The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies: Thousands of Tips and Techniques Anyone Can Use to Heal Everyday Health Problems Review

The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies: Thousands of Tips and Techniques Anyone Can Use to Heal Everyday Health Problems
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I've had this book for about 5 years, and it's been very useful when I or one in my family gets sick. What I like most about the book is that it gives you remedies that don't mean heay medicines, for instance, honey, aspirin, alcohol, oatmeal, things that you usually have around your home. It contains an index of "illneses" like jet-lag, the flu, cramps, stomachaches, heartburn, fever, it tells you what to do and when, if necessary call the doctor. It is a highly recommended book, you won't waste your money here.

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The Memory Keeper's Daughter: A Novel Review

The Memory Keeper's Daughter: A Novel
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The initial premise of the book is terrific. We're in the '60s and a doctor finds himself in a situation on a snowy night in which he must deliver his own child, with the help of his nurse Caroline (who has a secret crush on him). The first child, Paul, is healthy, but the second, a girl, is born with Down's Syndrome. The doctor, David, is convinced his wife Norah will not be able to "handle" the trauma of having such a child, so he decides, in an instant, to hand the poor girl to Caroline and asks her to take it to a home for such children and leave it there, never to mention the girl again. He tells his wife that the daughter has died. Caroline runs to the home,finds it to be a hugely disturbing place, and then looking into the face of this new baby, decides she can love the girl and provide her with a life. She runs off with the baby, ready to start a new and uncertain life.
These initial scenes are fairly well done, and though the decision David makes is abhorrent is somewhat tempered by the fact that in the '60s, we as a society weren't quite so compassionate or understanding of folks with Downs. His logic about sparing his wife is questionable, however, and Edwards fairly effectively shows that the gulf between David's initial guilt and wariness about being caught and Norah's grief at losing a child drives the couple further apart. Norah is not allowed to grieve in the way she wants...for example, she isn't allowed to see the body of her lost daughter...for obvious reasons.
Anyway, after this the book falls apart. Author Kim Edwards, it becomes clear, hasn't learned the lesson of "showing us" how people are feeling and thinking, but telling us. We are told over and over that David's secret has blanketed his family, that it's driven him apart from his wife and son. We never really understand specifically how. Does David just act guilty all the time? Does Norah never get over her depression? Is she unable to show love to her son because she wants her daughter? I found the book to be almost completely unconvincing psychologically.
Also, every character in the book (possibly excepting the daughter Phoebe) is hugely UNLIKEABLE and UNSYMPATHETIC. David is simply a pompous jerk. Her makes this huge decision and then can't understand how his lie might effect other people. He just wants his wife to "get over it." Problem is, we see right from the beginning of the book, before the lie even happens, that this is not a happy couple and not one that should ever have married. Norah, the wife, marries David apparently without love for him, and then resents him for being very successful and providing for her and her son the kind of life she married him to get. We also learn a great deal about David's childhood, and none of that rings very true either...the David we see as an adult isn't convincingly the man the young David would have grown up to be.
The son,Paul, is shown as a typical sullen teenager who is not understood by his overbearing father. He escapes to playing guitar, and what do you know...he's practically a genius at that instrument. He talks about music in a way that no real person ever would...only in a way that writer's who can't show us how a person feels but must have them "tell" us.
On the other side of the story, we have the nurse Caroline. She appears to be somewhat heroic, because she does risk a lot to provide a life for Phoebe. Yet we never see the day to day struggles of dealing with a child with Down's Syndrome. Some brief early scenes are all we get...but the structure of the story skips all the day to day details and we see only the "end result,"...which doesn't seem to have been all that difficult...except that the author "tells" us that it was. While Caroline isn't unsympathetic she's just kind of bland and passive.
At one point in the later part of the book, David returns to his old hometown and meets an unusual character. I don't want to spoil it...but let's just say that this person's actions are totally silly at first, and then later this person is clearly meant to cause a seismic shift in the dynamics of David's family...instead we just kind of scratch our heads and wonder at the strangeness of everyone's behavior. I wish I could tell you more...but if you manage to slog your way this far into the book, you should at least have some surprises left.
It took me FOREVER to get through this poorly written, overwraught book. I kept going because it was SUCH a bestseller and so many people liked it. I guess I just totally missed it. I realize I'm asking to get huge amounts of "unhelpful" ratings, but I feel there must be other lone voices out there like me...who just found the book deeply unsatisfactory.
The only reason it gets two stars instead of one is that the initial premise IS original and was done well enough to make me buy the darn book in the first place and continue reading it in the hopes that the author's imagination would once again provide redemption. No such luck.

