Thursday, April 30, 2009

Size 2 for Life by Ashley Marriott and Marc L. Paulsen, M.D.

The amazingly simple new diet and fitness program that can make and keep almost any woman a frame-adjusted size 2.

What do we mean by "frame-adjusted"? Try this! With your right hand, wrap your thumb and middle finger around your left wrist joint.

If your middle finger and thumb overlap, you can be a healthy size 2.
If your middle finger and thumb touch, you can be a healthy size 4.
If your middle finger and thumb do not meet, you can be a healthy size 6.

Sizes 4 and 6, as calculated above, are what we refer to as frame-adjusted size 2's. Your weight will be in the healthy range for women of your frame size but you'll look just as awesome as any (other) size 2!

Be a Size 2 for Life and enjoy:

  • Better shape & physical stamina
  • A higher metabolic rate to make your body efficient and clean
  • Lower risk for a multitude of diseases associated with being overweight or obese
  • Feel healthy, proud, confident and sexy!
  • Finally fit into those skinny jeans

The first thing that struck me was that there were numerous, obvious typos. They were so prevalent that it made me question if the book had even been proofread before it was published! And it very unprofessional looking formatting, making it look self-published. I mean, self-published is fine if it's done well. This just looked sloppy.

Anyway, this was a very hardcore plan with incredibly strict eating rules (mainly very lean protein/no bread, etc.), and LOTS of exercise (at least 1 hour a day, but more is recommended). You'd have to be very committed to stick to it as a lifestyle.

The plan says that depending on your wrist size you can be a "frame-adjusted" size 2. According to my wrist measurements and height (over 5'5" - hello!), that would make me a "frame-adjusted" size 4. They also say that you need to lose about 10 pounds per dress size, and taking into consideration my height and current (perfectly healthy) weight, that would be totally insane! Sure, I could stand to lose some jiggle and tighten up, but I think their program is too strict and would bring me down to a weight completely unreasonable weight for my height. We're talking Olsen twins here. It seems that their idea of a "healthy" weight doesn't quite agree with my own. Perhaps the size 4 part wouldn't be totally unreasonable, but I'd have to have to be about zero percent body fat to accomplish that bit. Who knows.

I am thankful for the book mentioning what the rest of the nation seems to be in denial of - that sizes have changed over the years! "... we are, in large part, a nation in denial of our true sizes. Think about the icon Marilyn Monroe, often referred to as a curvy size 12, but her actual measurements 35-22-35 are much closer to today's size 2." Thank you! If I have to hear one more person campaigning for fat acceptance say "But Marilyn Monroe was a size 12!" I'll scream! That was a size 12 THEN, not a size 12 NOW! Seriously people, come on! And to make her some sort of icon for plus sizes is just insulting to her, and to us.

I also appreciate that they refer to the supposedly "healthy" celebrity diets by saying "Subsisting on a diet of caffeine, nicotine, and an occasional calorie does not provide enough energy for basic bodily functions - let alone exercise." Of course not!

This one gets six stars. While it is way too hardcore for me - the twice a day (morning and evening) weigh in seems like overkill to me - it did have some good information at times. Although, I can't see their recommendation to chew food 30 to 50 times per bite. Really? What's left after 10 chews? Bizarre. And what's up with the "2" in the title being underlined all the time? So not necessary.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter by Lloyd Kahn

This unique book of homes, builders, dwellers, dreamers, and doers is the result of Lloyd Kahn's thirty-year odyssey shooting photos and gathering information about builders around the world. It is also the sequel to Kahn's best-selling book Shelter, which was published in 1973.

There are some 1100 photos and over 300 drawings, all illustrating buildings assembled with human hands.

There's a Japanese-style stilt house accessible only by going on a cable 500 feet across a river, a stone house in South Africa where baboons jump up and down on the roof at night, multilevel treehouses on the South China Sea, and a house built of bottles in the Nevada desert. There are ten pages of photos from Archlibre (countercultural builders in the French Pyrenees), a number of off-the-grid solar-powered houses in the Northern California woods, and a section on natural materials: straw bale, cob, bamboo, and log structures.

One section is on photographers who have documented handbuilt shelters of indigenous people in Africa, Asia, and South America. Another portion is devoted to "fantasy" buildings, such as artist Michael Kahn's semi-subterranean sculptural village of ferro-cement and stained glass in the Arizona desert, and the Flying Concrete lightweight curvilinear buildings on the outskirts of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. There are photos from Kahn's trips over the years: houses, barns, and small buildings in Mississippi, Nova Scotia, Nevada, Costa Rica, and Baja California.

