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Posted: January 21, 2011 in 1

How to Lower Your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food

Posted: January 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

© 2009 Alain Braux

Review © 2011 Nancy Appleton PhD and G.N. Jacobs

How does one change their diet from the overcooked, sugar and free radical filled modern American diet to a healthier food plan? To tell the truth, there are many ways to achieve optimal health through an improved diet, but all of them require food that people will actually eat. One such way to eat your way to better health would be to read and apply the recipes in How to Lower Your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food by Chef Alain Braux.

Braux, a real-life French chef transplanted to Texas, answered a question about how to use French cooking techniques to eat properly starting a journey back to the foods of his native southern France, a variation of the Mediterranean Diet. This diet consists of more fish, vegetables and gently cooked meats in sauces made from wholesome ingredients. Whether you call it the Mediterranean Diet, the Atkins Diet or even my own Food Plan Three, we favor this kind of eating.

Sugar and the other diet red flags cause raised cholesterol mostly in the form of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and lowering high-density lipoproteins (HDL).  Whole food diets like the Mediterranean Diet fight cholesterol because the original human diet had ten times the fiber, more whole foods and next to no sugar. Cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes have followed.

Of the nearly hundred pages devoted to recipes, most follow precepts with which we agree: more organic fruits, vegetables and locally derived grass-fed meat. Frankly, the recipes seem so delicious that we regret not having enough time before going to press to try any of the dishes. In our defense, neither one of us has the Dutch oven required for a good percentage of the meals. Still, if we were any better at cooking ourselves this is the cookbook we would write.

Of course, despite many interesting uses for fish, venison, other meats and just about every vegetable available in France or Texas, Braux is still a French-trained chef likely to run home to Mama with an amazing pastry. Pastries and some kind of sweetener always go hand in hand as the sugar, honey or high fructose corn syrup feeds the yeast that makes bread rise. For people who are moderately healthy there can be a little bit of indulgence, but other people just can’t have any sugar at all. At least the plan allows for that treats are just that, rare things that spice up life.

Another quibble that we have with Chef Braux’s program is his assumption that a few of the sweeteners listed in his book are better for people in moderation. We have already commented on agave as a sugar substitute, which Chef Braux has used in some of his desert recipes. Our position is that agave is primarily fructose and isn’t quite as healthy as advertised.

As a book, How to Lower Your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food presents the information in a fairly clear manner using both the French and English terms for each dish. We did find some typos indicative of a self-published book written by a non-native speaker. But, the program is golden and actually has a chance of keeping people eating well.

Chef Braux speaks with great authority as he applied these recipes to his own diagnosis of high cholesterol. He is glad to report that his blood test shows a return to good health all without resorting to statins or other medical interventions.

We can’t recommend this book highly enough. Please follow the links below to learn more about Chef Braux and his healthy recipes.

Feed Your Brain, Lose Your Belly

Posted: November 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

Larry McCleary MD

Review © 2010 Nancy Appleton PhD & G.N. Jacobs

Do you know how to lose weight? Do you know how to create proper brain functioning? According to Feed Your Brain Lose Your Belly the answer is the same diet.

This book promotes a diet that pulls a 180-degree u-turn away from the high-carbohydrate low-protein and fat that we had been taught starting the in the 1960s. We were told that fat was bad for you, so we cut the fat only to find that people are fatter, more diabetic and unhealthier than ever.

Doctor McCleary approaches the question of proper diet from the point of view of a neurologist concerned about Alzheimer’s disease and mental function. At the same time that diabetes and other aspects of the Metabolic Syndrome (diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and weigh gain among others) increase with our sugary diet, so to do diseases that affect the mind like Alzheimer’s. He decided to research whether dietary changes would help the mind and then to see if these same changes would also help the waistline.

The diet that results from the research is very similar to the food plans promoted by Doctor Appleton in all of her works. We both like diets with vegetables, protein, gently cooked lipids (fats and oils) and whole fruit that limits sugar, excessive carbohydrates and many other features of our modern diet. Except for the fact that Doctor Appleton is out of her depth dealing with neurology, she could have written this book. It appears that everyone with a responsible health oriented food plan comes to the same general realization that – eat more vegetables and cook at home – is the path to health.

Dr. McClearly makes an important observation that being fat and diabetic and having cognitive problems are part of the same problem. We get fat because sugar and excessive carbohydrates are foods that induce the mind to rely on external energy sources, which are then stored as fat when there is too much in the system. We go nuts or get Alzheimer’s because the brain constantly wants glucose to function and in the high-carb diet sends out hungry signals that create more eating and diminish mental capacity.

The trick according to Dr. McCleary’s research is to eat the better diet that includes fat, protein and vegetables and fruit with lots of dietary fiber so that the body realigns itself so that more fat is burned than stored while avoiding the confusing signals that may cause us to eat too much. He uses insulin to explain the cycle of fat storage and blood sugar levels.

More sugar means more insulin to deal with the sugar, which also tells the body to store fat because high blood sugar means an external energy source is being used. Less sugar means that the body now can burn fat from internal sources to tide the person over between meals. This cycle is supposed to be balanced but stopped being so when our diet became more about carbohydrates separated from dietary fiber than protein and vegetables.

