Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review: Super Immunity by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide for Boosting Your Body’s Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger, and Disease Free by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

ISBN: 978-0062080639
Publisher: Harper One
Date Published: September 20, 2011
Pages: 288
Genre: Non-Fiction; Health
Rating: 5.0 out of 5

Book Summary: Why do some of us get sick with greater frequency than others?
What makes us more susceptible to illness?
Are we doomed to get sick when our coworkers and family members do?
Is there a secret to staying healthy?
Joel Fuhrman, M.D., a leading expert and board-certified medical specialist in prevention and reversing disease, offers a comprehensive guide to superior health.
Based on the latest scientific research, Super Immunity shows us how we can become almost totally resistant to colds, influenza, and other infections.

The evidence is overwhelming: we can supercharge our immune system to protect our bodies against disease—everything from the common cold to cancer. Nutritional science has made phenomenal strides and discoveries in recent years, and when this new research is applied it enables us to seize control of our health like never before. Dr. Fuhrman explains this new science, providing everything you need to know to put this knowledge into action in your kitchen and in your life. What we eat has everything to do with our health, and, unfortunately, too many of us are living with a severely depleted immune function. Our dietary choices are making us sicker, shortening our lives, and costing us billions of dollars in doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription medications. But Dr. Fuhrman doesn’t believe more medical care is the answer. Rather, he explains the solution is to change the way we eat. The standard American diet is nutrient deficient. We are eating too many highly processed foods, foods with added sweeteners, and animal fats and protein. At the same time, we are not eating enough fruits, beans, seeds, and vegetables, which leaves us lacking in hundreds of the most important immune-building compounds. By changing our diets and combining foods that contain powerful immune-strengthening capabilities, we can prevent most common modern diseases.

Combining the latest data from clinical tests, nutritional research, and results from thousands of patients, Dr. Fuhrman proves that super immunity exists and is well within reach for those who choose it. We all have the ability to live healthier, stronger, and longer than ever before. Isn’t it time you dis-covered super immunity?

My Thoughts: Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide for Boosting Your Body’s Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger, and Disease Free (Super Immunity hereafter), is a new and eye-opening book offering us the opportunity to live a vibrant and, possibly, completely healthy, extremely long life! In the book, Super immunity is, simply, the body's immune system working to its fullest potential. Dr. Joel Fuhrman claims that if we "fill every cell receptor lock with the right nutrient key and meet the demands of each cell, the body's take on super hero qualities - and you'll hardly ever get sick again." Fuhrman also insists that this change from basic immunity to super immunity can save our lives. And that's just the first page of the introduction to this book.

Fuhrman is sincere and passionate about his claims. He also backs up what he says in the first two-thirds of his book with a wealth of information, scientific, medical and nutritional studies and research on how to boost our immune systems, ward off diseases and illness and lessen our need for medical care, doctors and pharmaceuticals. He explains in-depth how the food most of us eat is weakening our immune systems and making us run-down and ill. We also learn how the proper foods give us, not only the energy and building blocks we need to grow which comes from the calories in food, but also the non-caloric micronutrients such as phytochemicals which strengthen and support normal immune function. Fuhrman explains specifically and with examples how combining the right foods we can build up our immune systems and prevent most common modern diseases. Compelling, although somewhat self-serving, patient testimonials appear throughout the text to boost the authenticity of Fuhrman's information.

Fuhrman includes an extensive and varied amount of information in this book with chapters that explain, in detail, what specific foods are the proper foods for building super immunity and why, with examples, modern medicine is failing us. His information on colds and the flu and why we continue to get ill year after year was enough to send me running to buy spinach, kale and collard greens just to avoid a cold or the flu this year! I really appreciate how Fuhrman not only informs us of medical studies, such as the in-depth study by the Kaiser Health Foundation that determined one-third of medical spending is for services that don't advance our health or the quality of care but may actually make things worse, but also explains them and gives examples where they're fitting. Fuhrman, for instance, tells us how, over time antibiotics not only fail to rid our bodies of illness but actually weaken our immune system!

The idea that by changing our diet there's a strong possibility we may never get another cold or virus let alone cancer is very powerful. But changing our diet especially to the extent encouraged in Super Immunity doesn't sound that easy. Even Fuhrman accepts that it can take time to change and is a process. His explanations about why plant protein is preferable to animal protein, the benefits to seeds nuts and certain fats, good carbohydrates vs. bad carbohydrates and the research done in the field of nutritional science in the last several years is all extremely helpful in understanding the advantages to building up our immune system. Fuhrman assists us further by providing a list of the 6 essential foods for strengthening our immune system and fighting cancer:

1) Greens
2) Onions
3) Mushrooms
4) Berries
5) Beans
6) Seeds

Fuhrman also gives us 5 easy to remember Daily Rules:
1) Eat one large green salad everyday (preferably two);
2) Eat at least a half-cup serving of Beans/Legumes in soup, salad or a dish once daily;
3) Eat at least 3 fresh fruits especially Berries, Pomegranates, Cherries, Plums, Oranges;
4) Eat at least one ounce of raw Nuts and Seeds a day;
5) Eat at least one large (double-size) serving of steamed Green Vegetables Daily

I found Super Immunity extremely interesting and informative. Although at times the sheer amount of new information in the book necessitated a break from reading about micronutrients, phytochemicals and processed vs. organic foods, I think this is a terrific book for anyone interested in strengthening their immune system, promoting a healthier lifestyle and extending their life. The link between food and good health has always interested me (not that it's evident from my diet!) and it's something I've been thinking about quite a bit lately. I'm not sure if I'm going to change my entire diet to reflect the 6 days of daily menus Fuhrman includes in the last third of the book, but I am certainly going to try to incorporate Fuhrman's 5 Daily Rules into my diet to start and see what happens. If I feel better, stronger and healthier after a few weeks, Fuhrman sincerely explains that major changes in diet often cause temporary fatigue, I'll probably make more changes to my diet. I also plan to try some of the many recipes included in the last third of Super Immunity. This book is captivating reading for anyone interested in the connection between illness and the foods we eat and a valuable source for those of you looking to incorporate healthy, life-altering dietary changes into your daily eating plans.

