ARC REVIEW: No Excuses Detox – by Megan Gilmore

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Title: No Excuses Detox
Author: Megan Gilmore

Genre: Non Fiction, Cookbooks, Health
First published: February 21st 2017
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Finished reading: November 4th 2016
Pages: 208
Rating 3,5qqq

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Ten Speed Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I actually read this cookbook by Megan Gilmore last November as part of the promise to myself to start eating healthier, but I haven’t published my review before since No Excuses Detox is actually going to be published recently next month. The cover and promise of quick, affordable and delicious food recipes that will make it easy to follow a healthy lifestyle every day had me sold straight away. This cookbook focuses on showing everyone that it is doable to start changing your eating habits and that there are literally ‘no excuses’ to be posponing the change. No Excuses Detox talks about the most common excuses and shows a wide variety of recipes that will please even the most complicated eater. I do admit I wasn’t convinced by everything that was talked about in the introduction and I think some of the points were a bit too complicated to be called simply ‘no excuses’. That said, the recipes are without doubt excellent and I liked that the author showed just how cheap a healthy meal can be. I have quite a few marked and I will be looking forward to try out more.

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In this cookbook, the author presents a collection of 100 recipes that are both quick to prepare, affordable, delicious and family-friendly. These recipes will make it easy to follow a healthy lifestyle every day and convince even the most complicated eater. Recipes for traditional comfort food favorites have been altered to make them both healthy and still taste as good as their counterparts. It also gives answers to all most common excuses for posponing a change, and shows that being ‘too busy’, ‘healthy food is expensive’ and ‘healthy food probably won’t taste good’ are no excused to stick to a healthy diet.

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I always enjoy browsing cookbooks for more healthy recipes, and No Excuses Detox was without doubt a little goldmine. I don’t agree with everything that is said in the introduction about the common excuses, but I did enjoy the different recipe chapters. From budget and family-friendly recipes to variations of your favorite comfort food; if you are looking for a book that might help you start eating healthier, this one is worth the try.


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ARC REVIEW: It’s All Absolutely Fine – by Ruby Elliot

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Title: It’s All Absolutely Fine
Author: Ruby Elliot

Genre: Graphic Novel, Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: January 31st 2017
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: January 15th 2017
Pages: 256
Rating 4qqq

“That’s what you need sometimes, whether it’s a dog or a cat or a jazzy lizard or something else entirely that provides you with some emotional respite when it’s all too messy – a tiny yet significant port in an almighty storm.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I confess I don’t have a lot of experience reading graphic novels, but when I saw It’s All Absolutely Fine at Netgalley I was immediately intrigued by the promise of a combination of simple drawings and a down-to-earth description of the daily struggles of life with mental illness. It is a topic that has always interested me for various reasons… And It’s All Absolutely Fine is without doubt another title to add to my list of favorites talking about mental illness. Why? First of all, I found it really easy to connect to the little stories. Ruby Elliot shows life as it is without trying to hide the ugly parts, and I can really appreciate the sincerity of it all. This bundle switches between short essays and illustrations that show the reader Ruby’s experiences living with social anxiety and the daily struggles of life with mental illness. Simple drawings of sometimes ‘simple’ situations, but with a huge dose of sharp humor for maximum effect.

I think this illustration above gives just the right idea of what I’m talking about… Ruby Elliot‘s drawings are sometimes brutally honest, but they always feel 100% real. It’s both an entertaining and eye-opening read that will appeal both to anyone interested in the topic and fans of memoirs such as Furiously Happy.

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It’s All Absolutely Fine is both an honest and unapologetic account of Ruby’s daily struggle living with mental illness. She uses simple drawings and a few short essays to talk about themes like mood disorders, anxiety and issues with body image; all sprinkled with the right dose of humor. Each chapter talks about a different set of struggles, and every aspect is talked about openly without hiding the ugly parts.

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It’s All Absolutely Fine is a graphic novel and memoir that tries to both show what it is to live with mental illness and tell other people that it is okay to not feel okay. The drawings might be simple, but are brutally honest and have a dose of sharp humor for maximum effect. I really enjoyed reading this story and I think anyone interested in the topic would enjoy reading It’s All Absolutely Fine as well. Recommended!


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BOOK REVIEW: When Breath Becomes Air – by Paul Kalanithi

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Title: When Breath Becomes Air
Author: Paul Kalanithi

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Health
First published: January 12th 2016
Publisher: Random House
Finished reading: November 18th 2016
Pages: 208
Rating 4,5qqq

“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”

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I have been reading more memoirs and non fiction reads than average in 2016, but Paul Kalanithi‘s story is without doubt one of the most powerful ones I’ve read this year and it deserves being nominated for Best Memoir in the Goodreads Choice Awards. When Breath Becomes Air is powerful, raw, emotional and simply heartbreaking… The story of a young neurosurgeon who lost his battle against cancer, a man who tried to write down the story of his life as he was trying to race against the clock. This rush especially shows in the last part of the memoir he managed to write himself, but that only makes this memoir more authentic and adds a whole other level to it. It’s hard to write about and/or criticize the work of a person whose life and dreams were cut short, and I have decided not to take in account the minor flaws in the prose and pace that might slow down the reading at points. The mismatched pace is a sign of a man who ran out of time, and desperately tried to finish what he had always wanted to do at some point in his life: write a book. If you are looking for a powerful memoir and don’t mind having a few packs of tissues ready, pick up When Breath Becomes Air. You won’t regret it.

