Saturday, December 31, 2016

Born on a Blue Day

by Daniel Tammet

I thoroughly enjoyed the first part of this book; the part about Daniel's childhood.  And then I didn't care as much and/or the holidays brought on their distractions - company and sickness.   Whatever happened I decided not to finish the last few chapters.

I've read some criticism about the writing but the fact that it wasn't a beautiful work of prose did not bother me.  It seemed more real to Daniel's personality.

Speaking of real.  I read a review that Tammet may not be an authentic autistic savant.  I hope that's not true but I don't care enough at this point to search further.  I may keep my ears poised to discover more but that's it.

Sleep Wise: How to Feel Better, Work Smarter, and Build Resilience

by Daniel Jin Blum

Lots of good information on why we need sleep and how sleep works.  There's some science thrown
in these chapters but explained easily enough for the layman.  I enjoyed knowing the science behind our sleep and what is actually suppose to happen during a good night's sleep and what happens when we don't get the sleep we need.  The author recommends a sleep assessment and then provides some sound advise on how to improve our time in bed.  Many of these I already do, such as use bed for sleep only - no reading, watching t.v., etc.  I usually wait for 40-50 minutes before getting outing of bed without going to sleep.  Blum suggests only 20 min.  And I never lay in bed if I wake up in the middle of the night and can't go back to sleep.  I'm anxious to implement the incremental time change for waking up - wake up 15 minutes earlier for a week and then go to 30 min. 

I recommend Sleep Wise to anyone wanting to know more about what happens when we sleep, what we are sacrificing when we don't sleep well, and what we can do to improve the quality of our sleep.  As a major insomniac I appreciated the concrete suggestions on how to improve my sleep.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Church of Spilled Blood

by Jesse Miles

I did not finish this book.  Even though the storyline was interesting, the writing was stilted and there were too many characters.  I probably would have persevered but the language turned raunchy.  That tipped the scales for me.

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from Author Buzz and NetGalley.  This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Future Humans: Inside the Science of Our Continuing Evolution

by Scott Solomon

As a retired high school biology teacher I found this book compelling.  With some nonfiction books, even ones you enjoy, you don't always feel compelled to pick it up and read because there are always fun mysteries or interesting dramas tugging at you to read them instead.   I found myself uninterested in reading a novel during the time I read Future Humans.  Every time I set it down I wanted to hurry with my chores and so I could get back to it.

That said, I don't know that this book will interest a large audience.  It is very science-y, but in an interesting way.  If you are familiar with the basics of cells and DNA you will do fine.  I learned so much.  One of the reasons I read is to cause more connections between my brain cells.  I could almost feel a few of them glowing at times!

Now that the Human Genome Project is finished researcher are starting a program to map the DNA of all the bacteria and other tiny creatures that live inside and on humans.  Humans living in urban situations tend to have the least diversity of microorganism.  Everywhere else in nature it is better to have great diversity.  Have we killed off so much of our good bacteria that we won't be able to adapt to a crisis?  Just one of the interesting topics discussed.  I've read for years about building up good bacteria in our guts and I take a probiotic every day in hopes of doing that.

There's a section about sexual selection that was interesting.  Also, what is technology doing to aid and hinder reprodution of the species.

Future Humans gives a great overview and provides a good basis to hook future information.  I'd highly recommend to anyone who reads the jacket and feels some interest in this subject. 

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from The Yale University Press and NetGalley.  This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Gratitude Diaries

by Janice Kaplan

Loved this book.  I've read several self-help books over the years and this is one of my favorite.  Kaplan's writing is engaging, as is her research and practical application.  Several summers ago I kept a gratitude journal and felt my life was extremely blessed.  I suppose the busy-ness of teaching lured me from that practice but now that I am retired I am grateful for the reminder this book provided.  I dug out my languishing journal and reread the entries which took me back to that lovely time in my life.

