Friday, December 7, 2012

Drinking History by Andrew F. Smith

book cover
Drinking History
by Andrew F. Smith

ISBN-13: 9780231151160
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Released: November 27, 2012

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher (through Netgalley).

Book Description from Goodreads:
Whether alcoholic or nonalcoholic, carbonated or caffeinated, warm or frozen, watery or thick, spicy or plain -- Americans have invented, adopted, modified, and commercialized tens of thousands of beverages. These include uncommon cocktails, varieties of coffee and milk, and such iconic creations as Welch's grape juice, Coca-Cola, root beer, and Kool-Aid.

Involved in their creation and promotion were entrepreneurs and environmentalists, bartenders and bottlers, politicians and lobbyists, organized and unorganized criminals, teetotalers and drunks, German and Italian immigrants, savvy advertisers and gullible consumers, prohibitionists and medical professionals, and everyday Americans in love with their brew.

My Review:
Drinking History is a look at the beverages popular with Americans through our history, from Native Americans and the colonists to the present day. The author linked various events in American history to changes in which beverages are popular to drink. It's written with a casual tone and is an easy read.

There was a minor amount of repetition as some events caused more than one beverage to catch on. Sometimes, near the end of a chapter, the narrative turned into lists of which company bought out which company over the years. I was more interested in the descriptions of the events (political and/or technological) that caused a change of drinking patterns or the creation of new beverages, and that's what made up most of the book. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting and enjoyable book.

The chapters covered: what the colonists drank and why; rum, tea, whiskey, hard cider, beer, milk, cocktails, juices, soft drinks, Kool-Aid, flavored milk, sports and energy drinks, wine, water and bottled water, and coffee. While exploring these beverages, we also learned about events leading to the Revolutionary War, the Temperance Movement, Prohibition, etc., and about people like Johnny Appleseed. We also occasionally got an old recipe telling how a certain beverage was made. There was a lot of information on how drinks were marketed to make them popular as well as surprising health concerns about various drinks and how drink producers overcame those concerns.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Home Dairy by Ashley English

book cover
Home Dairy:
All You Need to Know to Make Cheese, Yogurt, Butter, & More
by Ashley English

ISBN-13: 9781600596278
Hardcover: 136 pages
Publisher: Lark Crafts
Released: March 1, 2011

Source: Borrowed from my local library.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Now you can make your own delicious dairy products, whether you keep milking animals yourself or simply buy milk fresh from the grocer. It's one of the easiest, budget-friendly and most rewarding ways of getting closer to the foods you eat. You'll be able to enjoy delicious whipped butters, healthful yogurt with beneficial probiotics, incomparable cheeses, and sweet ice creams.

Taking a friendly, hold-your-hand approach, Ashley English shares all the nitty-gritty details and learned-from-experience tips discovered on her own dairy-making journey, from the necessary tools to the best possible ingredients. Ashley also introduces you to dairy-makers who chose this exciting homemade lifestyle and offers many of her own kitchen-tested recipes.

My Review:
Home Dairy is a guide on how to make your own cheeses and dairy products. The author provided enough information that a complete beginner can use this guide. It's a very colorful book with lots of pictures (of tools, finished products, etc.) and easy-to-follow and -understand instructions. I was curious about how cheeses are made, and I learned a lot of interesting information. When I saw how easy it is to make kefir, I tried the kefir recipe #2, and it worked perfectly. I felt like I wouldn't have any trouble following other recipes in the book, but I haven't tried any others yet.

The book gave a short history of milk, then discussed the various ingredients and tools used in the later recipes. She gave several methods for making butter and then recipes for making butters (whipped, cultured, compound, browned) and ghee. She then discussed and gave recipes for cultured dairy (yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, sour cream, creme fraiche, quark). Next she discussed the basic cheese-making techniques and gave recipes for beginner's cheeses (queso blanco, cream cheese, mascarpone, feta, paneer, ricotta, cottage cheese, chevre, mozzarella). Then were recipes for advanced cheeses (cheddar, swiss, parmesan, gorgonzola) and how to make a homemade cheese press. Finally, recipes for ice cream, foods that use cheese in the recipes, and body care products that use milk.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gray Matter by David Levy, MD

book cover
Gray Matter:
A Neurosurgeon Discovers the Power of Prayer...
by David Levy
with Joel Kilpatrick

ISBN-13: 9781414339757
ebook: 304 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Released: February 21, 201

Source: Free ebook "bought" some time back through Sony's ebook store.

Book Description from Goodreads:
A blend of medical drama and spiritual insight, "Gray Matter" is a fascinating account of Dr. David Levy's decision to begin asking his patients if he could pray for them before surgery. Some are thrilled. Some are skeptical. Some are hostile, and some are quite literally transformed by the request. Each chapter focuses on specific cases, with a detailed description of the patient's diagnosis and the procedure that will need to be performed, followed by the prayer "request."

