Review: Mindless Eating: Entertainment that Enlightens

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think
Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

That fork in your hand—put it down, now! That bag of chips? Keep it in the back of your cupboard, or divide it into small baggies. These foods aren’t the only tempting culprits: we’re attacked from every side and angle. Within MINDLESS EATING, author Brian Wansink, through numerous examples, shows why we eat more than we think we do.

This book isn’t just talk: it is fascinating science. It is entertainment that enlightens. Page-after-page, I’m enraptured by—what I call a prank—a study on ways that people eat more. Wansink is sickly hilarious at times. Whether he is giving away two-week-old stale popcorn to movie goers, or filling up college kids’ soup bowls from beneath the table, it’s all great. That’s the best type of learning—fun learning!

There are a couple of chapters toward the back of the book that were wavering or a bit repetitive, but more often than not, there were new studies (tricks) that tested humankind’s fortitude and resistance to mindless munching. We’re susceptible to so much: an extra color in a bag of M&M’s; a trip to Costco; a larger plate. Little things add up to long-term calories.

Will reading this book cause you to lose weight? Maybe, but probably not. To eat more, without knowing that we eat more, is easy. You could say it is—mindless. Wansink shows how professional bartenders pour more alcohol if the glass is wider at the base; he shows how scholars in food research will eat more their dinner plates are cleared by the waitresses regularly. Intelligence and knowledge are helpful in combating idle eating, but by no means guaranteed shields.

Wansink also counteracts popular ideas found in books like SALT SUGAR FAT (review forthcoming), where food companies are villainized (perhaps, rightfully so) for making us crave their foods. Wansink counters that they are merely a business, looking to make money. If we take the same techniques, apply it to healthier foods, companies will follow the lead. Broccoli-flavored Oreos? Gross, but why not?

If you’re even slightly interested in learning about your food habits, this book is a must.

You can see a preview of this book and other reviews on Amazon, here: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

Happy Reading!

Review: Rainey Royal – As a father to a daughter, this book terrifies me

Rainey Royal
Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Comparing Dylan Landis to J.D. Salinger is not unfounded. Looking at Holden Caulfield in THE CATCHER IN THE RYE next to the protagonist here in RAINEY ROYAL—they are strikingly similar. Left on their own accord, they test the barriers of moving into adulthood. It’s a societal critique, a social commentary. For the record: I was never a fan of Salinger.

As a father to a daughter, this book terrifies me. It made me very uncomfortable. I won’t detract that from the book; we need books to stretch our boundaries. Here, Rainey, the main character, is left by her mother to live with her morally relaxed father and his male friend live-in. Together they, father and friend, are host to various up-and-coming musicians, usually of the female variety. Doors swing open in their communal living arrangements, leaving no questions about nightly activity. Rainey, a young teen girl, is left without guidance; she’s left to define her own self, her own sexuality.

As they said with Salinger, so they’ll say about Landis, this book could be dangerous. Rainey discovers her power: over male teachers, over classmates of both sexes, over anyone whose eyes she catches. No responsibility is taken with this great power. As a reader, you’ll witness the effects as Rainey grows with this into age 20, both from her, and from those whom she has affected.

What I detract from this book is the jarring nature of reading it: back and forth in time with no warning, no stylish tools, just a juxtaposition of narrative. Things are further complicated toward the end when the actual narrator changes. The writing style is what I didn’t like about Catcher, the same applies here. Though the styles are different, both distract from the emotion and progression of the story.

While the stylistic choice isn’t for me, others will take confidence from this book, whether they relate or whether they learn from Rainey. Again, though, I was too distracted to do either.

Thank you to Soho Press for providing this book for my review.

You can find this book’s other reviews on Amazon, here: Rainey Royal

Happy Reading!!

Review: Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival

Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival
Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival by Sean Strub

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have a seat: you are on the front row of witnessing a rights movement in America. Your host is Sean Strub. His story: the book BODY COUNTS.

True to its description, this book is a walk through a multi-decade fight of a group of fellow Americans, not just for equal rights and awareness, but also a fight against persecution and against fear itself—of having to stay hidden. We are living history now: Strub takes us back to its roots.

When growing up, while other teens were memorizing stats of sports stars, Strub was stalking political careers. He knew the voting records, the election histories, and everything else about everyone on Capitol Hill. His zeal for politics brought him into the heart of it all. We, the readers, are given joint insider access. With no pun intended, we are taken from the ground, up. (Strub started as an elevator operator at the Capitol, later given a job operating an exclusive elevator accessing secret, unmarked rooms of the Capitol with Senators and special guests. Later in life, he ran as the first openly HIV-positive candidate for office, and has since been seen at high level activist events, such as the UNAIDS conference.)

