Hide and Seek 3 by Yaya Sakuragi

Hide and Seek is the third and final volume in this sweet and mature romance series. I’ve really enjoyed following the relationship of our two main characters: each is unique and distinct and don’t follow the cliches often found in this genre. Author Sakuragi does a great job of letting their relationship unfold organically and without high drama or over the top situations: there are no jealous lovers, deus ex machina plot devices, unlikely coincidences, or misunderstandings. Rather, Hide and Seek 3 is the culmination of the story of two men who come to respect and then love each other despite their different backgrounds.

index

Story: Tanihara is still considering his situation – both with the kiosk he runs and with Dr. Saji. Saji never pushes or rushes the relationship, which gives Tanihara time to decide how he feels about this change in his life. As he spends more time with the pediatrician, he slowly begins to understand his own heart and that sometimes, the best things in life are the ones that are completely unexpected.

The art is clean and the storytelling languid. But it comes to a natural conclusion with an extra side story to finish the volume. The storytelling is wonderfully mature with a few graphic sex scenes in the middle. Those who enjoyed the first two books in the series will definitely enjoy finishing the story of Tanihara and Saji.

Reviewed from an ecopy provided by the publisher.

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, manga, romance | Leave a comment

The MD Factor Diet by Caroline J. Cederquist

The MD (Metabolism Dysfunction) Diet focuses on changing eating patterns to regulate glucose and ensure that food is turned into energy rather than fat. The book is beautifully presented with scientific information nicely and easily explained for the layman. This is a protein/carb counting diet but servings/portions are clearly laid out and recipes/diet plan easy to follow. Women, especially those in later years, will find the information in here especially useful as topics of pre and post menopause are discussed. But the real heart of the book is that it is the rare animal that really makes sense of the the science behind why your belly won’t go away.

23168581

The book breaks down as follows: Part 1 Discover Your MD Factor (Metabolism dysfunction, it’s not your fault). Part II: Understanding The MD Factor (The MD Factor = Metabolism Dysfunction; Triggers for the MD factor; The protein you need; The carbohydrates you need; The fat you need; The vitamins and supplements yo need; The exercise you don’t need – yet; The alcohol you need to watch; The artificial sugars you need to watch). Part III: The MD Factor Action Plan ( The MD Factor daily action plan; Keeping track of your progress; The MD Factor maintenance plan). Part IV: Recipes (Main course meals; Sides; Sauces, toppings, salad dressings; Snacks). Appendices (Why other diets don’t work; Blood work for the MD Factor; Calculating net carbohydrates; Genetic influences on your weight; Metformin; Nutritional information quick reference guide; MD Factor food log; Additional resources; Animal protein and vegetarian diets).

The beginning of the book has several quizzes to help you understand your own current metabolic situation. But most of the book’s attention is on understanding how your body metabolizes food rather than the usual scary health warnings of diabetes, heart risk, etc.

The presentation is very friendly (I recommend a Kindle Fire or physical copy for that reason) with different fonts, colors, and call out boxes. It makes for a pleasant and easy read despite the hard science topics. How this diet differs from many others right now is its strong concentration on protein, though carbs, fat, and of course vitamins/supplements are given enough detail as well. Although readers may have seen a lot of this information already if they’ve read any diet books in the past 3 years, I have to say that the ease of understanding in the presentation really makes this book stand out.

The diet itself breaks down into these sections: 3 reclaim days, 25 transformation days, 6 stabilization days. The reclaim days clear the blood of insulin to jumpstart the metabolism.  The 3-1/2 weeks of transformation days are intended to keep energy high, with the only difference between the reclaim and transformation days being the amount of carbohydrates. Finally, the stabilization days add more carbs for 6 days. If that seems confusing, don’t worry, there is a 70 day calendar to guide you through the entire process.

As noted, you will need to carb count. E.g., reclaim days are 60 grams of carbs, transformation days are 60-100 grams of carbs, and stabilization days are 100-150 carbs. If it sounds grueling to have to count carbs, don’t worry. There are very specific charts, graphs, and info with each recipe that give you the carb counts. What is important is the portion size and learning to take less quantity but better quality food. Then you aren’t starving yourself with too much food that never gets metabolized and instead bypasses your cells and goes straight to fat.

The recipes are simple and easy to prepare.  They are nicely laid out with numbered steps in paragraph form. Protein, fat, and carb info is given for each recipe item, from pomodoro sauce to French lentil salad.

Because the information is so accessible and easy to digest, this is a great book for those who are unsure if they want to commit to a diet but do want more information to help understand why they aren’t losing belly fat or are sluggish every day. Of course, it is an easy diet to follow as well, with an emphasis on removing processed simple carbohydrates and artificial ingredients.

Reviewed from an ecopy provided by the publisher.

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, fitness/diet, non fiction | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The HD Diet by Karen Gilbert

The HD Diet (hydrophilic diet) is simple: eat foods that absorb water and have high fiber, expand in your stomach (e.g., oatmeal, chia seeds), and thereby fill you up and create satiety. At the same time, avoid IF foods (infrequent foods) that inhibit your ability to lose weight when eaten too frequently (e.g., desserts, fried foods, alcohol, refined carbs, cheeses, etc.). The book mostly concentrates on weight loss rather than lifestyle and has a specific meal plan with recipes as well as motivational aids to help readers achieve goals.

20695986

The book breaks down as follows: Part 1: Your Decision (Hydrate and satiate: The HD philosophy; Deciding to live in HD; Daily HD decisions – uncovering your current habits; Put it in writing – your HD work). Part 2: The 12 week HD Plan (Eating in HD – the HD plan guidelines and core foods; start strong in HD – daily checklists and menus; Still focused and adding IFs). Living in HD (Healthy HD alterations; Curing excusitis; Meal prep in HD; The HD recipes). Appendices (My HD contract; HD food log; Weekly goal tracker; Navigating the supermarket).

The diet is focused on the cleansing effects of water/fiber in the system as well as creating a sense of fullness and satisfaction through the bulk of ‘water loving’ foods. Chia seeds really do seem to be the heart and are probably the single most important component in the diet. You’ll be eating them daily in the meal plan and all throughout the recipes. The other water-friendly foods include okra, oatmeal, pears, barley, brussels sprouts, kidney beans, chickpeas, oranges, and agar. If a reader dislikes one or several of these foods (called a ‘block food’), the author suggess people learn to like them if they want to lose the weight. There is an implied “illogically stubborn dislike” as the core reason for not liking that particular food. It’s a strong stance not found in most diet plans.

The psychological aspect is well covered here, with a contract for weight loss, food log charts, weekly goal tracker, examples from the author’s clients who have lost weight, and examinations of different dieter types (e.g., the busy mama, on the go gobbler, the social person).

The meals are simple but likeable; made for those who don’t want to spend a lot of prep time and are quick/easy to make. Since the diet is more about adding water-friendly foods rather than eliminating food types, the recipes are accessible and fairly normal – an egg or oatmeal for breakfast, for example. So it isn’t too onerous unless you don’t wish to sprinkle chia seeds into everything.

A detractor for me is that it did feel gimmicky with a lot of made up terms (‘hydrophilic diet’ or ‘excusitis,’ ‘water friendly’). And then taking the acronym HD and turning it into “Healthy Diet” or “High Definition” felt like marketers were reaching a bit. It almost steered what is a deceptively simple and easy diet with a unique concept into fad territory.

The HD Diet definitely has a unique angle I haven’t seen before and I am looking forward to trying it out for the 12 week period. I may not love pears and haven’t figured out a use for agar, but I can definitely start sprinkling chia seeds and watching my portions better.

Reviewed from an ecopy provided by the publisher.

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, fitness/diet, non fiction | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia isn’t a terrible book by any means and there are going to be people who really like it. But it does feel very much like it is pandering to a specific young teen audience, bringing an almost ‘mary sue’ wishful trope especially suited for those invested in the “Supernatural” TV series. I can’t imagine being accused of being a derivative of a CW show can in any way be considering a recommendation and certainly this book treads a thin line between shallow and unlikeable. Readers will likely be polarized between loving it and hating it as a result.

Kami Garcia/Unbreakable

Story:  Kennedy lives a somewhat normal life – until her mother dies mysteriously and she is attacked by ghosts. Saved by uberhandsome emo twins, YA love triangle and instaluv ensue. Cue ‘on the run’ team fighting supernatural entities while evading authorities.

The characters here were the main problem for me. Kennedy is nearly unlikeable – overwritten in the ‘show not tell’ style to an early death of believability. She spends most of the book showing how plucky she is being ensuring she will need to be saved by the cute emo twins as often as possible. And not so much for thrilling action sequences so much as to provide reasons for soppy romance scenes.

The love interest wonder twins themselves are ciphers; two dimensional walking cardboard cutouts of a typical reverse-harem situation: one is sociable and one is moody and withdrawn. Any guesses which one our overdramatic heroine will fine most intriguing? I found them boring and wholly uninteresting. Sadly, that remained true for all the characters in the book.

The plot needed more depth and believability to bring credibility to the characters’ actions. Not much makes sense, especially in the logic department, and as a result it became very hard to invest in anyone or anything that happened.  I enjoy characters I can respect rather than those that feel the need to make every situation completely over-the-top. That is my personal preference (an intelligent, sane, nuanced, heroine) and others may like Kennedy a lot more than I did.  In my world, she’s be an annoying brat.

There is much that could be done with the premise to take it above and beyond a shallow homage to a beloved TV show. What worked in Supernatural, the likability and quirk of the main characters, would have taken this book so much farther. Unfortunately, too many of the shortcomings and lowest-common-denominator values of the speculative YA genre are overrepresented here.

Reviewed from an ecopy provided by the publisher.

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, romance, urban fantasy, YA | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Grow a Little Fruit Tree by Ann Ralph

Grow a little Fruit Tree is a very comprehensive and beautifully presented guide to pruning techniques for keeping trees under 6′ tall. This makes for better fruit that is easier to pick and adds fullness to a garden space. The core of the techniques is to trim the main branch to encourage lateral growing but there is quite a bit of other information presented as well including historical and personal perspectives. But this is a book for those starting gardens and not applicable/usable for older growth trees (though there is good information about aesthetic trimming, etc. for more mature vegetation).

18796083

The book breaks down as follows: Introduction, Small is beautiful, The short fruit tree method, The conversation begins: the hardest pruning cut you’ll ever have to make, the conversation continues, How much water does a fruit tree need?, The elementary principles of pruning, Choosing varieties, The fruit tree comes home, Working with mother nature, Ripe fruit, Entering the zone of equilibrium, Appendix.

The book is very well thought out with many images and graphical elements. One might assume they were there to take up space but there is a LOT of information about fruit trees in this book.  I was surprised and then daunted by how much there is to read on the subject. But it wasn’t a dreary read either; the author is friendly and informative and clearly very much loves what she does.

The chronology of the book is as follows: encouraging you to understand the benefits of smaller trees, getting over the fear of pruning, selecting, transporting, replanting, rearing your trees, and then specifics such as the various fruit tree types and how to care for them.

Because of the beautiful layout and breadth of subject matter, this is an easy recommendation for any gardener, regardless of location. I rate 4 out of 5 stars due to some lingering questions (any way to prevent root suckers?) and because the techniques really are only for newly planted fruit trees (there’s not much that can be done with older trees so this isn’t a book intended for mature gardens).

Reviewed from an ecopy provided by the publisher.

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, non fiction | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Storm Fall by Tracy Banghart

I enjoyed Rebel Wing, the first in this series, and was looking forward to seeing the story continued in Storm Fall. Banghart’s writing is straightforward, easy to follow, and with strong characters. But the emphasis on the romances greatly derailed and detracted from the plot, making this a somewhat hollow book lacking in nuances and worldbuilding. Still, as an undemanding read, those that enjoyed the first book should also enjoy Storm Fall as well.

23556036

Aris was unmasked in the first book but did effect a very major change: women are now allowed in the Atalanta military. But they don’t have it easy: bullying, harassment, and general nastiness mean Aris and her female friends might almost have preferred to continue to hide their gender. When she is shot down over enemy territory, it will take her former friends and love all their strength and mettle to sneak in and retrieve Aris. But they will have to beat Elom to her first.

The story revolves around three romances. Aris and Milek (with her former love, Calix, thrown in for a triangle), Milek’s mother and a politician, and Aris’ friend Dysis and Daakon. Most of the story seemed to be about their little romance moments rather than much needed worldbuilding and plot. Even the villain, Elom, is casually disregarded for most of the book despite supposedly being the big antagonist. His scene at the end of the book is a complete throwaway just to have an Aris/Milek moment.

