Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I brought you some books on tape since you say you can't concentrate to read.

Props to you if you are still reading these. This is the final installment of the book reviews (until I decide to write a bunch more....)

Audiobooks

To explain a little bit about the audiobooks: I found that I was having a really hard time falling asleep, and one thing that I discovered helped (helps? I'm still doing it) is to play an audiobook on my phone. The Overdrive app lets me check out audiobooks from the library and it has a timer on it, so I can set it for 45 minutes and fall asleep with someone reading to me.

The other thing I found about this is I got frustrated trying to listen to books that I had never read before. Because they fulfilled their job of helping me fall asleep, I would often pick up the next night and have no idea what was going on in the book. This gets worse if I wake up at 3 am and start it up again to get back to sleep. So to avoid that frustration, I began getting books that are very familiar to me because then I can start them again and still know what is going on, because I know the story.

That led me to listen to a lot of the books that I read as a kid. And that always leads to different discoveries because things stand out that I had never noticed before.

The Eight by Katherine Neville
This is a very long, sweepingly epic novel that begins in France in the 1600s (or something) and jumps back and forth to the present day. I remember it being about chess and nuns, but otherwise I have no real memories of this book.

I would suggest that if you are curious about this one (how could you not be with a great review like that?), it would be better to read it than to listen to it, simply because of how the chronology jumps and for the easy of tracking the characters.


Basket Case by Carl Hiaasen
This is another one that I don't have any memory of. I think I stopped listening to it because it was causing the above problem.


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A reread. With Little Women, it is interesting how women's perspectives change on the March girls depending on how old they are when they read this novel. But what I noticed this time is the long digression on "spinsters" and "dear reader, be kind to the spinsters. They were once girls like yourselves."


Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
Reread. Oh my gosh. Could Anne Shirley possibly talk any more? I didn't realize until I was actually listening to everything she says how much she talks, and honestly how annoying that is. And yet, Marilla still loves her.


The Song of the Lioness Series (Numbers 1-4) by Tamora Pierce
I read these in middle school. Oh, how I loved this series. And it was shocking to me how much I remember the exact wording of these books. Why can't I harness that brain-power for good?


The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Did you realize when you read this as a kid that the entire novel is a treatise on the power of positive thinking? Weird, right?


Emily of New Moon by LM Montgomery
A little-known second series by the Anne of Green Gables author. I liked it better as a kid because she has my name. And I liked it better now because Emily doesn't talk as much as Anne. She writes instead.


Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
As I was listening, I could just see Emma Thompson playing Eleanor.


Winnie the Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne
Ok, this was a really cute audiobook. It was a full cast reading of the Winnie the Pooh books. Steven Fry played Pooh, Judi Dench read the narrator, and a cast of a half dozen other easily recognizable names. It was cute and well-performed.


The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
This is a classic gothic mystery novel about a huge diamond with a curse on it that goes missing. It's actually a really entertaining book, and one most people aren't familiar with.


The Look of Love by Sarah Jio
I was awake for this one. I listened to this as I was driving.

It tells the story of a young woman with vision/neurological problems who discovers that the vision problems are caused when she sees love between two people. She is under a curse and must identify the six types of love before the stroke of midnight on her 30th birthday.

I found her to be really annoying as a character (probably partly why I don't remember her name), and the story had a lot of problems and holes in it. The idea was meant to be cute and clever and a different take on a romantic story, but it just fell flat for me.

I don't recommend it. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

You've been reading my psychology books again.

How many books did I say I read again?


Spirituality

How to Expand Love by the Dalai Lama
I didn't finish this one. All respect for the Dalai Lama, I didn't get through it before it was due back at the library.


Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron
Chodron sets this up as a series of 108 lessons. They are short and quick to read. She has a great style and tells stories about her life (now and pre-Buddhist) and connects each idea to something concrete that we all experience. She also gives good instructions on how to meditate.

I recommend it.


No Time to Lose by Pema Chodron
This is set up differently than most of Chodron's books. In this one she takes one of the ancient Buddhist texts and breaks it down stanza by stanza to explain the meaning of it and how to apply it.

Confession: I got through 2/3 of this book. And I was just struggling to get through it, so I decided to call it and move on to other things.

I can't really recommend it because I didn't get through it all.


***
Last section coming up!

Audiobook
The Eight by Katherine Neville
Basket Case by Carl Hiaasen
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
The Song of the Lioness Series (Numbers 1-4) by Tamora Pierce
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Emily of New Moon by LM Montgomery
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Winnie the Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne
The Look of Love by Sarah Jio
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

When I get around to writing my memoirs, you can expect a very effusive footnote.