Reading this feels like a true-to-life Forrest Gump movie. I don’t mean that to belittle—it is a huge compliment. I love the historical interaction of Gump, and I love the historical interaction that Strub has with a LOT of household names. Having grown up in the 80’s, this book brought me back—with a new vantage point. There are historical moments I remember from news stories, and now there are historical moments seen from behind the scenes. It’s great. EVERYONE is named in full detail. It’s a who’s who list of people involved.

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This book isn’t just about the movement, but also about a disease still misunderstood today: HIV/AIDS. It’s about the stigmatization and unawareness of such. It’s not just about being helped, but being empowered. It’s about hope. Most importantly, it’s about living.

WARNING: those squeamish or offended by details, enter with caution. This book does not hold back. You may not even want to read this paragraph. Strub wants to share with you a perspective you may not be aware of, both being a sexually active gay and in being someone surviving a relentless disease. You’ll find graphic details about everything from bloody underwear to throat-located yeast infections. It isn’t always pretty.

I listened to this book via Audible, narrated by David Drake. Mr. Drake did an excellent job of keeping the pace and emotion of the chapters without being overly dramatic or—a possible worse offense—without being boring. His tone was confident and appealing. In the introduction, he built the energy of the protest in New York City, as well as capturing the realization of having friends about to die. The following chapters were proceeded with a calm, well-paced buildup of Strub’s work. Drake vocalizes other characters, giving a since of who they are: from sweetly, soft-spoken Tennessee Williams, to the boisterous, baritone senator.

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As an aside, this is my first time using the Audible app on my new phone (used to use it only on the computer). I love it! I could adjust the speed of playback, which helped if I wanted to get through it quickly, or slow down for understanding.

You can see other reviews of this book on Amazon, here: Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, Aids, and Survival

Happy Reading!

Review: Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World

Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ella Frances Sanders understands that words have beauty. Some words are so beautiful, they can only be expressed in their native language. That’s what this book is about.

Sometimes you want to express yourself with just the right word. As a book reviewer, I only wish I had words to use like the Italian “Commuovere”: verb, to be moved in a heartwarming way, usually relating to a story that moved you to tears.


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Each of Ella’s fifty words and definitions are illustrated in lively color, showcasing the unique meanings. If you need a gift to appeal to a dragon (enter big green, angry looking red dragon), then you should have your “drachenfutter” at the ready! For us book lovers, we probably can relate to the piles of books illustrated under the word “tsundoku”.


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This is a fun book that is great to look at, especially with friends.

Thanks to Blogging for Books and Ten Speed Press for providing this book for me to review.

You can see other images of this book and other reviews on Amazon: Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World

Happy Reading!!

Review: Finders Keepers. Not the Stephen King I love and adore

Finders Keepers
Finders Keepers by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me almost two months to write this review because: I’m sad. This is not the same Stephen King that I love and adore. This is not the author that ignited my passion for reading. This is someone…different.

Am I losing my mind? Hopefully not. I pulled a few of King’s latest novels from the shelf to compare. They all start with a tightly wound narrative that compel you to read more. In FINDERS KEEPERS: the words are loose and stringy. It’s as if King took everything he wrote in ON WRITING and did the opposite. Whereas he once wrote, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs,” he now fills the margins with such. He also wrote, “To write is human, to edit is divine.” He admonished upcoming authors to use words sparingly and let the reader believe in their own intelligence. Here, we have EVERYTHING spelled out for us, detail by detail. The suspense has no air to be kept alive.

This book is a what-you-would-expect detective story with added King-isms. His fans will appreciate the nods to his own writings and the character personifications of Sai King himself. I also appreciate King’s appreciation of works from other notable authors. We see King’s fingerprints throughout, though it’s not what we expect from King himself.

No, it is not a total loss. There are small hints of paranormal (King, stick with what you know—what we love!). The story moves along at a Kingly pace. And, yes, the characters are twisted and different. But I don’t think many of us are fond of the heavier, older detective character, which miraculously recovered from the last novel and is now on the ‘right track’ of health. Isn’t King fond of that quote about killing his darlings?

