Friday, November 21, 2008

Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? by Peter Walsh

Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? offers a unique approach to weight loss. Peter Walsh, author of It's All Too Much, uses his organizing skills to tackle weight loss. He makes the connection between the clutter in your house and life to the extra "clutter" on your body. It's definitely not your ordinary weight loss book. There are no meal plans or exercise plans, but there are plenty of activities to not only track down the cause of your extra weight, but also to help you lose it. At the end of each chapter, there's a checklist so that the reader can keep track of the activities and quizzes as they complete them.

This really is an awesome book. Walsh offers some excellent advice and plenty of things to think about and do with regards to weight loss. His writing style made the whole book fun and easy to read. Admittedly, Peter isn't an expert on weight loss. However, through his clients, he noticed a trend that when they decluttered their houses, they also lost weight. One of the things I really liked about Peter's advice is that looked at weight loss in a whole new way.

My favourite chapters were 4 through 7. It's in those chapters you learn to take a look at your home and declutter your kitchen, as well as learn the benefits of stocking good food and preparing homemade meals. The first activity (jump up and down in front of a mirror naked) had me gasping in horror, but I soon got over that and really enjoyed reading Walsh's program.

My least favourite part of the book is his use of letters from people who write to him. I don't know if these are actual letters or just represent the types of letters he gets, but I didn't think they added much to the content. At first they were ok, but after awhile, they got old.

The book is chock full of great advice and interesting takes on weight loss. I've selected two of my favourites to include here.
On takeout (page 177):
Think of it as junk mail. It comes into your house pretending to offer you something you want, but if you don't stop it at the door, it just keeps coming...You have no idea whether junk mail contains stuff you want or don't want, but it just keeps coming until it takes over your home.

On enjoying the food you eat (page 167):
We know how to eat--eating is the mechanical action of placing food into your mouth, chewing, and swallowing it. But isn't that exactly what your pet does? If there isn't a significant difference between how your pet eats and how you consume food, then something is seriously wrong.

Like with most self help books, I try to read the whole book first (so that I can get an really good idea about the program before I jump in with both feet and in this case so that I can get my review out quickly) and then go back and tackle the activities and put in the work necessary to succeed. So with the exception of a few of the quizzes, I have not yet done the activities, lost any weight or cleaned up my kitchen. That comes next.

Even though my house isn't drowning in a never ending sea of clutter and I generally eat homemade, nutritious meals, I still think there are areas I can improve and hope to put some of the skills I've learned (and hope to learn on my second pass) to good use.

Recommended, if clutter and weight are two of your issues or if you've tried other "diet" books and want to try something new. I'm tempted to pick up Walsh's It's All Too Much to get other areas of my house in order. It, too, looks like a fun read.

This review copy was provided by the publisher through the wonderful people at Edwards Magazine.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Unholy Business by Nina Burleigh

In Unholy Business: A True Tale of Faith, Greed & Forgery in the Holy Land, Nina Burleigh tells us how the James Ossuary goes from being the artefact that proves the existence of Jesus Christ to being the "the fraud of the century". She details the items, the players on both sides of the forgery, the procedures used for examination and more. She brings to light the corruption and forgery that infiltrates all levels of the antiquities market. From the high-end museum display pieces to the low-end items that are on sale for tourists, only a few people in the world know what's real. Even then, they don't always agree.

I loved this book. Burleigh's writing and storytelling abilities make this work accessible, fascinating and easy to read. A number of the players' names start with "G" and I got them mixed up a few times, but other than the story is quite easy to follow. I particularly liked her examination of what the ossuary, if it's authentic, means to the various religions. I was raised in the Catholic church and found this section interesting and enlightening. I also loved her descriptions of the various cities in the Middle East. Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and others; I could really picture the cities as she described them. Also, Burleigh's detailed descriptions of the procedures used to prove authenticity were easy to understand and intriguing.

I appreciate the tremendous amount of research and travel to gather the information. I especially loved that she didn't just quote other people's work. She travelled extensively and walked and talked with the collectors, archaeologists and other antiquity specialists to put together a comprehensive piece of work.

Highly recommended for those interested in religion, archaeology or museums. It might make you look at museums and their displays in a whole new way.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hitman by David Foster

In Hitman, David Foster goes from young Canadian piano student with perfect pitch to music producer who spent "forty years making music, topping charts & winning Grammys". That's 15 Grammys for those who are counting. David grew up in Victoria, British Columbia the middle of seven children and the only boy and now works as a music producer/songwriter/arranger/performer with some of the biggest names in music. This memoir details his successes, his not-so-successful moments, his children, his foundation to help disadvantaged children and so much more.

This is an awesome book. There's never a dull moment. It was both interesting and educational. I'm not much of a celebrity follower and don't know the in and outs of anyone's career, so a lot of the details were new and fascinating. I was also surprised to learn what producers do; that they have control over the whole music making process, not just the business end. It's so much more than I thought they did. This memoir, too, is much more than it could have been. I'm sure Foster could have filled the pages with just stories of the people he's worked with over the years. However, David shares the intimate of his failed marriages, his guilt over his relationship with his five daughters, his phobias, his health and more. Having said that, at times I thought he could have been a little more open about his feelings and dug a little deeper to show his vulnerability. He came across as a little guarded, but he is writing for a bunch of strangers. I think I'd be guarded, too.

There are many things I loved about this book. One thing was the references to the life lessons he learned along the way. They really tied the memoir together into one cohesive unit rather than a bunch of stories of his life. Another things I particularly enjoyed were the pages of acknowledgments and lists of awards and nominations at the end of the book. It's amazing when you look at his accomplishments all laid out like that. And he's not done, yet!

One of my favourite quotes:
I can only be who I am, and who I am is a guy who writes music that people make babies to--and I'm not going to apologize for it.

One of my favourite artists that David has worked with is Renee Olstead. She's a young jazz singer with an incredible voice. If you haven't heard her sing, you're missing something great.

Foster also made me realize that I'm probably missing out on listening to some great voices. I'm determined to expand my music horizons to include Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli just because of the wonderful things Foster had to say about their talents.

There's many facets to the music industry, but for Foster it comes down to only one thing: music. David Foster certainly is *the* Hitman.

Highly recommended.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Getting the Girl by Susan Juby

In Getting the Girl, Sherman Mack is determined to find who's behind the "defiling" pranks at his new school. All he knows is that someone is posting girls' pictures stamped a "D" on them around the school. The girl then becomes a social outcast and no one will have anything to do with her. He's fancies himself a detective and a ladies' man, so this mystery is right up his alley.

This book is such a fun read. Once I picked it up I didn't want to put it down. Juby's characters are unique and believable. I loved Sherman Mack. He's good at detecting *and* cookery. He certainly loved the ladies and he'd do anything for them. What more can you want in a man? I couldn't quite picture him in my head (a young Ralph Macchio (The Karate Kid) or maybe that kid from Malcolm in the Middle.), but his attitude and personality really came through. I couldn't help but feel sorry for the defiled girls. It just reminded me of how cruel high school can be and even though I wasn't a social outcast, I wouldn't go back there if you paid me.

My one complaint is that the story seemed to run out of steam in the middle and not too much happened to advance the story/mystery. However, it picked up again rather quickly and had a really good ending.

I'll be looking for more books by Susan Juby. I also look forward to more "Ask a Juby" posts on The Savvy Reader blog. They are always fun to read.

I'm sure most young people won't have a problem with relating to the situations in this book. Recommended.

Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel

In Starclimber, Canada is setting its sights on space and Kate de Vries, an expert in zoology has been asked to enter the new space program. Her friend and love interest, Matt Cruse, a pilot of a aerocrane, also wants to enter the program, but he must compete for his spot. As they prepare for the mission and eventually lift off, Matt and Kate make every attempt to keep their relationship a secret. This book is the third in the Airborn series.

Oppel presents an awesome and exciting story that's so detailed I felt like I was aboard the Starclimber airship myself. I'm not familiar with the other books in the series, so I was a bit confused with this world that Oppel has created for his characters, but that did not at all keep me from loving this book. I could easily get hooked on this series. The whole thing was fascinating and filled with many memorable characters. From Matt and Kate, to Tobias, Hugh, Shepherd, Mr. Lunardi and many others. All great.

Even though the book can stand alone, there are numerous references to past adventures and events, which probably occurred in the previous books. With other books, I felt like I was missing something because I hadn't read the previous books. Not so with this book. I just made me incredibly curious about these characters and excited to know that I could read more about them. I will definitely keep my eye out for the first two books (Airborn and Skybreaker) in the series. I'm hoping that they will give me a good background into the world in which these characters live. I might even try one of Oppel's other books. ;)

Highly recommended.

Jolted by Arthur Slade

In Jolted, almost everyone in Newton Starker's family has been struck and killed by lightening. That's why he's always on the lookout for bad weather, especially cumulonimbus clouds. To try to break the curse on his family, Newton enters the Jerry Potts Academy of Higher Learning and Survival in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Once there, he acquires all kinds of skills that will hopefully allow him to survive the curse and learn to appreciate the outdoors.

What a great book! The story was interesting and fun to read. I loved the "Newton's Rules for Survival" as well as all of the little extras that the author made part of the story (excerpts from newspapers and manuals, letters etc.)

Slade has created a number of great characters in this book, but my favourite was Newton. He penchant for truffles (the fungus ones, not the chocolate ones) was unique and amazing. He had such a sophisticated palate for a youngster. His circumstances made me care about him.

I couldn't help but think of Harry Potter series when reading the book. There are many similarities between Harry and Newton. Lightning (lightning bolt scar, in Harry's case), special school, little to no family left, misunderstood, scary enemy and probably a few more I can't think of right now. This story, though, is not at all dark as the Potter books turned out to be and Newton does not appear to have any other-worldly type abilities.

Recommended. I have Dust on my bookshelf gathering dust (what else?). I'll be sure to push it closer to the top of my to-be-read pile.

Dreaming Again Edited by Jack Dann

Dreaming Again, presented by Jack Dann, is an amazing collection of short stories in the speculative fiction genre from Australian authors. From science fiction, fantasy and horror, these short stories are diverse and imaginative. Dann precedes the collection with a nice introduction explaining the premise of the book. The back of the book says it best: "Breathtaking in scope, originality and imagination."

I've read quite a few short stories before, but almost everything else about this book was new for me. First there's the Australian authors. I haven't knowingly read any that I can think of. Also, I don't read much speculative fiction. In fact, I could probably count the number of such books I've read on one hand and those were all science fiction. I can't remember ever reading any fantasy (except if you count Harry Potter, which I don't because to me he's real) or horror. It's not that I didn't enjoy the few that I read it's just that I tend to gravitate towards other genres.

I really enjoyed reading this book. In fact, at times I didn't want to put the book down and couldn't wait to see what the next story was about. The stories were diverse with unique characters and story lines. The three subgenres(?) were well represented. Dann's selection of stories and editing of the book were superb. One of the first sentences in the first story gave me an indication of what I was in for "...I had regrown my left foot...". I knew right then and there this book was going to be different from any other book I've read.

My favourites include:
The Constant Past, The Forest, This Way to the Exit, Empire, Lost Arts and many more. That's enough for now. I could be here all day listing them. I also have a list of those I'd like to reread.

Definitely recommended. Even if you think you might not like speculative fiction, I'd say this book is still worth a try.