Readers get to look over Dr. Levy's shoulder as he performs the operation, and then we wait--right alongside Dr. Levy, the patients, and their families--to see the final results. Dr. Levy's musings on what successful and unsuccessful surgical results imply about God, faith, and the power of prayer are honest and insightful. As we watch him come to his ultimate conclusion that no matter what the results of the procedure are, "God is good," we cannot help but be truly moved and inspired.

My Review:
Gray Matter is an autobiography about a neurosurgeon's journey of faith and how his willingness to follow God's leading to reach out in faith has transformed how he practices medicine. It's very suspenseful. We follow specific cases from the consultation and Levy's offer to pray (or talk about forgiveness), how they respond, him performing the procedure, and waiting to see how the patient came out of the surgery. The surgery scenes weren't gory unless talk about veins, arteries, coils, and glue get to you.

I found the book very touching and encouraging. I usually don't read books where the author is on the cover as the focus if often totally on them. However, this book was as much about each patient and on God working in their and the author's life as it was about Levy. Levy came across as humble and open as he told about his failures as well as his successes. He discussed how he came to add prayer to his medical practice and then later offer to help walk certain patients through forgiving others.

Overall, I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks it sounds interesting. It's very much a Christian book, but the author came across as genuinely concerned for others, not condemning, so even non-Christians might enjoy it.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the winner of the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop. Including Twitter entries, we had 11 entries. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:


Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always buy a copy of these books from your favorite bookstore or see if they have them at your local library.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

As a part of the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop, I'm holding a giveaway for the following book:

book coverThe Axmann Conspiracy by Scott Andrew Selby. You can read my review.

Artur Axmann, the head of the Hitler Youth, witnessed the Führer commit suicide in Berlin—but he would not let the Reich die with its leader. Evading capture, and with access to remnants of the regime’s wealth, Axmann had enough followers to reestablish the Nazi party in the very heart of Allied-occupied Germany.

U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps Officer Jack Hunter, along with other CIC agents, uncovered the conspiracy. The Axmann Conspiracy is the previously untold true story of the Nazi threat that continued in the wake of World War II, the espionage that defeated it, and two fascinating men whose lives forever altered the course of history.

This contest is for USA & Canada residents only.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for THE AXMANN CONSPIRACY by Scott Andrew Selby."


2) You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered. Please also leave some way for me to contact you--or follow this blog so you can see the winner announcement.

This giveaway ends on October 31st, 2012 at midnight. The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner on November 1st, 2012 on this blog.

If you entered using twitter, I'll send you a @ or DM telling you of your win and asking where to send the book. If you entered using the blog comments, you'll need to leave your e-mail address or check back to see if you won so you can e-mail me your mailing address. If the winner hasn't responded with a mailing address within four days, I reserve the right to pick a new winner.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

The blogs participating in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Axmann Conspiracy by Scott Andrew Selby

book cover
The Axmann Conspiracy
by Scott Andrew Selby

ISBN-13: 9780425252703
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Berkley Hardcover
Released: September 4, 2012

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
A trusted member of Hitler’s inner circle, Artur Axmann, the head of the Hitler Youth, witnessed the Führer commit suicide in Berlin—but he would not let the Reich die with its leader. Evading capture, and with access to remnants of the regime’s wealth, Axmann had enough followers to reestablish the Nazi party in the very heart of Allied-occupied Germany—and position himself to become dictator of the Fourth Reich.

U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps Officer Jack Hunter was the perfect undercover operative. Fluent in German, he posed as a black marketeer to root out Nazi sympathizers and saboteurs after the war, and along with other CIC agents uncovered the extent of Axmann’s conspiracy. It threatened to bring the Nazis back into power—and the task fell to Hunter and his team to stop it.

The Axmann Conspiracy is the previously untold true story of the Nazi threat that continued in the wake of World War II, the espionage that defeated it, and two fascinating men whose lives forever altered the course of history.

My Review:
The Axmann Conspiracy is about what happened in Germany after Hitler committed suicide and how American Counter Intelligence officers uncovered and defeated the attempt by high-level Nazis to reestablish Nazi influence after the end of the war. Though Axmann was the one who got it all started, he was in hiding after the fall of Berlin. It was his fellow Hitler Youth officers--following his initial orders--that did most of the secret rebuilding of Nazi power.

The book started with Hitler committing suicide and the attempt by some of the surviving Nazis to escape Berlin before the Russians could capture them. We also got a biography of Axmann and of Hunter. The story continued with how the American CIC found out about the "Axmann Conspiracy," what they did, what Axmann was doing, what the Nazi group was doing, and how it all came together in the end.

