Combining cutting-edge neuroscience with the latest discoveries on the human microbiome, a practical guide in the tradition of The Second Brain, and The Good Gut that conclusively demonstrates the inextricable, biological link between mind and the digestive system.
We have all experienced the connection between our mind and our gut—the decision we made because it “felt right”; the butterflies in our stomach before a big meeting; the anxious stomach rumbling we get when we’re stressed out. While the dialogue between the gut and the brain has been recognized by ancient healing traditions, including Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, Western medicine has by and large failed to appreciate the complexity of how the brain, gut, and more recently, the gut microbiota—the microorganisms that live inside our digestive tract—communicate with one another. In The Mind-Gut Connection, Dr. Emeran Mayer, professor of medicine and executive director of the UCLA Center for Neurobiology of Stress, offers a revolutionary and provocative look at this developing science, teaching us how to harness the power of the mind-gut connection to take charge of our health and listen to the innate wisdom of our bodies.
My Thoughts on The Mind-Gut Connection:
I know … two posts in one day. What is the world coming to?
(No need to answer. I kind of hate thinking about what the world is coming to these days.)
So I read The Mind-Gut Connection because Trish at TLC Book Tours sent me the description and it looked like something I’d be interested in. And while I’ve been wrong before (and oh, have I ever been wrong before!) I was right about this one.
If you’re interested in that colony of bacteria that resides in your gut and how it affects your life, The Mind-Gut Connection is the read for you.
What colony of bacteria, you ask?
If you put all your gut microbes together and shaped them into an organ, it would weigh between 2 and 6 pounds–on par with the brain, which weighs in at 2.6 pounds.
This “forgotten organ” is quite incredible, and The Mind-Gut Connection goes into detail about exactly why it’s so incredible.
In addition to references to lots of scientific studies that back up how these microbes in our gut affect our brain, this book also has a bit of a holistic feel to it. There’s an entire chapter on intuitive decision-making that makes you want to recognize the next time you’re relying on your intuitions so you can “go with your gut”. And I wished the author had talked a bit more about working with dreams (although that doesn’t have much to do with your gut microbes. But still: interesting!)
Science has shown that chronic stress has a very detrimental effect on the interaction between your gut bacteria and your brain, and I found myself wishing science would also spend a bit more time on exploring the effect positive emotions have on this interaction as well. I mean, it would be good to have some solid, scientific evidence pointing to what happens when we experience positive emotions.
After reading all about how the microbiome in our gut affects our brain, I was very happy to read the final section on how to optimize your brain-gut health. I was a little disappointed, though, to learn it’s very difficult to actually change your gut microbial diversity. But still, there’s more than enough reason to continue with the probiotics and fermented foods.
And I’m definitely leaning toward a Mediterranean diet now, big-time. Veggies, here I come!
When Alice toppled down the rabbit-hole 150 years ago, she found a Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But what of that world? How did 1860s Oxford react to Alice’s disappearance?
In this brilliant work of fiction, Gregory Maguire turns his dazzling imagination to the question of underworlds, undergrounds, underpinnings—and understandings old and new, offering an inventive spin on Carroll’s enduring tale. Ada, a friend of Alice’s mentioned briefly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is off to visit her friend, but arrives a moment too late—and tumbles down the rabbit-hole herself.
Ada brings to Wonderland her own imperfect apprehension of cause and effect as she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and see her safely home from this surreal world below the world. If Eurydice can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life. Either way, everything that happens next is “After Alice.”
I’m in the middle of reading this one; it’s not an easy read, and to be honest, I’m not sure, now that I’ve put it down, if I’ll get back to picking it up again. The list review style is also great when I’m dealing with a book I’m not sure about, so here goes:
1. This book is most definitely not an easy read. It demands a lot of the reader, and I’m still unsure whether the payoff for all that effort is there. But it might be.
2. If you’re the type of reader who likes to know the meanings of words that are new to you, keep a dictionary on hand. You’re probably going to encounter at least one word you’ll need to look up in every paragraph.
3. I think, actually, that’s where the book started to lose me. The Words. Now, I love words, and I love word play–I mean, that’s what makes Alice in Wonderland the charmer that it is. But the thing is, in Alice in Wonderland it really is word play. In Alice, Lewis Carroll displays a genuine delight, a kind of delirious fun with words. But in After Alice, this sense of play isn’t there. Often you get the feeling the Words are The Point of the paragraph, the passage, the book. Not character, not story, not theme, but the Words.
4. Having said that, there are some delightful lines. Like:
From a distance he has the appearance of a walking cucumber that has gone deliquescent in the middle.
(And nope. I did not know what “diliquescent” meant. In case you’re wondering: “becoming liquid or having a tendency to become liquid.”)
