Inhuman: Haiku from the Zombie Apocalypse by Joshua Gage

Inhuman: Haiku from the Zombie Apocalypse Finished 5-17-20, poetry, 36 pages, pub. 2013

“Zombies don’t do five-seven-five (so many fingers missing)! This fun book of masterfully written one-gasp poetry proves that the force and beauty of haiku–even those about a walking dead apocalypse–have nothing to do with syllable counting. Your flesh will crawl–but, hopefully, won’t crawl away!” — David G. Lanoue, President of the Haiku Society of America   from Goodreads

Joshua, who has strong thoughts on the availability of quality coffee at the workplace, proves that you can excite non-poetry reading zombie avoider about the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse.  Josh, who I may start calling haiku extraordinaire when I see him at the library, sent me my first chapbook and it was so much fun.  It is a perfect fit for sitting on the deck with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and enjoying the story that unfolds in a series of 91 haiku poems.  It was creative and visceral from beginning to tragic end.  I loved it.

 

 

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go (Reissue with bonus short story) (Chaos Walking Series #1), Author: Patrick Ness The Knife of Never Letting Go.  Finished 4-3-20, rating 4.75/5, dystopia YA, 512 pages, pub. 2008

Chaos Walking Trilogy, book 1

Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd’s gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.       fromGoodreads

When I started reading this one I hated it.  I disliked Todd and I didn’t understand why some of it was written phonetically.  By the end I still had the phonetic question, but Todd turned into a character that I loved.  Todd is being raised by two dads in Prentisstown, a town in the New World made up only of men, when he is forced to flee for reasons he doesn’t understand.  He is the last boy in town.  As he escapes he finds what he thinks is a girl, but doesn’t understand how this can be since all of the women were killed by the Spackle in the war.  And he is accompanied by his faithful dog Manchee whose thoughts you can also hear.

The unlikely threesome run for their lives and the chase takes them to new towns with facts long hidden from Todd and astonishing to the girl, Viola.  The men and women they encounter change their view of the world and shed light on the inclinations of people that is truly alive and well today.  Manchee, my favorite character, is all things a good dog is, loyal, clever, and loving.

This may not sound like it’s in your wheelhouse and I get that.  I remember reading all of the rave reviews when this came out 12 years ago, but didn’t think it sounded like something I’d be interested in.  I was wrong.  I got sucked in and the book kept it’s hooks in me the entire time.  The book is over 500 pages long and as I finished I still wanted to keep reading and immediately order the next book.  I’m still waiting for it to arrive.  Not that I’m impatient or anything.

I know a few of you have read this already and loved it, but if you haven’t I suggest you give it a try.  Please give it at least 50 pages before making up your mind.  You’re welcome.

 

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Title: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Author: Kim Michele Richardson The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.  Finished 1-8-19, 4.75/5 stars, historical fiction, 308 pages, pub. 2019

In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry. The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.

Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government’s new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.    from Goodreads

Oh, I loved this book.  As I started reading about the blue people I did a Google search and this painting of the Fugates, the real-life family that settled in the Kentucky hills…Related image Martin Fugate came over from France and started his own blue family.  The story’s main character is based as a descendant of this family.  Cussy Mary, or Bluet, was also one of the Book Women of the Pack Horse Library Project…Related image a travelling group of women who rode their horses to the people who lived in the hills.  This was a project that came about from Roosevelt’s New Deal and the WPA and was meant to bring literacy to the Appalachian Mountains.  Both of these aspects of the story will have you doing more research after you finish the book and make it perfect for book club discussion.  We read this for my book group this month and it was well-liked by all.

I was surprised at how many issues were in the book.  These two I already mentioned plus discrimination, how little control over their own lives women had, the start of the unions in the coal mines, aggressive medical experimentation, and loving who you are.  Too much?  Nope.  Somehow the characters managed to shine through and what wonderful characters they were!  Richardson did an expert job of creating characters I’m going to remember and educating me, and encouraging me to educate myself.  I may have even shed a tear or two.  Bluet is one of my favorite characters in quite a while.

Do yourself a favor and pick up this book.

Guardians of Being by Eckart Tolle and Patrick McDonnell

Title: Guardians of Being: Spiritual Teachings from Our Dogs and Cats, Author: Eckhart Tolle Guardians of Being. Finished 8-27-19, 5/5 stars, 228 pages, pub. 2009

This wonderfully unique collaboration brings together two masters of their fields, joining original words by spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle with delightful illustrations by Patrick McDonnell, the creator of the acclaimed comic strip MUTTS. Every heartwarming page provokes thought, insight, and smiling reverence for all beings and each moment.