It's clear that the author did his research and that he wanted to share all the interesting things he learned. The story routinely sidetracked from the main point or action into interesting but unnecessary detail. For example, we're told the names of all the medals Axmann had received and what they were for as a part of his biography. But we're also told what each medal looked like, which served no purpose in the overall story. This slowed the pacing, so don't expect a fast-paced, action-focused story.

The author also jumped from one group to another to tell what each was doing at that time. He gave a recap of who was who and what they had last being doing to make sure the reader didn't get confused. While useful, it creates a lot of repetition for those who are able to keep track of everything. Overall, though, the information included was very interesting and the action was suspenseful due to all the things that could go wrong.

There were 27 black and white photographs and charts included in the center of the book. They showed what people looked like, what places looked like, and otherwise illustrated what was going on in the text.

I'd recommend this book to those interested in the aftermath of WWII in Germany and to those who like to read about real Intelligence work.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Healing at the Speed of Sound by Don Campbell, Alex Doman

book cover
Healing at the Speed of Sound
by Don Campbell,
Alex Doman

ISBN-13: 9781594630828
Hardback: 288 pages
Publisher: Hudson Street Press
Released: September 29, 2011

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Back Cover:
Based on over a decade of new research, Don Campbell, bestselling author of The Mozart Effect, and Alex Doman, an expert in the practical application of sound and listening, show how we can use music and silence to become more efficient, productive, relaxed, and healthy.

Each chapter focuses on a single aspect of everyday life, providing advice, exercises, wide-ranging playlists, and links so readers can use the music they love to create the perfect soundtrack for any goal or task.

My Review:
Healing at the Speed of Sound is a scientific look at how music and noise (and silence) effect our emotions, our health, and even our ability to learn. They talked about managing noise, protecting your hearing, and using the music you like to influence your day (on waking up, for exercise, traveling to and from work, at work, in the evening, and before bed). The advice was pretty basic, and the "soundtrack for your day" is very much based on what you like. So you notice what songs effect you in certain ways and use them to wake up your mind instead of coffee, help you to keep going when exercising, relax when stressed, etc.

They also talked about how listening to certain types of music, playing music, and making music as a group can help us to learn and remember things better as well as other positive health benefits. They also talked about how music can effect a baby's development before birth and brain development problems or a brain injury after birth.

There was a chapter on using music to tap into "spiritual experiences." They treated all religious music or chanting practices (from witch doctors to Buddhism to Christianity) as equal in positive effects. The way they phrased things made me think they believed spiritual experiences are completely brain-induced. All I'll say is be careful what you play with or you might end up getting more than you expect.

Throughout the text, there were links to free songs and further information on their website. Much of the "further information" was an expert saying the information given in the book, but some gave more in-depth information. One link was to a blog where a lady was blogging about how great one of their music therapy products was, but she made it sound like the music was a mind-altering drug--she's stressed, so she grabbed their relaxation music to calm down, etc.--rather than something that made a lasting change after the music was off. This left me a bit confused about which music has a lasting effect or for how long an effect lasts.

Overall, it was fun to see scientific evidence for things I'd already noticed about music and it did make me more aware of my sound environment, but I didn't really feel empowered by the book. Except in regards to exercise, the advice tended to be so unspecific and subjective ("go with what you like!") that I'm at a loss as to what to play from the large variety of choices that I have. Also, my day is not routine, so what I "need" to listen to and when would vary from day to day. So I haven't actually made any changes in my daily routine.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ah-choo! by Jennifer Ackerman

book cover
The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold
by Jennifer Ackerman

ISBN-13: 9780446541152
Hardcover: 245 pages
Publisher: Twelve
Released: September 2, 2010

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Back Cover:
On average, we spend five years of our lives suffering from Colds. Isn't it time you learned something about them? Ah-Choo! explains why...

  • A quarter of the people infected with a cold virus don't get sick. What's so different about these folks?
  • When it comes to colds, being young is no advantage: Teenagers catch twice as many as people over fifty. 
  • It's strange but true: If you want to tamp down cold symptoms, "boosting" your immune system may actually be the last thing you want to do!
  • The ways colds spread may surprise you. You're probably less likely to get a cold from kissing or getting sneezed on, than you are from a simple handshake.
  • People with big, diverse social networks actually get fewer colds than those with limited social circles.  
  • When you have a cold, TLC may be the best medicine. Studies show simple empathy may be as effective as potent drugs in treating colds, cutting short their duration by a whole day. That's more than over-the-counter medications can claim!