5. Despite what you might be thinking, only about half of the book is about Ada’s adventures in Wonderland. The other part is about Alice’s sister, Lydia, in the real(er) world of Victorian England. And at times, with all this back and forth, it felt like After Alice wasn’t sure what it truly wanted to be: the story of Ada’s journey into a surreal world, or a philosophical exploration of the mores of Victorian England.
6. I preferred the Wonderland chapters.
7. Some of the dialogue in Wonderland is wonderfully quirky and reminiscent of Carroll’s dialogue.
8. So you don’t have to stop and Google it, if you’re reading the book: in the language of lowers, yellow flowers stand for jealousy and infidelity. (See Chapter 11, and Ada’s reflections on the mysterious nature of the literature of roses.)
9. I’m not quite ready to DNF this one, but it might join the books in my stacks labelled “To Be Finished Later”.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for my review copy of this book.
Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, by Paul Tremblay:
Late one summer night, Elizabeth Sanderson receives the devastating news that every mother fears: her thirteen-year-old son, Tommy, has vanished without a trace in the woods of a local park.
The search isn’t yielding any answers, and Elizabeth and her young daughter, Kate, struggle to comprehend Tommy’s disappearance. Feeling helpless and alone, their sorrow is compounded by anger and frustration: the local and state police have uncovered no leads. Josh and Luis, the friends who were the last to see Tommy before he vanished, may not be telling the whole truth about that night in Borderland State Park, when they were supposedly hanging out a landmark the local teens have renamed Devil’s Rock.
Living in an all-too-real nightmare, riddled with worry, pain, and guilt, Elizabeth is wholly unprepared for the strange series of events that follow. She believes a ghostly shadow of Tommy materializes in her bedroom, while Kate and other local residents claim to see a shadow peering through their windows in the dead of night. Then, random pages torn from Tommy’s journal begin to mysteriously appear—entries that reveal an introverted teenager obsessed with the phantasmagoric; the loss of his father, killed in a drunk-driving accident a decade earlier; a folktale involving the devil and the woods of Borderland; and a horrific incident that Tommy believed connects them.
As the search grows more desperate, and the implications of what happened become more haunting and sinister, no one is prepared for the shocking truth about that night and Tommy’s disappearance at Devil’s Rock.
I have a hard time writing about books I really enjoyed, because I usually find myself reduced to wanting to say stuff like, “Read this already, okay?” and “Oh, wow” and “This was good. Really good. I mean it. This was good.”
Which is not particularly helpful. And, since I really enjoyed Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and find myself wanting to say, Just pick this one up and read it! I’ve been trying hard to figure out exactly what I should write (other than “You really should read this”).
So to make it easier on both me and you, I thought I’d do this in a list. That way, I can be incoherent and ramble on a bit, which is probably a lot more helpful than waving the book in the air and saying to everyone and anyone near enough to hear, “You need to read this!” (which is what I actually did say when I finished reading it).
- Disappearance at Devil’s Rock is billed as a horror, and yes, it is an eerie read, with lots of atmosphere and I think you’ll like it if you like horror … BUT this isn’t really a horror novel. At its heart, it’s about love and it’s about loss.
- So if you were thinking, this read isn’t for me, because I don’t like horror novels, I think you should still give this a try.
- It made me cry. I read this nearly a month ago, and even now, thinking back to that last scene, I can still remember why it made me cry.
- I read this in one long gulp. I literally couldn’t put it down, so it ended up being one of those books where you read the last words with a deep sigh and then realize, oh, crap, it’s 3 in the morning. I’m getting kind of old for this kind of thing, but at the same time, I’m very happy when I stumble across a book that keeps me reading deep into the night.
- Even though I couldn’t put the book down, this wasn’t a purely plot-driven novel, the kind that keeps you madly flipping the pages quickly, sort-of-kind-of taking in the words because really, you’re just hell-bent on getting to the end and finding out WHAT HAPPENED. Sure, there was plot, a good one at that, but for me, it was the characters that really made this book work.
- I liked the way the narrative went back and forth between the present and the past. It worked well. And I was never confused about when in time I was. Always a really good thing.
- I think it could have used a better title. Disappearance at Devil’s Rock doesn’t really work for me. Actually, it makes me think of the Hardy Boys, so maybe it would work for me if I’m feeling like reading the Hardy Boys. Which I used to do all the time, back when I was 13. But not so much now. (Don’t ask me what would be a good title, though, because I’m not good at stuff like that.)
- I really enjoyed this book.
So a huge thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me a review copy. And of course a huge thanks to Paul Tremblay for penning this one. And did I mention, you should read this already, okay?
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began reading A Study in Sherlock. The tagline is “stories inspired by the Holmes Canon”, so I was thinking the stories would be about Sherlock Holmes.
Which would have been fine. It’s been a while since I read one of the original Holmes stories, but I quite enjoyed them when I did. Whether anyone could write a Holmes story that way Arthur Conan Doyle could – well, that I wasn’t too sure about. Still, I was willing to find out.
I was pleasantly surprised, though, to discover that while the stories in A Study in Sherlock have to do with Sherlock Holmes, very few of them actually had Holmes as a character in the story. And those that did feature Holmes himself were written in a different style than the original Holmes stories.
Since my latest, greatest media indulgence is the BBC series Sherlock, it was also refreshing to find that several of the stories were set in the present day. (But no, not with Holmes as an actual character … )
I didn’t like every story in the anthology, but really, that’s the nature of an anthology, isn’t it? With all the different writing styles showcased, there are bound to be a few that you might not like. Since I have no problems with not finishing something that doesn’t catch my attention, when I came across one that didn’t really suit me as a reader, I just quickly flipped over to the next story.
There were also a few stories in which the whole Holmes connection rather escaped me, but on reading the little author blurb at the end of the story, usually there was reference to how the story was very similar to one of the original Holmes stories.
I did enjoy most of the stories, though. When I finished the last one, it was with regret that there weren’t a few more to read.
My favorites? It’s hard to choose, but I’d have to say:
“As to ‘An Exact Knowledge of London”’” by Tony Broadbent. Broadbent is a new-to-me author, but after reading this story, I’ve put his novel The Smoke (about a roguish Cockney cat burglar in postwar London who gets blackmailed into working for M15 and is then trained by Ian Fleming) on my to-read list. I think the thing that appealed to me most about this story was how Broadbent integrated the pop culture aspect of Holmes into the narrative.
“The Case of Death and Honey” by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman’s tale was one of the few in the book that actually featured Holmes as a character, but it’s not told in the style of Doyle. It is pure Gaiman – imaginative and thought provoking. Very enjoyable.
“A Triumph of Logic” by Galey Lynds and John Sheldon. I admit, I figured out whodunnit soon after we visited the scene of the crime, but what I liked about this one were the main characters, Judge Boothby and Artie. Sheldon is working on his first suspense novel which will feature these two characters, so I’m adding this to my to-watch-for list (or rather, I would, if I kept such a list. Which I really should.)
“The Eyak Interpreter”, by Dana Stabenow. This story features Stabenow’s Kate Shugak. The first Kate Shugak mystery, A Cold Day for Murder, has been sitting in my TBR pile for a while. After reading this story, I’m definitely moving it up near the top of the file. (By the way, the Kindle version of A Cold Day for Murder I’ve linked to above is currently free.) The short story is told from the perspective of Johnny (I’m not sure what relation he is to Kate), a teenager who’s in Anchorage and blogging about it as part of a school assignment. A fun way to structure a story.
I liked several of the other stories too. For example, Jacqueline Winspear’s “A Spot of Detection” had a nice, unexpected twist at the end that made me smile. Charles Todd’s “The Case That Holmes Lost” has a very fun premise – someone is suing Sherlock Holmes, the fictional character.
All in all, this was a great read. And it’s resparked my interest in reading mystery short stories; when I was in my 20s, I read a lot of mystery and science fiction short stories, and reading this anthology I was reminded how really nice it is to sit down with a well-written short story.
I’ve also decided to reread the original Holmes stories. I put a hold on Leslie Klinger’s The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, so hopefully I’ll be able to get a start on that soon!
Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage "sci-philes" who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.
As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot–if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer’s scent.
Fortunately, they are now more than friends–they’re a pack. They are Virals.
I have a confession to make: while I’ve read several of the Temperance Brennan novels by Kathy Reichs, it’s the TV show Bones I really like. There’s something about the camaraderie of the characters on the show that’s really appealing to me.
And, as I’ve mentioned before (in one of my first reviews on this blog, actually!), I’m not particularly fond of the gothic damsel-in-distress style that Reichs sometimes uses in the Brennan series. Personally, I think even one “had I but known …” is one too many, and the Brennan books tend to have more than just one.
But I couldn’t resist the premise behind Virals. A group of teenagers who catch a virus that turns them into wolves? Beautiful!
I’m happy to say, Reichs writes with a very authentic YA voice in Virals – and there’s not a single “had I but known” in sight, thank goodness. The novel gripped me from the start – I read it in ebook format, first on my iPhone, and then the concluding chapters on my iPad (with too long a stretch in between due to work deadlines).
Tory is a great character. She’s sure of herself, but not sure of herself, in that lovable way that’s true of many of the teenagers I know. She’s smart and quick-thinking. And funny.
The team she forms with her three friends is a true team. I found myself rooting for them from the very beginning. And there’s a lot of smart-ass, make-you-smile dialogue, the kind of conversations that, if you live with teenagers, make you nod your head and say to yourself, “Now, didn’t I hear that just the other day?”
My only problem with Virals came at the end. I would have preferred a different ending, with the “villain” of the place acting in a smarter, more credible way. Still, it was a galloping good read, the kind of novel that’s really difficult to put down.
And yes, I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel.
I learned my lesson last year when I reviewed the previous Chief Inspector Gamache book by Louise Penny, The Brutal Telling.
You see, I loved The Brutal Telling and quite literally gushed about it.
But I’d written the review from my perspective as a reader who had started with book one in the series; I came to The Brutal Telling with a fully developed love of the characters.
This makes a difference. I know, because some other wonderful bloggers I know picked up The Brutal Telling as their first introduction to the series, and the book wasn’t nearly as wonderful for them as it was for me.
So, I’ve now read the latest installment in the series: Bury Your Dead. And yes, I’m going to gush about it. Because Bury Your Dead is so very, very good.
There are two mysteries involved, plus a little bit of a historical mystery thrown in for good measure.
Those of you who’ve read the previous books in the series: you’re in for a treat.
Those of you who haven’t read the previous books in the series: I’m smarter this time around. I’m going to suggest you start with Still Life, the first book in the series, and read your way through to Bury Your Dead.
(And I envy you, because you’re in for such a glorious ride; yes, the Inspector Gamache books are that good.)
If you’ve read most of the series, but haven’t read The Brutal Telling yet, don’t read Bury Your Dead until you’ve read The Brutal Telling, because Bury Your Dead contains a massive spoiler.
And finally, if (or perhaps, when) you’re fully involved in the series, and have read all the previous books, then, like me, you might:
- find yourself tearing up already by page 18, when you still don’t have a clue what’s happened to Gamache and his team, but you already know how Gamache is feeling about it, and it’s making you feel just awful.
- find yourself riding an emotional roller coaster ride, until it becomes more clear what probably did happen, at which point you will be very sad.
- hope against hope that perhaps it isn’t as bad as what you’re thinking, even right up to the bitter end, with the result that you’ll end the book with tears in your eyes.
Aside from this emotional backstory, the mysteries themselves are very good, too. The ending to one of the mystery threads made me feel very glad indeed. Although, as with all of the previous Gamache mysteries, the murderers are not “bad guys”, not people you love to hate, but rather real people, with both good and bad sides to them. So as always, the denouements are rather bittersweet.
And from a writer’s perspective, you’ll love the way Penny has incorporated flashbacks into the story. There are some things that stretch your credulity somewhat, but I am quite willing to put up with a bit of stretching when it comes to Gamache.
This is a very good read indeed. I made the mistake of grabbing the book at 1:30 am, when I was about 2/3rds of the way through it, with the intention of just reading “a few more chapters”. I finished reading at 3:30 am and as a result, am very tired today! But it was well worth it.
I am a huge Meg Cabot fan, so it’s probably not surprising that I quite liked Insatiable, which I read last month (I’d put in my hold request quite early at my library).
Having said that, I can kind of understand why it’s had some mixed reviews (I haven’t actually read any full blog reviews yet, so I’m going by the Amazon ones, which are definitely a mixed bag).
Update: I just realized I forgot to include a summary of the novel! Here’s the description:
Sick of hearing about vampires? So is Meena Harper.
But her bosses are making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn’t believe in them.
Not that Meena isn’t familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you’re going to die. (Not that you’re going to believe her. No one ever does.)
But not even Meena’s precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side. It’s a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire hunters, would prefer to see him dead for.
The problem is, Lucien’s already dead. Maybe that’s why he’s the first guy Meena’s ever met whom she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena’s always been able to see everyone else’s future, she’s never been able look into her own.
And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare.
Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future. . . .
If she even has one.
Insatiable is written rather tongue-in-cheek, and I think if you keep this in mind, you’ll enjoy it a lot more.
And one of the tongue-in-cheek things that Cabot does is throw in everything-but-the-kitchen-sink. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I mean. There’s a point during the “final battle scene” where your eyes kind of widen, and you think to yourself, “OMG, she’s throwing in everything but the kitchen sink!”. You might even say to yourself, “Wait a minute! I think that is the kitchen sink!”.
Fun, nevertheless. At least, I thought so.
Cabot’s also trying to get a few points across, too. Like this one: it’s not such a good thing to be stalked by someone who says he loves you – not even if he’s this really hot dishy vampire prince.
Another is: He might say it’s true love, but when someone wants to swoop into your life and take total control of it, even if it’s in order to keep you “safe”, this is really not such a good thing. No, not even if he’s this really hot dishy vampire prince.
Best phrase in the book? “… he definitely didn’t sparkle”.
See what I mean about tongue-in-cheek?