Joel Fuhrman, M.D.'s websiteFacebookTwitter

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Harper One for a copy of Super Immunity to read and review.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

~ ~ Wondrous Words Wednesday ~ ~

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bermudaonion's Weblog where we share words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun (please do!) Be sure to leave a link to your post over at Bermudaonion's Weblog.

All of my words, today, are from Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

" Such was the subedar's presence that the groom and his immediate family seemed pleasingly diffident in comparison, and this played no small part in earning Deeti's consent for the match. "

1. Subedar
: (historical term, formerly) the chief native officer of a company of Indian soldiers in the British service. Also called subah

" Although Mrs. Burnham's clothes were severe in cut, they were made of much finer stuffs than any that Paulette had ever worn before: not for her common Chinsurah calicoes, nor even the fine shabnam muslins and zaituni satins that many memsahibs made do with; the Burra BeeBee** of Bethel would have nothing less than the finest kerseymere, the best silks from China, crisp linens from Ireland and soft Surat nainsooks. "

2. Chinsurah
:formally Hugli-Chuchura, a city in the state of West Bengal, India that lies on the Hooghly River

3. Shabnam
: a Urdu word meaning dew drops

4. Zaituni
: the Arab name for a city in China whose whereabouts are no longer known; meaning "coming from Zaitun" and related to the Chinese word sze-tun or ssu-tuan, a smooth silk.

5. Memsahib
: (formerly, in India) a term of respect for a married European woman.

6. Kerseymere
: a heavily fulled woolen cloth constructed in twill weave and finished with a fine nap.

7. Surat
: a seaport in S Gujarat, in W India: first British settlement in India 1612

8. Nainsook
: a fine, soft-finished cotton fabric, usually white, used for lingerie and infants' wear

“I asked you here tonight because I wish to know whether your promise was a mere bagatelle, lightly uttered, or whether you are indeed a man who honors his parole.”

9. Bagatelle
: something of little value or importance; a trifle.

** in case you haven't read Sea of Poppies, Burra BeeBee is a another name for Mrs Burnham

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

~ First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros ~

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros is a weekly meme hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea every Tuesday. The idea is to share the opening paragraph (maybe two) of a book you've decided to read based on the opening paragraph. This is an ARC copy I received several months ago but I'm just getting to now. It's a perfect book for this time of year because it's a mysterious, suspenseful story that falls within the parameters of the R.I.P. Challenge.
Be sure to drop by Bibliophile By the Sea and read Diane's selection this week and be sure to visit and read the contributions of other participants who can be found in the comments!

Don't Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon

June 23, Fifteen Years Ago
Hotter than hot, no air-conditioning, sweat pouring down in rivers, the Magic Fingers motel bed vibrating beneath her, Mr. Ice Cream doing his thing above. He's not bad-looking, a little paunch-bellied, but he's got a nice face. Blue eyes that remind her of a crystal stream. Of that song, "Crystal Blue Persuasion" - something her ma listened to all the time. Of course, she told him that, and now sometimes he sings it to her, his idea of foreplay. She wishes he'd shave his moustache, but no chance, the wife loves it.

What are your thoughts about these 2 opening paragraphs? Would you read this book based on these paragraphs?

Monday, September 26, 2011

~ Mailbox Monday ~

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a weekly meme created by Marcia from A girl and her books. Below are the titles I received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the course of the past week. Mailbox Monday currently is on tour, and this month’s host is Leah of Amused by Books.  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Wings by Karl Friedrich (for review)
Sally Ketchum comes from dirt-poor farm folk. She has little chance of bettering her life until a mysterious barnstormer named Tex teaches her to fly—and becomes the first person worthy of her love. But Tex dies in a freak accident, leaving Sally to make her own way in the world. She enrolls in the U.S. military’s Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program, and in a special school located in West Texas begins learning to fly the biggest, fastest, meanest airplanes the military has to offer. She also reluctantly becomes involved with Beau Bayard, a flight instructor and aspiring writer, who seems to offer her everything she could want. But many people see no place for a “skirt” in the cockpit, and Sally soon finds herself pitted against a high-powered Washington lawyer who wants to disband the WASP once and for all. Their battle is a story of extraordinary women who broke society’s rules and became heroes, and of men who stood in their way.

