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Showing posts from 2018

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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I felt like I lived between the pages of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas the entire time I read it. The story infiltrated my imagination and stayed with me even when I wasn't reading and after I finished it. Even now, weeks later, the characters still resonate with me. I felt Starr Carter's pain as she watched her friend, Khalil, die and as she tried to navigate her life while trying to keep her status as the witness from becoming public. Thomas pulls the reader into Starr's life as she moves between two very different worlds highlighting the the way our life experiences taint our perception of ourselves and of others. As Starr fights with her friends and boyfriend as well as her family in the midst of a grief she hides even from herself, the reality that living two different lives never works crashes down on her and forces her to face the consequences that come with every choice she makes or avoids making. The Hate U Give is an intense, engaging, empowering, enlightening …

Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civil Life by Eric Klinenberg

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Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civil Life by Eric Klinenberg delves into the connections that form when infrastructure is designed to bring people together to support building community. Klinenberg writes in way that feels like a story unfolding that explores the decline of community by the decline of social infrastructure as well as the solutions to bring community together. Palaces for the People delves into how libraries bring people together, community gardens create not only food but fellowship, and how storm walls can be built to double as gathering places among other structures built with the people who will use them in mind. Klinenberg presents research that shows how community changes when infrastructure supports the community. He examines the myths and the realities surrounding how infrastructure succeeds and fails. Palaces for the People offers an honest assessment of infrastructure, communities,…

Culling the Herd by Edward R. Etzkorn

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Culling the Herd by Edward R. Etzkorn drew me in quickly and held me captive until the end. Etzkorn paints a picture of what happens when scientists decide to take extreme measures using science to fight what they see as the cause of the end of humanity. Culling the Herd is at times an uncomfortable book to read because Etzkorn creates a real enough world that the reader can imagine the events taking place even when they feel a bit unrealistic. His characters are a amalgam  of good and bad with even some of the worst characters seemingly having good, or at least understandable, motives, and some of the worst characters having discernible flaws creating characters that are realistic. Culling the Herd forces the reader to question their own reactions to the actions the characters choose while contemplating the role we all play in preserving and protecting the planet we call home.

Note: This review is based on a free copy I received from the author.

The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands by Nick Flynn

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As I read The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands by Nick Flynn, the word esoteric kept rising to the surface of my thoughts. Flynn's poems have a feel of peeking inside a world I'm unfamiliar with, maybe even a world I don't want to see but need to. There were moments I felt like the experiences Flynn shared in these poems lived outside a reality I could understand yet I felt compelled to keep reading, to explore the words, to see where each poem was going. The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands left me wanting to both raise my hands and sit on them to keep from raising them.


Equal Means Equal: Why the Time for an Equal Rights Amendment is Now by Jessica Neuwirth

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Equal Means Equal: Why the Time for an Equal Rights Amendment is Now by Jessica Neuwirth examines the history of the Equal Rights Amendment, why it's necessary, and several common myths regarding the U. S. Constitution and the Equal Rights Amendment including the arguments made for and against and the struggle for ratification. Neuwirth offers examples of the cases that have been brought before the cours and have been decided that highlight repeatedly that the U. S. Constitution does not protect women the same as it does men. She makes her argument with facts and quotes from court cases that demonstrate how the judicial system consistently determines that the U. S. Constitution and the amendments to the U. S. Constitution don't apply to women. She explains why and how the Equal Rights Amendment would add women to the U. S. Constitution giving women constitutionally protected equal rights. Equal Means Equal  is a short, engaging, easy to read book that demonstrates that asking …

Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems from 1965-1990 Complete by Alice Walker

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Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems from 1965-1990 Complete by Alice Walker examines life on Earth and the interactions of Earthlings, particularly human beings interaction with other Earthlings. Walker taps into emotions and attitudes that aren't always comfortable to face with an eloquence that keeps the reader riveted with anticipation even when wanting to say "not me. oh no not me." Walker creates images that transcend the moment and descriptions that take the reader deeper into a place of deep contemplation. Often a simple poem feels like it bears tremendous complexity in its simplicity and a complicated poem feels simple when one lets it settle into the heart. Her Blue Body Everything We Know calls for us to better understand the planet that gives us life. Walker reminds us there is value all around us that we often take for granted or abuse and misuse, and that there are consequences for the actions we take. Her Blue Body Everything We Know asks us t…

Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement by Janet Dewart Bell

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Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement by Janet Dewart Bell highlights how often women get written out of the collective history with this collection of mini-memoirs about women instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement. I've read many books over the past several years that have forced me to think about my history classes in a new way.  As I read these women's stories told from each woman's perspective, I found some stories easier to read than others. Some stories were emotional. Some were more analytical. All provide insight into lives I can only understand through their stories. I saw places where I related and others where I couldn't relate at all. These women's stories exemplified courage, determination, intelligence, and a willingness to work hard without seeking glory.  I wanted more. I wanted to know more about each one. I wanted each of these women to receive the recognition they deserve on a larger scale. I wante…

The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Psychological Trauma by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

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The Emotional Would Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Psychological Trauma by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi lists a number of events that cause emotional wounds and provides a list of how those wounds affect one's psychological well-being and place in society. Acherman and Puglisi give insight into how to write characters who have been through a variety of traumatic situations. It's a reference book that any writer could find handy from time to time. While much more research might be necessary depending on the plotline, The Emotional Would Thesaurus offers a great starting point by giving a snapshot of each emotional wound it discusses. The appendix includes some helpful worksheets. Because of the similarities of some of the effects of the emotional wounds discussed, I found it easier to internalize each wound by giving myself time to think between reading each one. The Emotional Wound Thesaurus will stay on my shelves as a handy reference for those times when I need to…

The Bitter Season by Tami Hoag

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The Bitter Season by Tami Hoag is a fast, engaging read. As she often does, Hoag tackles issues in depth that many authors shy away from or gloss over. She plays with gender roles, misogynistic attitudes, family dynamics, child abuse, and sexual assault in the midst of following two detectives solving seemingly separate murder cases. Hoag creates characters with enough depth to immerse the reader in their lives leading one to feel a sense of compassion that at times surprises the reader while eliciting enough anger at other times to keep the reader wanting a better outcome for  myriad characters in the book even when the reader knows the outcome must be what it is. The Bitter Season explores real life attitudes and behaviors in the context of a fictional world that both intrigues and provokes thought. Hoag's books, including The Bitter Season, are never merely mysteries to be solved but a look into the conditions that lead to human depravity and the consequences thereof.

Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham

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I bought Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham quite a while ago without really knowing what it was about or what to expect. As I started reading, I felt strangely like I was hovering above the characters watching them go about their lives. The use of Walt Whitman's work to weave these three stories set in different times together intrigued me and kept me wondering where Cunningham was going. As I read what in many ways felt like three novellas tied together by some common elements I couldn't help but think about the remnants we leave behind as we travel through life, remnants that might mean the world to us and nothing to someone else or might feel like nothing to us but change someone else's life. Cunningham's characters aren't all necessarily likable but they are engaging and even relatable in an uncomfortable way that seems to bring to mind some of the less desirable aspects of one's self as one wonders what one would do in similar circumstances. Specimen Day…

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

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Sometimes you read a book that makes you stop and think and then changes the way you think. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is one such book. I started reading with my skepticism hat on as I do with most research based material. As I read, Kahneman's descriptions of how we think and how our thinking is affected by the world around us deeply resonated with me. I read Thinking, Fast and Slow like a textbook for a class, a chapter at a time, giving what I'd read time to sink in before moving on to the next chapter. His discussion of "framing" really made me stop and think about how many times I've been manipulated by the wording of an "offer" that mostly benefits the person making the offer. I also stopped to think about how often I make snap judgments attributing my thoughts to intuition based on experience. Thinking, Fast and Slow examines how our brains so often take the easy answer instead of engaging in more thought to find more accurate an…

