Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Brain Maker by David Perlmutter, M.D.

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: José Beltrán

What I Read: Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain - for Life by David Perlmutter, M.D. with Kristin Loburg

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: In Brain Maker Dr. Perlmutter, the bestselling author of Grain Brain, explains the vital role that gut microbes have in our brain's health.  The author says “Death begins in the colon”, “but so does health and vitality”; “up to 90% of human illnesses can be traced back to an unhealthy gut.” Within us is a microbiome of bacteria, fungus, and viruses: roughly 100,000,000 microbes cover our insides and outsides. These organisms process our food, detoxify, and affect the immune system, our neurotransmitters, vitamin production, and nutrient absorption through a complex diet-gut-microbes-health equation. What we feed our microbiome can make it sick! He recommends a few easy steps we can take to make our brains better through simple dietary recommendations for improving our gut ecology. Hippocrates said: “All disease begins in the gut.” Hippocrates also said “Let food be your medicine.” Unfortunately, what we mistake for food can also be our poison. What happens in the gut does not stay in the gut: it affects our entire body, including and especially our brain. Brain diseases are growing at an alarming rate. This book consists of three parts. Part I introduces us to the gut. Part II discusses the environmental factors such as GMOs, sodas, fructose, wheat gluten. Part III gives remedies, and some recipes to rehabilitate our brains.

What I Thought: Microorganisms were and are at the very foundation of life for all life forms on Earth. Life is impossible without them. They existed millions of years before we came along.  Microbes have made possible higher life forms, including ourselves. They have made the Earth habitable. They are in our soil, in the air we breathe, without them there is no food! We are alive because they live in us. Without them we could not get nourishment from our food. However, these wonder-working microorganisms cannot convert garbage into the nutritional elements our bodies require. In computer programming parlance: garbage in, garbage out or TITO: trash in, trash out. Junk food is so named for a good reason. No amount of junk food will provide the nutrition our microbiome needs to keep us healthy. In a later book, Dr. Perlmutter may well discuss the controversial issues of pollution, pesticides, fertilizers and GMO’s that are not only poisoning the bees, which we need to fertilize most or our foods, but also the very microbes in the soils. What will we eat, drink?

Readalikes: Wheat Belly, The Better Brain Book

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Idol Dreams. vol. 1 by Arina Tanemura

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: Idol Dreams vol. 1 by Arina Tanemura

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Office worker Chikage Deguchi is having an early midlife crisis. Her coworkers gossip about her behind her back and her high school reunion, at which she'd hoped to be reunited with her old crush, goes disastrously. She's about to give up on everything when she's offered a miracle drug that will return her to her 15-year-old self for a few hours at a time. Chikage begins trying to "do over" the last 15 years of her life, but ends up scouted by a talent agency. Now she's going to reinvent herself in many more ways than she'd originally planned.

What I Thought: Like Chikage, this manga has an identity crisis. It's clearly aimed at women around Chikage's age, who grew up on these wish-fulfillment stories ("girl gets a magic ___ that lets her become a singer/grow up temporarily/become a heroine" is a popular genre in Japan) and are now looking to put that magic back into their own lives. But it just can't quite agree on a tone. A magic drug that turns somebody younger is a cute, silly plot device that'd be right at home in one of those kids' comics - but feels out of place when the protagonist just debated committing suicide (which itself seemed rather abrupt). The whole first chapter of the manga feels rushed and disjointed as a result.

Once the first chapter has established the premise, though, the story finds its footing. It's still a very silly story and it still relies on familiar tropes for anyone who's read any one of these "magically transform and change one's life" series before, but Chikage becomes an appealing mixture of awkward and endearing and both of her apparent love interests, an old classmate and a fellow musician, are more likable than the domineering male leads of many girls' manga. Hibiki in particular (the 15-year-old superstar) stood out to me: instead of being a Jerk With A Heart of Gold, he's just a very talented young man who doesn't have the life experience yet to realize that things that come easily to him don't always go as well for others. This puts Chikage in a position to inspire and teach him because she's (secretly) older - maybe her life up to this point hasn't been such a supposed "waste", after all.