Admittedly, for me, the plot was overly simplistic and lacking purpose and drive. There’s a lot of soapboxing (women in the military, yay! War is hell, boo!  Save the children, yay!) that is very heavy handedly applied. Between the romance moments and messages, there wasn’t any room left for much of a plot.

The heart of the book is Aris and she is a very likeable and relatable character. I only wish she had been given more to work with this volume. She flails for most of the story. I’d also have liked to see less emphasis on Milek’s mother (those scenes are pointless beyond the romance aspect) or Dysis’ POV. The book lacked punch by pretty much being 3 short story romance vignettes rather than one cohesive and driving narrative.

What really didn’t work for me, though, is the overt “we can do whatever we want” aspect of a relationship while in the military. If Aris is supposed to be a groundbreaker of bringing women into martial activities, nothing would destroy that foundation and weaken her and Milek’s authority by a very overt relationship with a superior officer. There’s no way he could be objective over her (or that any of the men would believe he could be). As well, that Calix would defect to save her because he is in love with her also emphasizes the point that women would ruin the military.  That contradictory message is a real problem. It meant a loss of credibility and logic in the worldbuilding.

So although I did not enjoy Storm Fall (I’m not even sure where the name of the book comes from?) as much as Rebel Wing, I am sure those who prefer an undemanding romance with a strong female main character will enjoy the story.

Reviewed from an ecopy provided by the publisher.

Posted in ARC, dystopian, romance | Leave a comment

Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Red Rising, the first book in this series, had really impressed me with its pathos and refreshing take on Dystopian sci fi. Golden Son continues the story and even improves upon it by upping the game to a global scale while also maintaining the distinct personalities and heart of the first book. A completely unpredictable and twist-laden plot ensures a very compelling read. Golden Son isn’t a perfect book but it is a very good one.

18966819

Story: Two years have passed and Darrow has carefully integrated himself into the ArchGoverner’s retinue. He is a favored son as he continues to gain influence and power among the Golds. But those who rise to power also gain enemies and Darrow’s training could not possibly cover the maneuverings of a brutal and bitter society. Friends will betray, foes will ally, and Darrow will have to find the strength of will and heart in order to survive.

Golden Son has a refreshingly labyrinthine plot. At no point could I have predicted not only one but all of the major twists and turns. Like a tree that has been carefully pruned for width rather than height, there is no clear path through the story and instead we have a series of action vignettes or moments. It can mean a choppy ride but also a fascinating one as we see how Darrow will manage to survive. There are a few deus ex machina moments and I’m not a fan of the main character putting plans suddenly into place without ever having hinted he had the situation fully under control. But I also have to admit that it makes for a thrilling read when a situation suddenly completely changes – and then just as suddenly there is a full counter-solution at hand.

The real strength of this book is the heart. Characters have complex motivations and certainly there is no soppy romance to weigh it down. Darrow has to consider each person he betrays, each life lost as his enemies retaliates or is retaliated against. At the same time, he grapples with both the desire and the fear of telling those he cares about just who he really is. I fond myself rooting for some characters even with their quirks while also appreciating the others who have other interests at heart that conflict or align with Darrow’s.

The surprises come thick and fast, as do the revelations. Things are MUCH more complicated than in the first book now that Darrow is in the larger milieu. There is a lot more science fiction now that he has taken to space as well. I was really looking forward to the sci fi aspects but really Goldon Son is about the politics and machinations rather than space battles. As well, the unprejudiced violence returns in very cruel ways.

Roman mythology and society have been used in other sci fi novels (read: Hunger Games). Here, Brown uses it as a complete basis for a society and interweaves so much of that historic flavor into his futuristic sci fi. I was continually impressed with the depth of knowledge and liberal application: this is more than just using Roman names and instead we have a whole society based on the ideology. If Rome had been transplanted to space, this is what we would get.  It was so fascinating to explore in the story with that perspective.

In all, once I started, I could not put it down. There were a few disappointments and niggles but as a whole, this is definitely a 5-star book.  Reviewed from an ecopy provided by the publisher.

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, dystopian, sci fi | Leave a comment