"On the Road" documents life on the road: housetrucks and housebuses, camper shells, and tents, as well as John Stiles and his trip across America with two covered wagons pulled by 14 donkeys. "Living Lightly" covers lightweight nomadic living in America in yurts, tents, and tipis, as well as Native American dwellings.

Home Work continues the journey that started with Shelter, and is the first in Shelter Publications' new series of books about handmade buildings.



What struck me the most was that a good percentage of the homes featured were clearly quite functional for their owner-builders, but just looked messy to me - especially the cob houses. They strike me as rather too far along the housing spectrum on the "camping" side to provide practical, year round, full time living.

The story of Ian McLeod in South Africa intrigued me, not only because of his beautiful home, but because he built the entire thing while working nude. I rally just had to stop and think of the logistics of that one. IT certainly does save on laundry! After pondering it for a while I decided that working nude just wouldn't work for me - especially since a bra would be essential to keep "the girls" out of the way. Perhaps just a bra and panties would be fine - or a bikini or something, although since I am rather accident prone it might not be wise to go too light on the clothing. Also, the sunscreen involved, and the application time!, just boggles the mind!

Ma Page's bottle house in Nevada was certainly striking. Not in an "I want that" way, but more of a "how cool" way.

The stone houses and barns resonated the most with me. Perhaps because I'm a native New Englander and barns and dry stone walls are common features here. The stone houses just have a feeling of enduring strength and safety to them.

This one gets eight stars because of the sheer beauty of the photography. The collection is a bit too eclectic for me, and the book is entirely too floppy and oversized to be comfortably read, but it is still quite informative. I'll certainly look for future releases from the author.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Sunday, April 26, 2009

Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell by M.C. Beaton

The honeymoon is definitely over for Agatha Raisin and her new husband, James Lacey. It's only been a short time since their wedding - and already they aren't getting on. But his wandering eye and her god-awful housekeeping are the least of their problems. Just days after a very public, ugly marital row, James disappears - and when his mistress is later found murdered, he's the prime suspect. Agatha just doesn't buy it. Sure, he's a liar and a sneaky, low-down cheat. But a murderer? That's bloody impossible! And as some speculate on the role Agatha may have played in his vanishing, the forever feisty Mrs. Raisin must piece together the most unsavory parts of the dead woman's past to clear James's name - and her own...



This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (6 discs/6.5 hours).

James is really such an ass! We all could have told Agatha that it would never work with him. It is rather unfortunate that she found out in the wrong way though. Perhaps it would have been better if James had just stayed lost to his old world, but at least this gives some closure to it all. Good riddance to him, really. I just hope he stays gone.

Melissa was one of those people that the more you learn of her, the less you like her. I guess karma finally came back to bite her in the ass!

Charles is really quite a good friend to Agatha, even with all his cheapness and fickle behavior.

This one gets seven stars. It was really one of the better Agatha Raisins, probably because of the lack of James. Charles made it quite amusing and more friendly feeling somehow. Donada Peters did a lovely job with the reading, as always.

Rating: ★★★★★★



The Heirloom Tomato by Amy Goldman

Every year, renowned grower Amy Goldman produces hundreds of tomato varieties on her farm in New York's Hudson Valley. Here, in fifty-five delicious recipes, more than two hundred gorgeous photos, and Goldman's erudite, charming prose, is the cream of the crop.

From glorious heirloom beefsteaks - that delicious tomato you had as a kid but can't seem to find anymore - to exotica like the tiny currant tomato, a pea-size fruit with a surprisingly big flavor, The Heirloom Tomato is filled with gorgeous shots of tomatoes so luscious they verge on the erotic.

Along with the recipes and photos are profiles of the tomatoes, filled with surprisingly fascinating facts on their history and provenance, and a master gardener's guide to growing your own. More than just a loving look at one of the world's great edibles, this is a philosophy of eating and conservation between covers - an irresistible book for anyone who loves to cook or to garden.


This was a fascinating book, with stunning photographs, as were the author's previous similar works about squash and melons. She made each tomato come alive in the description. The included recipes were interesting but not for me, although I will try her tomato sauce recipe.

This one gets eight stars for Victor Schrager's photography alone, the text is just a bonus. It truly is a book for tomato lovers, gardeners, and gourmets alike.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Saturday, April 18, 2009

Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam by M.C. Beaton

When a fortune-teller informs Agatha Raisin that her destiny - and true love - lies in Norfolk, she promptly rents a cottage in the quaint village of Fryfam. No sooner does she arrive than strange things start happening. Random objects go missing from people's homes and odd little lights are seen dancing in the villagers' gardens and yards. Stories soon begin circulating about the presence of fairies. But when a prominent resident is found murdered and some suspicion falls on her and her friend Sir Charles Fraith, Agatha decides she's had enough of this fairy nonsense and steps up her sleuthing for a human killer. The prickly yet endearing Agatha will have fans dangling in suspense: Will she catch her crook - and a husband?