If you are a fan of MR. MERCEDES, you’ll cheer along for this one. More of the same. The tie-ins are there: the job fair, the Mercedes killer, the detective and crew. FINDERS KEEPERS is its own, independent book that can be read (and perhaps enjoyed) without having to have read the previous book, or any of King’s other books. Perhaps that’s the point. King spreads his wings for a bigger audience by throwing in more pop cultural references and changing his writing style to be a main stream catch. To me though, his recent books like 11/22/63 or JOYLAND accomplish that same goal without having to change the Stephen King that fans love.

I must also thank Scribner for sending this book to review. I’m still a fan of King, as I am of a many of Scribner titles.

There are many other reviews you can view on Amazon: Finders Keepers: A Novel

Happy Reading!

Review: The Killer Next Door: A playground of ideas that falls short of expectations

The Killer Next Door: A Novel
The Killer Next Door: A Novel by Alex Marwood
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In the hands of a masterful writer, this would have been a great book. Creepy elements, close-quartered living, varied pasts of each character: the author’s playground. And yet, it falls short.

Instead, what you’ll read feels like a youthful writer trying to copy her mentors: quick, loose writing with a splattering of obvious thesaurus look-ups. There’s no flow, no rhythm. Sentences jump from cliché to cliché. Paragraphs confuse narratives within themselves. I’ve seen authors move from third to first-person perspectives with alternating chapters, but never within the same paragraph. It’s jarring.

The dialogue is unbelievable; the description is full of British colloquialisms that will trip Western readers. The meanings prevent attachment to readers. The setting is inconsistent: dark and gritty throughout, but when the author thinks she’s found a clever metaphor, you may find something referencing beauty and color. The contradiction isn’t intentional.

All is not lost, though. KILLER NEXT DOOR will fill the salacious desires for readers of the genre. There’s gore aplenty and crimes abound. For the niche that can stick to it, they’ll walk away satisfied. For the rest of us that prefer more intrigue or crafty point-to-point writing, there are other books for us to choose.

There are also several people that really dig this novel. You can find those other reviews on Amazon: The Killer Next Door: A Novel

Review: Primates of Park Avenue (I’m a dude, and I enjoyed it)

Primates of Park Avenue
Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’ve been to Manhattan, no matter where in the borough, you’ve probably done your own anthropological studies. I know I have. There’s a wide variety to choose from: everything from the naked cowboy to the limo-chauffeured movie stars. It’s hard not to stare.

Among the more curious species living in New York are the socialites living in the high rise towers overlooking Central Park, where the rent is in the millions. They are the ones that walk through the throng of window shoppers on 5th Avenue, purchasing thousands of dollars’ worth of clothes without causing a dent on their black AmEx. Yes, this is the same curious group that hosts presidential candidates and have Ivy League schools construct buildings in their name.

Enter Wednesday Martin: a trained researcher from the Midwest. You would not be far off in thinking PRIMATES ON PARK AVENUE is a grown-up, scientific version of MEAN GIRLS. Although not as high-school catty, the pristine ladies have their own issues (many issues!). Forget Beats by Dre or Nike shoes to be cool: if you’re not dropping the average American worker’s pay into a purse whose name you can’t pronounce, you’re out.

Yes, these women are craaaazy. All in the name—the image. High heels hurting your feet? Get an injection. Gaining weight during pregnancy? Exercise more; starve yourself. Think you’re getting old at 30? Botox, baby.

Don’t let the glamorous, woman-appealing cover keep you away from this book. I’m a dude, and I enjoyed it. Wednesday Martin crafts a well-written account of these rich women with hilarious and poignant comparisons to those animals we’re accustomed to seeing on National Geographic. Remember the mall water fountain scene in MEAN GIRLS? It was funny and got the point across, didn’t it?

Martin doesn’t go into specific names of the Manhattan mommies, but there’s plenty of detail to keep you engaged. It’s not a reality show; it is a study; it is a learning experience. If Martin’s point was to build empathy, it’s not there. She was/is part of this group. Yes, she went through ordeals, especially effecting her own health and her unborn child’s health, but it is hard for the reader to have empathy for someone spending $10,000 for a single plate of food. Again, it is an entertaining study.

What I most appreciate from this book, though, is how surprised I was at its theme. It’s not just “oh look at these silly rich people”; it is more of how we are the same, no matter the social status or size of our imported leather, gilded wallets. We seek belonging and social support. And while the Upper East Side Mommies Club might look different—and they are—than the group of moms on a blanket in some small town, Midwestern city park: the human needs are about the same.

Thanks for reading my review. You may want to check out some of the other reviews on Amazon, too: Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir