Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Nine Principles for Improving Your Health

Effortless Healing is a well researched book written by a qualified health practitioner. Dr. Marcola has had success treating patients with his nine principles for health. The principles include information on: drinking water, eating veggies, burning fat for fuel, exercise, the sun and vitamin D, your biome and your gut, sleep, going barefoot, and avoiding some health foods. It’s all good advice, but I wouldn’t use the adjective “effortless” to apply to much of it. If you’re familiar with Interval Training, which Dr. Mercola suggests is a good form of exercise, you know it takes a great deal of effort and desire to keep at it.

While I agree with most of what Dr Marcola says, I do caution the reader to get additional sources. Many medical studies are cited, but like most medical studies, they are correlational. This type of study allows you to see two or more factors appearing together, but you can’t say what the underlying cause is.

I also have a problem with arguing from how wonderful the diet of our ancestors was. Contaminated food and water have been available for a very long time. I agree that we are doing things to contaminate the soil, water, and air, but we also have increased longevity well beyond what most people could expect throughout history. Because we're living longer, we're also seeing more age related diseases. 

I enjoyed the book, but I don’t think Dr. Marcola makes the case for effortless health. Like most things worth having, it takes work and dedication.

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

The First Tume Aaron and Shoshana Work Together

The Samson Team is in trouble. A mission was poorly executed and now they’re saddled with Shoshana, a disgraced agent. Because of their past errors, the team has been given a task outside the Mossad. If they fail,they can be disowned.

The task is to kill a former Nazi living in Argentina. It seems a relatively simple hit, but when Shoshana, through her psychic abilities, perceives another plot shaping up, the task of the Samson Team becomes more complicated.

This short story tells of the first time Shoshana and Aaron worked together. I liked both characters and could see why Taylor decided to keep them in the series although he originally planned to kill them off.

If you’re a fan of Taylor and the Taskforce, this is a must read. It’s also a good introduction to the series. The writing is good and the action keeps you on the edge of your seat.

I received this story from Dutton for this review.  

Bullying, Loss, Freedom, and Friendship

Bullying by Hollis is the terror of Robert’s school days. The start of eight grade is worse than ever, Hollis decides to flush him down the toilet. Robert has an unlikely rescuer, Nathan, the new boy in school. The incident results in parents being called to school to deal with the problem. Robert’s parents are willing to back off, but Nathan’s dad is having none of it. Bullying is wrong and he calls the principal on it.

From this beginning, Robert and Nathan become fast friends. They stick together through personal loss and all the angst of teenage boys growing up and learning about the world. Robert is timid, but Nathan prizes freedom. He wants to fly like the kites his father makes.

The novel is filled with the joy of friendship and the tragedy of loss. The characters are very well conceived. Hollis gives you someone to dislike and Nathan is someone you’d like to have for a friend. I enjoyed the book. The juxtaposition between everyday life, friendship, and tragedy is a heavy mixture. It keeps you reading.

I highly recommend this coming of age story. The setting is well done and the characters come to life.

I received this book from Penguin for this review.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Queen Victoria Comes to Life as a Real Woman

For a scholarly biography, this book reads more like fiction than a dry historical text. Victoria was a head-strong, decisive woman who enjoyed life and took her job of ruling the British Empire very seriously. Although this book covers her role as a monarch, it also shows her as a woman who was madly in love with her husband, Prince Albert, gave birth to nine children, and as an elderly widow had a relationship with another man, John Brown.

I have read several biographies of Queen Victoria, but this one is my favorite. I particularly enjoyed seeing the difficult relationship she had with her mother and her mother's lover. Some biographies skim over her early life, but getting a good look at how Victoria was treated by the pair who wanted to remain in power is illuminating.

The book is quite long, around 500 pages, but it's so well written and entertaining it keeps you reading. Another bonus in this book comes from the author's use of previously unpublished sources. Victoria kept extensive diaries and copies of her correspondence. Her youngest daughter, Beatrice, came into possession of these documents and was horrified. She felt they presented her mother in a bad light, so she rewrote as much as possible and destroyed parts she felt were particularly bad. However, before the archivists gave the material to Beatrice they photographed the pages. The author was lucky enough to get permission to use this material in the biography. The result is that Victoria is much more real than the picture of a chubby, stern-faced, woman dressed in black.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.  

Murder in the Open House from Hell

Sam Turner feels more secure as a real estate agent. Her boss Everett Sweet seems to think well of her. When he assigns her an open house in Arlinda's most exclusive neighborhood, she thinks she's arrived. She evens dreams of selling the house during the open house, although Everett says no one in the agency has been able to do that.

Sam arrives at the home full of plans, but nothing comes off the way it's supposed to. None of the potential customers are interested in buying the house. One brings a dog with fleas, another wants to be sure the new owner will take care of the trees on the property line, and a couple steal all the precious objects setting around. However, the worst comes when Sam decides to bake cookies and finds a finger in the refrigerator, which leads to a body in the back yard.

The characters are the best part of this cozy mystery. Arlinda abounds in zany residents, and Sam fits right in. She tries hard, but everything she touches seems to have a hilarious hidden problem. The mystery is hard to guess. The author drops clues along the way, but it takes until the end of the book to put them all together.

If you enjoy cozy mysteries this is a good one.

I received this book from Net Galley and Random House for this review.  

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Joys and Challenges of Renovating a House in a Foreign Country

Frances Mayes discovered a rundown villa, Branasole in the Tuscan town of Cortona and fell in love with the house and the area. Purchasing a house in a foreign country can be difficult. Buying one that is is need of significant repair is a challenge.