We're making progress. I hope you are getting good books ideas.


Memoir

Tracks by Robyn Davidson
Robyn Davidson writes about her trek across the Australian outback alone with camels in the 1970s. The idea is a bit like Wild -- a woman, alone, doing a crazy, long, and difficult, physical journey.

I'll confess. I didn't actually finish this one. I got halfway through and she still hadn't started the actual journey and I was bored with her explaining how she was trying to do something.

I can't recommend it.


Two or Three Things I know for Sure by Dorothy Allison
It is really difficult to sum up this memoir. Allison writes about her life growing up, she reflects on how women were treated and keeps coming back to the things she knows for sure.

This is dark and not very inspirational. It is a fast read and Allison's style is really interesting. It has flavors of slam poetry. So it is a fast read and interesting. But very tough subject-mattter.

I recommend it with reservations.


I am Malala by Malala Yousafazai
Malala is the girl who was shot by the Taliban because she was a vocal advocate for educating girls. She writes about her life and her fight for education and being shot. She is an engaging storyteller and is passionate about the subject of education.

I highly recommend this.

***
Up next:
Spirituality
How to Expand Love by the Dalai Lama
Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron
No Time to Lose by Pema Chodron

Audiobook
The Eight by Katherine Neville
Basket Case by Carl Hiaasen
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
The Song of the Lioness Series (Numbers 1-4) by Tamora Pierce
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Emily of New Moon by LM Montgomery
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Winnie the Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne
The Look of Love by Sarah Jio
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Saturday, May 16, 2015

I just wish this was one of your books and you could re-write the ending.

Shifting away from fiction today!

Non-fiction

Shadows at Dawn by Karl Jacoby
The subtitle to this is "A borderlands massacre and the violence of history." It tells the story of an attack on Apache Indians on the border between Arizona and Mexico. What was extremely interesting about this book is how Jacoby set it up by telling the stories of the four different populations that lived in the area and how unbiased he was as he explained each groups' actions and motivations. It felt like a very well-documented, not sensationalized portrayal of a terrible event.

But it was extremely difficult for me to read. I don't think I had the necessary mental capacity at the time, but it also was pretty dry.

I recommend it with major reservations.


Quiet by Susan Cain
Cain writes about introverts and how they interact in the world around them. This is particularly important because as she sets it up, she explains how our American society is "The cult of the extrovert" where extroverts are praised and lauded and held up as the model of how you should be. She explains the research and findings and some concrete things that introverts need to do in order to manage their activities in the world around them. One is to make deals with yourself -- like ok, I will do two social things every week, and then when you have met that quota you get to stay home and recharge by reading/cooking/whatever. And I realized, I already do that! Rocks in the jar! I am awesome.

This was a great read. Very easy and clear and informative.

I highly recommend it.


Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Re-read. Just as awesome the second (or is it third?) time. Everyone should read this book. Let's change the world!


Everything Changes by Kairol Rosenthal
Subtitle: The insider's guide to cancer in your 20s and 30s.

Rosenthal was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 27, and that launched her into a project to interview other 20 and 30 somethings (anyone from 20-39) who had been diagnosed with cancer and who were dealing with the treatment and life that comes after the diagnosis.

It's hard for me to write a review of this that separates the book from my personal experience over the last four months. And the last eight years, really.

So for me, very personally, this was a hard-hitting book. In the interviews, all of the cancer patients expressed my feelings. I finally felt like someone gets it, and that I'm not alone in feeling this way about so many different aspects of life.

I also ended by wanting everyone to read this book, selfishly because I want there to be more empathy in the world, and caringly because I want young people to take any symptoms seriously and get screened early. Rosenthal's fact is that 70,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer every year, and they are far more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stages of cancer because often their symptoms aren't taken seriously by medical professionals who don't think they could have cancer that young, or because they don't have enough access to doctors.

I highly recommend this book. Especially if you or a young loved one has cancer.


Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber
Continuing a theme: Dr. Servan-Schreiber is a psychiatrist and neuroscientist who was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was 30. His book has two premises: 1. Everyone has microtumors that develop in their bodies. We want to keep those from turning into cancer. We can do it by taking care of our "terrain." 2. If we've been diagnosed with cancer, we need to take care of our "terrain" to make the treatments most effective and to prevent a relapse.

As a doctor and scientist, this book is very grounded in scientific studies and does a very good job of explaining them clearly. In the first half of the book, I got very very upset about how we are destroying our planet, how we have ruined our food supply, and how clearly that connects to all of our illnesses (not just cancer). But as he moves into the second half, he has very clear and direct instructions on how to best take care of our bodies, even in the world we live in.