Kaplan shares her experiences of implementing gratitude into her life.  Along the way she shares insights from professionals and lay persons who specialize in how gratitude affects the mind, body, and soul.  She begins each chapter with a quote - one of my favorite things in a book.  I marked this book well and will enjoy reading these passages over from time to time.  This passage from Kaplan expresses were most of us are with the concept of gratitude:  "It's as if there were a magical happiness rock sitting in the middle of a field and half of us didn't even bother to go over and pick it up.  I was one of the people running around that field and never getting near the magic stone.  I knew it was there.  I kept thinking about it.  But something always got in the the way."

Another qualifier of a good book, for me, is if it teaches me something.  The Gratitude Diaries introduced me to Candace Pert, who as a young graduate student discovered the first opiate receptor.  I spent that day googling Ms Pert and learning more about her.  And, of course, that trail forked here and there on the internet and led me to the study of epigenitics, which I've been interested in for the last couple of years.  When links connect in my mind it makes me very happy.  Gratitude can actually change the expression of our DNA by sending out peptides that signal the making of certain proteins.  I would prefer that the proteins my DNA makes are those that promote happiness and good health.  If expressing gratitude and feeling gratitude does than I want to encourage those practices in my life.

I highly recommend this book.

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from The Penquin Group and NetGalley.  This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Nightingale

by Kirsten Hannah

I feel like I've read my fair share of WWII literature and had decided I wasn't going to read any more.  I was tempted to read The Nightingale when I kept hearing so much about it but I'd already read Kristen Hannah's Winter Garden in 2012 and, even though I liked it, I shied away from another WWII novel, especially one by an author I'd already read.

Obviously, I finally gave in and read The Nightingale.  I think it was an offering on Pixel of Ink, or one of those type emails, and I couldn't resist when the price was low and the ratings high.

Set against the backdrop of Germany invading France, is the story of two sisters who experienced a childhood tragedy that created feelings of injustice, guilt, abandonment and animosity between them.  

I highly recommend The Nightingale.  

Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall

by Shannon Kirk

I loved this book.  As with most books I loved reading, I am having a difficult time finding the right words and thoughts to describe The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall.

The story is mostly told from Vivienne's point of view as she lies dying in a hospital bed.  Although she is in immense pain and is, almost completely, covered in casts she is well cared for by a male nurse who reads another woman's journal to her and helps her cope with her pain in humorous ways.  Marty is a delightful character with story of his own that is revealed too quickly.  One of my only complaints is that I wish his story would have taken more time to reveal itself.

So here we are in the hospital shifting from Vivienne's telling of a childhood friendship that blossoms into true love with Noah, to the woman's journal - this woman had been in a year-long coma but had just recently died under Marty's care, Marty's story, Vivienne's retelling of moments in her life with important people, her visits to these people's "heavens" in an attempt to choose what she wants her heaven to be like.  Her escort to these different heavens is her boyhood sweetheart, Noah.

Occasionally, there are notes dated and written by Vivienne's son, Ivan, who mentions often about rereading a favorite childhood book every year on his mother's birthday.  Ivan's birth father, Jack, is a remarkable man who is married to another woman.  He felt great remorse for being unfaithful to his wife.  Vivienne loves him immensely because of his goodness and the wonderful father he is to Ivan.

As I read back over this review it sounds like there is a lot going on.  And there is.  Even more than I've written about. I didn't even mention Vivienne's mother and her best friend, who is Noah's mother.  However, all these stories are easy to keep track of and each has a richness that adds to the overall elegance of this novel.

The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall has depth of meaning and beauty.  I feel like I need to reread it, now that I know the story, and focus of the symbolism and different layers of meaning.  It was such a captivating story and so easy to read that I only paused occasionally to appreciate the beauty of the words.  I think it is a lovely, endearing, heartbreaking, and hopeful story of love, life, death, heaven, hell, caring, and perspective.

I strongly recommend this book and would love to hear others' thoughts about their experience with this story.  

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reputation Books and  Net Galley.  This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**