Complete Poems and Selected Letters of John Keats

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Complete Poems and Selected Letters of John Keats takes the reader on the ride through mythology and Keats's time in the world. Keats wrote new imaginings on old mythologies in the form of poetry.   At times I found myself a little awash in a story that felt both oddly familiar and completely foreign at the same time. Keats plays with language in a way that feels both deliberate and carefree. I often found myself looking for a hidden message in the simplest of text and longing for a straightforward message in more complex text. Complete Poems and Selected Letters of John Keats sometimes veers into unfinished thoughts and unfinished works with an honesty that disarms even as it brings up one's defenses. I found some of his unfinished work quite compelling as it was, even complete, and some of it... well, unfinished. Complete Poems and Selected Letters of John Keats is an intriguing look inside the work and the mind of John Keats that somehow feels like a complete work even with…

Some Soul to Keep by J. California Cooper

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Some Soul to Keep by J. California Cooper reflects life in several long short stories that are realistic enough to feel voyeuristic while simultaneously feeling symbolic of something larger. Cooper captures the essence of life in a way that pulls the reader into the hearts and minds of her characters with unrelenting tenacity and compassion. She never shies away from the pain people can inflict on one another even as she offers a sense of hope that people can survive and grow and overcome the obstacles they face. Some Soul to Keep presents multi-dimensional characters who grab hold of one's beliefs, flips them over, and turns them inside out leaving one questioning life yet somehow feeling like one understands the world just a smidgen better than before one started reading.

Heroes for My Son by Brad Meltzer

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I wanted to love Heroes for My Son by Brad Meltzer when I bought it as a gift. I decided to read it before gifting it because I don't like to give people books I haven't read. As I read, I found many things to really like, but a few that definitely gave  me pause. Meltzer offers a rosy picture of the people he presents as heroes while never mentioning their flaws. I think including some of the flaws of these heroes would have made them more relatable. There were also some who I can't imagine having as heroes and would use to open a wider conversation about perceptions and images projected to the world rather than holding those particular individuals up as living lives one should model... Meltzer offers a quick snapshot into the lives of those he considers heroes for his son, and I hope this book will push children and perhaps even adults to further research and better understand the people, particularly the famous people, Meltzer included in Heroes for My Son, so they can …

Toby by Hazel Mitchell

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Toby by Hazel Mitchell is the sweet story of an adopted dog finding his way into the hearts of the family who adopts him. Mitchell creates a story that reminds us the importance of not giving up on others and of trying to help others find their way when they're struggling. Toby isn't the best behaved dog, and his new family struggles to connect with him. Mitchell illustrates the process of finding common ground and using persistence to change an undesirable situation. There's a lesson in Toby for all anyone who struggles to see the value in those who don't meet expectations.

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama

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I initially hesitated to buy Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama as a gift for a young boy, but after reading it I realized the message applies to boys, girls, and adults. Obama explores historical figures who have contributed to America in their own ways and ties that to qualities he sees in his daughters, qualities I hope we all see in the children around us. I like Of Thee I Sing so much I want a copy for my own shelves, just so I can read it when I need to feel hopeful and inspired.

Imagine by John Lennon

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Imagine is exactly what one would expect. It is the lyrics to John Lennon's song, Imagine, turned into a picture book. The pictures are sweet and kind. The message is peace and unity. Imagine provides a easy way for people who like the song to share it with their children. It also provides ample opportunity for a discussion about the world using one's imagination and the role imagination shares in shaping the world. Imagine is a book for children with a universal message of love and acceptance that knows no age limit.

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers

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Here We Are: Notes for Living on the Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers explores the place each of holds in the wide world and the interconnectedness of the world in which we live. Jeffers starts with our place in the universe in a move that feels a bit reminiscent of Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot. Here We Are is about how vast and yet how small our world is. Jeffers brings together both the smallness and the largeness of existence in this simple yet engaging and informative picture book.