More than a collection of witty and charming drawings, the marriage of Patrick McDonnell’s art and Eckhart Tolle’s words conveys a profound love of nature, of animals, of humans, of all life-forms. Guardians of Being celebrates and reminds us of not only the oneness of all life but also the wonder and joy to be found in the present moment, amid the beauty we sometimes forget to notice all around us.   from Goodreads

I adore this book.  A beautifully written and illustrated book about the profound nature of animals and how our lives are better when we celebrate the pets in our lives.  This is a picture book with heartwarming insight.  “Just watching an animal closely can take you out of your mind and bring you into the present moment, which is where the animal lives all the time…surrendered to life.”   This is a perfect gift for the animal lover in your life.  I plan on buying a few copies for gifts and one for myself 🙂

IMG_1712IMG_1713 (2)

Eat Dirt:Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It by Dr. Josh Axe

Title: Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It, Author: Josh Axe Eat Dirt. Finished 8-2-19, 4.5/5, health, 327 pages, pub. 2016

To keep us in good health, our gut relies on maintaining a symbiotic relationship with trillions of microorganisms that live in our digestive tract. When our digestive system is out of whack, serious health problems can manifest and our intestinal walls can develop microscopic holes, allowing undigested food particles, bacteria, and toxins to seep into the bloodstream. This condition is known as leaky gut syndrome.

In Eat Dirt, Dr. Josh Axe explains that what we regard as modern “improvements” to our food supply—including refrigeration, sanitation, and modified grains—have damaged our intestinal health. In fact, the same organisms in soil that allow plants and animals to flourish are the ones we need for gut health. In Eat Dirt, Dr. Axe explains that it’s essential to get a little “dirty” in our daily lives in order to support our gut bacteria and prevent leaky gut syndrome. Dr. Axe offers simple ways to get these needed microbes, from incorporating local honey and bee pollen into your diet to forgoing hand sanitizers and even ingesting a little probiotic-rich soil.  from Goodreads

Leaky Gut (also known as increased intestinal permeability, is a digestive condition in which bacteria and toxins are able to “leak” through the intestinal wall) is not a new term to me.  Any autism mom who has investigated causes or treatments will have invariably come in contact with the condition.  This book does a great job of explaining what it is and how you can help heal.  Again, much of this was familiar, but he did a nice job of laying it out and organizing the steps you can take to improve your health.

The way in which we live and eat does great damage to our guts and in turn, our brains.  While Dr. Axe focuses on the food and supplement aspect he also addresses the other culprits harming our bodies.  He educates on essential oils (something I’ve never felt comfortable delving into), but more importantly, provides recipes on how you can make your own home and personal cleaning products relatively easily.  If that sounds like too much he also give tips on what to look out for when purchasing everything from shampoo to laundry detergent.

The 5 steps to healing your gut? Remove, reseed, restore, release, reseal.  The food recommendations are not easy, but having spent so many years reading on this I feel like his recommendations can be game changers for some people and he provides an organized plan of getting it done.

More people suffer from leaky gut than most realize.  As a matter of fact, most people suffer from leaky gut without even realizing it.  If you have any kind of autoimmune issue I would recommend taking a look at this.  And why not eat a little dirt? 🙂

 

Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh

Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh Peace Is Every Step. Finished 7-17-19,  5/5 stars, buddhism, 134 pages, pub. 1991

Lucidly and beautifully written, Peace Is Every Step contains commentaries and meditations, personal anecdotes and stories from Nhat Hanh’s experiences as a peace activist, teacher, and community leader. It begins where the reader already is—in the kitchen, office, driving a car, walking a part—and shows how deep meditative presence is available now. Nhat Hanh provides exercises to increase our awareness of our own body and mind through conscious breathing, which can bring immediate joy and peace. Nhat Hanh also shows how to be aware of relationships with others and of the world around us, its beauty and also its pollution and injustices. the deceptively simple practices of Peace Is Every Step encourage the reader to work for peace in the world as he or she continues to work on sustaining inner peace by turning the “mindless” into the mindFUL.    from Goodreads 

I have been reading Thich Nhat Hanh for my daily meditation this year.  This is the second book I finished and it’s my favorite of all his books that I’ve read so far.  He is a Vietnam monk who coined the phrase ‘engaged Buddhism’.  Engaged Buddhism refers to Buddhists who are seeking ways to apply the insights from meditation practice and dharma teachings to situations of social, political, environmental and economic suffering and injustice. (wikipedia)  Because of his peaceful protest belief he influenced Martin Luther King Jr. during the Vietnam War and was actually nominated by King for the Nobel Peace Prize that year.