This was the unabridged audiobook on cassette edition (4 cassettes/5.5 hours).

Charles was his usual charming, quirky self. I do so prefer him over James. He is exponentially better! I do love that Agatha forgot Charles's name during their interaction at the hotel though! Too funny!

None of the Fryfam women struck me as particularly likable or memorable. They were okay, but not wonderful. On the other hand, the vicar is so funny when he complains about Agatha to his wife. You can just see them as a real couple!

The police always do seem to be so incompetent in these stories, and so rude when the mysteries are solved by amateurs. Really, they could at least be a bit grateful!

This one gets seven stars. It would have been nice to have Agatha at home as she seems to travel quite too much, but it was still good. I'm glad the mystery of where the Wyckhadden cat went was solved though as it was rather odd. Donada Peters did a beautiful job with the reading, as always.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April Romance Giveaway!

This time I'm giving away a copy of The Matzo Ball Heiress by Laurie Gwen Shapiro.



Contest runs from April 15, 2009 to 11:59 PM EST April 30, 2009. Winner will be announced May 1, 2009. Open to US residents only.

To enter - earn one entry for each of the following activities (up to three entries per person):
  1. Leave a comment on this post. Please include your e-mail address so I can contact you. Seriously, I'm not going to track down your e-mail address! If you do not leave your e-mail address in the comment you will be disqualified!
  2. Follow or subscribe to this blog, and leave me a comment on this post telling me you're a subscriber.
  3. Blog about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.



April Romance Giveaway!

This time I'm giving away a copy of Inappropriate Men by Stacey Ballis.



Contest runs from April 15, 2009 to 11:59 PM EST April 30, 2009. Winner will be announced May 1, 2009. Open to US residents only.

To enter - earn one entry for each of the following activities (up to three entries per person):
  1. Leave a comment on this post. Please include your e-mail address so I can contact you. Seriously, I'm not going to track down your e-mail address! If you do not leave your e-mail address in the comment you will be disqualified!
  2. Follow or subscribe to this blog, and leave me a comment on this post telling me you're a subscriber.
  3. Blog about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An Egyptian Childhood by Taha Hussein

An Egyptian Childhood, the first volume of Taha Hussein's autobiography, is full of the sounds and smells of rural Egypt. It documents Hussein's childhood and early education in a small village in Upper Egypt, as he learns not only to come to terms with his blindness but to excel in spite of it and win a place at the prestigious university of al-Azhar in Cairo.

Taha Hussein (1889-1973) had qualities of mind and character that enabled him to overcome the handicaps of blindness and humble birth and to pursue a distinguished career in Egyptian public life. He was at one time Minister of Education and - before all titles were abolished under the Republic - had been made a Bey and then a Pasha.

He was the most influential, however, through his voluminous, varied, and controversial writings, which earned him the unofficial title of "Dean of Arabic Letters". His autobiography, published in three volumes beginning in 1926, was quickly recognized as a masterpiece. It was the first modern Arabic literary work to gain international acclaim, and it has been translated into most of the major languages of the world.



This was a gift from a friend who knows I love anything and everything Egyptian!

The book was most obviously a translation. It had that rather stilted quality that most translations have which makes it more difficult to read as it interrupts the natural flow.

This one gets five stars. It was neither wonderful nor horrible. I was just completely neutral about it. I was quite glad that it was a very slim volume of just 85 pages, though. It was shocking to read about the neglect that the children suffered and the ignorance of the people in what one normally thinks of as a great nation. I suppose the days of the great nation were long over in the 1800s, and had perished with the pharaohs. It is still sad to see the depths to which a nation and people can sink.

Rating: ★★★★★



Saturday, April 11, 2009

Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin, her hair falling out after a problem during a previous investigation, travels to an old-fashioned hotel in order to repair the damage away from the neighbors in her all-too-cozy Cotswold village. Unhappy about the slow recovery and prompted by the elderly residents of the resort, she consults the local witch for help. Agatha purchases a hair tonic (and a love potion, just in case!) and is soon sprouting hair and capturing the fancy of the village police inspector. But the quiet town is stunned by the murder of the witch. Which one of the graying guests is capable of such a brutal crime? The brassy yet endearing Agatha won't stop until she finds the culprit - and, of course, a little love, too.



This was the unabridged audiobook on cassette edition (4 cassettes/5.5 hours).

This was an interesting change in that it didn't feature many of the usual characters. I did quite enjoy the vicar's wife's selective disclosures about James. She is quite the character, and certainly someone you'd want on your side!

