Rivers of Oregon by Tim Palmer

Beautiful photographs and vivid descriptions abound in this coffee-table style, loving tribute to the waterways of Oregon. The author describes what must amount to many trips across these great rivers with an enthusiasm that had me excitedly plotting out my next great adventure. His knowledge of Oregon's riparian ecology provides for informed essays that are fascinating and informative. My only complaint is that it should have been a larger book to really showcase the fantastic photos. Four out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews  

The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller

A horrific incident in Iraq in 1991 just after Desert Storm, in which a girl in a green dress is killed, intertwines the fates of the two protagonists in this authentic, resonant, rich novel by an author with experience conducting diplomatic missions to the region. Arwood Hobbes, a solider, and Thomas Benton, a reporter, find themselves back in Iraq twenty-two years later to solve the mystery of the seeming reappearance of the girl in green. The humor and sharp insights cleverly interlaced in the dialogue make this book infinitely readable and profound in its assessments. One of those novels that is difficult to put down and sticks in your mind long after. Great for political thriller enthusiasts as well as anyone that just loves a witty, taut, affecting novel. Five out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews  

Arab of the Future by Riad Sattouf

Great slice of life graphic novel that provides a glimpse into everyday life in the region during that time. The story is told through a child's eyes making the political fervor surrounding them seem somewhat muted but still present, often in the background via the stunning visuals. Riad's parents are well-developed characters with complexities that are captured subtlety and artfully. Full of humor and a poignant memoir of family and place. A great read-alike for fans of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (especially if you enjoyed the family dynamics more than the politics), or anyone who enjoys memoirs and/or glimpses of life in this region. Four out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews  

The Healing Kitchen

If you're avoiding eggs, nuts and seeds, and/or nightshades, this is a fantastic book. I've just started avoiding eggs and I also avoid gluten, soy, and dairy. Also, I avoid sugar most of the time. So, it's nice to find these autoimmune paleo cookbooks which have plenty of recipes I do not have to make any modifications to even though they go a bit further in restriction than I do. So far I've enjoyed the oven-baked pancakes (make them all the time), "cheesy" broccoli soup, sweet and savory shepherd's pie, beef pot pie, garlic sauce, and cilantro chimichurri. They include tons of different weekly meal plans based on time, if you have kids to please, etc. I found the plan for busy cooks really helpful for my weekly planning. Definitely a book I'll need to own (I have the library's copy right now). Four out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews

Rising Strong by Brene Brown

This book was difficult and emotional for me to read, but it was completely worth it. I think some of the concepts she presents might be a little abstract for some, but the majority of what she said (I listened to the audiobook) really hit home for me. Brown talks about her research, but, largely, it was the focus on probing our emotions and writing what she calls your "sh*tty first draft" (for kids: "stormy first draft") that I realized I absolutely have to do and have absolutely no desire to do. She's right when she says this process of building emotional resilience (aka "rising strong") is hard work. It means you have to face the stories you're making up about yourself: the way you're altering reality to reflect the narrative that is easiest for you to construct. The narrative that typically involves a hefty dose of shame (e.g. I'm not enough) and a distortion of the truth. She also emphasizes something that is hard for me to accept, but that she thinks is essential to acceptance and "rising strong": most of the people around you are trying their best. I'm still wrestling with that one, but she makes a strong case for why accepting this is so crucial to building the kind of emotional strength she's talking about. Needless to say, I'm going to be thinking about this book for a very long time. And, I hope I have the strength to not only probe my emotional narratives, but to try to change them. Also, Brene Brown (the author) narrates the audiobook and she's just perfect. Five out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews

Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

This book was clever, original, surprising, and all-around awesome. The art is manga-style and the story reflects many manga elements while also playfully mocking them. Katy is a likable but seriously flawed character whose bound toward disaster when she discovers she can "erase" yesterday's mistakes. As you might guess, things get out of hand as she erases mistake after mistake and weird stuff starts happening. Though a somewhat cliche premise, the humor is spot-on and Katy proves to be an irresistible protagonist as she rushes headfirst into something she doesn't understand. I couldn't put it down. Five out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews

Goop Clean Beauty by the Editors of Goop

There is some great information in here and then other information that is either nonsense or just didn't land with me. The chapter on cosmetics was really strong in terms of providing a straightforward and concise breakdown of ingredients to avoid in beauty products; however, there's a lot of emphasis on the Goop line of beauty products, so it's definitely also a vehicle to market those products. I looked into the prices of the Goop line and it's something like $100 for a bottle of face moisturizer, so it's beauty for rich ladies as far as I'm concerned. At the same time, they recommended other brands and it didn't necessarily feel like they were shoving their products in your face. This chapter does give you the knowledge and know-how to identify safe products meaning you can use what you learn to find cheaper, natural products. The chapter on nutrition and food had misinformation and seemed like a cursory, shallow intro to the concept of digestive health; for example, it discussed alkaline v acidic diets despite that being an erroneous concept. It has a list of foods to avoid, but then no information about why they are to be avoided. Many of the editors preach colonics, which I've been told you really should not do on a regular basis (every GI ever has told me this is a bad idea). Another thing I just don't get is why they all love Tracy Anderson's exercise so much. I've tried her videos and the movements are odd and make me feel like I'm going to pull something accidentally. I don't feel very challenged by her workouts. The last chapter were the editors demoing hair and makeup

Stiff by Mary Roach

I listened to the audiobook and it was fascinating. She got me interested in topics I hadn't ever considered and I'm completely sold on donating my body to science now. The ethics involved in using cadavers for research was eye opening. The attempts at head transplants and the research done on heads after decapitation was so nuts and so riveting. This book got me thinking about the wild world of medical research and how much I'd probably enjoy a book about that as long as it had Roach's humor in it. That was definitely the highlight of Stiff; Roach's humor throughout kept things light and engaging despite a somewhat gruesome topic. Four out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews  

The 21-Day Sugar Detox by Diane Sanfilippo

I love this book because it includes so many easy to make, sugar-less, paleo recipes. I've actually never tried her diet plan; I just feel better when I eat low sugar. Recipes I've tried and enjoyed include: veggie pancakes (I make these all the time), pumpkin pancakes, all of her chicken recipes, greek and asian style meatballs (I make these all the time with either turkey, lamb, or pork), ginger-garlic beef & broccoli, lemon & garlic noodles with olives, applesauce, and not-sweet cinnamon cookies (love'em). A lot of it is pretty basic, but that's what makes it so accessible and I often use her recipes as jumping off points embellishing them or changing them based on ingredients I have on hand. I've been holding the library's copy hostage for way too long and need to buck up and buy my own copy. There's a handful of editing mistakes that sometimes makes for slightly muddled directions, but that's my only complaint. Her taste profiles are solid. Four out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews  

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

I loved this book with it's well-constructed, beautiful atmosphere and rich characters. Taking place in the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the 20th century on an orchard, we are introduced to Talmadge, proprietor of the orchard. Talmadge is a quiet, simple man with a tragic past who tends to the orchard with great care and devotion. After two teenage girls steal some of his fruit one fateful day, his life changes completely and the two girls eventually come to live on the orchard. As he learns of the girls' pasts and begins to take on a role as their protector, his life becomes much more complicated. I loved getting lost in the characters - the author, Amanda Coplin, developed characters that are so real and full of depth that I ended the book feeling intimately acquainted with them. The orchard and the era are all described gorgeously and, from what I know of history, accurately. This is a good pick for any historical fiction fan but also for fans of literary fiction, fiction that takes place in the PNW, domestic fiction, and anyone that just loves a great story. I listened to this as an audiobook and it was narrated perfectly. Please note that sexual violence comes up in this book several times though it is not graphically described. Four out of five stars.Back to Book Reviews