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Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at the age of thirty-six, just as he as about to complete a decade worth of training as a neurosurgeon. Suddenly, his life went from making a living treating the sick and dying to being a patient himself… And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. In this memoir, he wrote about his connection to literature and questions about the virtuous and meaningful life, and how he ended up deciding to study to be a neurosurgeon. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future suddenly flattens out into a perpetual present?

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When Breath Becomes Air is without doubt one of the most powerful and emotional memoirs I’ve read this year. If you look critically, the prose might have a few minor flaws and the pace wasn’t perfect, but that is all soon forgotten if you just think about who wrote this story in the first place and his background. Paul Kalanithi was a man running out of time, and yet still determined to follow his dream and finally write his book as his legacy. Powerful throughout and the final part written by his wife was especially moving.

ARC REVIEW: The Scholl Case – by Anja Reich-Osang

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Title: The Scholl Case
Author: Anja Reich-Osang

Genre: Non Fiction, True Crime
First published: October 3rd 2016
Publisher: Text Publishing Company
Finished reading: October 27th 2016
Pages: 213
Rating 3qqq

“No one could imagine that he has killed his wife, he was the former mayor of Ludwigsfelde, an honourable man. And yet here in the courtroom you often get to know sides of a person that no one could previously have conceived possible.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Text Publishing Company in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’m normally a bit wary when it comes to true crime stories, but this case sounded quite interesting and I decided to give it a go. Now I’ve finished The Scholl Case, I’m not sure what to think of it. Because rather than being a proper true crime story that sticks to the neutral facts behind the case, this book by the German journalist Anja Reich-Osang reads more like a fictional crime thriller loosely based on the case. It focused more on the history of both the mayor and his wife and the murder case itself was forced into the background. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’m not sure up to what point the story of their past can be considered neutral. In the chapters, there is a lot of talk about the feelings and thoughts of both Heinrich and Brigitte, and I’m having a hard time to believe they could actually be completely accurate. Sure, the story is without doubt a lot more entertaining and attractive to the public this way and I can understand why the author took this road. But I don’t think this story can actually be called ‘non fiction’ as a whole. The pace was pretty slow as well, and the flashbacks were a bit confusing at times. All in all The Scholl Case wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be, although I can’t deny it’s still a decent read.

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In December 2011, the body of a woman was found in a forest in Ludwigsfelde, a small town south of Berlin. The body was hidden between pine trees and covered with leaves along with her dog. And the community was shocked when they find out the victim was the sixty-seven year old Brigitte Scholl, cosmetician and wife of Ludwigsfelde’s former mayor Heinrich Scholl. There are a lot of rumors around her death, which escalate as the police decided to arrest the victim’s husband three weeks later. The residents were shocked, as Heinrich Scholl was a well respected man and regarded as the most successful mayor of East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He seemed to be having it all: a successful career, influential friends and a longlasting marriage… But behind closed doors, both the mayor and his wife had been hiding a lot of secrets.

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I’m not saying The Scholl Case is such a terrible read, but I’m not sure to what level this story can actually be called ‘non fiction’. It’s more of a mix between historical fiction and a crime thriller, and the main focus is on the history of both the mayor and his wife rather than the murder case. This way it is without doubt a lot more entertaining to read, but it wasn’t the true crime story I was looking forward to. Combined with the slow pace I can’t say it was one of the best true crime stories I’ve read.

ARC REVIEW: But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan! – by Kristy Turner

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Title: But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan!
Author: Kristy Turner

Genre: Non Fiction, Food, Cookbook
Expected Publication: November 15th 2016
Publisher: The Experiment
Finished reading: September 28th 2016
Pages: 336
Rating 4qqq

One thing to keep in mind (and to remind your family members) is that your vegan version is not going to taste like chicken (or whatever food they like and/or are expecting). Mostly because it’s not chicken. That’s the whole point.

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and The Experiment in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I have to be honest when I say is that I will probably never be a vegan. While I have been eating less meat and more vegetarian/vegan dishes during the last few years, I could never give up meat altogether (and more importantly: CHEESE!!). Still, I always love browsing vegetarian and vegan recipes, especially since I’m always trying to prepare them at least two to three days a week. But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan! turned out to be a little goldmine. Not only are the personal bits and recipe introductions hilarious, but the recipes themselves are easy to understand and follow. I’m not sure if I will be able to actually prepare all of them as some ingredients are not easy/impossible to buy down here in Argentina, but I am looking forward to try my hands on quite a few of them soon. I loved the chapter division as well; tackling a different group of ‘difficult’ relatives and friends in each one. My favorites were probably the easy weeknight solutions, ‘meat and potatoes’ eaters, kids chapter and desserts. Thank you Kirsty Turner for giving me so many new recipes to try! I will be looking forward to the reactions of my ‘guinea pigs’.

