Friday, January 29, 2016

A New Look at Nature, Nurture, Evolution and Your Health

Super Genes tackles some of the biggest questions in life and health. For years there has been an on-going controversy on whether our development is more a product of our genes (nature) or our environment (nurture). This book discusses new genetic research and shows how advances in understanding epigenetics brings the two together. We are a product of our genes, but many factors are involved in their expression. This discussion is the focus of Part One. I thought it was excellent.

Part Two discusses life style adaptations you can make to improve your health. While the suggestions are good, if you follow current nutrition and health advice, this part doesn't present as much new information as Parts One and Three.

Part Three moves from the science of Part One to how consciousness and the mind are involved in the expression of genetic characteristics. This part contains a very interesting discussion of evolution, relating to the specificity of mutations and how they change genes to bring about new characteristics. It moves away from the traditional Darwinian theory of random mutation. I thought this discussion was excellent.

I highly recommend this book if you are interested in health and new research relating to how our health is affected by the life style choices we make.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Perils of Being Married to a Restaurant Critic

Sam is a restaurant critic. He takes his job seriously, so seriously that when the family moves to Philadelphia for his new job, he refuses to let Lila make friends with the new neighbors. He believes that he has to be anonymous when he visits a restaurant so he isn't given special treatment because of his review.

Lila is pregnant with their second child. She has given up her job as a trouble-shooter for a hotel chain, and the misses it. She loved managing crises. Of course, being a mom involves crises, but it's not the same. Gradually, Lila makes friends, but this leads to a strain on the marriage.

I found this book hard to get into. I chose it because I thought the background of the restaurant business would be interesting. I admit the author did a good job describing what happens in the restaurant business and how a food critic operates. However, I could not like the main characters.

Sam is paranoid about his job. I thought his insistence on Lila having no contact with her new neighbors was way over the top. Lila wasn't a character I could relate to either. She misses her old job to the point where she is missing out on the fun of being a mom. This may be a good book for someone dealing with the same problem, but I found her inability to adapt rather selfish. In fact, they both seemed selfish.

This is a quick read and would work well for a young mother facing some of the same issues as Lila. However, I can't recommend it highly because the characters didn't seem real to me. Sam is too paranoid and Lila, while unhappy, doesn't try hard to work things out with him.

I received this book for Net Galley for this review.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The NTSB Searches for the Cause of a Fatal Airplane Accident

On a stormy night at Kansas City International Airport, Flight 170 waits for take-off to avoid the thunderstorms rolling through. Flight 255 is landing on the same runway. Due to wind-shear it misses the first approach and comes back to try again resulting in a horrific crash involving both flights.

NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board, investigator, Joe Wallingford, is assigned to investigate the crash. He arrives in Kansas City with his team to sift through the wreckage for clues to the accident, but in this case it's no easy task, and the pressure on Joe, both political and technical, is tremendous.

The first chapters of “Final Approach” are the best. The crash scene keeps you on the edge of your seat. The rest of the novel is more mundane, understandably, because it involves the technical investigation into the reason for the crash. I enjoyed the detail of how an NTSB investigation is conducted, but it's slow going at times.

Joe Wallingford is a good character. He loves his job and responds to the pressure in a very human way. Some of the other characters are good, but Joe is clearly the standout. I found the women in the novel more stereotypical than the men, and the love affairs, although they aren't a major part of the action, seem forced.

If you enjoy books with an aviation theme, this is a good one, but be prepared for technical detail and some repetition as the investigators work to solve the mystery.

I received this book from Open Road for this review.   

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Taking Advantage of a Clerical Error is Just Too Tempting

Tina Fontana is executive assistant to the high-powered executive, Robert Barlow. Barlow is a reasonable boss and Tina likes her job, but she feels like she's going nowhere. She still has a mountain of college debt so while Robert drinks expensive liquor and wears designer suits, she is scrimping to pay the rent each month.

Then a clerical error occurs, and she is faced with the prospect of enough money to pay off her debt. She struggles with temptation and tells herself it's a small amount and the company will never miss it. She doesn't intend to do something dishonest, but the money ends up in her bank account, and she pays off her debt. She thinks she's home free until another assistant finds out what she's done and together they begin to siphon money from the company.

This is an amusing book and one that will resonate with anyone who's been to college, seeing a bright future at the end of the tunnel, and them finding themselves in debt and in a dead-end job. Tina is a character you can empathize with as she struggles with her conscience. I thought the assistant who found her out was not as likable, but she makes a good foil for Tina.

I recommend this book. It's amusing, but it also addresses moral issues and the difficulties of relationships.

I received this book from the Penguin Group for review.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Dead Falconer, a Missing Falcon, and Murder

Frank Pavlicek's old friend and fellow falconer, Chester Carew, is found dead on his property, and his falcon Elo is missing. The police call it a hunting accident, but Chester's wife isn't convinced. She hires Frank to look into what happened. Franks doesn't want to take her money, but his curiosity is aroused by her banker, who tells her he'll front the money for the investigation.

Nicole, Frank's college student daughter, helps in the investigation. Jake, Frank's ex-partner also shows up, but there's something Jake doesn't want to share with Frank. Jake insists it isn't impacting the case, but Frank can't be sure.

This is an action packed mystery. As Frank questions the townsfolk, the body count mounts and Frank is attacked. It appears that this is no hunting accident, but the motive is unclear.

The setting in West Virginia is perfect for the story, and the sport of falconry adds substantially to the background. I enjoyed learning something about this interesting sport.

