Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Micro by Michael Crichton

If it wasn't for the occasional bad language this mystery/thriller could have been a science textbook for my youngest child. Combining fascinating information about the microscopic world of the Hawaiian rain forest, with fast paced drama and suspense, my son would have loved it. In fact, at the same time I was reading "Micro", he was reading "Gulliver's Travels" and enjoying it. "Micro" is the story of technology gone wrong. A robotics company discovers it can shrink people and objects down to microscopic size. Research can then be done to discover beneficial bacteria and other micro-organisms that could have an enormous impact on society and medicine. However, the possible financial gains bring out the worse in the developers. Money breeds greed and a group of graduate students learn the hard way that you don't want to get in the way of people with their eye on the treasure pot. This was a hard to put down book that I recommend with a warning about the odd bit of language and some violence.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Devil in the Milk by Keith Woodford

I took this book out of the library two times. The first time the title intrigued me, but I decided not to take on this health issue. It's bad enough to have to worry about raw milk vs pasturized milk. But A1 v A2 milk? Not going there. For 6 months or so anyways.

After listening to Mr. Woodford on a podcast a few months ago, I reserved the book one more time, resolving to settle the matter once and for all. (Once and for all? Can that ever be said about health stuff?) Warning - this author is a scientist. He speaks in scientist language. So while the book was certainly readable, there were times when my brain started to spasm and I had to set it aside for a while. I was very glad that he ended many chapters with a summary or "the big picture" as he called it.

Basically, the issue is that there are two types of cow's milk based on a particular milk protein called A1 beta-casein. Milk that contains A1 beta-casein is called A1 milk; milk that does not is called A2 milk. A genetic mutation thousands of years ago caused A2 milk (which all milk was at the time) to become A1 (primarily in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and northern Europe). After doing extensive research Mr. Woodford brings forth evidence that A1 milk contributes to heart disease, Type 1 diabetes, autism, allergies, intolerance, auto-immunity and schizophrenia. The amount of evidence is powerful. His argument had enough weight behind it to convince me that there is a very good chance that A1 milk should be avoided. However, in our country there is no way to tell what kind of milk you are getting, unless you are buying from a farmer who tests his cows. Milk from a dairy that pools product from a number of farms most certainly contains some of each type. The only way at this point to be assured of not drinking A1 milk is to drink goat milk. And so, that is what I am doing. I've made the big switch. My kefir and yogurt is now goat milk based and I am slowly getting used to it. In the meantime, I will monitor the situation. Getting a whole country on board to change over their herds to A2 will take persuasion on a level that boggles the mind. Or we could just move to Australia where A2 milk is available in the grocery store. Not sure my husband would agree to that.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Lady in the Attic by Tara Randel

A few weeks ago I was going through some painful times and needed a mindless read. Nothing to stretch the mind; nothing to make me think. "The Lady in the Attic" fit the bill perfectly. The old Victorian style house on the front brought back memories of all the gothic romances I read as a teenager. This mystery is set in Maine and the characters are simple and small-town, easy to get along with. The best thing - a knitting/needlework theme! Yes, the main character is a crocheter, with a famous needleworker grandmother who has left all her worldly goods to her granddaughter. Annie travels from Texas to Maine to deal with the estate. To pass some time while there she joins the local stitch group only to discover that there are underlying tensions among the women. In the house she has inherited Annie finds a hither-to unknown stitchery done by her grandmother of a mystery woman. When she reveals the piece to the women in the group, the tensions come to a head. The search is on to discover who the woman is and why it has been hidden. There are clues in the stitchery and Annie resolves to find out what they mean. Along the way she makes friends and uncovers old relationships of her grandmother. Admittedly I figured out the solution part way through the book. However, the plot was fun enough to keep on reading. How Annie solves her dilemmas of a jealous daughter, a resentful new acquaintance and a grieving heart carried me to the end. This is the first book of a series, so when another trying time comes along for me I will search out the sequels.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Noro by Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton

Noro yarn is well-known in knitting circles for its vibrant colours and earthy texture. What I didn't know was how environmentally friendly it is. Eisaku Noro, the humble man who came up with the yarn, stresses eco-friendly options in all phases of the yarn development. This is truly an organic yarn and explains why the price is higher than run-of-the-mill wool yarn. "Noro: Meet the man behind the legendary yarn" gave a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how the yarn is developed from sheep to shelf. The book also has 40 innovative patterns for clothing, accessories and home decor. I am now quite excited to start a new project - a Kureyon blanket. Of course, the chase is on - tracking down the elusive dyelot that I MUST have.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Folks, this ain't normal by Joel Salatin

Reading Joel Salatin books is like eating popcorn - you just can't stop once you start. Fortunately he has a quite a few out there, so it's possible to keep right on turning pages.