Here’s a link to some quotes from the book.  They might not be the ones that touched me the most, but they will give you a sense of his writing.  I was raised from birth in the Christian church.  I’m still a Christian.  But if we all took to heart what Hanh has to say this world be a much better place.

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

Title: A Ladder to the Sky, Author: John Boyne A Ladder to the Sky. Finished 5-30-19, 4.75/5, fiction, 362 pages, pub. 2018

Maurice Swift is handsome, charming, and hungry for success. The one thing he doesn’t have is talent – but he’s not about to let a detail like that stand in his way. After all, a would-be writer can find stories anywhere. They don’t need to be his own.
Working as a waiter in a West Berlin hotel in 1988, Maurice engineers the perfect opportunity: a chance encounter with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann. He quickly ingratiates himself with the powerful – but desperately lonely – older man, teasing out of Erich a terrible, long-held secret about his activities during the war. Perfect material for Maurice’s first novel. 
Once Maurice has had a taste of literary fame, he knows he can stop at nothing in pursuit of that high. Moving from the Amalfi Coast, where he matches wits with Gore Vidal, to Manhattan and London, Maurice hones his talent for deceit and manipulation, preying on the talented and vulnerable in his cold-blooded climb to the top. But the higher he climbs, the further he has to fall…  from Goodreads

Why am I only just now reading John Boyne?  I remember watching the movie The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and being heartbroken, but I didn’t read the book.  Now I want to read everything he’s written.  This is one of those novels with a main character so horribly delicious that it makes you want to look away.  It may even force you to shut the book and put it down for awhile, but you keep glancing at it and eventually you pick it back up and steel yourself for some ugly happenings.  Okay, maybe that was just me.  The storytelling for this book was just so good.  Love or hate the main character of Maurice, you have to revel in the way his story unfolds, first through the voices of those he had wronged and then through his.

You can read the above description for a taste of how the book begins, but know that the story after the ones mentioned is the most cruel and awful of the lot of them.  Oh, and did I mention that he managed to spawn?  The stories are complex, captivating, ruthless, and visit some of the darkest corners of the more ambitious among us.

I know this book isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it twisty and tragically captivating.  Does Maurice get his due?  You’ll have to read it to find out.

Maria Shriver – I’ve Been Thinking and Ten Things

Title: I've Been Thinking...: Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life, Author: Maria Shriver  vs. Title: Ten Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Went Out into the Real World, Author: Maria Shriver

I’ve Been Thinking: Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life VS Ten Things I Wish I’d Known-Before I Went Out into the Real World

Titles – Both way too long, but accurate.

Author – I’ve Been Thinking- Divorced mom facing an empty nest.  Ten Things- Working married mother of young children.

Purpose – I’ve Been Thinking Bite sized chapters addressing a multitude of life’s issues always ending with a prayer.  Ten Things– An extended form of a popular graduation speech she gave at College of the Holy Cross.

First and last chapter titles – I’ve Been Thinking- I Am Who I Choose to Become and Hope.  Ten Things– Pinpoint Your Passion and Laughter.

Page Count – I’ve Been Thinking– 225 pages.  Ten Things– 125 pages.

Best Advice – I’ve Been Thinking- “I know it’s hard to pause in our daily lives, to stop and be quiet and truly listen.  I know it’s hard to hear other people’s pain, frustration, anger, and loneliness without internalizing it ourselves or letting our judgments get the best of us.  But when you do listen deeply, you realize that while out experiences are vastly different, our hearts and desires are not”  page 47.  Ten Things– “The love and the laughter are what you need most in your life.  They’ll fill out all the potholes in the road.”  page 115.

Final Analysis – Stick with I’ve Been ThinkingTen Things is a bit dated.

I’ve Been Thinking.  5 stars. Finished 2-28-19.

Ten Things.  3 stars.  Finished 3-15-19

Nature’s Best Remedies by National Geographic

 

IMG_5538 (2)Nature’s Best Remedies.  Finished 3-4-19, rating 5/5 stars, health/food, 320 pages, pub. 2019

A guide to the world’s most therapeutic foods, herbs, spices, and essential oils will allow the healing power of nature to energize your body and enrich your life, providing a surefire path to good health and well-being.

This authoritative guide to the foods, herbs, spices, essential oils, and other natural substances that alleviate common ailments will enhance your life–from treating illness to sharpening the mind, losing weight, cleaning the home, enhancing pregnancy, and reducing the effects of aging. Divided into two sections–Nature’s Cures and Nature’s Pharmacopoeia–this beautifully illustrated guide provides up-to-date information on such timely topics as the perils of packaged foods and the benefits of phytochemicals, how to achieve major results with minor alterations in your food choices, the soothing benefits of essential oils, and the most effective methods for maximizing such natural home helpers as salts, vinegars, oils, and more. Innovative recipes offer easy, effective dishes that utilize multiple herbs, spices, and fresh foods for powerhouse results.  from Goodreads

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”  Hippocrates

This book is gorgeous, very informative across a wide array of healthful choices, and I think it’s necessary for every home.  Some information you may already know, but much of it you won’t and it is organized to be used as a reference when needed.  Not ready to make your own cleaner or don’t have the need for GI information right now?  This beautiful book will be on your bookshelf drawing you back again and again.

This will, of course, appeal to those interested in a greener life, but I think most people might make better choices if they knew what they were.  So many people take pills these days without first taking a look at what has worked in the past, before pharmaceuticals became the go-to treatment.  Want to know what herbs and spices will help with a specific ailment or what to do for joint pain?  How about what essential oils really do or the benefits of the natural foods we eat?  All the herbs, spices, oils, foods all have their own page with facts and pictures. The whole first section is remedies for common ailments and there was a much needed section on aging 🙂

So, I looked up some of the foods I used for the photo and found some surprising things.  The avocado gets its name from the Nahuarti word meaning testicle, referring to the shape.  You’re welcome for that visual.  Twice as many strawberries are produced worldwide than any of the other berries combined and may help prevent macular degeneration of the eyes, so eat up, dear reader.  And that apple a day keeping the doctor away? There’s a lot of truth in that.  This year Gage has taken an apple every day for his school snack and we’ve had good luck so far this winter.  (Seriously, it is 7 degrees.  I thought we were supposed to have an early spring?)

I really can’t even tell you how much information is packed into this book.  It is so well done and I plan on gifting it a lot this year.  Do yourself a favor and buy a copy.

I was sent a copy from the publisher for TLC Book Tours.  I’ve participated in these tours for years and this is my favorite one of all.

 

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Title: Becoming, Author: Michelle Obama Becoming.  Finished 2-23-19, rating 5/5, memoir, 421 pages, pub. 2018

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments.

Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.   from Goodreads

What can I say that hasn’t already been gushed over by countless others?  Michelle Obama was a normal, yet accomplished young woman with a lucrative career and two Ivy League degrees when she was introduced to a hot shot intern who would change her life forever.  She is real and warm and selfless in so many ways.  I always respected her strength as first lady and was happily surprised to have her exceed any expectation I placed on her.

Michelle grew up in a South Side Chicago neighborhood in the upstairs of a house that her parents didn’t own, even sharing a bedroom with her older brother until the teen years. She watched as her once diverse neighborhood became segregated and she was forced to travel over two hours on city buses each day to reach a school that could provide a good education. She went off to Princeton and Harvard and said this “This is what a control freak learns inside the compressed otherworld of college, maybe above all else: There are simply other ways of being.”  She moved back home after college and buried her father.  She received a hilarious proposal from that hot shot intern and thus became part of the political machine that she never really wanted or participated much in until Barack wanted to run for President and even then there was this, “Barack was a black man in America, after all.  I didn’t really think he could win.”   But even before his momentous run she was essentially a single working mom of two during the week while  Barack worked in the State Legislature.

Apparently I’ve found a lot to say, haha, but I want to make sure I mention the one thing I loved most about this book.  I loved getting an honest, inside look at the Obama marriage.  They are both fiercely independent people with unquestionable love and respect  for each other.  She humanizes Barack in a way that no one else can, and that isn’t to say he’s put on any pedestal.  And although this covers their years in the White House it rarely becomes political.

I was a fan before and I’m even a bigger fan now.