I do so love Charles and his antics! He's always such a fun addition to the stories. And the competition of sorts he has going on with James is just too funny! James, on the other hand, is becoming marginally more likable, although he's still the poster child for Katy Perry's Hot 'n Cold. Well, perhaps he's a lukewarm bathwater type. He's more of a huffy girl than Agatha!

The characters at the hotel were straight out of an Agatha Christie novel. They were all decidedly eccentric, perhaps not in as likable a way as Christie's characters though.

Jimmy was just marginal. HE was an interesting diversion, but I'm glad he was a one book only appearance.

And poor Agatha's mishaps! I love that she's becoming quite the softy about cats with Scrabble. And her hair! I'd probably hide at a hotel too if funds were no issue! How horrible!

This one gets seven stars. It was amusing and different. I do look forward to Agatha's return home though. Donada Peters did her usual stunning reading job.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett

When Parsifal, a handsome and charming magician, dies suddenly, his widow Sabine - who was also his faithful assistant for twenty years - learns that the family he claimed to have lost in a tragic accident is very much alive and well. Sabine is left to unravel his secrets, and the adventure she embarks upon, from sunny Los Angeles to the bitter windswept plains of Nebraska, will works its own magic on her. Sabine's extraordinary tale captures the hearts of its readers just as Sabine is captured by her quest.



This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (10 discs/12 hours).

This was the book that would never end! It seriously took me about three months of off and on listening to slog through it. It was so slow moving! It wasn't even that good either, but I felt like I had to finish it since I'd gotten so far. It wasn't quite bad enough to give up on completely, but also not quite good enough that it made you want to hear more. Just completely neutral. At the end all I could think was, "Really? That's it? Are you kidding me?". It felt unresolved.

This one gets six stars. It was just marginal. It could have been so much better. Perhaps I just expected too much from it after reading the cover text. It just left me unsatisfied. The reader did do a good job though.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Saturday, April 4, 2009

Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham by M.C. Beaton

The local ladies deemed him a "wizard". So when, to Agatha's horror, she finds several gray hairs poking out of her head - and the rinse she tries at home turns her hair a lovely shade of purple - she makes a beeline for Mr. John, the handsome Evesham hairdresser who promises to work his magic on Agatha's coif. And the charming beautician also seems to have designs on Agatha's heart. But their future together is cut short when Mr. John collapses from a fatal poisoning - and Agatha suddenly has a murder case in her hair. Was it one of Mr. John's many customers, all of whom divulged to him their darkest secrets? It's time for Agatha to get to the bottom of this hair-raising mystery.



This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (5 discs/5.25 hours).

What a relief to have James away! I totally agree with the vicar's wife that Agatha needs to get over him!

Charles brought an amusing, light note to the book which was quite nice. I do so enjoy Charles and his antis!

This one gets seven stars. It was quite amusing and slightly different than the other Agatha Raisin books, which made it a welcome change. Agatha was her usual self, the vicar's wife was lovely as always, and Charles gave it all a nice note. Donada Peters did a wonderful job, as always, with the reading.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Wednesday, April 1, 2009

March Giveaway Winners!

And the winners of the March Giveaways are:

  • Beat the Reaper: Debs Desk
  • Twelve Across: olympianlady
  • Within Reach: Kristi

Congratulations and I hope you enjoy them!

Thank you to all who entered!



April Spring Cleaning Book Giveaway!

This time I'm giving away a copy of Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson.

I'd received it from someone else and just couldn't bring myself to read it so it remains brand new.



Contest runs from April 1, 2009 to 11:59 PM EST April 30, 2009. Winner will be announced May 1, 2009. Open to US residents only.

To enter - earn one entry for each of the following activities (up to three entries per person):
  1. Leave a comment on this post. Please include your e-mail address so I can contact you. Seriously, I'm not going to track down your e-mail address! If you do not leave your e-mail address in the comment you will be disqualified!
  2. Follow or subscribe to this blog, and leave me a comment on this post telling me you're a subscriber.
  3. Blog about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.



April Spring Cleaning Book Giveaway!

This time I'm giving away a copy of The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

I'd received it from the publisher and just couldn't bring myself to read it so it remains brand new.



Contest runs from April 1, 2009 to 11:59 PM EST April 30, 2009. Winner will be announced May 1, 2009. Open to US residents only.

To enter - earn one entry for each of the following activities (up to three entries per person):
  1. Leave a comment on this post. Please include your e-mail address so I can contact you. Seriously, I'm not going to track down your e-mail address! If you do not leave your e-mail address in the comment you will be disqualified!
  2. Follow or subscribe to this blog, and leave me a comment on this post telling me you're a subscriber.
  3. Blog about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.