{Review}: The Prime by Kulreet Chaudhary

Thursday, February 11, 2016

What was it that possessed me to request this book for review? I don't normally pick diet books, preferring to read actual literature and knowing that most of what it inside diet books is freely available on the Internet. Maybe it was the phrase "spontaneous weight loss." Maybe it's because I caught up in the "new year" frenzy to do something, anything differently than how I was doing it before. Who knows?
It's not a secret that I struggle with my weight, and I know I'm not alone. More specifically, I struggle with cravings. Overall, my day to day diet is not terrible. It's a mostly vegetarian diet with actual vegetables in it. I don't eat a lot of processed food. Give me sugar and carbs, though and it feels like I've gone out of my mind. Even when I'm mindful of what is happening, I have to slap my own hand to come to my senses. If you remember, awhile back, I reviewed Gretchen Rubin's Better than Before. In that book, I learned that I am an Abstainer. As long as I don't have even one piece, I'm not tempted. But give me a taste, and all is lost.
The sticking point is those cravings. If I could master control over those, I think I'd be golden. The Prime , written by a neurologist, is based on the premise that you need to first "prime" or cleanse your body of the things that cause cravings. The word "cleanse" always gives me pause-- was this going to be another bit of quackery that required me to spend a shitload of money on mystery powders that make nasty shakes full of who knows what from who knows where?
That misperception died pretty quickly once Chaudhary explained that rather than changing or overhauling or eliminating things for your daily diet, you tap into Ayurvedic principles of eating, using ingredients commonly found in Indian households. She recommends using a combination of spices and herbs to clear out your gut and improve your gut health, drinking bone broth, and ingesting only warm foods and drinks. She also tethers physical well-being to mental well-being.
The first part of the book, when Chaudhary tells the story of how she came back to Ayurvedic principles after being derailed when she became a teenager, ditching her family's traditional diet for a more American one, a habit that followed her to college and beyond, is compelling and engaging. After that, Chaudhary delves into the tradition behind Ayurvedic principles and how it applies in a weight loss context, which I found fascinating and useful. After that, it became hard to maintain focus and I found myself fast-forwarding to the sections where she describes implementation because it becomes repetitive at some points. Overall, the book was a good read, and because of Chaudhary's credentials, it seems more creditable than other diet books out there. I suppose the true measure of the book's worth comes from trying out The Prime, and seeing what happens. Here goes nothing.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books, for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links. 

{Review}: Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen

Saturday, January 30, 2016

This is my first experience with an Anna Quindlen novel. She's an author that is on my radar but somehow, none of her books made it to my TBR list. When this book came up on NetGalley, I admit that I judged this book by it's beautiful cover, so I leapt at the chance to read my first Anna Quindlen novel. I only wish now that I had a paper copy of this book. (The book is available for pre-order and will be released on April 5th of this year.)

Mimi Miller, of Miller's Valley, comes from a respected but not wealthy family in a town that is being eyed by the government for a dam project. As the threat of both natural and intentional flooding looms, the people of Miller's Valley carry on, living out their lives and waiting for the inevitable, doing nothing to speed it up or slow it down. This is not a novel full of dramatic twists and turns, though there are moments where the reader does feel that it might go that way. This confirms my belief that, despite what reality shows and the evening news would have you think, most people live perfectly ordinary lives, full of triumphs, joys and tragedies. This is a novel about one human experience, that while we may not be able to relate to setting or time or plot, we can certainly relate to on a higher level-- reaching crossroads in our lives that force us to choose a direction, to shun or embrace opportunity.

With it's rich imagery, expertly drawn characters and Mimi's storytelling voice, I found myself immersed in her world, not willing to leave until I knew the outcome. I will say that I found much of the ending to be superfluous and long-winded, but that does nothing to damper my enjoyment of this novel.

I received a e-galley of this book for review purposes from NetGalley.  

{Review}: Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Stop me if you've heard this before. It's been a long time since I wrote a blog post. I don't what the point of this is anymore. etc. etc. etc. 

The point is that sometimes I have things I want to say and I like to share them, and hope other people don't mind too much. Actually, I started a blog post earlier this month about my new Word of the Year but then I got interrupted by needy children, and when I went back to finish many days later, I FORGOT WHAT MY WORD OF THE YEAR WAS GOING TO BE. No joke. I think it was going to be Patience, but I'm not 100% sure about that. I'm hoping I have it written down somewhere. Anyway, let's move on because this post is supposed to be a book review.