Between Heaven and Mirth by James Martin, SJ (for review)
In Between Heaven and Mirth, James Martin, SJ, assures us that God wants us to experience joy, to cultivate a sense of holy humor, and to laugh at life’s absurdities—not to mention our own humanity. Father Martin invites believers to rediscover the importance of humor and laughter in our daily lives and to embrace an essential truth: faith leads to joy.
Holy people are joyful people, says Father Martin, offering countless examples of healthy humor and purposeful levity in the stories of biblical heroes and heroines, and in the lives of the saints and the world’s great spiritual masters. He shows us how the parables are often the stuff of comedy, and how the gospels reveal Jesus to be a man with a palpable sense of joy and even playfulness. In fact, Father Martin argues compellingly, thinking about a Jesus without a sense of humor may be close to heretical.
Drawing on Scripture, sharing anecdotes from his experiences as a lifelong Catholic, a Jesuit for over twenty years, and a priest for more than ten, and including amusing and insightful sidebars, footnotes, and jokes, Father Martin illustrates how joy, humor, and laughter help us to live more spiritual lives, understand ourselves and others better, and more fully appreciate God’s presence among us. Practical how-to advice helps us use humor to show our faith, embrace our humanity, put things into perspective, open our minds, speak truth, demonstrate courage, challenge power, learn hospitality, foster effective human relations, deepen our relationship with God, and … enjoy ourselves. Inviting God to lighten our hearts, we can enjoy a little heaven on earth.

fathermucker by Greg Olear (for review)
A day in the life of a dad on the brink: Josh Lansky—second-rate screenwriter, fledgling freelancer, and stay-at-home dad of two preschoolers—has held everything together while his wife is away on business . . . until this morning’s playdate, when he finds out through the mommy grapevine that she might be having an affair. What Josh needs is a break. He’s not going to get one.

Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me by Ian Morgan Cron (Win from Caribousmom)
At the age of sixteen, Ian Morgan Cron was told by his mother that his father, a motion picture executive, also worked for the CIA in Europe. This astonishing revelation, coupled with his father’s dark struggles with alcoholism, upended the world of a boy struggling to become a man. Decades later, as he faces his own personal demons, Ian realizes the only way to find peace is to voyage back through a childhood marked by extremes–privilege and hardship, violence and tenderness, truth and deceit–that he’s spent years trying to forget. In this surprisingly funny and forgiving memoir, Ian reminds us that no matter how different the pieces may be, in the end we are all cut from the same cloth, stitched by faith into an exquisite quilt of grace.

The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald (Win from Unabridged Chick)
In the middle of the twentieth century, in a home economics program at a prominent university, orphaned babies are used to teach mothering skills to young women. These "practice babies," are handed off from one mother-in-training to the next, usually staying in a "practice house" for a few years before being sent to adoptive families. For Henry House, the first practice baby to stay on at the university, finding love and learning to trust prove to be the work of a lifetime.

Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell (win from BookHounds)
“It’s an old, old story: I had a friend and we shared everything, and then she died and so we shared that, too.”

So begins this gorgeous memoir by Pulitzer Prize winner Gail Caldwell, a testament to the power of friendship, a story of how an extraordinary bond between two women can illuminate the loneliest, funniest, hardest moments in life, including the final and ultimate challenge.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Leviathan (win from Readerbuzz)
So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Sunday Salon ~ Big Sexy Bob, Football, Books

I'm fighting Bob for room on the desk/table to type up my post while he snores...yep, snores. Bob is noisy and loud when he sleeps. And very cute! His butt and stub of a tail hit the mouse occasionally while I'm using it. Bob starts rubbing his tail or butt/back area against my hand encouraging me to scratch him. Cats, so lazy and self-centered sometimes. I've left the computer for a few minutes to get a drink or a book and when I've returned, Bob's foot is on the keyboards and there's a line or two of illegible text combining letters, numbers and symbols. Oooops! Oh, geez! Bob just stretched and rolled over right off the desk!! ...Fortunately, I was able to catch him. Phew! That would've been a terrible way to wake up. lolol

Bob's probably dreaming about the JETS game later on today. He's a big football fan. It's one of his favorite things about the Fall season! He's a little upset because his favorite jersey doesn't fit him anymore!  Bob has become Bigger Sexy Bob.  I think the Vet will probably want us to put him on a diet.  Oy!

I hit a bit of a reading slump this week. I hate when this happens...and I'm in the midst of reading some good books. It was liked I suddenly had very little interest in anything I was reading or in reading at all! I think I was more concerned about the medical procedure I was scheduled to have on Tuesday. It was canceled because the machines the hospitals uses weren't working. It sounds strange since it's a major hospital! Maybe it's something like a computer glitch. So, now the procedure is scheduled for October 25th. I have a lot of other things on my mind, too. Maybe that's that problem. I have to figure out how to empty my brain!

I'm still reading The Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh as part of Erin Reads Reading Buddies project. It's an interesting and very well written book. There are several different story lines involving a large number of characters. I am having difficulty connecting with the characters. I noticed that when I hit the midpoint of the book or just after, the characters stories and their personalities seemed to open up more. Hopefully when I'm able to pull myself out of this reading slump The Sea of Poppies will prove very readable. The True Memoirs of Little K by Adrienne Sharp, for the Book Club run by Jen of Devourer of Books and Nicole of Linus' Blanket, is very good. Little K is a passionate, very opinionated and obsessive character. She's lot of fun!

Today I'm trying to finish two books The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen which is a very good book about a family dealing with a shared tragedy as well as their individual issues. Finally, I'm reluctant to finish The Radleys by Matt Haig because I'm enjoying it so much but there's only so long you delay the inevitable! Maybe these books will help me conquer my reading slump today!

What are you reading today?

