Monday, November 09, 2015

Super Genes

by Deepak Chopra & Rudolph E. Tanzi

This is not a book about the study of our DNA but rather a look at what has been learned about our genetic makeup and how we can influence that blueprint in relatively simple ways to improve our lives.

I was totally fascinated by this book.  As a retired biology teacher I've long been fascinated with genetics and the new discoveries that are being made since the human genome has been mapped.  Within the last couple of years I've heard tidbits about a new area of genetic study that deals with the epigenome.

Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression.  The things we eat, our thoughts and attitudes, the level or stress in our lives do not change our DNA blueprint but they do effect the switching mechanisms that turn a certain gene on or off, up or down.  Science has discovered a real connection between nature and nurture.  And, even better, we can learn to nurture ourselves and improve our lives.

Super Genes points out that there are three main components to our "super genome."  First is our DNA, second is the epigenome which is a buffer of proteins that encloses the DNA, and third are the genomes of the microbes that live n our intestines, mouth, and skin.   This 3rd group help us digest our food, resist disease, and counter a host of chronic disorders, therefore we want to do things that promote their health because they help promote ours.

The authors discuss the science behind their work in simple terms.  The most helpful part of the book was the chapters dealing with life-style changes we can make to transform the expression of our genes with diet, stress reduction, excercise, meditation, sleep, and emotions.  In each chapter they talk a little about the science behind their suggestions for change.  Then they offer a menu of easy choices, harder choices, and experimental choices.  The reader is encouraged to choose 1 item per week to work on.  That's not one item per chapter but one item from one of the chapters.  The idea is that after making a few easy steps that are to be continued the benefits will pay off and over time it will be easy to make choices that at first were hard.

My first week was the easy choice of take a probiotic supplement and a multivitamin daily. A probiotic is a food that contains active bacteria.  Tomorrow will be the start of a new week and I'm going to continue taking the probiotic and multivitamin but I'm going to add a prebiotic as well.  Prebiotics are the food for the microbes that are helping us.  Suggestions include oatmeal, bananas, pulpy orange juice (so I'm assuming an orange would work), and fruit smoothies made with unpeeled apples, various berries, and other fruits.

Each chapter ends with the a section that discusses the science behind the changes.

I highlighted a lot of passages in the book, but let me share this one from the emotions chapter:
"Once you know that negative emotions are harmul to you, your viewpoint changes.  It's no longer a free ride to attack someone else, feel envy, act out of spite, and fantasize about revenge.  Each of these emotions rebounds on you, right down to your genes."
Obviously, if our negative feelings make an impact then so do our positive ones.

This book is a life changer for me.  I look forward to other's thoughts and feelings as your read this book.  I highly recommend it.  Highly.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The Fairy Tale Girl

by Susan Branch

When I was offered this book to review I had to do a double take when I saw the author's name.  The Susan Branch who is an artist?  The cover looked like it could be her memoir and sure enough it is.  I don't know how many note cards, calendars, planners, and knick-knacks I own that Susan designed.  I love the whimsy of her art and it comes through in her book.

I also decided to read The Fairy Tale Girl because it is a memoir set in my time period.  Susan was born 3 years before me so I was excited to climb in to the time capsule and endulge in the nostalga.  I felt that most during the last half of the book.  Susan was the oldest of eight children; I was the oldest girl of seven children.  Instant bonding moment!  Susan kept a diary and has a great memory; I didn't and I don't so it was fun to be reminded of the things in my life so similar to her's.

I didn't relate as well with the first of the book - the part about her relationship with Cliff.  We both grew up being 'little moms' but I didn't understand what she was willing to put up.  In addition to being the oldest girl in the family, I also grew up Mormon where we are taught that our greatest contribution in life is as a wife and mother.  Like Susan, there was nothing I wanted more than to find Prince Charming, get married, and have a family.  I think Susan got confused when it came to the Prince Charming part.  There are some frogs that, no matter the number & intensity of the kisses, will never turn into a prince.  My heart broke for her.  It's doubly sad because someone I love dearly is going through the same thing.

Do I recommend The Fairy Tale Girl?  Absolutely!  There is so much to love about this book.  There are quotes and delightful artwork throughout.  Inside the front and back covers are pages from a baby book.  Very endearing.  I loved the typeset, too.  It almost passes as someone's personal writing in a diary.

***Disclosure:  I was offered this book by Jocelyn Kelley and Kelley and Hall Publishing for an honest review. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

If Anything Should Happen

by Bonnie Hearn Hill

Introducing radio talkshow host and amateur sleuth Kit Doyle in the first of this thoroughly entertaining mystery series.

When Kit Doyle’s near-perfect mother tells her about the letter she’s written and locked away – a letter to be read only ‘if anything should happen’ to her – Kit thinks she’s being melodramatic. But the next day Kit’s mother is dead – and what she reads in that letter will change Kit’s life forever.

Armed with nothing but the secret letter, a tight-lipped father, and some good friends at the radio station where she works, Kit sets out to learn the truth about the shady past her mother has kept hidden for so many years.

But when a dead body turns up, Kit realizes that at least one person is determined to stop her finding out the truth – whatever it takes.

I think I would have like this story better if there wasn't a gaping hole, a major event that happened near the beinning that is never addressed.  Kit's mother tells her about the letter in the safe and then the next day the mother is dead.  The mother is beautiful, healthy, trim and fit, but passes away at 51.  This is the women who raised Kit and who Kit believed was her biological mother and yet Kit doesn't mourn the loss and nobody even questions the death.  What?!

You need to know that I only read half the book, so maybe something develops in the last half but I don't think so - at least, I didn't get that impression from any of the reviews I read.  I can understand that Kit is anxious to find answers to the secret her mother reveals in the letter, but I still thing there should be some thought for her mother and some investigation into her death.  

I just couldn't connect with the story that was happening because of the story that got left behind. If you have read the book or do so in the future, let me know if I should finish it.  All the reviews I've read so far are praiseworthy with high ratings, so maybe I'm giving up too soon.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Three-year Swim Team

The Three-Year Swim Team:  The Untold Story of Mau's Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory
by Julie Checkoway

In 1937, a schoolteacher on the island of Maui challenged a group of poverty-stricken sugar plantation kids to swim upstream against the current of their circumstance. The goal? To become Olympians. 

I loved the story of Soichi Sakamoto, the schoolteacher who couldn't swim himself, and his dedication to the poor kids he taught to swim with everything they had.  Interwoven with the personal story of Soichi and the members of the swim team is the backdrop of what is is happening during this time period with world politics as well as the IOC.    

The book reads like a novel - easy to read and captivating. I always like it when a book enlarges my understanding and learning.  It was interesting to see the reactions of the Hawaiin swimmers to their treatment when they visited the south for swim meets. I think we've made progress in racial relations.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Slade House

by David Mitchell

My husband recently read Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and loved it. Then we watched the movie and with his help I was able to follow the imaginative story.

So when I saw a new book by Mitchell being offered on NetGalley, I requested it.

Slade House is a perfect Halloween ghost story.  There's a good plot, interesting characters, and an imaginative story line. I liked how every nine years when the twins needed a new soul there was more information about their methods and history.  

Not a typical genre for me but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  And I'm glad I got to read it just before Halloween.