in Ethiopia. The compass that led her there is a talented young doctor named Thomas Stone whom she nursed back to health aboard a ship on her way to Africa. They become part of a blessed medical team at Missing only to discover that Sister Mary Joseph Praise is shockingly pregnant, about to deliver twins, and the complications of delivery could kill her.

The story of Thomas Stone and Sister Mary Joseph Praise and the shocking outcome of the birth is only the first third of this breathtaking story. As the two twin boys, Marion and Shiva, enter the world, they will magically compose a new family at this hospital nestled in rebellion torn Ethiopia, a unique mix of people brought together by love and loss. Cutting for Stone is a story that exposes what's missing in all its characters lives and strives to heal with reconciliation and redemption.

More readers hints HERE

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman Timothy Ferriss

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman

This is the much anticipated second book from author Tim Ferriss.   If you don’t know, his previous book The 4-Hour Workweek is a bestseller and continues to be in the top 5 in three different categories at the time of the writing of this post.

In a recent interview I listened to, Tim says that The 4-Hour Body is the book he really wanted to write.  He used the 4-Hour Workweek as a way to get the 4-Hour Body published.  According to the website, this book is the result of 10 years of personal research.

Let’s get one thing straight.  Tim is NOT a doctor, nor is he any sort of medical professional. Oh yeah, and neither am I.  So if you are going to try anything in this book, consult a medical professional.

Tim IS a meticulous experimenter and has tried everything in this book on himself and recorded every last detail.  He mentions how his home is filled with fitness equipment and measurement devices.

The entire book is essentially based on the idea of minimum effective load (MEL) or minimum effective dose (MED).  In other words, what is absolute minimum action required to get the desired results. As soon I heard that, I knew that this book was very promising.

There are basically two parts to this book.

Weight Loss
There are also two parts to weight loss.  In Tim’s system, he not only strives for fat loss, but also muscle gain.

This is not only healthier, but adds to your overall appearance. You could actually lose 10 pounds of fat and gain 10 pounds of muscle and look about 15 pounds lighter, even though you are exactly the same weight.

Tim’s diet is called the Slow Carb Diet and is the result of his own experimentation.  There is a ton of technical information that I am still trying to digest but there are all kinds of unconventional weight loss methods that he claims will help you lose weight.

One that I found very interesting was the idea of thermal load.  Tim explains it like this:

During some of experiments with a fellow weight loss enthusiast, they came across a statement from swimmer Michael Phelps.  He said that he eats 12,000 calories a day.

They did the math and there was no way that he could be eating that many calories every day and not gain a significant amount of weight.  In fact, they calculated that he would have to be doing butterflies continuously for 8 hours a day to even get close to burning that off.

But Michael only trains for 3-4 hours a day and not continuously.  So what gives?

As you probably have guessed, the answer is the water.  It is an awesome conductor of heat (much better than air) and Phelps was burning additional calories just by the additional heat he was giving off in the water.

Ah-ha!  But how can people without a pool use this information?  Read the book to find out…and it does NOT involve your bathtub.

The weight loss/muscle gain section is filled with many of these great discoveries that I have not heard of anywhere else.  My only minor complaint is that the book gets a little too technical at times.

But Tim admits that he is a geek when it comes to these things.  My opinion is: hey, if his OCD leads to these types of discoveries, then geek out all you want Tim.

Better Sex
I won’t go into too many details here, but suffice to say that Tim doesn’t mess around.  He gets the very best experts in any subject he chooses to study.  In the area of sex, he not only got a notable “scientist” but he also interviewed a famous pornstar.

And not just any pornstar, this is a woman who has been in the business for a long time and views sex just as much of an art as a way to make a living.  There were a couple of tips that were mentioned that I wasn’t aware of.

And I’m not just talking mushroom tips…

I won’t spoil the secrets for you, but there was one statistic that really surprised me.  In Tim’s research, he found that as much as 50% of the female population in the United States has never had an orgasm.