The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen

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I bought The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen even before I adopted a plant-based diet because I was intrigued by the recipes in the book. I've made several of the very interesting recipes in The Conscious Cook. I rarely make the recipes in it anymore, but I keep this cookbook on my shelves and occasionally use it as a reference or for inspiration. As I sit here looking through the cookbook, I'm tempted to make some of the recipes again soon, adapted to fit my cooking style which doesn't include the oils and the highly processed foods he uses. Beyond even that, many of the recipes require ingredients I don't necessarily keep in the kitchen, so I'd need to shop for them. This is probably the main reason I don't use this cookbook as much as some of the others on my shelves. Many of the recipes are also quite involved and time consuming.  That said, the recipes I have tried all tasted delicious, so if you're willing to put in the time and effort, it's a cookbo…

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

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Someone I trust, I can't remember who, recommended I read On the Road by Jack Kerouac, so I bought a copy. I placed it in my to-be-read stack of books and went on my way. Eventually, I came to the book as I worked my way through the stack. To be honest, I moved it down in the pile a couple of times as other books appealed more to me in a given moment. Even after I started reading On the Road, I wasn't sure about it. Something didn't quite work for me at first. For pages and then chapters, I felt like I was missing some crucial element to the story, but I kept reading because it intrigued me and the writing style was interesting. That said, I never could figure out why any of the characters were so fascinated by Dean Moriarty. He came across as just another con man and I don't find con men the least bit charming, so I spent most of the book wishing the narrator, Sal, would wise up and get away from him and stay away from him. I came away from On the Road with one overwh…

I Know How You Feel : The Joy and Heartbreak of Friendship in Women's Lives by F. Diane Barth

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When I first saw I Know How You Feel: The Joy and Heartbreak of Friendship in Women's Lives by F. Diane Barth on the Amazon Vine Program page, I scrolled on past. I didn't think it applied to me. My friendships are... just fine. Then I started thinking about it and ended up back on the page ordering it. I'm so glad I did. While there wasn't all that much that I didn't know or hadn't surmised from my own life experience, Barth gave me a different perspective on what the knowledge and experience I had actually meant. Barth writes in a tone that feels a bit like having a conversation with a friend. She even includes a bit of friendly advice at the end of each chapter with her "what you can do" section. As I read I Know How You Feel, my thoughts traveled back over my entire life in an attempt to better understand all the friendships I've had with women over the years. Barth touches on the emotions, the actions, the beliefs, the expectations, and the t…

Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook by Del Sroufe

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Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook by Del Sroufe contains a wide variety of plant-based recipes that prove eating a plant-based diet can be satisfying. I've made many of the recipes in Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook and have enjoyed the vast majority of them.  Sroufe demonstrates techniques to make plant-based cooking accessible to anyone while keeping the recipes interesting. The vast diversity of these recipes provides something to tease just about any taste bud. The simplicity of the recipes makes Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook great for those with little to no cooking experience while still containing recipes that will appeal to experienced cooks. I'd highly recommend Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook for anyone interested in trying a plant-based diet or even those who just enjoy trying out different methods of cooking.

No Justice: One White Police Officer, One Black Family, and How One Bullet Ripped Us Apart by Robbie Tolan and Lawrence Ross

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No Justice: One White Police Officer, One Black Family, and How One Bullet Ripped Us Apart by Robbie Tolan and Lawrence Ross gripped my attention from the first page. It's the true story of Tolan surviving being shot by the police, his healing journey, and his attempts to find justice. Tolan and Ross tell the story like they're sitting in the room with the reader. They speak directly to the reader in Tolan's voice explaining his experience, his reactions, his perspective. He's honest about his anger, depression, and hope. He doesn't hold back about where his family had privileges poorer families might not have due to his father's baseball career as well as his own. He also explains how those privileges didn't protect him when he faced the police who accused him of stealing his own car in front of his own house. No Justice demonstrates how the court system, criminal and civil, works and doesn't work for those who are forced to participate in it. Tolan…

