Saturday, July 12, 2014

Book Review: The Cure for Everything

No idea how I happened upon this book, but as I'm currently trying to "get healthier", it seemed like a timely read!

The Cure for Everything: Untangling Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness, and Happiness
By Timothy Caulfield
234 pages

Timothy Caulfield is a health junkie (and academic), who like all of us I'm sure, is tired of all the commercial and media bullshi*t surrounding fitness, diet, and health fads. His book covers four areas of healthy living: fitness, diet, genetics and alternative medicine. In each chapter, Caulfield tests out a claim and researches the facts behind what "works" and what doesn't.

I thoroughly enjoyed the chapters on exercise and dieting. Fitness wise I learned the best ways to exercise are intensity or interval training and resistance training. Targeting specific areas doesn't work. And, exercise isn't the best weight loss method (that would be diet) but does help you get fitter and healthier, and being fit and healthy is more important than being skinny (so I keep telling myself as I try to learn to run using my C25K app).

The diet chapter was interesting as well. To lose weight (or maintain a healthy weight) you have to eat small portions, cut out junk food, and ensure 50% of your diet is fruits and vegetables (easier said than done). That means water, not juice or pop too. Cauldfield follows a diet put together by the authors of the Pure Prairie Eating Plan, which I bought at our local independent bookstore. It's a decent recipe book that advocates for simple, healthy meals made from ingredients available locally. I reckon it was worth my money.

But then the book stopped being awesome. I'll be honest, I thought the chapter on genetics was a bit boring. And I just skimmed the alternative health chapter because the message was that alternative remedies, naturopathy, homeopathy etc aren't evidence based thus it don't work. I didn't need to read 50 pages proving the author's point over and over again.

One of the appealing aspects of this book was that the author is local so I cheerily enjoyed the local references. Plus, the University of Alberta is a prominent employer of many of the experts (as well as the author) and having spent 7 years there myself, I enjoyed the name drop.

This book is well researched and includes information from the latest scientific studies, statistics, and expert interviews. Caulfield does a great job of infusing his humour (sarcastic, self deprecating, etc) throughout the text and this made it an enjoyable read. I was super annoyed by his lack of academic citation for the studies/articles/statistics etc mentioned, but Caulfield does include a disclaimer about this, as well as all the citations at the end. Such is the way for popular general health literature I suppose.

I learned stuff about exercise and dieting, thus reading this book was well worth the effort. If you'd like to learn stuff about your health too, give this book a look.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Bike Commuting: #irideYEG

Recently, I bought a new house! It's fantastic and I love it! I also love living where I live - the neighbourhood is safe, close to all amenities and is lined with big old elm trees!

I specifically bought a house in an area that offers me non-driving commuting options. Driving in rush hour makes me angry, and parking/gas costs are ridiculous these days. I purposely bought a house a 2 minute walk away from a bus stop that will get me to work in a reasonable amount of time on a direct bus without a transfer.

But the best part about the location of my new house is that it makes it super easy for me to bike to work! It's a safe, flat, 12km round trip on quiet residential streets and I love it. Riding my bike to work has helped improve my health and fitness, saved me money, and gets me there and back without making me angry! I love it so much that I'm seriously considering becoming a year round bike commuter, which is a daunting task given our Alberta winter's but I think it'll be worth it!

This week I was featured in a post on the YEGBike blog, as part of their #irideYEG series.

I think the blog has been a great initiative used to promote cyclists in Edmonton from a human standpoint - we're not just bikes who weave in and out of traffic while complaining about crappy bike infrastructure - we're actual people who are doing our best to keep our commute eco friendly while staying fit and enjoying the beautiful scenery of our city!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Book Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

June's book club genre was "Book to Movie" - mostly so everyone else could go see The Fault in Our Stars (um no thanks, too depressing). I had a hard time finding a book this month because initially I required the movie to already be on netflix, plus I had to discount all the books and/or movies I'd already seen. I was going to go with a sappy romance (so unlike me!), but then decided on a kids book. I figured this wasn't quite cheating as I'm reading my way through Game of Thrones right now, and that sort of fits with the genre!

