Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Sunday Book Review: Another Memoir ("Gringa")

Melissa Hart's "Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood" is one of those books that makes you want to cry, and laugh, and think.

Melissa Hart has changed her name, legally, so I have no idea what her original birth certificate says her name is---and as I read about her early life, I can see why she felt it was a good idea to change it.

Also, she told a workshop at the Willamette Writers conference earlier this month this: "You should check with the people you write about in a memoir, to see if they are okay with what you have written about them. And you probably need to change the names of some of the people."

Also, she said, "You have to be willing to never see some people again. Never go to a family reunion, never be invited to a quinceanera, or a Christmas party, or anything else." In fact, she said she hadn't spoken to her father in more than 25 years, and she told us why. (I'm not going to tell that here, and she doesn't tell it in this book.)

And you can see why: This book is painfully honest, but so appealing in its honesty, and so funny at the same time, I could barely put it down. And I wanted to read more.

I bought a copy at the conference but didn't have a chance to ask Ms. Hart to autograph it for me. I couldn't get close to her, as she was being mobbed by people with questions to ask and personal stories to tell and advice to get.

That's the kind of person she is, the quality of teacher she is, and the optimistic message she gave at the conference. (Here's the conference info about her.)
Melissa Hart
Here's where you can buy "Gringa" from Amazon. Or, if you ask me, I'll give you my copy, not b/c it's not worth keeping, but b/c I want everyone who's interested to be able to read it.

And I'm going to order her other memoir, "Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family," from Amazon, and when I finish reading it, I'll write about it here, and pass it on, too.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Fiction Friday: The School Ship Tobermory Books

Product Details   Product DetailsThe only reason I know about these books is that I saw the first one, "School Ship Tobermory," on sale*** at the great Camas Public Library. I read it, rather, skimmed through it, in a very short time. I don't know who it's meant for.

Ah, here, from the Amazon blurb: It's the "first volume in a  middle-grade adventure-mystery series perfect for boys and girls!" Note the exclamation point!

I don't get that whole system of grading for children's books, but I guess it could be read and enjoyed by a middle-schooler. I'm sending my copy to a grandson, and I'll let you know if he likes it. I doubt that he'll even pick it up, though, since the cover makes it look like it's for little kids, and the illustrations are disappointing at best.

Still, I don't want to criticize Alexander McCall Smith, whose writing I usually enjoy, and I see the reviews at Amazon are mostly very favorable. So maybe I'm just unaware of the reading habits of middle-graders, whoever those may be. Maybe all these kinds of books make me grumpy. Could be.

Still, when I saw that the second in the series, "The Sands of Shark Island," was available to check out at the great Camas Public Library, I placed a hold on it and read through it---skimmed, more like---in about 30 minutes. Same thing. Ho-hum, predictable, stock and standard "adventure story" for kids who (I think) are accustomed to more flash and bang.

Tell you what: Since I'm certainly not the one to make a judgment on how these books will go over with their intended audience, I'm going to see what some of my "middle-grade" friends think of these books, and I'll let you know.

For sale online at Amazon: Good Ship Tobermory,  starting at less than $7.00, and

The Sands of Shark Island, just under $10.00, new, for less, used.

***The great Camas Public Library has two or three book sales every year, and I try to be one of the first ones there. So someone else had read this book and didn't want to keep it. That's a review in itself, isn't it.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Another Silly Diet: Sweet Potatoes

       Image result for sweet potato recipesI almost feel like I should go back to the 3rd person for this review, silly as I feel for even checking this book out of the library: The Sweet Potato Diet, by Michael Morelli. At least I got it from the library instead of spending my hard-earned cash for it.

Why silly? Obviously: sweet potatoes may be super good for you, abundant in a veritable alphabet of vitamins (yep, A, B, C, and E).* But a diet composed of sweet potatoes? They're also high in carbs and low in protein. So I was skeptical, but willing to glance through the book.

And I found some interesting bits of information and some great recipes. But I still wouldn't recommend that anyone buy the book. You can find the same, or very similar, recipes online and in your Betty Crocker cookbook or any of the wonderful cookbooks your family and friends gave you as wedding gifts.

But what I really don't like about this book, beyond the silliness of the title, is the idea that anyone would think there is anything new about this diet book. It has the same format as every other fad diet: A lot of personal stories from the author and anecdotes about other people who followed this diet and lost 12 pounds in 2 weeks or whatever; followed by the fact that the author didn't really lose weight but did lose fat and did gain muscle; some nutrition info, a bunch of recipes with very nice photos to accompany them, and then, of course: the exercise plan.

The exercise plan? I'll bet you're asking. At least that's what I asked. Guess what: The exercises are just like the rest of the book: same old, same old. We all know all these exercises. We've all heard all this advice before. Why would we buy a book with this same old information? Why indeed!

And in the middle there's that whole part where you have to balance your carb days with your protein days or whatever. (I emphasize, again, that I did not read this carefully, and my excuse is that I couldn't stand to spend any more time on it than I already did, and then did in order to write this review.) Did I already say this?---Same old, same old.

In other words, what you really need to do, if you want to lose weight and be healthy, is learn how to eat right; balance your food intake to include sources high in vitamins, energy, and protein; and exercise in a reasonable way and amount.

So, go ahead and buy some sweet potatoes and try some new recipes with them, maybe even the sweet-potato-and-kale salad (excuse my barfing sounds), but you don't need this book for any of it.

(25 Healthy Sweet Potato Recipes)

(50 + Savory Sweet Potato Recipes to Eat This Fall)

(30 + Easy Sweet Potato Recipes)

(And so on. You get the idea.)

*"Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene). They are also a very good source of vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6. Additionally, they are a good source of potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and phosphorus." (From the World's Healthiest Foods website:---which includes this very helpful graphic illustration of the vitamins in sweet potatoes:) (Sorry for the text---follow the link to the original to see what the nutrients are!)

Sweet Potato, baked
1.00 cup
(200.00 grams)
Calories: 180
GI: medium


 vitamin A214%

 vitamin C52%