Everybody else, have a great Sunday! Happy Reading!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Review: WHerever You Go by Joan Leegant

Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Published Date: July 25, 2011
ISBN: 978-393339895
Pages: 253
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Book Summary: Yona Stern has traveled from New York to Israel to make amends with her estranged sister, a stoic ideologue and mother of five who has dedicated herself to the radical West Bank settlement cause. Yona’s personal life resembles nothing of her sister’s, but it isn’t politics that drove the two apart.

Now a respected Jerusalem Talmud teacher, Mark Greenglass was once a drug dealer saved by an eleventh-hour turn to Orthodox Judaism. But for reasons he can’t understand, he’s lost his once fervent religious passion. Is he through with God? Is God through with him?

Enter Aaron Blinder, a year-abroad dropout with a history of failure whose famous father endlessly—some say obsessively—mines the Holocaust for his best-selling, melodramatic novels. Desperate for approval, Aaron finds a home on the violent fringe of Israeli society, with unforeseen and devastating consequences.

In a sweeping, beautifully written story, Joan Leegant, winner of the PEN New England Book Award and the Edward Lewis Wallant Award, and a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, weaves together three lives caught in the grip of a volatile and demanding faith. Emotionally wrenching and unmistakably timely, Wherever You Go shines a light on one of the most disturbing elements in Israeli society: Jewish extremist groups and their threat to the modern, democratic state. This is a stunningly prescient novel.

My Thoughts: I was raised in a very religious strict Roman Catholic home. Every school I attended was Catholic, even my law school was part of a Catholic university. I knew very little about the Jewish faith until I took an introductory seminar while at my Jesuit College (my grandmother had a few choice words for the Jesuits about that!)! I discovered the Jewish religion is a beautiful religion steeped in tradition with a fascinating and long history. I still don't know a lot about Judaism although I learned a little bit more from my husband who was raised Jewish. I was drawn to Wherever You Go partly because the Jewish religion and life are part of the story and I hoped to learn more about it and Jewish extremism, of which I knew nothing.

The Jewish religion and way of life is a central part of the story in Wherever You Go especially the sections about Aaron Blinder and Mark Greenglass, providing captivating reading. But what I found fascinating, as well as disturbing, were passages about Jewish radicalism and the settlement movement, which often includes violent actions. I knew very little about this movement before reading Wherever You Go but I learned that, like so much else in life, the followers of this movement find their way to it for a myriad of reasons. The passion, commitment and even occasional, blind adherence, to Jewish radicalism is sometimes a response to other painful life-time afflictions as depicted by the characters in Wherever You Go.

Wherever You Go was, for me, as much about Jewish political and religious extremism as it was about three Jewish Americans who are all lost and searching for forgiveness or reconciliation or attention or identity or passion and more. Yona, Mark and Aaron have been experiencing painful inner conflicts for some time and their attempts at coping have caused their lives to grind to a halt. Yona and Aaron travel to Israel to find what they're looking for while Mark Greenglass leaves Israel for New York City only to return later. Not all of these characters are likable or likable all of the time but they are extremely flawed and, if not themselves dysfunctional, they come from dysfunction, making them very real human beings. Their journeys and the people, places and ideas they encounter is a riveting reading experience.

Ms. Leegant's main characters are people whose agony, struggles and the answers they seek many of us can relate to. At various times throughout the book, I was able to identify with the struggle and pain of each character. I was surprised by the sympathy I felt for Aaron towards the end of the book, an arrogant and obnoxious young guy much of the time, but then I saw the extent of the anguish, distress and burden he was living with and had been shielding from others. I wanted to cry for him and wished I could comfort him. These characters impacted me in powerful, unexpected ways. By the end of the book I was rooting for all of them to find the answers and live their lives. Ms. Leegant hasn't written a fairytale. This is a real story and in real life, things very often don't work out as we hope they will.

Wherever You Go is a beautifully written book. Ms. Leegant's writing style is compelling and graceful giving a melodious flow to the passages that draws you in. Israel comes alive in Ms. Leegant's hands and, though I've never been there, I now feel as if I have. Similarly everything from apartment rooms to statues to a living room ceiling are described in exquisite detail making it possible to picture them in your mind. The beauty of the writing sharply contrast with the subject matter mitigating the disturbing impact of some of the scenes.

This book has a lot going on with the lives of three characters and the struggles they're coping with and Judaism and the radical settlement movement. Although I think this is a captivating book, I wish it was a little bit longer. I felt that just as I was really getting a solid understanding of political and Jewish extremism the book ended. I also would have liked to read a little bit more of the characters lives and their experience with Jewish religion and life. Despite that, Ms. Leegant has written a wonderful book that I think is worthwhile reading for everyone.

Joan Leegant’s website

Thank you to Joan Leegant and W. W. Norton & Co. for a copy of Wherever You Go to read and review.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wondrous Words Wednesday!

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bermudaonion's Weblog where we share words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun (please do!) Be sure to leave a link to your post over at Bermudaonion's Weblog.

The following word comes from The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen

" That was how it had been ever since the diagnosis: a pretense of animosity had grown between them, a kind of ongoing, low-level dyspepsia."

1. Dyspepsia
: deranged or impaired digestion; indigestion

" At times her appearance provided a not unpleasant diversion or even comic relief, but right now, coupled with her desire to express bathetic condolences, it was the last thing John wanted to deal with.