June 2014: Book to Movie

Fantastic Mr. Fox
By Roald Dahl
56 pages

Mr. Fox is a professional thief, and the evil farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean are his main targets. One day the farmers decide they've had enough, and set out to find and kill Mr. Fox. In doing so, they destroy the foxes neighbourhood and endanger the lives of all the other burrowing animals who live there. No worries though, clever Mr. Fox devises an ingenious way to feed his family and all the neighbours, while keeping the farmers at bay.

This was a cute and clever book. I've read a lot of Roald Dahl's books but never this one, and I'm glad I did. The familiar illustrations transported me back to my childhood and the Brit speak reminded me of The London Years. Written a long time ago and with a British mentality, it's quite graphic for children, but then again, video games are rotting their minds anyways so I'm sure the murderous text bothered me more than it bothers the wee kiddies.

"How will they kill us, mummy?" asked one of the Small Foxes. His round black eyes were huge with fright. "Will there be dogs?" he said. (p. 18)

"I refuse to let you go up there and face those guns. I'd sooner you stay down here and die in peace." (p. 28)

I read this book via a public library ebook, which isn't quite how I like to read books but at least I could increase the font up to large for my old lady eyes. The whole time I was reading it I was thinking that it would make a good movie and I was looking very forward to seeing the movie adaption...

Fantastic Mr. Fox
Directed by Wes Anderson
87 minutes

...which was...different. Obviously they needed to fill out details to make an entire movie (it's a short kids novel), but everything was...quite different. Not bad different, just different. 

I didn't know the name of the director until the end, and well, that explains everything. In hindsight, it is very much a Wes Anderson movie and as such is quite clever and entertaining. But again, quite different from the book. It's an interestingly visual movie because it was all stop-motion/claymation, which gives it an neat look. It must've taken them for-ever to film!

I enjoyed the movie, but as usual with Book to Movie titles, the book was better. Both are highly recommended for kids and adults alike though!

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Book Review: Wonderstruck

I enjoyed The Invention of Hugo Cabret so much that I took a colleague's recommendation and read another book by the same author.

By Brian Selznick
640 pages

After his mother's death, Ben is left a little bit lost. While looking through his mother's house one night, he gets indirectly struck by lightening and is left completely deaf. Ben then runs away to New York City to try find his dad. Rose also runs away to New York City to find her mom. With the help of the American Museum of Natural History, Ben and Rose's stories intertwine and everything is resolved in quite a lovely manner.

Ben's story is told through narration, like a novel, but Rose's story is told through the same full page pencil drawings Selznick so deftly incorporated into Hugo. So both stories are told separately side by side, until at one point they collide and mesh together. Selznick really is a master storyteller, and the beauty of this story comes from the way he tells it, not necessarily from the characters or plot. That being said, this is really a story for people like me - those who love books and libraries and museums - as Ben's mother is a librarian and much of the action takes place in the Natural History Museum. It took me back to when I visited it in NYC last year, and I loved the behind the scenes descriptions. And now I want to visit the Queens Museum of Art to see the Panorama!

I wasn't quite as enraptured by this book as I was by Hugo, but it still is an excellent read, well worth your time to enjoy the beauty of the story as it unfolds in this rather unique way. If you're a museum person who loves a good story, you should especially check it out!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Book Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

May is graphic novel month. Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of graphic novels - I'd much rather read straight print, but I have really enjoyed a few out of the many I've read in the past. I also really love the Fables comic series, so even though it's not my favourite genre, I was looking forward to reading a few this month.

After taking recommendations on social media and from goodreads, I settled on not one, but three graphic novels! Here's the third and last of the bunch...

