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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Dark Screams Volume III

Release Date - May 2015

Random House

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Dark Screams Volume III contains five stories by authors Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, Darynda Jones, Brian Hodge, and Jacquelyn Frank.

I Love You, Charlie Pearson by Jacquelyn Frank

Stacey Wheeler is the object of Charlie Pearson's affections, and he'll do anything to make her love him too. I loved getting into Charlie's head with this one.

The Lone One and Level Sands Stretch Far Away by Brian Hodge

Tara and her husband seem quite happy until they get a new, sexy neighbor. The characters in this short story were probably fleshed out the best of all of them, but I simply couldn't get hooked in the story for some reason. I think it wasn't as spooky/creepy as the others and that's where I lost interest.

Nancy by Darynda Jones

Nancy is being haunted by a ghost. A new student in her school decides it's time to figure out what's going on. The truth is quite surprising. I really liked this short story and would put this as my favorite of the five. It's not horribly creepy, but the characters and backstory ended up working well for me.

Group of Thirty by Jack Ketchum

I really enjoyed this creepy tale. It's probably my second favorite in the collection. The author of The Neighborhood has been invited to speak to a group of aspiring writers. He really doesn't want to, but he also knows his fans come first. What they have in mind is nothing like what he imagined.

The Collected Stories of Freddie Prothero by Peter Straub

I grew up in a household where if my Mom was not holding a Stephen King book, she certainly had Peter Straub, F. Paul Wilson, or Dean Koontz. I've read plenty of Peter Straub's novels, but nothing other than Ghost Story has ever wowed me. I hoped The Collected Stories of Freddie Prothero would do it. I struggled with the pages of Freddie's journal that mimic a child's spelling and grammar and were just too much of a struggle to try to read.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Ladies of Managua by Eleni Gage

Release Date - May 2015

Eleni Gage
St. Martin's Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Ladies of Managua is told from three points of view. First is Mariana. She was four months old when her father died in Nicaragua's revolution. Second is Isabela. As Mariana's grandmother, Bela ended up leaving Nicaragua and raising Mariana in Key Biscayne. Finally, there is Ninexin, Mariana's mother. She fought hard for her country, even if it meant making decisions that not everyone agreed with. Over the years, each woman has gone her own way, but now the death of Mariana's grandfather has drawn them together, and they have secrets of their own that are bubbling up and coming to the surface.

I loved the premise of Ladies of Managua, but the writing just never appealed to me. I had a hard time keeping track of who was speaking. Though they are of different generations, without the beginning of the chapter announcing who was leading the chapter, I was lost. So many times, I would read and have to back track to see if I'd missed a switch or if it was the same character.

As a result, I started and stopped this novel a few times and finally had to force myself to read through it. After a number of chapters, I did finally find a flow with the story, but I fear it came too late for me to ever find true enjoyment.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ellie's Story: A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

Release Date - April 2015

W. Bruce Cameron

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Let it be said that Ellie's Story is spun from another W. Bruce Cameron novel. I never read A Dog's Purpose, so this was my introduction to Ellie and her handler Jakob.

She's just a puppy when Elleya meets her new "father." Soon, she's devoting her days and nights learning all of Jakob's commands as part of her "work." While her job finding lost people is important, she also feels compelled to help her owners, Jakob and later Maya, who need her just as much as any lost person.

Ellie's Story is told from the dog's point of view. That makes for a change of pace that I think many younger readers will love. The details into the dog training sessions, which are part of what makes Ellie, Ellie, are handled carefully and never become boring. In fact, I could see my own dog having many of Ellie's thoughts as he learned "sit," "stay," "leave it," "come," "down," etc.

Ellie's Story is geared to a much younger reader, which I am not. At that age, I was crazy for The Incredible Journey, however, so kids who like animal stories may really enjoy this one.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Release Date - January 2015

Paula Hawkins
Riverhead Books

After a chapter or so of The Girl on the Train, my first impression was: "Who cares?" I honestly did not like the main character, Rachel. She's a mopey divorcee who's lost her job and does little more than drink till she blacks out and annoys her ex-husband's new wife.

Rachel spends her days traveling into London on the train so that her roommate doesn't figure out that she is unemployed. During the trip, the train almost always ends up stopping near a the home of Jess and Jason, a couple about whom Rachel has made up elaborate stories about them being the ideal couple. They also happen to live near Rachel's ex-husband and his new wife.

One day, Jess, whose real name is Megan, disappears. She happens to have gone missing at the same time Rachel was spotted near her ex-husband's home. Rachel was drunk and feels she knows something, but the events of the evening are all part of Rachel's latest drunken blackout. Rachel's determined to know what happened, even if it means ticking the investigators off and becoming close to Jason, whose real name is Scott. For all Rachel knows, Scott could have killed his wife, and Rachel could be putting herself within arm's length of a killer.

I really didn't like Rachel, yet I found myself hooked in this story. It's one of the rare books that drew me into story, despite my dislike of many of the characters. The setting is brilliantly portrayed. I've been on the trains in and out of London, and they can be tediously long rides, so I get the boredom that leads to creating stories for the strangers you see outside the window. I know my kids and I have done that while waiting in traffic or in a parking lot waiting for someone to come out of the bank or store.