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Mount Vernon Love Story : A Novel of George and Martha Washington Review

Mount Vernon Love Story : A Novel of George and Martha Washington
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George Washington's father died when the future president was young. His mother was a harsh disciplinarian insuring George and his siblings behaved. George seemed to flee her whenever he could get away spending time at his half-brother's Mount Vernon home (yes - that historical home). George's first love is Sally Fairfax and his chosen profession surveyor, but war seemed to be his destiny. First he fought (unsuccessfully) during the French and Indian War and then the American Revolution.

This biography uses Washington's retirement to Mount Vernon with his beloved Patsy (Martha's nickname) as a focal point for looking back over the lives of the first president and his spouse. The book concentrates on his personal life not his public life. Thus, readers see another side to Washington. Though opinions are interspersed throughout, mystery suspense thriller writer Mary Higgins Clark provides a strong insightful look at Washington and literally the first "First Lady" that historical readers will enjoy.

Harriet Klausner

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Straight Man: A Novel Review

Straight Man: A Novel
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..then, "Jack..You Dead!
I had thought until reading STRAIGHT MAN that the standard for humorous novels with academic settings had been set by James Hynes. Russo is even funnier. His comic timing is akin to the great comedians of stage and sceen, like the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Moore & Cooke, etc. Yet not only is the man funny, he can flat out write, as well.
In STRAIGHT MAN, Russo performs a balancing act of surface playfulness combined with searing truths about life's missed opportunities and moments of quiet despair. Behind the one-liners and the buffoonery of Henry Devereux Jr.'s comic mask, exists an enigmatic, compassionate, troubled soul, whose personality disorder has been triggered by a single incident he shares with his mother when he is a young teen. His humorous guise is something he has created so as to safely retreat from the seperation anxiety that is his constant companion. To his friends and colleagues he is "Hank," easy to dismiss or to to ridicule, or in two instances, to physically attack (OK, three, if you count the goose!). Russo does a very subtle and masterful job of slowly developing the interior Henry Devereux Jr., however, and by the novel's end, the reader has been granted the full revelation of character and the whole man stands naked (figuritavely speaking) before us.
STRAIGHT MAN is definitely my recommendation of 2003, thus far. The funny bits are truly hysterical. The dramatic bits ring true to life. This certainly not just another humorous novel about Academia. It's as well written and well rounded as any novel I've read in recent years. I look forward with great anticipation to reading EMPIRE FALLS.

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The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Mystery (Flavia De Luce Mysteries) Review

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Mystery (Flavia De Luce Mysteries)
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Second in the series featuring young Flavia de Luce, The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag has our young heroine embroiled in yet another sticky situation or two, trying to uncover the identity of a murderer who dared do the deed in the middle of a performance of Jack the Beanstalk at the village church. As it just so happens, Flavia and her family, including Aunt Felicity (a new arrival to this series) are in the audience watching as the death occurs. Flavia knows right away that the death wasn't natural, as does the family gardener and general man-about-the-house Dogger, and she sets about finding the killer. But that's not all that Flavia knows, and as she uses her observations to help guide her, other mysteries, long kept hidden in the little village of Bishop's Lacey, begin to be revealed, perhaps not to some people's liking.

Once again Alan Bradley has done a fantastic job relating the story of Flavia deLuce, that child genius who was first introduced in his first novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Bradley has not let up on his excellent writing, indeed, in this novel, the characters all become more real, more fleshed out, and he adds some new and quirky characters into the village of Bishop's Lacey. The mystery element of this novel is much stronger and runs deeper than in the first novel, and the reader finds himself or herself this time with several suspects from which to choose, all with their own private motives for murder. But once again, the strength isn't so much in the mystery, but rather in the other elements of the novel. For example, there's the struggle of Haviland deLuce (Flavia's father) to keep the family home, Buckshaw. There's also the introduction of a new character, Dieter, a former German POW working on a farm in the countryside, and how he came to be shot down over England during the war. Then there's Flavia's deep-seated needed to find out more about her mother, dead since she was a very small child. And Bradley hits on the exploitation of things that maybe should have been a bit more private by television producers for Auntie, the inside name for the BBC.Let me just say that many people complained about the lack of a true mystery plotline in the first novel of the series, or thought that the whole mystery thing was flat and so would not care to read any sequel. Balderdash. If you can just sit back and relax, and read around the mystery and think about what you're reading, you'll discover that there is more to these books than some precocious child playing Holmes here. Bradley's captured a slice of time past and he does it well and most intelligently. I can very highly recommend this novel, and now I'm just sad that I have to wait a year or so for the next one.

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Tour Tempo: Golf's Last Secret Finally Revealed (Book & CD-ROM) Review

Tour Tempo: Golf's Last Secret Finally Revealed (Book and CD-ROM)
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Smart Golf
If you've ever wandered out to the range at a PGA Tour event to watch the pros practice, you were probably less impressed by how far they hit the ball (you already knew they were long) than by the smooth, leisurely tempos on display up and down the line. Compared with the quick-jerk artists at your neighborhood range, the best players in the world seem to swing in slow motion. But the truth is that they are completing their swings much faster than it seems. If you were to start your take-away at the same instant that a languid-swinging pro like David Toms started his, in all likelihood you'd still be lost somewhere in your backswing by the time Toms made contact. Moreover, your swing almost certainly would look rushed while Toms's swing would look like it always does, smooth and easy.
What the top pros have that you, I and the quick-jerk range rats don't is perfect tempo. And now, thanks to the work of John Novosel, a businessman, inventor and golf enthusiast from Leawood, Kansas, we know a lot more about what constitutes perfect tempo than we used to. Novosel closely analyzed video of most of the world's greatest golfers, both past and present, and discovered that virtually all of them executed their swings, from take-away to impact, within a very small window of time, from .93 seconds to 1.2 seconds. He also discovered that nearly all accomplished golfers have a precise, identical rhythm: three beats back, one beat down. Novosel then devised a way for average golfers to approximate the tempo of a pro swing by hitting balls while listening to tones through a headset and watched in amazement as their shots improved instantly and dramatically-without any attention whatsoever to wrist cock, hip turn, swing path or the countless other mechanical issues that are the bane and substance of traditional instruction. This improvement happened essentially, Novosel came to realize, because once the tempo is right, there isn't any time left over for the club to do all the crazy, inefficient things it usually does during bad swings, like pause, hitch, wander around in loops and come over the top.
Novosel has compiled the results of his research and offers an instructional program (see below) based on his findings in a compelling new book, Tour Tempo: Golf's Last Secret Finally Revealed, cowritten with John Garrity, due out this spring. In Novosel's view, good tempo ought to be viewed as a bedrock fundamental of the golf swing that helps produce good mechanics, rather than something tacked on as a kind of extra once a player has supposedly mastered the mechanics. "The old paradigm of teaching club, hand and body positions at every conceivable point in the swing doesn't work very well," Novosel said. "There's really no good way for a player to incorporate all that information during a swing that lasts just a second and while the player is moving the club at a hundred miles an hour." He doesn't contend that mechanics are irrelevant, only that beyond a certain point, teaching them in the traditional manner is unnecessary and even counterproductive. People learn faster and better, he argues, by focusing on tempo to get the feel of an effective, powerful swing and letting the body figure out the rest by itself.
Like many discoveries, Novosel's insights into tempo occurred serendipitously. While editing video of LPGA star Jan Stephenson's swing for an infomercial, he happened to pay attention to the frame counter on his editing program. Broadcast video is shot at a rate of thirty frames per second (or roughly thirty-three thousandths of a second per frame), and Novosel noticed that Stephenson's tempo was exactly the same from swing to swing, no matter what club she was using: twenty-seven frames from take-away to the top, nine frames from the top back down to impact, for a total of thirty-six frames, or 1.2 seconds. Curious, he started examining the videotaped swings of other top pros. The fastest swingers, like Nick Price, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus, took twenty-one frames to reach the top of their backswings and seven frames back to impact, for twenty-eight frames total and .93 seconds total swing time. Another group, including Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Sam Snead, took twenty-four frames back and eight frames down, for 1.02 seconds total swing time. And a third group, including Bobby Jones, David Toms and Jim Furyk, swung consistently at a 27:9 tempo. Of the more than one hundred pros whose swings Novosel studied, only one-Ed Furgol, the 1954 U.S. Open champion-swung faster than 21:7 (he swung at 18:6), and only a handful swung slower, including Nancy Lopez in her prime (30:10). But always, the three-to-one time ratio of backswing to downswing was identical.
The only time the swings of the best players in the world diverged from this ratio was when they hit bad shots. For example, Novosel's analysis of a badly pulled drive by Phil Mickelson revealed a tempo of 3.5 to one. Amateurs, on the other hand, were consistent only in being all over the lot. Some swings that Novosel recorded took as long as three full seconds to complete. Ratios ranged from solid, quick three-to-ones for certain low handicappers to good rhythms but slow and weak three-to-ones for others (33:11) to highly erratic for most (26:11, 44:11, 66:11).