Creative Knowing: 50 Self-Reflection Questions for Women by Christina Katz

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I finally decided to work through Creative Knowing: 50 Self-Reflection Questions for Women by Christina Katz recently. I thought it would make for a nice daily writing exercise, since I'm editing a book right now. I didn't think of it much in terms of "self-reflection" when I started. As I worked through the questions, I had a variety of reactions. You can read about my reaction to the initial set of questions in my blog post, Favorites... Shmavorites. Some questions were easy to answer, others provoked an emotional reaction, still others made me think. Some of the questions made me smile. Others irritated me. Still others inspired me. And then there were those that felt mundane. I felt a resistance rise from time to time as I pondered answering a question. Sometimes that resistance came from my own reluctance to explore the topic. Other times it was because I found the question presumptive when I didn't see how it applied to me. Initially, I was reluctant to eve…

The Green Gourmet Perfect Cup of Tea Book by Lori Jane Stewart

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The Green Gourmet Perfect Cup of Tea Book by Lori Jane Stewart is a nice appetizer for tea time. Stewart whets the appetite for a delightful cup of tea any time of the day. She explains some of the history of tea, tea's influence around the world, and how make a cup of tea. It was a quick and interesting read that left me wanting to know more about the tea I drink several cups of a day.




Four O'Clock Sizzle: A Rebecca Mayfield Mystery by Joanne Pence

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I read Four O'Clock Sizzle: A Rebecca Mayfield Mystery by Joanne Pence while travelling. It's an easy, light, fun read. Pence likes to blur the lines between procedural and cozy mystery in this series in a way that makes Rebecca Mayfield sometimes do things it's hard to imagine a police officer doing yet Pence gives her believable if flawed reasons for making the decisions she makes. The chemistry between Rebecca and Richie Amalfi has the reader both cheering for them and wondering what each of them is thinking at different times throughout the book. And, then there's the police investigation where Rebecca is torn between her feelings for Richie and her concerns that the rumors about Richie might hold more truth than she wants to believe. She struggles to reconcile the Richie she spends time with and the Richie of his reputation. As her investigation continues, Rebecca finds she needs Richie to solve the crime and she needs to protect him from danger for her own person…

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood made me squirm because Atwood creates a world that feels like it would be all too easy to slip into without truly noticing until it was too late. Atwood's ability to create characters who feel real made me identify with the characters even when I didn't want to. I felt the pain, the fears, and the hidden desires and joys of the characters as they traversed a world that would be a nightmare for most of us. In fact, The Handmaid's Tale stayed with me as I went about my day and popped into my dreams on a few occasions. Atwood deftly brings together elements of society and belief systems that continue to divide us by exploring a potential outcome that I don't think anyone wants. The Handmaid's Tale pushed me to think about my place in the world and my role in protecting the rights that matter to me. I couldn't help but think about what I would do if I faced a world like the one Atwood creates in The Handmaid's Tale.

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg

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When I bought White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg, I thought I knew what the book would contain. I thought I understood the class history of America. Isenberg presents a history that makes so much more sense that the romanticized version of history I was taught in high school. She argues effectively for the idea that we've always had a class system in America and that we all buy into that class system even while proclaiming we are a classless society. Isenberg presents factual elements and references historical documents to support her supposition that America has always been a country with a class system. Her expansive discussion of indentured servitude and other poor people shipped to America in our early history is enlightening. She discusses how our class system affects everything from the economy to politics. I felt uncomfortable at times because I really wanted to resist parts of the book that didn't resonate with what I wanted …

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou

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I read The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou several years ago and loved it so much that I often pull it off my shelf and peruse the contents. Sometimes I open it randomly and read whatever page I land on. Other times, I seek out a poem that has taken root in my thoughts for one reason or another.  The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou has become a book I turn to for inspiration, encouragement, enlightenment, and education. Angelou's poems speak to the existence we all share on this planet and her words resonate across the artificial barriers we draw between us. When she writes about us all being part of the "Human Family", she pushes us to see beyond the stereotypes and see how much we all have in common. When she writes about being a "Phenomenal Woman", she reminds us all that we have the power to embrace our own phenomenal selves. The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou includes many poems that speak to her life experience and her observat…

Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann (Translated by Carol Brown Janeway)

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I bought Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann (Translated by Carol Brown Janeway) while in Germany. When I got home, I placed it in my to-be-read pile. I moved it down the pile several times before I decided to read it. Finally I picked it up and started reading. The story is intriguing. The formatting is different than I'm used to. The characters were interesting if not always easy to like. Once I started reading, my curiosity about where the story was going kept me engaged even when I struggled to relate to the characters decisions. Measuring the World explores the human desire to make sense of the world around them through the stories of two highly determined and intelligent men. As I read Measuring the World, I felt like I was on a journey myself trying to understand the world through the eyes of the characters.