2. Bathos
: insincere pathos; sentimentality; mawkishness
: triteness or triviality in style

" He leaned in ostentatiously to eye the meniscus of John's glass, then rose from the bar stool. "

3. Meniscus
: the curved surface at the top of a column of liquid

These next few words are from Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

" Although not far, the distance was too great for Hukam Singh to cover on foot, for he had been wounded in the leg while serving as a sepoy in a British regiment. "

4. Sepoy
: (formerly, in India) a native soldier, usually an infantryman, in the service of Europeans, especially of the British.

" At the factory's ghat on the Ganga, a one-masted pateli barge could be seen, flying the pennant of the English East India Company. "

5. Ghat
: a wide set of steps descending to a river, especially a river used for bathing.

" Once his meal had been wrapped and packed, she broke off to pay a quick visit to her shrine room: later, after she's bathed and changed, Deeti would do a proper puja with flowers and offerings; now, being clothed still in her night-time sari, she merely stopped at the door, to join he hands in a brief genuflection. "

6. Puja (Hinduism)
:the worship of a particular god.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review: Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington

Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington

Publisher: Pamela Dorfman Books
Published Date: June 2, 2011
ISBN: 978-0670022786
Pages: 320
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: When Alice learns that her father, Matt Bliss, is being deployed to Iraq she’s heartbroken. Alice idolizes her dad, working beside him in their garden, accompanying him on the occasional roofing job, playing baseball. After Matt ships out, her mother begins to crumble under the pressure of suddenly being a single parent and Alice struggles to fill the void as she balances the drama of adolescence with the effort of keeping her family together. But Alice is supported by a safety net strung with relationships, including almost boyfriends, a grandmother, a baker with too many children, her track coach, her kid sister, her Uncle Eddie, and even her well meaning but complicated mom. She will learn to drive, plant her father’s garden, and fall in love, all while trying to be strong for her mother, and take care of her precocious little sister, Ellie. But the smell of Matt is starting to fade from his blue shirt that Alice wears everyday and his infrequent phone calls are never long enough.

Alice Bliss is a profoundly moving coming-of-age novel about love and its many variations: the support of a small town looking after its own; love between an absent father and his daughter; complicated love between an adolescent girl and her mother; and an exploration of new love with the boy-next-door. These characters’ struggles amidst uncertain times echo our own, lending the novel an immediacy and poignancy that is both relevant and real. At once universal and very personal, Alice Bliss is a transforming story about those who are left at home during wartime, and a teenage girl bravely facing the future.

My Thoughts: I read a few reviews of Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington and thought it sounded like an interesting book with a young adult main character. I came across a post on Dawn's blog, She is Too Fond of Books that grabbed my attention. Laura Harrington, the author of Alice Bliss wanted to send her book on an around-the-world adventure by means of I loved the idea and signed up! When I received a copy of Alice Bliss with a BookCrossing bookplate attached, I registered the book at BookCrossing and received an ID number. Now that I've read and reviewed Alice Bliss, I will "release" my copy later this week or early next week in a public place such as a doctor's waiting room or Starbuck's. My hope is that another reader will pick up Alice Bliss, register where they found it on BookCrossing and, after they read it, will release it themselves. I'm looking forward to being able to 'watch' the journey the book takes around-the-world!

I admit that my initial interest in Alice Bliss was Laura Harrington's idea to share the book around-the-world. I thought the book sounded good but I honestly didn't pay a lot of attention to the story. I certainly wasn't expecting the exceptional reading experience I had with Alice Bliss. The coming-of-age storyline, universal, terrific themes and wonderfully human, flawed characters made for a great book.  Ms. Harrington has written a beautiful, poignant and engaging story that you don't want to miss.

Alice Bliss, at 15-years old, is the oldest of two girls in the Bliss family, a normal American family living in a small town in upstate New York. Ellie is Alice's 8-year old sister, quirky, adorable and lovable. Angie and Matt are her mom and dad. Angie and Matt are very much in love, although very different people along the mode of "opposites attract".  Alice is a good kid but she's in that awkward, uncomfortable and confusing stage between little girl and young woman when her hormones and emotions are in constant flux, wreaking havoc on her poor body which feels to Alice like it belongs to a stranger.

Alice adores her father and is very similar to him. Spending time with Matt doing any of the many things he likes to do, including gardening, tossing a baseball around or working in his workshop is where Alice can usually be found.  She has a cantankerous relationship with her mother. They don't seem to understand each other at all and have many issues to work out. The Bliss family is rounded out by a nutty, fun-loving, large Uncle Eddie, Angie's brother whom Alice adores, and Angie's mother, Penelope Pearl Bird or Gram, who owns The Bird Sisters coffee shop in town. The one other character I cannot forget to mention is Alice's best friend and possibly more, Henry. Henry Grover lives down the street from Alice, has been a part of her life since they were small children and is an intelligent, quirky and delightful boy.

Matt enlisted in the army reserves much to his wife's displeasure and inability to understand. When his unit is called up suddenly as part of a fast-track "high quality, hurry up, move 'em out training", no member of the Bliss family is prepared or happy about it, least of all Alice. How she copes with her father's absence while grappling with the confusing changes and conundrums of growing up, and struggling to make sense of it, provides for a powerful, touching and sometimes funny storyline. It was difficult not being able to whisper kind words in Alice's ear to let her know she's not alone or to sit beside her and share her pain (she's not the hugging type at this stage!) while reading about her days.

Alice Bliss is written from the third-person point of view but it feels very much like Alice's story. There are no chapters, instead sections in the book are delineated by dates, as if we are reading a journal. This made the story feel even more like Alice's because diaries and journals are often kept by girls. Additionally, much of the book is about Alice and her daily life during the 6 - 9 months we're privileged to spend with Alice and the Bliss family.  I really liked that Ms. Harrington chose to use dates rather than chapters to mark the progress of the story because it felt more personal and intimate as if we were spending each day with Alice and her family while they coped with Matt's absence.  I enjoyed being able to keep track of Alice's daily life, ee her progress and anticipate and know when important events were coming up in her life.

Whether or not you feel this is primarily Alice's story, there's no doubt she's the star character. Ms. Harrington's book is filled with well-developed, very human characters who help to make this book a terrific reading experience but Alice stands out. She's a remarkable, terrific girl and/or young woman who leaps  off the page and into your heart.  Intelligent, funny, sweet and thoughtful, she can also be stubborn, irascible, and, sometimes, selfish. Alice's character bounces between the little girl she's been and the young, mature woman she's on her way to becoming, demonstrating, clearly, the puzzling, self-conscious and difficult time Alice is having right now and the varied, extreme feelings all the changes provoke in her.

Ms. Harrington does an amazing job of showing us, clearly, that Alice is in that difficult stage all adolescent girls go through when, not only are their bodies changing in disturbing ways, but their hormones, emotions and thoughts are as well. Like so many young women around her age, Alice is childish and immature one minute and wise beyond her years the next. Ms. Harrington portrays this dichotomy in Alice best when she's struggling to cope with her father's absence and her feelings towards Henry. At every turn, I loved Alice and sharing this journey with her. She's by far one of my favorite characters.

Alice being the primary character in Alice Bliss  is partly why I felt this was her story. The relationship Alice has with her mother, Angie, also made me feel this way. Almost every time they speak or encounter one another, they clash and misunderstand each other. I was slightly confused while reading scenes between Angie and Alice because, very often, Alice felt more mature than Angie. Angie was easily irritated by Alice and often didn't seem to try to get along with her behaving morelike a friend than a mother. Angie even acted envious of Alice's relationship with her father. It was difficult to like Angie at all in the first third of this book.

As the story progressed and I began to see that this was mostly Alice's story, I understood the scenes between Alice and Angie better, especially when looked at from Alice's point of view . It was clear to me that most of what happened in this book was primarily Alice view of how things occurred. Few teenage girls portray their mothers in positive light so when viewed from Alice's perspective, it made sense that Angie seemed selfish, immature and unkind much of the time. In a few scenes in which Angie's alone, we get some insight into her character.  These scenes clarifiy that Angie isn't as selfish, unkind and thoughtless as she sometimes appears to be. We also saw what a tough time she's having coping with Matt's absence and Alice growing up. Angie is portrayed as a very flawed human being and not always the best mother but I don't think we were given a totally well-rounded picture of Angie. If there's any 'problem' I had with Alice Bliss it's that I would have liked to know Angie better and to know more about her relationship with Alice. What I did see of Angie with Alice made me feel enormous sympathy for mothers of teenage girls!

Laura Harrington has written a beautiful, stunning and absorbing book about a young girl maturing into a young woman while coping with the inevitable problems that life throws at us. At the same time, she's dealing with her relationships with family and friends that change as we change. Ms. Harrington has given us a book with themes relevant for life in our society today when many families are trying to deal with the absence of a loved one in the military. Alice Bliss is a fantastic book for mothers of a teenage girl, for families who have a loved one in the army, navy or air force and for any reader who loves books with terrific characters and a heart-warming, powerful story of love, loss, family, growing up and hope.

Laura Harrington's Website and Blog

Thank you to Pamela Dorfman Books at Viking for a copy of Alice Bliss to read and review.

~ First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros ~

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros is a weekly meme hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea every Tuesday. The idea is to share the opening paragraph (maybe two) of a book you've decided to read based on the opening paragraph(s). I included the first two paragraphs of Chapter 1 for the book I chose to share this week. I have wanted to read this book for a couple of years. It's also received wonderful reviews and this years R.I.P. Challenge at Stainless Steel Droppings was the impetus for me to finally read it! Be sure to drop by Bibliophile By the Sea and read Diane's terrific selection this week and be sure to visit and read the contributions of other participants in this fun meme who can be found in the comments!

In the Woods by Tana French
What I warn you to remember is that I am a detective. Our relationship with truth is fundamental but cracked, refracting confusingly like fragmented glass. It is the core of our careers, the endgame of every move we make, and we pursue it with strategies painstakingly constructed of lies and concealment and every variation on deception. The truth is the most desirable woman in the world and we are the most jealous lovers, reflexively denying anyone else the slightest glimpse of her. We betray her routinely, spending hours and days stupor-deep in lies, and then turn back to her holding out the lover's ultimate Möbius strip: But I only did it because I love you so much.

I have a pretty knack for imagery, especially the cheap, facile kind. Don't let me fool you into seeing us as a bunch of parfit gentil knights galloping off in doublets after Lady Truth on her white palfrey. What we do is crude, crass and nasty. A girl gives her boyfriend an alibi for the evening when we suspect him of robbing a north-side Centra and stabbing the clerk. I flirt with her at first, telling her I can see why he would want to stay home when he's got her; she is peroxided and greasy, with the flat, stunted features of generations of malnutrition, and privately I am thinking that if I were her boyfriend I would be relieved to trade her even for a hairy cellmate named Razor. Then I tell her we've found marked bills from the till in his classy white tracksuit bottoms, and he's claiming that she went out that evening and gave them to him when she got back.