I highly recommend it. Even if you haven't been diagnosed with cancer. It's mostly a treatise on how to live healthfully.


***
There's still more! Stay tuned. 
Memoir
Tracks by Robyn Davidson
I am Malala by Malala Yousafazai
Two or Three Things I know for Sure by Dorothy Allison

Spirituality
How to Expand Love by the Dalai Lama
Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron
No Time to Lose by Pema Chodron

Audiobook
The Eight by Katherine Neville
Basket Case by Carl Hiaasen
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
The Song of the Lioness Series (Numbers 1-4) by Tamora Pierce
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Emily of New Moon by LM Montgomery
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Winnie the Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne
The Look of Love by Sarah Jio
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Book? It's called the internet, grandma.

More book reviews!

Classics

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I'll come clean. I had never read Wuthering Heights before. I've read tons of classics, but you can't read them all, and this is one of the ones that I had missed.

Now that I've read it, I really don't feel like I was missing out on anything at all.

This is a dark novel. It is hard to be immersed in that for as long as it takes to read this extremely long novel. And I found that I hated all of the characters. Every single one of them. At book club, one of the ladies asked, wait, but what about Cathy? What about Hareton? Nope, I'm serious, I hated them all. And that makes it very difficult to see anything redeeming about the novel.

I don't recommend this.


Macbeth by William Shakespeare
I love Macbeth. This was a good re-read.

I recommend it.



***
Look forward to these reviews next time!

Non-fiction
Shadows at Dawn by Karl Jacoby
Quiet by Susan Cain
Tracks by Robyn Davidson
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Everything Changes by Kairol Rosenthal
Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber

Memoir
I am Malala by Malala Yousafazai
Two or Three Things I know for Sure by Dorothy Allison

Spirituality
How to Expand Love by the Dalai Lama
Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron
No Time to Lose by Pema Chodron

Audiobook
The Eight by Katherine Neville
Basket Case by Carl Hiaasen
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
The Song of the Lioness Series (Numbers 1-4) by Tamora Pierce
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Emily of New Moon by LM Montgomery
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Winnie the Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne
The Look of Love by Sarah Jio
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Friday, May 8, 2015

I got you that book last year; wasn't everything in there?

It's May.

I've been thinking for a couple weeks about writing some books reviews.

But it's May. Do you know how overwhelming it is to consider writing book reviews for the 40 books that I have read in the last 4 months? And really, I only listened to a couple of audiobooks in January, so 40 books that I have read in the last 3 months.

But out of loyalty to you, my dear reader, I am going to make a valiant effort to get some thoughts down.

Rather than set this up chronologically like I normally do with my book review posts, I'm going to set it up by categories. So sit tight, grab a beverage, and let's get some reading on.

***

Fiction

Paper Towns by John Green
Here's what I like about John Green: He loves literature. He is so completely passionate about literature that it pervades everything that he writes. So this is a standard teen novel -- a rebellious girl, a guy who loves her, weird family, etc -- but throughout all of it, Green is pouring out his love of literature and that captures me every time. I would appreciate anyone who has that much passion for anything, but since this happens to coincide with how I feel, I like it even more.

I recommend it with reservations.


The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
This is a seriously long, winding, "epic" narrative that tells the life of one man, two women who run from a bad situation that he takes in as his daughters, and then their daughter. So a sweeping epic of three generations growing up in a huge orchard in Washington state. The problem with the sweeping epic is it was seriously boring. I'm not completely sure why I continued to read this (hoping it would get better), but I did read the entire thing, and it didn't get better.

I don't recommend it.


The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
Patrick Rothfuss wrote one of my favorite books, The Name of the Wind. This takes one of the characters from the world he created in The Name of the Wind and tells her story. It's short, just a novella, and I loved how he created the story and gave some background and additional insight to the character of Ari.

I recommend it if you've read The Name of the Wind.


Rogues edited by George RR Martin
This is actually a collection of short stories by a variety of authors. I picked it up because I wanted to read the story by Patrick Rothfuss (see above). So in the novella, Rothfuss follows Ari around for the day. In this short story, "The Lightening Tree," he follows Bast. Now Bast is, of course, one of my favorite characters, so it is automatic that I would love this story. And I did.

I recommend it if you've read The Name of the Wind.


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven is Mandel's take on a post-apocalyptic novel. And I loved how she approached it. She has a great set up for the actual apocalypse itself, which is usual because most novels of this genre just skip what happened and let you attempt to imagine it. I was so caught in the descriptions of what was happening as the world as they knew it ended that I found myself panicking because I also don't have a landline telephone! Then Mandel moves to how the survivors build a new world and likewise that is also something that most post-apocalyptic novels don't deal with. It was truly imaginative and original and completely engaging.