The audio files that Novosel created for players to listen to while swinging (through MP3 player or CD Walkman-type devices) come with his book in the three main, pro-quality tempos: 21:7, 24:8 and 27:9. The three-tone sequences can be played in endless loops, allowing golfers to initiate the swing whenever they are ready. Novosel directs his students to initiate the take-away in reaction to the first tone, initiate the transition between backswing and downswing in reaction to the second, and synchronize the moment of impact to the final tone. "Almost always the first reaction I get is, 'Whoa! That's impossibly fast. I could never swing that quickly,'" he said. But usually it takes only ten minutes for novices to get into the groove. Most start out with the slower, 27:9 sequence and then experiment with the 24:8 and 21:7 versions to see which they feel most comfortable with.
The results are often dramatic. A video CD accompanying Novosel's book shows the before-and-after experiences of a half-dozen players. Typical is Bruce Provo, a nine-handicapper. His form improved, his backswing significantly shortened and his five-iron clubhead speed shot from 79 m.p.h. to 99 m.p.h. after just twenty minutes of work. Our experiences hitting balls with the Tour Tempo tones, although not so transformative, were highly satisfying. When our timing was in sync with the tones, our shots were invariably straight and long; when our timing was off, so were our shots. After just a few minutes on the range with the tones, our focus over the ball shifted almost completely from mechanical considerations (taking the clubhead back on line, stopping the backswing before parallel, etcetera) to getting the timing right. Novosel said this is typical and transfers easily to the golf course.
"The purpose of the Tour Tempo audio tracks is to internalize the intrinsic tempo of the golf swing in your subconscious mind," he said. "If you are a low to mid handicapper with reasonably sound swing fundamentals, you can basically forget about mechanics once that happens. Out on the course, you won't have to worry about what starts your backswing, where you are at the top or what triggers your forward swing. Those things will happen reflexively, as they do in the swings of the pros." Novosel recommends practicing frequently with the tones to reinforce the rhythm, but never for longer than you can pay full attention to them. Five-minute sessions in the backyard or during warm-ups at the range are often all it takes to stay in tune, he says.
For experienced players without sound mechanics, Novosel teaches two simple mechanical drills designed to get your swing off to the right start. He believes that in most cases these drills, combined with practicing to the tones, will eventually get most golfers to the point where good tempo and instincts can profitably take over. For those who want more-personalized tempo training, Novosel is schooling instructors around the country to use the Tour Tempo system, and he himself is available for lessons in Kansas City, Kansas.
With uncanny consistency, the best golfers in the world hit the ball using a 3:1 time ratio of backswing to downswing. In the videos John Novosel studied, a large group of pros, including Tiger Woods, took twenty-four frames to reach the top of their swings and another eight to make impact. Most other pros swung at ratios of 21:7 or 27:9.
Even the best tempo will not produce great shots if your mechanics are dreadful. But Novosel believes that tempo training combined with two fundamental drills (developed with the help of teaching pro John Rhodes of Fort Worth, Texas) can bring almost any golfer up to speed. In the "Y" drill, establish the shape of that letter with your arms and the club at address and try to maintain it (though it will collapse a bit) as you take the club back to waist high and then through to a short finish. The key is monitoring the club's position. At the end of the short backswing, the shaft should be parallel both to the line of flight and to the ground, and the clubface should be perpendicular to the ground. Start out slowly, without a ball, then hit balls, and finally synchronize with the Tour Tempo tones.
Work on the same club positions in this drill as in the "Y" drill, but add ninety degrees to the angle of the club, forming the letter "L" with your arms and club at the top, and make a longer finish. At the top of the backswing the shaft should be pointing straight down. Again, start slowly without a ball to master the correct positions, then progress to hitting balls and finally to synchronizing with the Tour Tempo tones.

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Amen Corner Review

Amen Corner
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Fun read. Well crafted story that takes many surprizing turns. Don't need to be a golfer to enjoy the drama but the National and its April tourney are so well known to golfers worldwide, the story acquires added richness to many. A good gift to a golfer. I have no doubt that we will see more stories from Shefchik. All to the good.

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