The 8-Week Blood Sugar Diet Cookbook

The 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet Cookbook brings healthy eating back around toward low carb, low calorie, Mediterranean style dieting but with intermittent fasting (very low calorie days). The emphasis is on diabetes management and prevention – even curing diabetes by carefully regulating blood sugar spikes from carb heavy foods like pasta and rice. The recipes are very usual foods but in smaller, carefully managed portions. There is also a section on physical exercise that focuses on walking and moving around rather than squats etc.

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Sample recipes include no-carb waffles, crayfish salad, French fish stew, crab cakes, blueberry and green tea smoothie, harissa chicken, foil steamed fish, skinny chili, warm halloumi salad, etc. All recipes are meant to be quick and easy – from five-minute breakfasts, no-fuss lunches, and simple suppers. There are also three guilt free baking recipes: zucchini and pumpkin seed muffins, cheesy scones, and guild-free brownies.

The introduction before the recipes is fairly brief. It is mostly comprised of testimonials of those who have been able to mitigate or control their diabetes or pre diabetes through better eating and not medicine/pills/insulin. There is a repeating undertone of the side effects of diabetes: lots of discussions about amputated limbs and blindness. It felt a bit too much like scare tactics at some point and I honestly prefer motivational books without the heavy emphasis on worst case scenarios (well, ok, death is likely the worst case). But it wasn’t overwhelming.

The recipes are very easy to follow and very, very simple. Calories, servings, a list of ingredients, and paragraph directions. There are no images and all recipes are clumped together on each page. Because they are brief and easy to make, this isn’t a problem and makes it easier to find recipes without having to skim through pages and pages.

In all, the diet is easy to follow and there is the important emphasis on lifetime health management rather than quick pounds loss. But unlike a lot of the diets today, it does promise that you will lose weight fast. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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The Flinstones Volume 1 by Russel, Pugh

Back in the 1960s, TV became a bit daring with a social commentary sitcom known as The Honeymooners. Much as would be done again in the 1970s with Archie Bunker of All In The Family, 1980s with Roseanne, and 1990s with The Simpsons, the shows were biting satire camouflaged in the guise of comedy. In the 1970s, Cartoonists Hanna Barbara would take The Honeymooners, discard the barbs for mindless humor and recreate the setting in the ‘Stone Age’; the Flintstones was born. What Russell and Pugh have done is taken the look of the inane 1994 live action movie remake and use the prehistoric setting to make pithy observations about modern American society. From consumerism to religion, war and the space race – this book is both funny but also thoughtful. It’s a partner to the movie Idiocracy, but with the setting in the distant past rather than the near future.

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Story: The comics follow several themed vignettes: from Mr. Slate fretting over his top 1% status, the boys despairing over a genocidal warfare/ PTSD of a fellow lodge mate, disposable products, commercials and commercialism when Betty and Wilma ponder shoes and the latest gadgets, marriage and its definition when Fred and Wilma want to stay married even though it is so frowned up, Pebbles rebelliousness and teen angst/social protests, and more. If the stories sound too serious, don’t worry: this is the Flinstones, after all, and Fred/Barney are just as clueless as their earlier incarnation counterparts.

The stories flow and are amusing. Perhaps some stories are a bit too sharp in their satirical wit – the bon mots can fall flat when weighed down by the grounded realism of the real-life issues they are skewing. The commentary of the Viet Nam war especially uncomfortably crosses the line between satire and serious social commentary. As with the Simpsons or South Park, the pithy commentary can be incisive but still funny if done right. It’s almost there, just a few balancing issues would have made this pitch perfect.

The artwork is inspired by the movie and not the cartoon – though the artist has strayed far enough from John Goodman’s and Rick Moranis’ likenesses to make this feel more original (and not have to pay royalties). Obese figures are instead replaced with very muscular frameworks – I never remembered John Goodman or Fred Flinstone as being a body builder. I think that change was the only thing that felt off in the artwork – Satire on modern America doesn’t really work with muscular men. The whole point of the Flintstones is that Fred and Barney are average slobs – comfortable in their little lives of Americana and family. They aren’t body builders even in the stone age.

If some of the targets were a bit too easy and others a bit too painful for the mockery, there still is much to digest and enjoy here. Especially for readers who appreciate wit and intelligence in their graphic novels. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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Any Boy But You by

Any Boy But You is a sweet romance set in a town obsessed with Christmas. We have a “Romeo and Juliet” situation between two rival sporting goods stores and the legacy established by the grandparents of our two mains. The characters are fun, the story is smooth, and this is a perfect Summer read at the beach.