The murder mystery probably ended up being the most disappointing part, unfortunately. I figured out the killer far too early. It simply seemed obvious to me. That said, the trip getting to the conclusion was still worth every minute.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Mindful Diet by Ruth Wolever PhD, Beth Reardon MS RD LDN, and Tania Hannan

Release Date - April 2015


Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Many diet books focus on getting you to change the foods you eat. Drop any items with sugar. Stop eating fats. Cut out all white flour. Stop eating meat. No eating carbs anymore. The Mindful Diet is so different. Instead, it looks at why you eat and gets to work focusing on the bad habits that many of us have. No more thinking a cup of coffee is breakfast. Stop wolfing down a meal in a record number of minutes. Don't let your emotions dictate what and how much you eat.

Within The Mindful Diet are a number of self-assessments you'll use to help understand where your dietary weaknesses lie and what you can do to change them. It then takes these issues and helps you overcome them so that you can develop better eating habits and avoid the pitfalls that lead to failed diet attempts and the gloom and depression that comes with that failure.

I found much of the information within to be incredibly helpful, though it's still hard for me to incorporate some of it. I work at least 10 hours a day, usually more like 12. When you add in the housework, meal preparation, getting my kids to and from school, exercising the dog, and trying to have time to myself while still getting the 8 hours a night of sleep that my body require, it's really tough not to rush meals. I see though, that that is the thing I need to work on changing, and with the tips in this book, that's my goal.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Penalty Kick by Terence O'Leary

Release Date - May 2014

Terence O'Leary

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I read and loved John Green's A Fault in Our Stars. I think part of me was expecting something along those lines. Yet, that's not really a fair estimation as Penalty Kick came out sounding like it was for a slightly younger crowd.

Brooke Avery is 16, able to drive herself places, and is just finishing rounds of chemo. Her hair loss led to her nickname of Hat Girl at school. She had surgery that caused her to lose some function in her leg and left her with horrible scars. However, her oncologist has just told her that her bloodwork looks good and he's guardedly optimistic that she's in remission.

Josh Connelly is a star soccer player for his school. He's 15, about to go for his license, and has a great family. All of that changes when he talks his mom into letting him drive home. The sun temporarily blinds him, he pulls out into the path of an oncoming car, and his mom is killed in the accident.

Both of these teens are facing some of the hardest events imaginable. They're both "freaks" in the school setting and soon forge a friendship where they can be honest about their feelings. It's a short read, one that builds up the characters well, but not being a sports fan, the scenes involving all of the soccer games and the very descriptive detail were lost on me. I simply don't care enough about soccer to get drawn into the game.

I had a friend in school who died from a brain tumor. Granted I was younger than 15/16, but I found myself thinking how much like Brooke she was with the positive attitude. As this is a book based on true events, I think the author did a good job building Brooke's character.

Josh's dad, well I wanted to smack him upside the head during some of the book. If you went back to the very first details before the accident, his mom was checking her cell phone rather than watching what Josh was doing. While the relationship between Josh and his father changed drastically, I kept thinking that had she done what every parent/teen driving manual says and watched everything her son did, the accident might well have been avoided in the first place. That I could see that and no one else in the book seemed to, that bugged me a bit. That Josh's younger sister seemed to be more reasonable than the father was a little tragic.

In the end, Penalty Kick is a good read. I don't think it's one I'd put on my keeper shelf because of my issues with Josh's dad, but it's a gentler look at tragedy and rising above it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Whole Body Reboot: The Peruvian Superfoods Diet to Detoxify, Energize, and Supercharge Fat Loss by Manuel Villacorta MS RD

Release Date - December 30, 2014

Manuel Villacorta MS RD

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

With a slew of diet books on the market and more hitting the shelves every month, I always look for one thing when looking at a book - who is the author? In this case, I am happy to say that the author is a registered dietitian, something I feel is important. That said, as much as I found the advice and recipes in Whole Body Reboot: The Peruvian Superfoods Diet to Detoxify, Energize, and Supercharge Fat Loss to be easy to make and appealing, the cost of the superfoods might be a deterrent for some.

The recipes and diet you follow in Whole Body Reboot relies on a handful of superfoods. Some are easy to obtain:

  • Artichokes
  • Avocados
  • Beans
  • Cacao nibs
  • Chia seeds
  • Cilantro
  • Papaya
  • Purple potatoes
  • Quinoa

Others are definitely not as easy. It's likely for these that you're going to have to order them online, with shipping costs adding to the expense.

  • Aji
  • Amaranth
  • Camu Camu
  • Lucuma
  • Maca
  • Pichuberries
  • Purple corn (might be easier to find in other areas, but I asked my local supermarket and they do not carry it)
  • Sacha Inchi
  • Yacon syrup

There's also the recommendation to buy and use YouthH20. I checked Amazon and a month's supply is just under $32, plus shipping costs if you do not order something else to bring your total to $35 or more.

Following it may also be a challenge. The first five days involves smoothies of every color under the rainbow. You drink a smoothie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and usually follow it with a half-cup or cup of plain oatmeal that's been cooked. There are tips for what you can have for a snack if you get hungry, which is likely for many. Another issue is going to be for those with food allergies. I cannot eat tomatoes, so that automatically rules out one of the smoothies from the start.

That said, I did try some of the recipes, but stuck to those that I could make from ingredients in my house. The scones made with oat flour and dried cranberries were excellent. The blue/purple smoothie made with yellow squash, blueberries, blackberries, chia, and protein powder was good. I skipped the Chicha Tisane as I could not find it locally and when I looked in the glossary for where to find it, it wasn't listed. A search of Amazon led to nothing.

In the end, I'd love to give this diet a shot, but the difficulty finding ingredients locally makes it impossible.