I'm the most annoying kind of writer--the kind of writer that thinks about writing all the time but never actually writes anything. I love to read about writing, which is why I requested a review copy of Dinty W. Moore's Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy.  (Two things: Sorry, Blogging for Books, for taking so long! And also, sorry, Mr. Moore, I'd never heard of you before reading this book...) It seemed like a fun book and I totally was judging this book by its cover when I hit the request button. I finally picked it up the other day, resisting the siren call of my iPhone and Two Dots to whip through the book. I finished it in two days, which apparently passes for "whipping through" these days, though in the past, it meant mere hours. Whatever.
The premise of the book is that writers wrote in their questions about essay writing to Mr. Moore, and Mr. Moore wrote letters back, each followed by an essay written by way of example. It took me awhile to decide whether the letters were real, and as of this writing, I'm still not sure... BUT I really admire the way Mr. Moore was able to crank out these neat little essays to demonstrate the various conundrums presented by advice seekers. Sometimes I give away the books I get for review, but I'm keeping this one on my shelf as inspiration. You really can write an essay about absolutely anything and I would be well-served by the reminder every time I feel like I have nothing to write about.

{I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. This post contains affiliate links.} 

Homecoming, Soon.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

I feel like this coming week and last week are harder than the six months behind us. Henry's homecoming is so close and yet, so far! 

I kind of feel like I should have some profound things to say about being on my own for six months with three kids but I got nothing. 

These six months have  affirmed for me that self-care is important, that mommy martyrdom is for the birds. I have zero patience for whining, for tantrums, for little kids who seem hell-bent on making my life more difficult. I also don't have much patience with myself, and while I'm good at getting alone time or adult time, I'm not good at developing and keeping healthy habits. It's the first thing to go when things are chaotic and there are demands on my time and attention. 

Things I'm terrible at:
1. Going to bed not late
2. Reading books instead of being online 
3. Housekeeping
4. Discipline
5. Self-control 

Things I'm good at:
1. Thinking instead of doing
2. Not giving a damn when the kids complain about dinner
3. Book piles
4. Making popcorn 
5. Procrastinating 

I added those two lists because I couldn't think of anything to write. How do people write so damn much? My train of thought peters out after a paragraph. Now I know how my intervention kids feel. I saw this funny thing on Facebook that went something like this: 
Develops plot in shower.
Creates character as she gets dressed.
Writes whole story in her head at breakfast. 
Gets in front of computer and is all " wut r werds?" 

That is me right there. *sigh*

Escape from Here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Books have always been my escape. As a hearing impaired child, and now as a hearing impaired adults, books are the one place where I'm never out of the loop. Everyday conversation is tiring because I expend so much energy just listening and processing everything I'm hearing, and making up for what I can't hear. My brain is constantly using its powers of deductive reasoning to fill in blanks. There are so many variables that affect the quality of my interactions with people-- a female voice is often easier to understand than a male voice, people mumble or cover their mouths when they speak, they look away while speaking, they don't enunciate, background noise interferes with my ability to discern speech, if I have a cold and I'm congested, I can't hear, if my hearing aids need to be adjusted, I can't hear.
But in a book, none of that matters. The only thing that trips me up is an unknown word here or there that I can look up in a dictionary. I can follow all the conversations and never feel lost (unless the writing just plain sucks, in which case, the book goes back on the shelf...). There are no awkward moments caused by answering a question with something from left field.
Books are a time-honored prescription for anyone that does not fit in a certain box. Whatever ails you, there's a book that'll make you feel like you belong, a book that won't judge you, a book that'll make you feel included and keep you in the loop.
I wanted to end this post with a list of books aimed at specific ailments, a la The Little Paris Bookshop but the truth is, I devour the books, take what I need from them, and then move on to the next one, so I'd be hard-pressed to proffer a list of books off the top of my head--the downside of being a escape artist, I guess. But you can take this neat Book Apothecary for a spin and see what comes up! Just click the book cover below.

Click the book to try out the apothecary! 

Disclosure: This post was inspired by the novel The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, where Monsieur Perdu--a literary apothecary--finally searches for the woman who left him many years ago.. Join From Left to Write on October 8th as we discuss The Little Paris Bookshop. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links. 

{Review}: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

Thursday, September 10, 2015

I have so many thoughts about this book, it's hard to know where to begin.

First, I have to confess that though I knew of Salman Rushdie, thanks to his notoriety, this is the first book of his I've actually read. And now, I'm wondering what I've been missing all this years. I was only a few pages into this stunning novel before I knew I'd be adding his other titles to my TBR list.

Let me also say this: the older I get, the more pleasure I get out of reading. Being able to bring my 36 years of experience with the world makes reading a much richer experience as I'm able to pick up on cultural allusions and subtexts that would go over the heads of younger, less experience readers.

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is what I would call magical realism, is an allegory for our times. Rushdie rips off the veil of complacency, so that we can not ignore, or unsee, the terrible things that the human race has wrought upon itself. We cannot absolve ourselves of our responsibility  and cannot use ignorance as an excuse. Here are our choices: we change, we fight to change or we accept the terrible state of the world and let it lie. We can leave the mess for someone else, in some other time, if we want to. The consequences for all those choices are dire. It's a case of damned if we do, damned if we don't.