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Story: The Chestnut Sporting Good Store has been a rival to the Prince Sporting goods since the founders split off with each other decades ago over creative differences. Outgoing Elena Chestnut struggles with the decaying situation of her store and complacent parents. Shy and private Oliver Prince has an overachieving set of parents who are too busy conquering the world to care about the Prince Sorting Goods or even Oliver. When Oliver moves from Florida back to the sleepy northern town, he devises a plan to increase sales for the sporting good store: a Pokemon Go type of Ap that takes the town by storm. Elena is frustrated at the further lost sales caused by Oliver’s Ap but can’t help but be caught up in it – especially after texting conversations with a person in the Ap who sounds like her type of guy. The problem is, she doesn’t know it is her annoying rival Oliver.

There are some wonderful Shakespearean undertones here: from the Taming of the Shrew to Hamlet, to Romeo and Juliet. But the nods are subtle and definitely you won’t notice them upon first read. Author Hammerle gives us a broad cast of characters, from the feuding parents to the people at the school and those who interact with Elena’s store. And that quirkiness gives the book a bit of sparkle for an otherwise oft-told YA tale. Where many books of this type are charming, Any Boy But You is instead unconventional. Admittedly, I would have liked to see it edge more toward wacky but it stays fairly grounded instead.

Oliver isn’t the usual protagonist – he’s not a studly super confident popular smirking jock or class president. He’s fairly reserved and is forced to integrate with the town’s odd population by a very aggressive mother. Hammerle does a good job of making him much more worldy (he didn’t grow up there) than his more down-t0-Earth love interest, Elena, who grew up her whole life in the town. Both have personas that they can shed in the online chat/text of the game and therein have the ability to show/be their true selves.

The book doesn’t overplay the ‘I don’t know who this chat person is in real life’ too long – one learns the identity of the other fairly quickly and it isn’t a horrible overdramatic realization, either. Most of the story is about coming to terms with their own family problems (Elena’s parents money problems and Oliver’s parents’ disintegrating marriage and need for power). There are some small subplots about Elena’s friends and Oliver’s sister that create more interest as well.

In all, I enjoyed Any Boy But You. It was an enjoyable if not particular original read. If I have one critique, I wish it had pushed the quirkiness a bit more (as with great books like Third Cow On The Left). The milieu felt forced and unrealistic (the town obsessed with xmas) when the story stayed so grounded. But I liked both characters very much and appreciated that we didn’t get the same cliche type of boy love interest in Oliver. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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Small Favors by Colleen Coover

What Small Favors lacks in storytelling, it more than makes up for in charm and joy. Freed completely from any patriarchal restraints whatsoever, what we have is a series of short vignettes that have one goal in mind: find reasons to think about, talk about, and especially perform various sexual acts. It’s cute as hell for porn though I wish it explored the emotional side as well as the it does so completely for the physical.

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Story: Annie is daydreaming of her cute neighbor again while masturbating – when her conscience appears and tells her she will get a ‘minder’ to make sure she spends less time with sex. Fortunately for Annie, her minder just wants to have sex all the time as well – and with her small size, the two get into all kinds of ‘situations’ together that lead to mutual enjoyment.

There’s not much to say about Small Favors – I certainly don’t want to psycho-analyze the plot since it really is fluffy and should be viewed that way. The drawings are clean – reminiscent of the Archies and that era. The book is black and white with no color. Yes, it is very explicit – this is rightly titled porn and not erotica. But the love the author put into creating this is evident and I loved seeing porn from a female viewpoint and with uninhibited charm. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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The Backstagers Act 1 by James Tynion IV, Rian Sygh

The Backstages is a difficult one for me to review; this is a short first introductory issue that pretty much sets up the premise of the series (magical realism, friendships, bonding, lots of drama) that may or may not get better as it goes on. Honestly, there wasn’t enough to go on yet but I can say it definitely is a trippy story.

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Jory is a bit of a loner and having to deal with a new school to boot. He’d rather draw in the bushes during breaks but is also pushed to do extra-curricular activities and socialize. On a whim, he checks out the drama club and looks to join. What he finds is a whole group of interesting and quirky people – from the narcissistic actors to the down-to-Earth and yet very otherworldly stage crew. It’s with the creative and crazy stage crew that he finds his ‘home’.

The authors definitely have a distinct voice and the art also supports that vision well. If you like zaniness, irreverence, and something very different (if perhaps very strange), this will work for you. Indeed, few graphic novels from the West have ever approached the absolute distinct originality of Japanese manga (where, e.g., a boy can wake up with his girlfriend suddenly replacing his right hand) like The Backstagers does so well.