Yeah, never…ever…in their lives…ever.  Not even through DIY.  Huh?  Really?

Obviously, this is most commonly for psychological reasons.  So Tim goes through some exercises that will help women start to feel comfortable with their sexuality in a non-threatening environment and eventually get to the big “O.”

Of course, there are plenty of tips for the guys in here too. The most interesting tip in the book can be summed up in two words: one o’clock.  I’ll just leave it at that.

Overall, this section was very tastefully done and well “researched.”  Although Tim did provide some personal services to some of the women in his experiment, it sounded like the majority of them just received “homework” assignments to try on their own.  According to Tim, they all passed with flying colors.


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Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

By early 1951, Henrietta Lacks, a mother of five in Baltimore, had suffered for some time from what she described as a painful "knot on my womb." She sought treatment at Johns Hopkins, a charity hospital and the only one around that treated black patients. The diagnosis: cervical cancer. Before administering radium for the first time, the attending doctor cut two dime-size samples of tissue, one cancerous and one healthy, from Lacks's cervix. No one asked permission or even informed her. The doctor gave the tissue to George Gey, a scientist who had been trying to establish a continuously reproducing, or immortal, human cell line for use in cancer research. According to protocol, a lab assistant scribbled an abbreviation of Lacks's name, "HeLa" (hee-lah), on the sample tubes.

HeLa succeeded where all other human samples had failed. Gey gave away laboratory-grown cells to interested colleagues. Scientists grew cells in mass quantities to test the new polio vaccine. Soon a commercial enterprise was growing batches for large-scale use. Discoveries piled up. HeLa led to the understanding that normal human cells have 46 chromosomes. NASA launched HeLa into orbit to test how human cells behave in zero-gravity. The cells, in turn, helped launch virology as a field and shot medical research forward like a rocket.

Nearly 60 years later, Lacks's tissue has yielded an estimated 50 million metric tons of HeLa cells. Scientific and medical researchers add about 300 HeLa-related studies a month to the library of 60,000 studies. Lacks's surviving family members have learned what was going on -- and have become subjects of interest for researchers, too. HeLa cells are still being used today because they grow so relentlessly in culture, which is rare for cells generally and for cervical cancer cells in particular.

"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" is a biography of the eponymous heroine and her offspring. There are her children, and their children, all reared in poverty and too often without health insurance. Lacks's world-changing cells, meanwhile, have been lavished with attention and money by scientists around the globe for nearly twice her lifetime. The story raises questions about bioethics and leaves a reader wondering who should benefit from scientific research and how it should be conducted. In the words of Lacks's youngest daughter, Deborah: "If our mother cells done so much for medicine, how come her family can't afford to see no doctors?"

Rebecca Skloot, an accomplished science journalist, became curious about Lacks at age 16 when a biology instructor shared her name and skin color but nothing else. Skloot's book is the result of a decade of research that took her to a Lacks family cemetery where black descendants are buried atop white slaveholder relatives, to depressed Baltimore neighborhoods, to Johns Hopkins's world-class medical research center and to Crownsville Hospital Center in Maryland, formerly the Hospital for the Negro Insane.

Skloot's vivid account begins with the life of Henrietta Lacks, who comes fully alive on the page with her "walnut eyes, straight white teeth, and full lips" -- a woman who loved dancing and, in the words of her cousin Emmett Lacks, was the "sweetest girl you ever wanna meet." Skloot goes on to reveal the complex emotional, scientific and legal issues that Lacks's life engendered. Her cells lead a life of their own, from Gey's research lab in Baltimore to the Tuskegee Institute and the for-profit venture Microbiological Associates (which became a part of the companies Invitrogen and BioWhittaker).

The Lackses learned about HeLa in the 1970s and embarked on a bewildering quest for comprehension and reconciliation. Henrietta's first cousin Cootie puts the entire remarkable HeLa history in stark relief: "Nobody round here never understood how she dead and that thing still livin. That's where the mystery's at."

"Immortal Life" reads like a novel. The prose is unadorned, crisp and transparent. Skloot frequently glides into section and chapter breaks with thought-provoking quotations from interview subjects. This technique sometimes lets well-meaning scientists demonstrate through naivete how easy it is to objectify human research subjects. Years later, Gey's lab assistant Mary Kubicek told Skloot about Lacks's autopsy: "When I saw those toenails, I nearly fainted. I thought, Oh jeez, she's a real person." An afterword takes the reader from the story into current thinking about bioethics. (President Obama created his own bioethics advisory panel before Thanksgiving.)

This book, labeled "science -- cultural studies," should be treated as a work of American history. It's a deftly crafted investigation of a social wrong committed by the medical establishment, as well as the scientific and medical miracles to which it led. Skloot's compassionate account can be the first step toward recognition, justice and healing.

 Found a good price on Amazon (obviously) :)

City of Fallen Angels (Mortal Instruments, Book 4) by Cassandra Clare

City of Fallen Angels (Mortal Instruments, Book 4)

I just love the way the author goes straight to the action in her books. I also love the way she describes her characters. I just wish there would not be so many books in the series, because after many months of waiting it is hard to remember all the details of the previous books and all the characters. And there are many characters. Maybe this book is a bit predictable and sometimes the author has a pompous style in her writing, but I still like her books! I would recommend them to anyone who likes paranormal, vampire etc. stories!

As you might know if you are a fan of this series, there will be six books in the Mortal Instruments series: City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls, and City of Heavenly Fire. This is the book #4, so there is 2 more books to wait...

About the previous books:
In City of Bones, 15 yr old Clary Fray learns about the world of the Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of warriors dedicated to driving demons out of our world. Clary's mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a monster sent by the evil Shadowhunter, Valentine.

In City of Ashes, Clary's mother is still in the hospital, in a coma. She and her newfound brother Jace are under suspicion now that the Shadowhunter world knows that Valentine is still alive, and that Jace and Clary are his children (or so they thought). Clary's best friend Simon is turned into a vampire and kidnapped by Valentine, who intends to sacrifice him as part of a bloody ritual that will make the Mortal Instruments his own forever.

In City of Glass, Clary goes to the Glass City in Idris, the secretive Shadowhunters' home country, because it is the only place where she can find the cure to her mom's coma. When Valentine attacks the city and destroys the demon towers, Clary w/ her allies are all that stand between him and the total extinction of all Shadowhunters.

In this book#4 Simon (the daytime vampire) is having some trouble adjusting to his new daytime vampire life. He hardly sees his best friend Clary now. Clary is now being trained to be a Shadowhunter. She has the background and the talent to be one even if she is a bit old to be trained...
This book also continues with the relationships of the main characters: love, the betrayal and faith in friendship.
Simon doesn't like watching Clary with her new boyfriend Jace. Simon doesn't know how to handle dating two girls (or not dating) because he is a daytime vampire. Also, the master vampire still wants him even if Simon is not similar to the other vampires, or because of it.
Simon wants a break of his vampire life and dating problems and leaves the city, but some strange things happen...
Simon realizes that the war with their enemies is not over (even if they all thought it was and they thought they had won the war).
Simon now needs his Shadowhunter-friends to help him and the world.

I would give the plot 4 stars,and the characters 4 stars.

Read the first pages HERE

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Reason for Reading: This book dealt with many topics that interest me: World War II, especially the war with Japan, the Japanese war atrocities and survival stories, especially those at sea.

What an amazing book! I would give it 10/10 if I could and two thumbs up if it were a movie. I'd be very surprised if it wasn't made into a movie either, unless telling about the relatively unknown Japanese atrocities is too much for Hollywood to handle.

Louis Zamperini was a boy with humble beginnings, who grew up to have a shot at Olympic stardom, which was torn away from him by WWII and instead replaced by one of the most horrific survival stories you will ever hear. Seven years in the writing Hillenbrand has brought a book and a story that will not be forgotten by time. This is a story that everyone need read to see what despicable, horrific things human beings are capable of doing to others and how the spirit of other human beings are capable of surviving even the most degrading and self-demeaning tasks placed on top of daily torture of the most extreme kind. This book is hard to read in many places, but is also full of many moments of pathos. The POWs managed to find little ways to brighten their days at the expense of their prison keepers to help keep their morale up.

Louis started life as a thief and a thug, until his older brother took his energy and placed it into something more constructive. Track. Louis was a natural, but didn't take to it kindly at first, since he easily won without trying, until he saw that with real effort he could actually break efforts and his dream for the Olympics took over and he became a changed youth, participating in the Berlin Olympics. The War came along, and the draft changed Louis's life forever. As a bombardier of a B-29 he survived a crash into the Pacific Ocean and floating aboard a life raft for a record breaking 47 days with two other crew members only to be "rescued" in the end by the Japanese. Where he then spent the rest of the war with Japan as a POW in their Geneva Convention breaking camps. As one officer is quoted as saying "This is not Geneva. This is Japan."

The rags to riches story of Louis' childhood truly endears him to the reader as a character one really cares for. He is a sharp, intelligent man-youth, witty and with a sense of fun, that one cannot help but fall for him. Making his life story all that more horrific. Hillenbrand has done a good job of bringing Zamperini to life as a human being with his character strengths, quirks and flaws. The survival in the Pacific makes for absolutely riveting, unbearable and compelling reading. Hillenbrand, while writing of the POW experience, also manages to reveal some information on why the Japanese atrocities are so little known today and why their war criminals were given amnesty, while German war criminals are still hunted down to this day. (Though I believe what they presume to be the last living war criminal was extradited in just the recent past.) It certainly had nothing to do with the Japanese being any less inhumane during the war. In Hillenbrand's "Acknowledgements" she notes that the war is still a controversial topic in Japan and some of her Japanese sources asked not to be named. A MUST READ BOOK!!!

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement

Self-help books are quite popular these days, as are serious works of nonfiction. The two genres don’t often meet in the same book. That means those who want to take an analytical/intellectual approach to improving their lives don’t have that many literary options.

New York Times columnist David Brooks attempts to fill this vacuum with “The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement.” It’s a well-written and engaging tour d’horizon of much of the literature on brain development, male-female relationships and what factors cause people to live happy lives. However, the book’s effectiveness is at times diminished by the author’s glibness, selective use of evidence and insufficient attention to opposing viewpoints.

Mr. Brooks contends that while wealth and intellect can be helpful components of fulfilling lives, love, character and healthy emotions are more important. He makes his case by combining two narrative techniques. Part of the book is a fairly typical pop sociology-psychology work, with many references to scholarly research and the author’s own worldview sprinkled liberally throughout. But he tries to be somewhat different by telling much of the story by profiling the lives of two fictional characters, Harold and Erica.

Mr. Brooks synthesizes a great deal of academic literature, almost all of which backs up his thesis. He tends to overwhelm the reader with so much information that it is sometimes hard to keep it all straight. This is an example where less would definitely have been more.

His fundamental argument is sound, as anyone who has been in a healthy emotional relationship can attest. But he is occasionally imprecise in making his points.

“People who lack emotion don’t lead well-planned logical lives in the manner of the coolly rational Mr. Spock. They lead foolish lives. In the extreme cases, they become sociopaths, untroubled by barbarism and unable o feel other people’s pain,” he writes.

Talk about an overly broad statement. For starters, do people “lack emotion,” or are they just not good at displaying it? Many people who are driven more by their heads than hearts, and aren’t great at showing emotion have lived successful and meaningful lives. President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former General Electric CEO Jack Welch come to mind.

Mr. Brooks is at his best when he talks about how childhood experiences shape people’s emotional development.

He notes that the affluent are often raised in an atmosphere of “concerted cultivation” that gives them exposure to a broader array of experiences, more contact with adults and they learn how to connect action to consequences. But they have a more stressful pace of life. This can often make the adjustment to adulthood easier.

More about it? See THIS

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

Our memory skills, just like our food cravings for fat and sugar, were better suited to our days as hunter gatherers, according to Joshua Foer in Moonwalking with Einstein. Back then, what our ancestors needed to remember was where to find food, what plants are poisonous, and how to get home. This makes us great at remembering visual imagery, and not so good at remembering multiple passwords, numerous phone numbers or detailed verbal instructions.

The trick to memory techniques is changing the tedious data you want to remember into something so flamboyant and sensational that you can’t forget it. It works. With the help of images like the three Petticoat Junction sisters hula hooping in my living room I can still remember the fifteen item “to do” list Foer’s memory coach used as an example more than a week after I read that section of the book.

Moonwalking with Einstein is part a history of mnemonic practices beginning long before the advent of writing, part a cursory introduction to some memory tricks including the memory palace, and part a chronicle of the year or so Foer spent developing his memory skills in preparation for the U.S. Memory Championship—this aspect of the book reminded me of Word Freak, a Scrabble championship account by Stefan Fatsis. Foer also covers the phenomenon of savants, what techniques you can use to push yourself past being just okay at any given skill and how memorizing can help you be more aware and maybe even a little wiser. Unfortunately, even after all his training Foer reports that he still sometimes misplaces his keys. This is an absorbing and entertaining book.

You'll find an interesting offer on AMAZON

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back

This review may be a little...different. It has taken me a while, because after reading this book, I sat back and thought about it. What do I say, and more importantly, what do I believe?

Summary: This book is intended as a true account of a boy who visited heaven, as told by his father and a co-writer, Lynn Vincent.

Writing and Theme: The book is largely written as an account of Colton Burpo, who claims his spirit left his body and went to heaven while he was in a serious operation at the hospital. Over time, he tells of his experiences in heaven with Jesus and other people from history.
I would rather that the father had been the only author, as since this is to be a true account, it is a crucial point to this book's integrity. As there is a co-author, it's hard to tell if she "spiced things up". The work itself is fairly well written, and keeps your attention.

Theological and Topical Points: This is where it gets hard. First, I'll look at it from the skeptical point of view.
Does God really let people see heaven? To be honest, I don't know. In the Bible there are accounts of people going to heaven without physically dying, but they never returned.
In this age and nation, we need to consider other elements. Please don't take offense, but these questions unfortunately have to be asked. Is the boy a pathological liar? Is the father a pathological liar? Is he using his son to be published? Is he using his son to gain fame? Did he omit details and/or explanations for this said miracle, making it to appear in favor of a miracle and in turn, Christianity? How much profit will this book bring the Burpos and their ministry?
I know, it sounds awful, but with all the stories and scams that fly around nowadays, these questions must be asked.
Now from a different point of view, this book is quite inspirational. It provides encouragement and comfort for us, and in that respect, I would recommend reading it. I enjoyed the whole book, and only after did I start to ask questions. But whether this book is true or not, it is a beautiful story. I am not telling you to take it as truth, but maybe view it as a possible miracle. To be sure, it should encourage your faith, and make you search deeper as to how strong your faith is.

Want to see more photos or reviews? Click [HERE]

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Game of Thrones Why to read it...


(1) YOU ARE TIRED OF FORMULAIC FANTASY: good lad beats the dark lord against impossible odds; boy is the epitome of good; he and all his friends never die even though they go through great dangers . . . the good and noble king; the beautiful princess who falls in love with the commoner boy even though their stations are drastically different . . . you get the idea. After reading this over and over, it gets old.