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Going vegan is a highly personal decision. But once you made your choice, what happens when you dine with the rest of your family and friends? A lot of people are skeptical when it comes to vegan food and cooking vegan can present its own challenges. With this new cookbook, even the most skeptical relatives will be begging for seconds. Each chapter tackles a different group of people to convince and they all have a variety of recipes to choose from. From elaborate vegan dinners, easy weeknight solutions and special ‘child-proof’ recipes: But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan! deals with them all with easy-to-follow and delicious recipes.

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Even though I’m not a vegan myself, I can still see myself preparing quite a few recipes mentioned in But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan! The recipes are easy to follow and most of them have ingredients that won’t be too difficult to get your hands on. The personal experiences and funny introductions to the chapters and recipes made me want to read each and every recipe. Hilarious! I also appreciated the information about different ingredients and how to prepare them in the beginning of the book. All in all definitely a cookbook to keep in mind even if you’re not a vegan.

ARC REVIEW: We’re All Mad Here – by Claire Eastham

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Title: We’re All Mad Here
Author: Claire Eastham

Genre: Non Fiction, Psychology, Self Help
First published: November 21st 2016
Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Finished reading: September 25th 2016
Pages: 200
Rating 4qqq

“If you have scars from the past, then bear them. We spend so much time trying to ignore pain, when sometimes the best way to heal is to release it.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Jessica Kingsley Publishers in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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When I was browsing Netgalley a while back, this title really caught my eye and not only because of the colorful cover. Let’s just say I’m an introvert myself and while I don’t think I actually have social anxiety, this guide written by Claire Eastham is without doubt really interesting. We’re All Mad Here, or The No-Nonsense Guide To Living With Social Anxiety as the author put it, is all about explaining what exactly it implies to be diagnosed with social anxiety and what can be done to make it easier to live with it. It shows that the author knows what she is talking about (she has social anxiety herself), and I could really appreciate the personal experiences she decided to include in this guide. The prose is easy to read and the whole story has a healthy dose of humor as well despite the more serious topic. And while We’re All Mad Here might not be the most complete guide out there, I think has quite a few interesting pointers for those who don’t know much about social anxiety. Recommended!

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Social anxiety is more common than people think and can take on many different forms. From physical symptoms, distressing thoughts, insecurity to self-doubt, they all make a person want to avoid social situations and things will become worse over time. This guide explains what social anxiety exactly is, why it happens and how to improve your situation. It’s a guide that will help you beat social anxiety matter if it is related to school, university, work, social media or parties and dates. Honest insights about the author’s own social anxiety are mixed with a healthy dose of humor and many tips on how to make things better.

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I like reading non fiction every once in a while and this social anxiety guide is without doubt an interesting read. We’re All Mad Here mixes the author’s own experiences living with social anxiety with general information about what it exactly is and why it happens in the first place. It turned out to be a really interesting read that is both easy to read, funny and has interesting pointers for those who want to learn more about the topic.

ARC REVIEW: The Honor Was Mine – by Elizabeth Heaney

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Title: The Honor Was Mine
Author: Elizabeth Heaney

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, War
First published: September 6th 2016
Publisher: Grand Harbor Press
Finished reading: September 3rd 2016
Pages: 272
Rating 5qqq

“Rather than being seen as protectors – as warriors have been viewed in past cultures – our current culture struggles with how to view combat veterans. The cultural dissonance about recent wars spills over into our feelings about soldiers, creating another layer of difficult struggle for soldiers who fought and served.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Grand Harbor Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I was first approached back in August with the question if it would interest me to read The Honor Was Mine, a memoir written by a counselor to combat veterans, and I immediately went to Netgalley to request the title. The subject has always interested me and I even followed a course at Uni about the traumatic effects of war on soldiers… And basically this memoir left me speechless. It’s a brilliant and highly emotional personal account of Elizabeth Heaney‘s experience working with combat veterans that will most likely bring tears to your eyes. The story is a balanced mix of the thoughts/experiences of both soldiers and the author herself, which gives you a better insight to their world. The Honor Was Mine is without doubt a well written and emotional memoir and I have many quotes highlighted on my kindle. If you ask me, anyone who wants to understand the whole ‘veteran/soldier’ world better should read this memoir. You won’t regret it!

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Therapist Elizabeth Heaney came face-to-face with the unheard-of struggles and fears of the military service and their families after she left her private practice and decided to sign up to counsel them. Soldiers and veterans are often misunderstood and she decided to try and describe their complex and nuanced lives in a way that outsiders will be able to understand. Because emotions run deeply and a lot of soldiers seem to struggle readjusting to civilian life after returning from battling the enemy.

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It doesn’t happen often that a book leaves me speechless, but The Honor Was Mine is one of them. This memoir is about such an important topic, and on top of that it’s also well written and full of emotions. I personally don’t know anyone close who fought during a war, but my thoughts goes out to all the soldiers and veterans out there. If you want to learn more about the effects of war on veterans, I can definitely recommend The Honor Was Mine.