"Folks, this ain't normal" was so down-to-earth and common sense that I had to keep giving my head a shake. This man sees right through all the nonsense floating around in the food production/food industry business. We have lost our idea of what is normal, natural and nurturing. What is needed is for a generation to take Salatin's precepts to heart and turn the tide on abnormal.

FTAN takes on just about anything having to do with daily living from child raising to gardening/farming to where we get our water. Like his previous book that I reviewed in the summer each chapter ends with take-away points. Many are easily put into practice; others are ideals that will take years for our country to embrace. But you will always find something that you can do, right now, today, that will make a difference. Each person doing their bit in their own part of the universe will get the ball rolling to restore normalcy to society in general.

Child raising is chapter one, so I'll give an example of his practical advice to return to normal in the home.

1. Grow things...anything. Indoor grow lights are still magic, and can bring sunlight indoors for remarkable discoveries.
2. Lobby for more lenient child labor opportunities so that once again teens can do historically normal work.
3. Instead of going on a cruise or Disney vacation, how about choosing a working ranch experience for the family, or an extremely rustic wilderness adventure where you make some traps and hunt for food?
4. Brainstorm entrepreneurial child-appropriate businesses - hand crafts, repair, tutoring, calligraphy, customized invitations, cleaning homes, mowing lawns, picking up rocks, hoeing weeds. The list of possibilities could fill many pages. Don't underestimate the creativity and resourcefulness of your sixteen-year-old unleashed on the community. Stay out of the way and let her run.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Hurray! I've found a new series. For a linear thinker like myself there's nothing better than starting at book one and going through a series book by book. The Maze Runner was published in 2009, so it's been around for a while, but hasn't crossed my path before now. If you like The Hunger Games series, you'll probably like this as well. A young man finds himself transported to an unknown place, with all his memories erased. A group of young people already there are struggling to survive in a maze-like landscape that changes every day and is occupied by horrific creatures with poisonous spines.

Each day runners are sent out into the danger zone to try and figure out a pattern to the maze that will hopefully answer the question of why they are there and tell them how to get out. This was a hard-to-put-down book at a time when I should have been doing other things. I waited until it was finished before informing my son of its presence in the house so that I got to finish it before book #2 arrives on the library reserve shelf. There's a book 3 as well, so happy reading for a while.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory

What comes to mind when you think of a fast? If you’re like me, you think of not eating for a period of time. The Daniel Fast is something different. It is eating as Daniel (of the Holy Bible fame) ate while in exile in Babylon. He was being trained to serve in the royal palace. All the young men chosen were given a daily ration of food and wine from the king’s kitchen. Daniel and his three friends felt this food would defile them (pork? Wine?). In any case, they asked for permission to eat only vegetables and water for a trial period of 10 days. At the end of the time they were evaluated and found to be healthier and better nourished than the other men who had eaten the more rich food. So the vegetable diet continued, supposedly for the duration of the three year training time. Susan Gregory contends that by following a similar eating plan and focusing on your spiritual life and prayer life during a set time, you can become closer to God.

The book is very well laid out. The first few chapters deal with the whole idea of fasting – what it is and isn’t. She talks about why and how to fast in the Daniel manner. A whole chapter is devoted to the background of Daniel and his experience in Babylon. Chapter four focuses on the spiritual aspects of the fast. Chapter five helps you plan and prepare. The rest of the book covers the foods you can and can’t eat, recipes, a 21 day menu plan and 21 day devotional. All in all, everything you need to pull off the fast.

In case the book itself isn't enough, there is also a website with further information and support, a blog, and other resources. I ended up ordering the digital devotional/journal for a nominal price.

In order to fully give an opinion of the Daniel Fast I decided to give it a 10 day try. Here are my observations:

1. I found the devotional and journaling to be most valuable “take away” of the fast.

2. I struggled with Gregory’s assertations that this was such a healthy diet. Coming from a paleo perspective, statements saying that a vegan diet is most healthy go against what I believe.