Although nervous about her purchase, Frances went ahead with it and grew to love the house and the area. I enjoyed the discussion of how she found workmen to make the house livable and return it to something like it’s former glory. It wasn’t easy or cheap, but it was rewarding.

The prose is lyrical. I love the descriptions of Tuscany. It made me want to visit, if not to buy a house, at least to stay for an extended period. The descriptions of the food and wine make you want to go the kitchen and try some of the dishes. Fresh produce is available in quantity and learning to cook the special dishes of the area sounds intriguing.

This book is not just about renovating a house and falling in love with an area. It’s also the story of how Frances recovered from a mid-life divorce and how facing the challenges helped her grow. I
recommend this book if you enjoy the Italian countryside and food.

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Murder and Romance in Maine’s Blueberry Barrens

Kate Mason grew up in the blueberry barrens. Her mother owns the land, but since she’s in jail, it falls to Kate to keep the blueberry business flourishing. Unfortunately, with limited funds, she was unable to rent honey bee hives. The bushes didn’t get pollinated and there aren’t enough berries to sell.

Drake Newham is grieving for his brother and sister-in-law who were killed not far from Kate’s blueberry farm. Left with his two nieces, he decides to come to Maine to try to solve the puzzle of his brother’s death. The authorities are convinced it was murder-suicide, but Drake can’t believe his brother would kill his wife.

Kate’s and Drake’s lives converge when he rents a cottage near her home. He also needs a nanny for his nieces, and Kate is eager to get the work. As the pair work together to solve the mystery, their attraction grows.

As a romance, this is a good book. The characters are realistic, and their love grows in a natural way. I did think the story was told from too many view points. Kate and Drake are the main focus of action, but we also have Claire, Kate’s twin sister, Luke, her husband, and even the killer as main characters in different chapters.

I felt the plot was more complex than necessary and detracted from the love story. Not only is there a killer trying to clean up after the murder of Drake’s brother and his wife, but Paul, Kate’s uncle, is out of prison and poses a threat to Claire and possibly Kate. In addition there is a stalker, who has targeted Kate. I think the book would have been stronger if the plot were less diluted.

The Maine scenery is beautifully done. I thought the descriptions were one of the highlights of the book. If you enjoy romance and suspense, try this book.

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review.

A Luxury Hotel Near the Grand Canyon Hides Bribery, Intimidation, and Murder

Jacob Smalls, a travel writer, is feeling down. He’s divorced and now he's lost his very attractive travel writer girl friend, Jewel Rider. He’s always known that Jewel is fickle and not above using her beauty and wit to get sources to give her information.

This time she seems to be after a story about Gus Greenbaum’s luxury hotel near the Grand Canyon. Gus is a gangster known for bribery and intimidation. Jacob thinks Jewel may be getting in over her head, so he follows her to the Grand Canyon on a publicity trip to Gus’ hotel.

I found this book difficult to get into. Jacob is not a compelling character. He seems a bit mean following Jewel with the idea of possibly taking over her story.

The interesting part of the book is reading about the Grand Canyon and the environmental challenges posed in keeping the Canyon as a beautiful, natural spot as opposed to the desire of entrepreneurs to make money on the natural beauty.

I can’t recommend this book highly. But if you enjoy reading about the problems of keeping a natural location intact for everyone to enjoy, you may like
this book.

I received this book from Alibi and NetGalley for this review.

Juliette and Pete are Pulled into a Case of Missing Young Women

Things are going well for Juliette. Her romance with Ryder is heating up and the coffee house, Java Jive, is doing well. Then Ryder is promoted to Homicide. Juliette hates it that he will be hunting dangerous killers. It becomes personal when her neighbor Chelsea, a college student, goes missing and Ryder is assigned to the case.

Tensions become higher when Kira, a Java Jive employee, goes missing during her shift. Ryder is preoccupied with his case and definitely wants Juliette to stay out of the latest disappearance, but Kira is an employee and Juliette and Pete become involved with looking for her.

Of the three Java Jive mysteries, this is my favorite so far. Pete and Juliette and becoming closer. It seems like they belong together. The romance with Ryder turns sour, but since Pete is there it isn’t such a blow to Juliette.

The plot is one of the best. It’s hard to unravel the events to find the murderer. The author does a good job of giving just the right amount of information to move your suspicions from one character to the next.

I love the coffee house setting. You feel like you’re a part of the warm, family atmosphere of Java Jive. If you like cozy mysteries, this is a good one.

I received this book from Alibi and Net Galley for this review.

Maggie Dove Encounters Witchcraft and Murder

After solving one murder, Maggie and her friends, Agnes and Helen, have opened their own detective agency. They know little about being detectives, but that doesn’t deter them. Since both Helen and Agnes have other jobs, the task of keeping the agency running falls to Maggie.

She’s alone in the office when Racine Stern, a daughter of one of the richest families in town, seeks out their services. Her sister, Domino, is planning a visit. Racine wants to pay the agency a thousand dollars if Maggie will undertake to convince Domino not to come. Domino is involved in witchcraft and other unsavory activities. Racine is afraid for herself and her invalid mother if Domino and her husband, Lucifer, come to stay.

Maggie is a strange character to be running a detective agency. She’s a Sunday school teacher who has been immersed in grief for years over the death of her daughter. In this novel, she starts to come out of her shell, but she’s still quite rigid in her beliefs. She turns down Racine’s job because she thinks the prodigal should be welcomed home. Her partners are not so sure. In fact, Agnes is furious.

The plot is focuses on dysfunctional family relationships, witchcraft and finally, murder. I find it a little difficult to see the very proper Maggie involved in stalking a killer, but the author makes it reasonably believable.

If you like cozy mysteries this is an interesting one with an unusual heroine.

I received this book from Alibi and Net Galley for this review.