The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook by Ann Crile Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn

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I bought The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook by Ann Crile Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn when it was released in 2014. I've used it several times though there are several recipes in it I've yet to make. Most of the recipes are quite easy to make and offering interesting flavors. It's a wonderful cookbook for those just starting on a plant-based diet or those looking to add some simple but tasty recipes to their plant-based diet. I've made some of the recipes for friends who quite enjoyed the food even though they haven't adopted a plant-based diet. The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook offers a nice variety of recipes to appeal to differing moods and taste preferences offering options for me to keep trying .

How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job by Sally Halgesen and Marshall Goldsmith

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How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith examines the habits women tend to develop that work in one part of their careers but don't translate well to other parts. Based on their years of experience coaching both men and women as well as research into women and men in the workplace, they've honed in on habits that women tend to adopt that men don't necessarily adopt while also referencing that both men and women develop habits that can stymie their advances in their careers. While there are moments the book feels a bit overly generalized, Helgesen and Marshall readily admit that there are women who don't adopt these habits and men that do. They deal with tendencies and how to address those tendencies rather than absolutes. One thing that sets How Women Rise apart from many self-help books is that it doesn't approach the subject from the concept of the broken or inadequate wo…

One Good Dog by Susan Wilson

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One Good Dog by Susan Wilson shows the power of connection to change lives and bring us to our best selves. I found it really hard to sympathize with Adam March's loss of wealth and social standing even as his story progressed through facing his losses and dealing with a past that he'd worked so hard to suppress he'd adopted the role of the man he wanted to be instead of the man he was. In fact, I related more with the chapters told the dog's point of view. I felt his pain. I felt his desire to change. I felt his will to survive. I felt his need to serve a purpose. The dog represented everything I wanted to feel for March but struggled to feel. Wilson pulled me into the lives of the characters to the point I wanted to influence their decisions and push them to do the right thing. One Good Dog illustrates how easy it is to let perception lead to biases based on the superficial parts of life. 

Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride

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Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride tempted me to expand my reading time day after day as I read Sarah's story of coming to terms with who she was, her love story with Andy, and her unquenchable thirst for seeking equality and social justice not only for the Transgender Community but for all those who are disenfranchised. Her story made my heart ache for all those people who have resigned themselves to living identities that don't fit just to fit in in the world and to stay safe. McBride immerses the reader in her fears that living as her true self would diminish her possibilities for the career in government that intrigued her as well as her journey as she faced those fears and sought out opportunities to seek change within the government and society as a whole. Her hope for the future inspired me to remain hopeful even when things appear hopeless. Tomorrow Will Be Different is as much a love story as a story of the fights…

Fierce on the Page: Become the Writer You were to Be and Succeed on Your own Terms by Sage Cohen

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Fierce on the Page: Become the Writer You Were Meant to Be and Succeed on Your Own Terms by Sage Cohen gently, steadily, and apologetically pushes writers to recognize, embrace, and project their fierceness onto the page. Cohen offers short essays, stories, and anecdotal evidence of the techniques she describes for finding one's own inner fierceness. I opted to do the exercises in the book as well as read it and found they deepened the experience quite a bit. Most are simple writing exercises that take only a few minutes to do though a few are more intensive. All of the exercises are thought and/or emotion provoking, some more than others. I decided to treat the book like a class and do one chapter a day until I completed it. That worked well for me and gave me time to really digest each chapter before delving into the next. Sometimes I couldn't resist peeking ahead to see what was coming up. Cohen writes in a fiercely engaging way that feels vulnerable and strong at the same …

Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon (A Falcon Guide) by Adam Sawyer

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I've been using Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon (A Falcon Guide) by Adam Sawyer to find hiking trails leading to waterfalls for several years now. I really like this guide because it provides good directions to the trailheads as well good descriptions of the hikes and what to expect on the hikes. The maps of the trails are also quite nice providing a realistic idea of what the hike will entail. The photos are nicely done and add a bit of enticement for many of the hikes. The estimated time the hikes will take are fairly accurate though this does depend on one's fitness ability. I'm not sure how accurate the difficulty scale is because I think there's a large amount of subjectivity involved again. I found some of the easy hikes more difficult than I expected and some of the difficult hikes easier than I expected. Overall, though, this is my go-to guide when I'm searching for a hike, particularly because I love hikes that include waterfalls.


In the Beauty of the Lilies by John Updike

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In the Beauty of the Lilies by John Updike explores ideology and the intense effects of releasing beliefs as well as clinging to them. Updike drops the reader into the life of the Wilmot family and follows the family through four generations of belief and life demonstrating the strong effects of society on belief and belief on society. In the Beauty of the Lilies pulled me into the middle of the Wilmot family making me feel invested in their decisions even when I didn't particularly like a character in a given moment. His characters are deeply flawed individuals who also exhibit admirable qualities. There's a sense of watching human strength and human frailty battle each other in the internal workings of the characters as well as in their interactions with one another. Updike writes in a prose that feels like it inhabits his characters and their lives with page after page that strike the moods and attitudes of the character whose point of view is front and center. In the Beaut…

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

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I'd heard about The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business by Charles Duhigg from several different sources, always as a recommended book. I finally broke down and bought a copy and then put it in my to-read pile to get to eventually. I wish now I'd put it on the top of my to-read pile. It was that interesting and informative.  As I read about cues and routines and rewards, I felt my usual resistance rise up. I suppose I'm a skeptic at heart because I often feel the need to be convinced. Duhigg breaks down the studies he references with an ease that makes them read as easy as reading a novel making The Power of Habit a very approachable read. As I read, I began to think about my own habits. I  examined which habits are productive for me and which ones aren't. I realized it really isn't always that easy to see one's own cues, routines, or even the rewards without some deep examination. The Power of Habit pushed me to think about the role of ha…

The How Not to Die Cookbook by Michael Greger, M. D. FACLM with Gene Stone

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The How Not to Die Cookbook by Michael Greger with Gene Stone offers a plethora of plant-based recipes that are easy and interesting. Greger makes the recipes accessible even for those who aren't adventurous cooks. While he does include some ingredients that might be unfamiliar to some, they are relatively easy to find. In addition, The How Not to Die Cookbook includes a handy guide to tell you which items on Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen from How Not to Die, you can mark off after eating it. I've only made a few recipes from The How Not to Die Cookbook thus far, but all have been successful and delightful. I look forward to making many more of the recipes in this cookbook. For those who find cooking plant-based meals overwhelming, this cookbook simplifies it in a reassuring manner. I've shared some of these recipes with several people who don't eat a plant-based diet who were surprised at how tasty the dishes were. The How Not to Die Cookbook is a great addition to any…

Flavors from Home by Aimee Zaring

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I won a copy of Flavors from Home by Aimee Zaring in a contest sponsored by the publisher, The University Press of Kentucky. I very much enjoyed reading the stories of the refugees in Flavors from Home. Zaring told their stories in an engaging, compassionate, and fair way. While at times, Zaring seems to lean a little heavily on how much the refugees appreciate their new lives in America, she also presents the refugees as productive members of society.  She tops each refugees story with a recipe from their homeland. As a vegan, I can't imagine eating, let alone fixing, most of the recipes in this book, but there are a few I will likely adapt to vegan recipes, or at least try to. The refugees' life stories and their relationship to the food of their homelands reminded me just how intricately food is woven into our identities. Flavors from Home demonstrates the power of food to bridge the divide between people turning strangers into friends and friends into family.