My Review:
Ah-Choo! is a book about the common cold: how you pick them up, what cold symptoms are and why, who is most likely to get a cold, how cold viruses work, how your body reacts, historical views on colds and how to treat them, modern treatments and how well they work, the expert's advice on how to treat colds and prevent getting them, and trivia.

This book was generally engaging and easy to follow, but the author included a lot of scientific studies in some chapters. I liked those, but she wasn't always clear about what was being studied (viruses and bacteria in general, presence of cold viruses, presence of viable cold viruses, etc.), so I didn't always know what to make of the study results. Some of the studies came to conflicting conclusions, and sometimes the author didn't comment on the conflict so I wondered if I understood correctly what was concluded.

The most useful part of the book was actually the appendix which neatly summarized the important information about colds, how to prevent them, and what actually worked if you had one. I plan on using that information, though I already do a lot of it (like frequently washing your hands--thoroughly--and not touching your eyes and nose when you hands may be contaminated). I was surprised by some of the results about what works and what doesn't, and I certainly intend to follow the experts' advice.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson

book cover
Lark Rise to Candleford
by Flora Thompson

ISBN-13: 9781567923636
Paperback: 556 pages
Publisher: Nonpareil Books
Released: 1945, 2010

Source: Borrowed from my local library.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Flora Thompson (1876-1947) wrote about English country life at the turn of the twentieth century. This trilogy of novels--Lark Rise (1939), Over to Candleford (1941), and Candleford Green (1943)--are published together in this omnibus version and tell what life was like in a hamlet, a village, and a town as she grew up and lived in these various places.

Through the semi-autobiographical character of young Laura, Flora Thompson chronicles how people's lives changed from living off the land and practicing the "old ways" to a more urban existence. From May Day celebrations, harvest times, traditional sons and games, to descriptions of the types of people who lived there, Thompson builds a personal and vivid portrait of a cherished place and a vanished time.

My Review:
Lark Rise to Candleford is an autobiography about a woman who grew up in a small, very poor hamlet in England from 1876 to 1892. (She refers to herself as "Laura" instead of writing as "I.") As a teenager, she often spent her summers in a nearby town where her better-off cousins lived. At age 16, she went to work in a post office at the edge of that town. She described life--education, games, holidays, etc.--at that time, but she also tells stories about things she did relating to these subjects. The book reminded me of the Laura Wilder books, but this was less a narrative about Flora's life and more a telling about how people lived with some related stories (not in any order) relating to the current topic.

It was interesting and engaging. I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys learning more about how people lived at other places and times.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine, Second Edition

book cover

Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine, Second Edition

ISBN-13: 978-1-60320-836-9
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Time Home Entertainment
Released: 2010

Source: Bought from the Mayo website

Book Description from Goodreads:
The Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine is an illustrated, accessible guide to understanding what works and what doesn't in the world of complementary and alternative medicine, and how to put this information to use in your everyday life.

From acupuncture to yoga, Echinacea to St. John's wort, and meditation to healing touch, Mayo Clinic provides answers to the most pressing questions people have about the effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine, and when it's appropriate to use natural remedies in place of or in conjunction with traditional medicine. This guide also offers practical advice for treating common ailments and incorporating alternative treatments into your - and your family's - life.

My Review:
The Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine discusses various forms of alternative medicine and reveals what the research actually shows about it's effectiveness for various uses.

The first part of this book talked about how to use this book. Not surprisingly, the doctors in this book recommended that you let your doctors know what alternative medicines you're using and that you use alternative medicine along with conventional medicine rather than as a replacement for it. They also went over the basics of accessing your health and basic changes you can make to get healthier (exercise, eat good foods, relax, etc.).

The second part talked about various type of alternative medicine: what each claims to do, what the research has shown it does and doesn't do, and how safe it is. This section covered various herbs, hormones, vitamins, and minerals, as well as biofeedback, guided imagery, hypnosis, meditation, muscle relaxation, music therapy, pilates, relaxed breathing, spirituality and prayer, tai chi, yoga, acupuncture, healing touch, magnetic therapy, reiki, massage, reflexology, Rolfing, spinal manipulation, and more.

The last part focused on 20 common conditions and what you can do for them (both conventional and alternative approaches). These conditions were arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain, common cold, coronary artery disease, depression, diabetes, fibromyalgia, hay fever, headache, high blood pressure, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, memory problems, menopause symptoms, overweight, PMS, sexual problems, stress and anxiety, and vaginal yeast infections. It also covered how to find a qualified practitioner (like for acupuncture or massage).

The book had many full-color photographs. Overall, I'm glad I read this book and found its information very interesting. However, be warned that they frequently say, "more research is needed." It is needed. But it's frustrating for those who want answers right now.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Amazon's Look Inside.