So why the 4 star rating? It’s really not enough to know whether the characters will grow on me or not. Pretty much, the entire first book is Jory just passively agog at the outrageous antics of the people in drama disciplines. I didn’t really get a feel for him yet and the characters were so gregarious as to almost be ciphers (though, again, that perfectly represents the drama of theater). It didn’t hook me in enough to want to read further but I definitely applaud and appreciate the creativity and originality here. This isn’t your father’s comic, that’s for sure. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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Art Deco Interiors by Henry Delacroix

One really has to appreciate these wonderful reprints of then-contemporary works. In this case, a collection of full page, full color illustrations/designs of interiors from the art deco/moderne period, assembled at the time in 1935. Owing more to Le Corbusier and the more austere European aesthetic than the glamour of Miami or NYC, the heart here is of clean forms of modern materials. As the preface states, the desire is to get away from living in an antique store of oak furniture and clutter; instead, the goal is simplicity through modern materials like glass and steel.

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The book contains 48 residential rooms covering most areas of a home: from bathroom to sitting room, living room to storage. Of note, kitchens are oddly missing from this collection but you’ll find other interesting ‘interiors’ such as terraces. A recurring theme in nearly all the plates is that the walls are not for hanging so much as part of the living space; furniture is nearly always built in and a part of the house structure. Beds, desks, couches, even dining room tables are almost always attached to or built into a wall so as to be inseparable if one moves homes. Few items of furniture are free standing and closets are envisioned as part of a wall block and not a separate room.

Since the illustrations are contemporary to the period, they are an authentic account of the period’s architecture and design styles. Clean lines, few pictures, typically wall-to-wall rugs with geometric designs and patterns. Especially striking are the childrens’ rooms with built in beds and desks that look clean and admittedly very sterile.

The book contains a simple one page publisher’s note and then another one page note from the original compiler, Delacroix. Plates are full page with only a simple title (room type, owner). Most are sketches of final room appearances but some plans are also included for several areas. Because they are sketches of how a room will be completed, we get a really nice picture of how pieces are put together – from furniture to color schemes, custom carpets to accents. The cover image is very indicative of what you will find inside.

In all, the 48 sketches are nicely presented and this is a great resource for the moderne (more than art deco, to be honest) movement. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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The Hidden Heart by Laura Kinsale

Back in the 1980s, I was focused on historicals or science fiction/fantasy and never had an interest in romance at all. But one day at a used book store I couldn’t find anything interesting in either of those categories. On a whim, I picked up The Hidden Heart, hoping that the focus was more on historical and not a ‘cheezy romance’. Of course, I was completely enraptured and thus started a love for historical romance books. Now, 30 years later, I have revisited this book in Audible form and, although not as perfect as I remembered, I still very much love this first book by Laura Kinsale. The story is a hard one (or melodramatic, depending on your leaning) and the characters will go through a lot. But Kinsale’s writing is solid and wonderfully emotional.

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Story: Gryff’s family was lost to pirates and his noble title and estates stolen by a greedy uncle. To survive, he runs blockades on the American coast while also providing transportation services. Tessa has spent her life with her father traveling and categorizing plants around the world. When he dies, she has no relatives but a very large dowry and title waiting in England. A desperate Gryff is hired to bring her into society and make sure the naive girl isn’t the victim of fortune hunters. The problem is, Gryff is finding he very much wants to be one of her suitors – even if he has nothing to offer her. And his Uncle’s depraved son has his sights set on Tessa.

There are a lot of contrivances, of course, and the plot does meander quite a bit into unbelievability. Kinsale would definitely tighten up her writing in the next few books and certainly her work is a cut above in a very trope filled genre. What appealed to me most about Hidden Hearts is Gryff’s vulnerability; in a field where all the men have to be very alpha, mature, and assured of themselves, Gryff’s voice is very young and unsure. And while I’m as tired as the next reader of the ‘big misunderstanding’ as a plot device, I also can’t deny that Kinsale definitely knows how to write a romantic scene. Ah, the feelz.

For My Lady’s Heart will likely always be my favorite book of hers – and I have read every single one she has written. But this book will always have a special place for me since it showed me that romances can be more than bodice ripping and couples sniping at each other. It provided such reader joy and pleasure that I had never found in historicals or fantasy.

Of note, I listened to the Audible version. And while I appreciated narrator Bolton’s work with Kinsale’s more mature heroes, I honestly felt he was miscast here. His voice was far too deep and mature for Gryff and I wish a younger, less seasoned voice had done the narration.

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