In this book, the worst thing that happens is truth-telling. It's the thing that knocks down the house of cards, and does everyone in. The truth-teller takes an unexpected, but not surprising, form.
A few weeks ago, right when I was getting into the thick of this book, I was driving my usual route home that takes me down a winding, sylvan road lined with modest and not-so-modest homes. And I struck by a terrible thought:
Behind closed doors in every town in America, horrible, unspeakable things are happening everyday and we just don't know until we know. Then, we take a collective gasp and ask, "how could this happen right in front of us?" 
Indeed. How could it? And what is our responsbility?

Besides the allegorical message, readers will be taken in by the powerful imagery, the explicit character development, the stream-of-consciousness pace of the storytelling. I have the ebook but will be getting a paper copy for my shelf, to be re-read in a few years. It feels prophetic, this book.

{I received a  complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley for review purposes.  This post contains affiliate links.}

{Review}: Everyday Detox by Megan Gilmore

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

 Last month, my sister and I did this cleanse by a doctor that shall not be named. The cleanse itself wasn't so terrible-- a shake hree times a day, plus two light meals, which is about all I have time for anyway these days. But the shake was pretty gross, plus the vitamins that had to be taken with each meal made me nauseous. (I'll spare you the details of the time that I threw up in the bathroom at a hibachi restaurant ON MY DAUGHTER'S BIRTHDAY.) In any case, I stopped using the shakes and the vitamins but stuck to the basic idea of the cleanse, which included the usual no-nos: no dairy, no eggs, no caffeine, no wheat, no nightshades. It wasn't that hard but none of the meals were satisfying.

Why do a cleanse anyway? I always joke that we all already have a detoxer-- the liver! But a detox cleanse is a way of pressing the restart button on your eating habits, if they've gone awry, or to learn some good habits in the first place, if you've been inhaling ho-hos and chugging quarter water since you came out of the womb.  After the cleanse I did last month, I did feel pretty good, especially without dairy, which I've finally accepted is not good for me or my sinuses. I wanted to keep up with the "detoxing" but I needed something more substantial than two light meals a day, which basically amounts to a salad with some protein on it. Boring.

When Everyday Detox by Megan Gilmore, the blogger behind Detoxinista came across my radar, I was immediately taken in by the front cover. I didn't know what it was but it looked delicious. This was the kind of detox diet plan I could get behind. I wasn't familiar with Megan's blog at this point though I'd heard of it and read a few posts, so I didn't know what to expect when I sat down with the book. It turns out that this book is all about food combining-- the idea that certain foods should be eaten with certain other foods, or certain food combinations should be flat-out avoided. Food combining helps to improve digestion, and makes meals simpler by virtue of having less variety on your plate. At each meal, you pick one category of food: fruit, starches, animal protein or nuts & seeds. To that, you add non-starchy vegetables to make a complete meal. For example, in one day, you might start out with a chia pudding for breakfast, then a salad for lunch, and a butternut squash pilaf for dinner.

I decided to do the seven-day jump-start menu included in the book. After reviewing the shopping list, I realized that I had a lot of the ingredients in my pantry already but the grocery list for the fresh produce and proteins is pretty long, and some of the pantry staples are pricey. As I shopped for the ingredients, it became apparent that for someone on a strict grocery budget and three kids to feed, the jump-start was going to put me way beyond my grocery budget for the week. I allowed myself to go a little over budget and decided to do what I could, and omit the rest. One thing you'll notice is that recipes that call for coconut flour also call for a lot of eggs, like a crazy amount of eggs. In my house, eggs are a major source of protein and there's no way I could use eight eggs for one batch of pancakes, for example because I only buy farm-fresh eggs and they are more expensive than grocery store eggs so I ration them throughout the week.

But for the most part, the recipes are do-able, pretty easy to prepare and delicious. The chocolate chia shake is a great post-workout drink, and my two year old loves it, too. I've never used dates in a smoothie before. The dates made it satisfyingly sweet without being cloying. In fact, dates weren't a pantry staple for me at all but the last time I went shopping, I stocked up because I discovered my son loves them in oatmeal, and so do I! I also really liked the banana walnut smoothie. Despite it's green color, it totally tasted like banana bread, thanks to the cinnamon. It never would've occurred to me to put SPICES in a smoothie.

I also loved the "parmesan" cheese, which is nutritional yeast and walnuts blitzed together. I keep a container of it in the fridge and throw it on top of every salad I eat.

I lent the book to my sister, who tried a few of the recipes in the book. Her favorites were the Everyday Basil vinaigrette and the Skillet Fish Tacos. The tacos look amazingly delicious and they are on my menu this week!

I have a lot of cookbooks on my shelf, and there are only a few that are well-worn with stained pages.  Everyday Detox is one of them, even though I've only had the book for a couple of weeks. If you're looking for delicious, easy meals that will make you feel good, add this one to your cookbook collection.

{I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. This post contains affiliate links.} 

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