I highly recommend it.


The Violets of March by Sarah Jio
I'm going to be completely honest here. I don't remember this book. I'm sitting here looking at the title and the cover and I have no idea what it was about.

Here's what I know: it was cute, it was a light read, it was entertaining... Clearly only for the moment.

I can't recommend it!


The Kate Daniels Series (Numbers 1-7, starting with Magic Bites) by Ilona Andrews
I'm listing these together as one entry, because I basically devoured the series, so now they are all muddled in my mind anyway. This is Urban Fantasy that takes place in an Atlanta that is being eaten by magic and is home to vampires (not sparkly ones) and shape-shifters.

I'll be honest, the first one is a hot mess. The authors did not do a good job of introducing Kate Daniels' world or explaining how that world operates and what her role in it is. But there was enough there to get me to read the second book, and they got a lot better at explaining as the series went on. It's a cute, light and fluffy, fantasy series with a strong female heroine.

I recommend it with reservations.


Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
Wow. This novel by Margaret Atwood does not stand up to the passage of time. Written in the late 1960s, it is deeply deeply entrenched in that time and that world. That doesn't sound that odd, but Atwood was trying so hard to make this universally applicable, and it just doesn't work. This is a super short novel, but it was really difficult to get through because of how she set it up.

I don't recommend it.





***
Next time: Look forward to these additional categories!

Classics
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Macbeth

Non-fiction
Shadows at Dawn by Karl Jacoby
Quiet by Susan Cain
Tracks by Robyn Davidson
Everything Changes by Kairol Rosenthal
Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber

Memoir
I am Malala by Malala Yousafazai
Two or Three Things I know for Sure by Dorothy Allison

Spirituality
How to Expand Love by the Dalai Lama
Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron
No Time to Lose by Pema Chodron

Audiobook
The Eight by Katherine Neville
Basket Case by Carl Hiaasen
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
The Song of the Lioness Series (Numbers 1-4) by Tamora Pierce
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Emily of New Moon by LM Montgomery
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Winnie the Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne
The Look of Love by Sarah Jio
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Using Diet to Cure Skin Cancer

This is the second part in my series about having skin cancer and trying to cure it without having 10 surgeries on my face. If you read the previous post, you know I'm still waiting for my surgery, but I wanted to write this second post, because in addition to using the essential oils on my cancerous spots, I have made some changes to my diet.





First of all, let's get to a couple of theories underlying the idea of using food. The idiom is "You are what you eat." And as that gets to the point that food has an effect on us -- and effect so strong that it shapes our bodies and who we are -- it's true. The second theory is Hippocrates' saying, "Let food be your medicine." I want to use anything I can use to heal this cancer and keep myself out of surgery, and so I definitely want to consider the impact that food is having. Not only am I going to include foods that have cancer-fighting powers, but I also want to remove all the cancer-causers.

If you know me, you are reading this and probably the way everyone that I've told in person has reacted -- completely horrified. Because you are thinking, "What else could you possibly do to your diet?"




So let's back up. Here are the basics:


1. I have been gluten-free for almost 10 years. It was tough going at the start, but now it's totally not a big deal. I don't eat gluten-free bread/ish products, simply because over time I have let them slide effortlessly out of my diet.


2. I have been pescatarian, then vegetarian, then vegan. Almost fully vegan for about 3 years. (The qualifiers are in there, because I would still eat sushi once every couple of months. Because sushi is worth it.)


3. I have been juicing green juice every morning for about 3 years.


4. I have been sugar-free for ... this one is hard to put a year on, because cutting out the sugar was a major battle for me. But I started working on being sugar-free 6 years ago, and probably finally became successful about 4 years ago.


5. I don't drink alcohol.


6. I cook. This means I don't eat processed foods. This again has been the slow evolution like getting rid of the gluten-free bread substitutes. I enjoy cooking, so when I go to the grocery store, my cart is full of real food -- like vegetables.


7. I buy organic food. I try to buy exclusively organic food, but that is a little harder here, so I compromise on the "Clean 15" and try to keep the "Dirty Dozen" exclusively organic.

Wow, that's more basics than I thought, but given all that, whatever label you want to give to my style of eating, the basic idea is that I eat good, clean, unprocessed food that is as chemical free as possible.

And the question again is, "What is there to change?"




For me, 3 major things. 