Not all plot points go down smoothly in this manga - I for one would be thrilled to never see a man attempt to kiss a sleeping woman again - but overall Idol Dreams volume 1 felt like discovering this genre for the first time. Feel-good, fluffy, and all-around fun for people who, like Chikage, want to rediscover their inner teen.

Readalikes: Absolute Boyfriend by Yu Watase for similar romantic triangle dymanics; Skip Beat! by Yoshiki Nakamura for another comedy set in the world of Japanese showbiz.

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Last of the President's Men by Bob Woodward

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Jim Patrick

What I Read: The Last of the President's Men by Bob Woodward

Find It @YCLD: Here!


What It's About: The Last of the President’s Men by Bob Woodward is an odd, but fascinating, addition to the voluminous published works about the Watergate scandal that forced President Nixon from office in 1974.  The recent New York Times review describes the book as “slight but readable” and “decidedly slender.”  The book consists of 182 pages of text, followed by a 77-page Appendix of previously unreleased White House memos and correspondence.  The reason the book is appearing now, 40 years after Woodward and Bernstein’s influential All the President’s Men, is that in 2014 Alexander Butterfield decided to entrust Bob Woodward with a draft of an unpublished memoir and several boxes of notes and documents from his days as a Nixon administration presidential aide.

When questioned at a congressional hearing, Alexander Butterfield revealed the existence of Nixon’s secret taping system.  This testimony was crucial in the unraveling of the Watergate cover-up, but until now Butterfield has not shared the inside details of his years serving as “Haldeman’s Haldeman” (i.e. as chief aide to Nixon’s top assistant).

What I Thought: This book is not the first title I would recommend to someone unfamiliar with Watergate.  Rather, it brings to life the tense moral dilemma faced by Alexander Butterfield when, questioned under oath, he felt compelled to disclose his knowledge of the White House tapes.  Woodward skillfully recreates the story (and impact) of Butterfield’s testimony.  He also conveys the conflicted mix of pride and melancholy that Butterfield still feels today with respect to his role in exposing the Watergate cover-up.  The personal cost to Butterfield is also chronicled, including an abrupt end to his acclaimed military career and widespread ostracism by former friends and colleagues. 

The book includes several revealing anecdotes about Nixon’s obsessions and neuroses.  For example, Nixon was angered by the number of White House offices displaying photographs of John F. Kennedy.  The book includes memos detailing the planned “sanitization” of these photos.  Similar memos are included about the invitation lists for presidential dinners and church services.  Butterfield’s impressions of Nixon are of a brilliant statesman who was personally isolated and consumed by his hatred of his perceived enemies.  These impressions are not unique to Butterfield, but, as told by a member of Nixon’s inner circle, they are especially powerful, poignant, and credible.

Readalikes: The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat by Bob Woodard; The Nixon Defense by John Dean

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Posted by Rebecca Brendel



Reviewed by: Sherri Levek

 What I Read: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Broken Monsters is a crime/fantasy/suspense novel set in Detroit, Michigan. A gruesome killing is discovered and Detroit Police Detective Gabrielle Versado is given the lead on the case, while trying to maintain a relationship with her teenage daughter, Layla, who is keeping her own secrets.  Writer Jonno has recently arrived in Detroit from New York City in the hopes of discovering a story amidst the ruin and decay of the once vibrant city.  Homeless ex-convict T.K. only wants to help his friends and forget his troubled past.  Broken Monsters is the story of what happens when this diverse group of characters are forced to confront their worst fears.

 What I Thought: Lauren Beukes’ Broken Monsters is both character and plot driven.  I became increasingly pulled into the story, which is many-layered and suspenseful.  The characters are diverse - gritty, professional, artsy, naive, compassionate, and arrogant - a combination that reflects the city of Detroit’s struggle to survive.  Beukes is critical of our current obsession with social media, which is given a large role in her novel and while at times this becomes a bit preachy, it doesn’t ruin the story.  Overall, I found this to be an edge-of-your-seat read that I found trouble putting down.

 Readalikes: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, Niceville by Carsten Stroud, and The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue

 Or look this book up on NoveList!

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