May 2014: Graphic Novels

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
By Brian Selznick
544 pages

Hugo Cabret is an orphan clock keeper who lives in the walls of a Paris train station. He's also a thief, but hey, it's post World War I and he's got to eat to survive. He gets caught stealing small mechanical parts for a secret project by the old man who runs a toy shop. Here the mystery begins: What is Hugo's secret project? Who is the old man and how is he connected? What part does his goddaughter Isabelle have to play? What happened to Hugo's family? Will he stay out of trouble and the Station Inspector's jail? Will Hugo ever find all the answers to his questions?

I'm not going to give away more, because the story is a treat to read and you're going to go get it out of the library now and find the answers yourselves. It's a bit different from a "normal" comic style graphic novel in that there are pages of text like a "regular" novel, mixed in with gorgeous full page black and white pencil sketches. The sweet story is brilliantly portrayed, and you'll learn about the first moving picture films ever made as well.

I almost didn't read this book because it is really thick and I'm lazy, but a colleague insisted it was excellent and wouldn't take much time to read at all. And she was right. It was an excellent story, by far the best of the three I read this month. The illustrations were beautiful and completely integral to the pages of text. It was just a beautiful story told in a beautiful way. Just beautiful. Read it.

I also watched the film based on the book, and though it's a bit different, it's also very touching. I didn't find the variation from the book annoying, as it's a good story in it's own right, and definitely a good companion to the book.

Just read it. You're welcome.

Book Review: The Property

May is graphic novel month. Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of graphic novels - I'd much rather read straight print, but I have really enjoyed a few out of the many I've read in the past. I also really love the Fables comic series, so even though it's not my favourite genre, I was looking forward to reading a few this month.

After taking recommendations on social media and from goodreads, I settled on not one, but three graphic novels! Here's the second of the bunch...

May 2014: Graphic Novels

The Property
By Rutu Modan
232 pages

Mica and her Grandmother are travelling from Israel to Poland to reclaim some property taken from Grandmother during World War II - and yes they are Jewish.It soon becomes clear that Grandmother has gone to Poland for a different reason, and that a family friend is trying to thwart their attempts at reclaiming their property. Mica meets a boy. Grandmother meets a man. Much is revealed about the aftermath of the devastation of World War II and it all ends satisfactorily on the airplane home. Full circle and all that.

I thought this was a great story. The colour images are not super attractive but do an excellent job at imparting meaning into the characters' dialogue. The author deals with complex issues and effectively crisscrossed a number of subplots. In the end I learned something and felt reading it was an hour well spent.

I'd highly recommend this book for those looking for a graphic novel that deals with adult themes, and those who are interested in history or the war. It's definitely worth your time!

Book Review: Anya's Ghost

May is graphic novel month. Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of graphic novels - I'd much rather read straight print, but I have really enjoyed a few out of the many I've read in the past. I also really love the Fables comic series, so even though it's not my favourite genre, I was looking forward to reading a few this month.

After taking recommendations on social media and from goodreads, I settled on not one, but three graphic novels! Here's the first of the bunch...

May 2014: Graphic Novels

Anya's Ghost
By Vera Brosgol
224 pages

Anya is a not-overly-happy Russian girl going to high school in the US. As a teenager, she's full of all the usual teenage angsty problems: boys, smoking, body image, grades, friends, peer pressure, gym class. One day she falls down a well and meets a ghost! Emily the ghost follows Anya around, helping her cheat on tests and meet boys until her helping becomes hurting and [redacted climax]. Then it's over and some of Anya's problems are solved, or at least she's grown enough to face the challenges of her world.

And that is why I don't read YA.

Not like I didn't enjoy the book. The story was good, the images simple and effective, it was good. But just good. Sure I related to the character a wee bit, even as an adult, and yes I was concerned about what was going to happen but then it was over and I moved on. The end.

Out of the three graphic novels I picked up, I thought this was the weakest. But it's definitely worth a read if you like YA books and/or graphic novels!