(2) YOU ARE TIRED OF ALL THE HEROES STAYING ALIVE EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE UNDER CONSTANT DANGER: this gets even worse where the author kills a main hero off but that person comes back later in the story. Or, a hero does die but magic brings him back.

This sometimes carries to minor characters where even they may not die, but most fantasy authors like to kill them off to show that some risked the adventure and perished.


(4) YOU LOVE SERIOUS INTRIGUE WITHOUT STUPID OPPONENTS: lots of layering; lots of intrigue; lots of clever players in the game of thrones. Unlike other fantasy novels, one side, usually the villain, is stupid or not too bright.

(5) YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BIASED OPINIONS AND DIFFERENT TRUTHS: GRRM has set this up where each chapter has the title of one character and the whole chapter is through their viewpoint. Interesting tidbit is that you get their perception of events or truths. But, if you pay attention, someone else will mention a different angle of truth in the story that we rarely see in other novels. Lastly and most importantly, GRRM doesn't try to tell us which person is right in their perception. He purposelly leaves it vague so that we are kept guessing.

(6) LEGENDS: some of the most interesting characters are those who are long gone or dead. We never get the entire story but only bits and pieces; something that other fantasy authors could learn from to heighten suspense. Additionally, b/c the points of views are not congruent, we sometimes get different opinions.

(7) WORDPLAY: if you're big on metaphors and description, GRRM is your guy. Almost flawless flow.

(8) LOTS OF CONFLICT: all types, too; not just fighting but between characters through threats and intrigue.

(9) MULTILAYERED PLOTTING; SUB PLOTS GALORE: each character has their own separate storyline; especially as the story continues and everyone gets scattered. This is one of the reasons why each novel is between 700-900 pages.

(10) SUPERLATIVE VARIED CHARACTERS: not the typical archetypes that we are used to in most fantasy; some are gritty; few are totally evil or good; GRRM does a great job of changing our opinions of characters as the series progress. This is especially true of Jaime in book three.

(11) REALISTIC MEDIEVAL DIALOGUE: not to the point that we can't understand it but well done.

(12) HEAPS OF SYMOBLISM AND PROPHECY: if you're big on that.

(13) EXCELLENT MYSTERIES: very hard to figure out the culprits; GRRM must have read a lot of mystery novels.

(14) RICHLY TEXTURED FEMALE CHARACTERS: best male author on female characters I have read; realistic on how women think, too.

(15) LOW MAGIC WORLD: magic is low key; not over the top so heroes can't get out of jams with it.


(1) YOU LIKE YOUR MAIN CHARACTERS: GRRM does a good job of creating more likeable characters after a few die. But, if that isn't your style, you shouldn't be reading it. He kills off several, not just one, so be warned.

(2) DO NOT CARE FOR GRITTY GRAY CHARACTERS: if you like more white and gray characters, this may unsettle you. I suggest Feist or Goodkind or Dragonlance if you want a more straight forward story with strong archetypes.

(3) MULTIPLE POINTS OF VIEWS TURN YOU OFF: if you prefer that the POVS only go to a few characters, this might be confusing for you.

(4) SWEARING, SEX: there's a lot of it in this book just as there is in real life.

(5) YOU DEMAND CLOSURE AT THE END OF EVERY BOOK: this isn't the case for all stories in the series. Some are still going on; some have been resolved; others have been created and are moving on.

(6) IF YOU WANT A TARGET OR SOMEONE TO BLAME: this can be done to some extent but not as much. This is b/c he doesn't try to make anyone necessarily good or evil.

(7) ARCHETYPES: some readers like archetypal characters because it's comfortable; we like the good young hero (sort of like Pug in Feist's THE RIFTWAR SAGA); it's familiar and we sometimes like to pretend we're this upcoming, great hero. You wont' get much of this in GRRM with the exception of one or two characters.

(8) LENGTH: you don't want to get into a long fantasy epic series. In that case, look for shorters works as this is biiig.

(9) PATRIARCHY: men are most of the main characters with lots of power (one female exception).