1. Sugar


I mentioned above that I have a problem with sugar. I cut it out 4 years ago, and finally felt like I had conquered that. But I slipped, and let in fruit, and more fruit, and more fruit, and more. And even though fruit has vitamins and minerals that we need, for me, the amount I was eating was dumping too much sugar into my body. Because even though the sugar in fruit is different, our bodies don't really know that.

The other thing that research about cancer is showing is that sugar feeds cancer. The cancerous cells actually grow more and faster when they are given sugar. I don't want to feed the cancer anything, so I cut out sugar.

Yes, this means that for me, for right now, I'm not even eating fruit. It's been 5 weeks. I plan to get through the recovery from my surgery and then reevaluate.

I'm going to point out how much I keep stressing "for me," especially in this sugar section. But this whole thing is based on what my body needs, and right now, my body needs to fight cancer.



2. Grains


I've been gluten-free for a very long time, so all those grains (wheat, rye, barley) are already cut out. But I was eating oatmeal every morning for breakfast, and I was also eating rice for at least one of the other meals every day. Some days I would get fancy and have quinoa. All of this added up to a lot of grains.

Grains connect back to the cancer research with sugar. Because of how grains are broken down by our bodies, they are basically interpreted as straight sugar. So once again, for me, for right now, the grains aren't working. Just like with the fruit, I cut them out 5 weeks ago.



3. Green Juice Every Day


I mentioned above that I have been juicing every day for 3 years. But this summer and moving was tough on me, and I slipped out of my normal system and routine. And once I slipped, I found it really difficult to get back into. But I talked with a good friend, and she helped motivate me, and I have juiced every single day for the past 5 weeks.

Basic Green Juice Recipe
2-3 stalks celery
1 cucumber
1 lemon (peeled)
Greens -- this could be 1 heart of romaine, 4-5 leaves of kale, 4-5 leaves of swiss chard, 4-5 leaves of bok choy, 2-3 big handfuls of spinach, etc

Assemble the ingredients, peel the lemon, and run it all through the juicer. It usually gives 8-10 ounces of juice, depending. I add filtered water until my 16 ounce jar is full.



4. A Little Bit of Organic Meat


This is tough. Have you had the experience of getting labeled -- labeled with anything -- and maybe at first you think, "Pfftt, no. That's not me." And then because that is so consistently your label, you start to own it. And then it really is you more and more, and more people notice and label you that way, and you decide you're ok with it. And then you change. Have you had that experience? It's kind of hard to get rid of the label.... Or at least it is for me.

My label is vegan. Vegan meaning no animal products or by-products. And at first, I was like whatever. I just eat what I eat. And then I started to own it. And I was like, yeah, I'm just me, but I am vegan. And now, I'm changing that, and it's hard to drop the label. Especially because we live in a society that is so centered around food.

The basic idea here is that there are vitamins and minerals that are present in meat that you can't get in plants. Some of these vitamins and minerals are important to killing cancer. Now, to be clear, I'm not talking about the macronutrient protein -- you can get plenty of protein from plant sources, and humans need less protein than Americans are led to believe anyway. What I mean is micronutrients, especially B vitamins, and those just aren't present in plants.

In order to get these benefits, I'm eating eggs for breakfast. This made it a little easier to drop the oatmeal that I had been eating. I also bought an organic free range chicken and made chicken soup. It was hard for me to deal with the bird (I'm trying not to be gross and call it a carcass), but the soup sure tasted good.

I'll point out that this is a very small amount of meat. It's not necessary to eat a huge amount to get the micronutrient benefits.




Results:
I thought this would be really difficult. I've had people talk to me about the paleo diet many times, and my reaction has always been, "No." Just no, because I need carbs. So I thought that cutting out all the grains and all the fruit would be really difficult for me.

It hasn't been.

I've had no major physical reactions. I have had no major cravings. There was one week that I was having a difficult week with work, etc, and I wanted something sweet, but it went away when I stopped feeling so depressed.

I don't know what impact this is having on the cancer yet, but I will be updating with another post after the surgery. I do believe that what we put in our bodies is incredibly important to our health. So even if the effect isn't huge, I am at least not continuing to fuel the cancer.




Note:
I have been doing this diet thing for years. If you are interested in trying this, and are thinking about cutting out sugar for the first time, it will be huge and very difficult. It was horrendously difficult for me the first time (which is why it took about two years to complete). But on the positive side, there are a lot of really good books to support you in cutting out sugar now, like Dr. Mark Hyman's Blood Sugar Solution series, JJ Virgin's Virgin Diet and The Sugar Impact Diet. I recommend getting some books as tools to help, and enlist a good friend to help you.