What are your thoughts about these 2 opening paragraphs? Would you read this book based on these paragraphs?

Monday, September 19, 2011

~ Mailbox Monday ~

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a weekly meme created by Marcia from A Girl and Her Books. Here, Book Lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the course of the past week. Mailbox Monday currently is on tour, and this month’s host is Amused by Books  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Fathermucker by Greg Olear (publisher via TLC Book Tours)
A day in the life of a dad on the brink: Josh Lansky—second-rate screenwriter, fledgling freelancer, and stay-at-home dad of two preschoolers—has held everything together while his wife is away on business . . . until this morning’s playdate, when he finds out through the mommy grapevine that she might be having an affair. What Josh needs is a break. He’s not going to get one.

The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gregg Gilmore (win from Raging Bibliomania)
Bezellia Grove, who is one of a long line of Bezellia Groves in one of Nashville’s oldest families, dreams of someday living up to the name that looms so large in her heritage. But her family is not as stable as everyone thinks. Her mother is strict and proper, when not drinking, and her father is never home, preferring to work long hours. Bezellia and her younger sister are raised by the household servants, Nathaniel and Maizelle, who are more like parents to them than their real ones. When Nathaniel’s smart, good-looking son Samuel appears, Bezellia is completely smitten. But the South in the 1960s is not a welcoming place for Samuel, especially when he falls in love with a white woman. Bezellia must decide whether it’s her heart or her heritage that is most important. Gilmore’s second novel (after Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, 2008) is a highly emotional story that vividly evokes a sense of place, the 1960s era, and the heady feelings of first love. (Hilary Hatton: Booklist)

The Glimpse Traveler by Marrianne Boruch (win from she reads and reads)
When she joins a pair of hitchhikers on a trip to California, a young Midwestern woman embarks on a journey about memory and knowledge, beauty and realization. This true story, set in 1971, recounts a fateful, nine-day trip into the American counterculture that begins on a whim and quickly becomes a mission to unravel a tragic mystery. The narrator's path leads her to Berkeley, San Francisco, Mill Valley, Big Sur, and finally to an abandoned resort motel, now become a down-on-its-luck commune in the desert of southern Colorado. Neither a memoir about private misery, nor a shocking exposé of life in a turbulent era, The Glimpse Traveler describes with wry humor and deep feeling what it was like to witness a peculiar and impossibly rich time.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (sent from a friend)
From David Mitchell, the Booker Prize nominee, award-winning writer and one of the featured authors in Granta’s “Best of Young British Novelists 2003” issue, comes his highly anticipated third novel, a work of mind-bending imagination and scope.

A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified “dinery server” on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation -- the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other’s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.

In his captivating third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity’s dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (sent by a friend)
This is the long-awaited first novel from one of the most original and memorable writers working today.

Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fukœ-the curse that has haunted the Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.

Díaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss. A true literary triumph, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao confirms Junot Díaz as one of the best and most exciting voices of our time

Still Life with Woodpecker by Tim Robbins (Paper Back Swap)
is a sort of a love story that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes. It reveals the purpose of the moon, explains the difference between criminals and outlaws, examines the conflict between social activism and romantic individualism, and paints a portrait of contemporary society that includes powerful Arabs, exiled royalty, and pregnant cheerleaders. It also deals with the problem of redheads.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Salon: Fall is Here!

It's hard to believe Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011 has come and gone. Although this was my third year, I consider it my second year really because I began my blog shortly before BBAW my first year and, to be honest, it was an over-whelming, kind of confusing week for me.  Very interesting, too, but I don't have a clear idea of anything that went on that week!! Last week was fantastic! I discovered several new and wonderful blogs, got to know many bloggers much better through their interview, read some intriguing posts and found some other bloggers who, like myself, don't know Twitter well but want to learn! Yay! I'd say it was a very productive week I don't know if I'll participate in BBAW every year but I really enjoyed it this year!  I want to be sure to say a Big Thank you to Amy of My Friend Amy for a fantastic job planning BBAW this year!

One other terrific things that happened this week is Autumn arrived early! The weather temperatures dropped almost 20 degrees! During the day it's been sunny and in the low 70s and at night it's dipped into the low 60s, with one night hitting 57 degrees! It's gorgeous. I love this weather so much I feel like I could skip...that's no small feat with crutches or a wheelchair! lolol

The cats have come alive with the cooler weather! They want to play and run and they're eating as if food has been offered to them for the first time after a long fast, especially Bob. He's a big boy but I think 2 large cans of cat food is a bit much. It's such fun to see the cats so happy and playful instead of lethargic from the heat and humidity.

I took a break from posting book reviews and memes this week while participating in BBAW except on Monday when I decided to participate in the Monday Mailbox meme which was fun! I always enjoy reading other bloggers Monday Mailbox posts so I thought it would be fun to participate. Otherwise I used the week to catch up on reviews and to finish a few books I've feel as if I've been reading for too long as well as to start some new books! I finished. I will be posting reviews for Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington and Where You Go by Joan Leegant this week for sure.