3. Through the online experience I seemed to see a big emphasis on making good tasting food. To me, this takes away from the point of the fast, which is to be making a sacrifice. To Susan’s credit I did read something of hers that clarified that an emphasis on food was to be avoided.

4. All processed food was to be cut out. Tofu was allowed. I couldn’t see the rationale with that.

5. It was hard to maintain the vegetables only diet while continuing to feed a family. I couldn’t expect them to eat what I wanted to.

6. Almost the first day of the fast I was confronted with communion. The bread and the juice were not on the accepted list. However, I decided that God would not look unfavourably on me for taking communion and went ahead with it.

7. There seemed to be a following that was especially interested in the weight loss factor of the diet. Again, I think that this distracts from the spiritual connection you are hoping to make. (did I lose weight you ask? I refused to check 'cause this wasn't my point)

Bottom line? If you are interested in exploring the spiritual disciplines this might be a good place to start. There is lots of support and the book makes easy reading and is a great guideline to follow. No matter how long you choose to “fast” you will probably end up taking some forward steps in your spiritual life.

I was given this book to review for Tyndale House Publishers.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis

Are you tired of the same old Christmas stories year after year? “Miracle and Other Christmas Stories” by Connie Willis breaks out of the mold. Think “The Ghost of Christmas Past” with a twist. Imagine being locked in a store toy department for time eternal. What if Mary and Joseph came looking for Bethlehem in this time period? Murder at Christmas time? The dreaded Christmas newsletter - you’ve never read about aliens at Christmas before. This is Christmas with a science fiction flavour. Short stories that will pique your interest and provide several hours of Christmas fun and enjoyment. Included at the back are 12 recommended reads of the season and 12 recommended videos to watch.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Poke the Box by Seth Godin

Catchy covers. Bite-sized paragraphs. Truth bombs. Seth Godin has a way of making you uncomfortable with the status quo. If you like this kind of uncomfortable because it pushes you to move forward, you’ll keep on reading his material. If you just find him weird, the books will hold no appeal. For myself, I can’t get enough of him. “Poke the Box” challenges us to take initiative wherever we are and start “stuff”. Do it differently; raise your hand; take a chance; what will happen if I (fill in the blank).

The book inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and do something that I was worrying about creating a stir with. So what if it fails? So what if people don’t understand? If more people took the ideas in this book seriously we’d have a rush of action. This isn’t just for big business. It can make an impact on your personal life as well. Go ahead – poke the box. You know you want to.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Besides the Bible by Gibson, Green and Pattison

“Besides the Bible” is an enabler book. Subtitled “100 books that have, should, or will create Christian culture”, each chapter had me putting must read books onto my wish list. In fact, what I wanted to do was pull a “Julie and Julia” and read them all in one year. (2 a week!???) When my pulse stopped racing, good sense kicked in and a life-long goal seemed more rational.

We are, indeed, shaped by what we read (or watch or the people we hang with). So if my goal is become a stronger, more committed Christian, reading the books that strong, committed Christians wrote seems like a no-brainer. Alongside the Bible, this compilation would be a good guide to steering through the congested waters of Christian publishing.

Written by Dan Gibson, Jordan Green and John Pattison, the essays are not bland, boring reviews. These men are passionate about the written word and words written about God and the things of God, in particular.

I’m off to buy this book – a good start to a good year of reading.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lincoln's Dreams by Connie Willis

This was the first ebook read on my new Kobo touch! Yah! I loved the experience. A friend said that reading on a reader makes you faster. I might have to agree with that.

“Lincoln’s Dreams” by Connie Willis was not a hard sell for me. She is one of my favourite authors. A disclaimer for the book, though. I don’t believe in this stuff; I just enjoy reading science fiction. That said - the book was fascinating. If the dead could dream, what would they dream about? Could their dreams affect the living? Direct the living? Can the living direct the dreams of the dead?

What I like most about Willis’s books is all the history you absorb alongside a riveting story. In “Lincoln’s Dreams” Jeff, a researcher looking into small details about the Civil War, meets Annie, who is tormented by bad dreams. Her psychiatrist is convinced that she is having one medical problem after another, but as the story unfolds it becomes clearer to Jeff and Annie that the dreams tell a tale closer to real life, albeit, past life. Interesting facts about the civil war, General Lee and Abraham Lincoln wove their way through this science fiction/love story. Apparently this was Connie Willis’s first book – I’m glad she wrote it and so glad she kept on writing.