The plot moves quickly. Although the characters are stereotypical, the plot is what's important in the novel. Frank is a typical hard-boiled PI. He isn't a deep character, but his propensity to put himself in the middle of danger keeps the story rolling.

If you like hard-boiled PI mysteries, this is a good one.

I received this book from Brash Book for this review.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

An Immigration Story

Andres and Clara live in Mexico. Their father was working in Texas. When he fails to return, they and their mother are very sad. Their Aunt Elena arrives and takes the children to the United States. They are treated well, but their wish is for their mother to be with them.

This book begs many questions about what is happening under the surface of the story. What happened to the children's father? How did their aunt get United States passports for the children? How did their mother finally come to the US?

In light of the present discussions on the news and elsewhere about immigration, I think this book needs to be handled carefully if it is used in a classroom. Middle grade students, the audience for which the book is intended, know a great deal about what is happening in the world. They will ask questions and should receive answers that are as truthful as possible.

The book is well written and the drawings are delightful. However, I can't recommend this book because the story is too thin and leaves too many unanswered questions.

I received this book for review from PR by the Book.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Romance Blooms in the Aftermath of Tragedy

When Seth dies in a fall from the rafters of the woodworking shop where he is employed, he leaves behind two broken hearts. Veronica, his fiancé, is inconsolable, believing she'll never find another love. Jason, his best friend is riddled with guilt. He should have been there when Jason fell, but he was getting a drink of water.

Veronica tries to bury her sorrow in housecleaning and baking. When she finds her grandmother's raspberry pie recipe, her life takes on meaning again. Jason finds it harder to rid himself of guilt and on top of it, he finds himself attracted to Seth's fiancé, but does he dare speak to her?

This is a beautifully told love story. Veronica and Jason are believable characters and their grief, while severe, isn't over the top. In addition to the love story, this is a story of hope and how it is possible to work past the greatest tragedy and find happiness in life.

If you enjoy Amish romances, this is a good one. Even if you're not a fan, this one is worth reading for the message of hope.

I received this book for review from BookLook Bloggers.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Three Women's Lives Shaped by a Palatial Mansion

Three generations of women felt the mysterious pull of the Pratt mansion. In the late 1800s Olive's father designed and built the mansion for the Pratt family. When Pratt cheated him of his commission, he committed suicide, and Olive became a housemaid in the grand mansion that ruined her father.

In the 1920s Olive's daughter Lucy takes a room in the mansion that is now functioning as a boarding house for young ladies. She's determined to learn the secrets that tie her mother to the mansion. During WWII, Kate, Lucy's daughter, is a doctor working in the same mansion that is now functioning as a hospital to care for the wounded. She saves the life of a young captain, who is mysteriously tied to the mansion.

If you enjoy romantic family mysteries, this is a good one. Olive, Lucy and Kate are likable characters. Each brings her own personality to the story, although there is a strong family resemblance in the strength with which each woman faces her difficulties.

The mansion is a fascinating backdrop. The rooms are beautifully described, and all the clues to the family mystery are found in the mansion. In effect, the mansion becomes a character as much as a setting.

The story is told from three points of view. Lucy's and Olive's chapters are told in the third person. Kate's is told in the first person. The choice makes Kate's life seem more immediate and Lucy's and Olive's lives more like history.

I enjoyed the book. It's well written. Although the story moves slowly
in some places, it's worth pushing through to learn the family secrets.

I received this book for review from Net Galley.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Love, Death, and the Law

Ben Lewis is young for a judge. He was appointed by the governor as a favor to his dead father. Sometimes he doubts his ability as a judge and facing the most important trial of his career others do also. The trial concerns the murder of a beautiful woman. Her husband, who was drunk at the time, found her and immediately became the chief suspect. The case seems open and shut, but is it?

Ben has his own romantic problems being caught between two women, a desirable Swedish girl, and a sultry Mexican heiress. As Ben struggles with the trial and his personal demons, he faces the truth about himself and the law.

A Covenant with Death is more than a murder mystery, it's a psychological exploration of the meaning of life and the relation of law to society. The novel takes place in an unnamed Southwestern county in 1923. The atmosphere of heat and sand is a perfect backdrop for the ensuing action. I thought the author did an excellent job showing how the town's people react during the complex case.

Ben's character is well done. Although I often dislike books where the main character does a lot of soul searching, in this instance it was compelling. I also loved the character of his mother. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy a good murder mystery, but even more if you're interested in truth, innocence, and the limits of the law.

I received this book for review from Net Galley.  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Good Material for Beginners and More Advanced Painters

The first thing I noticed about this book is the skillful use of paintings to illustrate the points being made. This starts in the Foreword where Lundin uses his own paintings to illustrate how painting is a process of molding the picture until you've achieved the effect you want. Booker follows up on this theme in her use of demonstration paintings to illustrate the concepts she's presenting.

For the beginner, the first chapter is a tutorial on getting started. It gives a step by step presentation of how to start thinking about your painting and the basic skills necessary to start. Following this chapter, she devotes a chapter each to painting sky, terrain, trees and water. I found the examples illuminating and the steps easy to follow.

The final chapter is “Putting it All Together.” I think this chapter would be particularly valuable for more advanced artists. In this chapter she emphasizes the need to not only use technique, but also engage your intellect and imagination. This is the step that sets the artist apart from the skilled craftsman.

I highly recommend this book if you're interested in learning about oil painting. If you're a beginner or even an advanced painter, it can help you develop your technique and find new ways to think about the art of landscape painting.

I received this book for review from Blogging for Books.