I'm reading Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh as part of Erin Reads Reading Buddies project. I'm a bit behind, although, but will be commenting on her first post later today. I'm also reading The True Memoirs of Madame K by Adrienne Sharp which is for the Book Club run by Jen of Devourer of Books and Nicole of Linus' Blanket. I've been reading The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for the R.I.P. Challenge. Last but not least, I'm in the very beginning of Into the Woods by Tana French a book I've wanted to read for a while and the R.I.P Challenge offered a perfect reason to do so now! Whew! There are so many books I want to read that it's sometimes difficult to choose at any given time or not to read too many at once!

Today is the Brooklyn Book Festival which I'm hoping to attend for a little while although I'm not sure if I'll be able to...I have to wait and see how I'm feeling in a little while. There were some terrific events around Brooklyn already this week. I'd planned to attend a few such as's Literary Pub Quiz held on Friday at St. Ann's Warehouse on Water St. in DUMBO, Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Indie Party at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, Brooklyn also Friday night, which celebrated some of Brooklyn's best independent book and magazine publishers including A Public Space, Akashic Publishers, Melville House, Ugly Duckling Presse, Umbrage Editions and more. I was really looking forward to those events but I wasn't able to go since I've been having problems with my breathing this week. I'm sure they were a lot of fun! Oh boy does it annoy me that I couldn't least I know that the Brooklyn Book Festival is an annual event and one that is growing in size every year!

Since I brought up the breathing problems I'm having, I might as well mention that I'm scheduled for a catheterization procedure on Tuesday to measure how high the pressure is in my lungs (known as Pulmonary Hypertension). I'm not looking forward to this procedure at all. It's simply unpleasant and uncomfortable but, fortunately, it's same day in/out not over-night. And, based on the outcome, my cardiologist and I can figure out what medication I should be on to help my heart and lungs work with maximum some brief unpleasantness for a long time of good work (fingers-crossed).

If anyone if going to Brooklyn Book Festival, have a fantastic time and hopefully I will run into you there (not literally but I will be on wheels!).

Everybody else, have an enjoyable Sunday!
Happy Reading!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

~ Saturday Snapshot ~ September 17 ~

My adorable kitties doing what they do best: Relaxing and Sleeping!

This last one isn't great quality but I just love it because of the way the kittens are sitting. The gray & white kitten (Gidget) and the black & white kitten (Scout) are sleeping aginst Huxley's body, (adult white cat with gray spots - in the pic you can see his back half & tail best!)
Scout got there first and curled up next to Huxley so when Gidget came along she simply sat on top of Scout ~ at least she was kind enough not to sit on Scout's head!

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of at home with books.  It's easy to participate, just post a photo taken by you, a friend or a family member and link to the Mister Linky at the bottom of Alyce's post.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Day Five: Essentials of Blogging!

It's Day Five and the Final Day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011. To round out this great week today is the day to share Essentials of Blogging.

The world of blogging is continually changing. Share 3 things you are essential tried and true practices for every blogger and 1-3 new trends or tools you’ve adapted recently or would like to in the future.
I'm going to keep this very brief which is not something I do often (or well!) because, for reasons I'm at a loss to explain, my week went totally downhill after Wednesday morning. As a result, I haven't been around as much as I was in the beginning of the week. The point I think is of utmost importance for every blogger  to have a successful blogging experience: Your blog has to be one that interests you, that you feel passionate about and that matters to you. The way we feel about our blog and the content comes across in our posts. Readers will know if you care about your blog when they read your posts. If you're not passionate about and proud of what you're blogging about, it will show. And for this reason I think that it's not enough to blog about books because you love to read, I think it's important that, most of the time, we blog about books in genres we most enjoy not that seem the most popular with readers.

Related to this is something I learned very early in my blogging endeavor. BBAW week was shortly after I started blogging. I was still feeling over-whelmed and figuring out what I wanted from my blog and what I wanted it to portray about me. Several seasoned bloggers blogged, at some point during the week, about the importance of blogging for yourself, of making sure your blog is a creation of which you're proud. I didn't completely understand what these bloggers were saying with this seemingly simple advice...It's just a blog, right?! But, ss the weeks went by and I reviewed more books and began receiving ARCS to review, I came to understand how key this advice is and what they meant. If you don't have an interest in your own blog or really care to read it, how can you expect anyone else to?!

I am a person who has always had to learn the who what where and when of things by 'trying them on for size', living with them for a while and deciding whether to stay with that particular thing or try something else. So I know my blog is a work in progress, even almost two years after I started it. One thing I've learned is that, although I enjoy receiving recently published books and galleys from publishers, who are so amazingly generous, I prefer, just slightly more, reading and reviewing books I choose to read. As a result, over the next few months I want to change the dynamic on my blog to something like 60% books I've chosen to read and review and 40% books I've been offered or sent to review. This may not work out the way I'm hoping or I might decide I don't like things that way as much as I expected but I want to try it and it makes me interested and excited about my blog!

As for the trend or tool I'd like to adapt? Twitter, Twitter Twitter, Twitter! Erin from Erin Reads, was smart enough (she is very smart) to bring up the subject of Twitter and ask some questions of other bloggers about how Twitter works. I'm sorry for Erin that she finds Twitter a bit confusing and slightly over-whelming. But, I admit, I was thrilled to discover that she's a kindred spirit when it comes to Twitter. I also discovered Anna from The Diary of an Eccentric is too! So with the assistance and support of some terrific bloggers, my hope is to figure out and become comfortable with Twitter.