Once the explanation how the brain is affected by the foods we eat set in, Dr. McCleary provides fairly standard advice about how to lose weight that the reader may also glean from the saner programs developed for The Biggest Loser or any responsible food health book (take healthy snacks along, start small, plan for falling off the wagon, be positive and so on). And there are recipes, which seem to be a staple of food health books designed to give a few ideas how to actually go about changing the diet.

Doctor Appleton may have wished for a little more attention to allergies playing a part in health, but other than that she wholeheartedly recommends this book to anyone wanting more information about how the brain and body work together for health.

This review also posted to

Déja Dead

Posted: February 17, 2010 in 1

Kathy Reichs

Review © 2010 G.N. Jacobs

Imagine my surprise that Dr. Temperance Brennan is not necessarily a stunning, but socially awkward genius with a state of the art lab in Washington, D.C. Yes, I do watch too much TV, but either way the character is fascinating.

In Déja Dead, Kathy Reichs gives us a Temperance Brennan that feels very autobiographical to Dr. Reichs’ own career as a forensic anthropologist. Brennan is a middle aged divorced mother going to work every day in downtown Montreal. Her main task is identify and reinter bodies from dug up church burials and to assist the medical examiners when a body is too decomposed for a traditional soft tissue autopsy.

Female bodies and skeletons roll into the lab and the trail goes cold. But, Tempe feels a connection between the bodies and surmises that a serial killer is at work among the ancient bricks and stones of Montreal. But, few in law enforcement pay her very much attention as the bodies are just different enough that they can be interpreted as the work of a serial killer learning and refining his game, or as five separate murders.

Meanwhile, Tempe is being dragged into what appears to be a completely unrelated drama with her good friend Gabrielle, an accomplished living subject anthropologist. Gabrielle is studying the hookers that live and work in Montreal’s red light district and she has picked up a stalker. Soon, someone is stalking Tempe as well…

I found the writing of this first in the series to be quite masterful in terms of balancing the routine with the elements that convert Déja Dead from a dry report into a novel of eminent readability. Kathy Reichs probably never snuck out of the lab to do her own investigating leaving such things to cops with guns. But, if Temperance Brennan doesn’t follow ten seconds behind the stormtroopers only to discover from a warm pot of spaghetti-Os that the suspect is still on the premises, we don’t read the book.

But, Tempe must then go back into the lab and call up a colleague in another city for insight concerning the saw that hacked up the bodies. Apparently, there are so few forensic anthropologists that their conventions are too small to get first billing in a fun city like Las Vegas. Reichs managed to hold my interest with the juxtaposition of the action and the lab work.

I wanted to learn a little more about Temperance Brennan the woman making use of a fabulous job offer in Montreal to start over after a wrecked marriage. Perhaps, this was because Tempe didn’t know anyone in Montreal, except for Gabrielle? That she had been fulltime in the citadel on the St. Lawrence for at least a year before the story begins suggests she needs to get out more. I didn’t get any slow moments with friends in the bar, because Gabrielle’s peril overwhelms the social interaction. Well, there are more books in the series.

The killer in this piece is like many in the real world, boring nobodies who take up killing to liven up a life of quiet desperation. These people are always brought down by a combination of solid police work that places the suspect as the common element in all the found bodies, a profile and their common need to hang onto souvenirs. This proves that even the mundane can be dangerous, which is another brilliance of this book.

I enjoyed the You-Are-There feel to this book. I ran through back alleys trying to catch up with suspect running from his hidey-hole where he kept his souvenirs of his grisly work. It was creepy to rifle through the killer’s stuff. I suspect the audience couldn’t handle the real thing. This tension propels the reader through the story to the exciting climax that begins with a dead phone line at Chez Brennan…

Déja Dead is one fine read good for keeping a reader awake on an airplane or at the beach. I wonder what will happen next.

R.M. Meluch

Review © 2009 G.N. Jacobs

In Myriad, the first novel in R.M. Meluch’s Tour of the Merrimack series, I found a unique opportunity to expand my sense of the possible. I hadn’t thought that thoughtful concept driven science fiction and a fun military shoot ‘em up could exist in the same headspace at the same time. Not even Star Trek tried to do both in the same episode. Now, like Alexander the Great contemplating the Gordian Knot I have to change my perspective.

The U.S.S. Merrimack chases the dreaded Hive into a globular star cluster. The Hive is a barely sentient race of space insects that eat everything in its path because it can. Captain John Farragut is quite surprised to find three inhabited planets in the cluster where planets shouldn’t even form. And so the crew chooses to beam down to meet the natives. Sounds like a Star Trek episode doesn’t it?

Meluch expands the form to include wormholes, ancient artifacts that are older than the known universe and space battles with the aforementioned Hive. And there is a time travel element built into the climax. Causality as we know it is under threat as always with time travel.

And now the scorecard for the players on the political/military side of the series: the United States retained its status as the first among equals among the people of Earth. Naturally, the League of Earth Nations members are glad to run screaming to the United States when something or someone needs a beating. Depending on the outcome of the causality elements that enemy is either the Hive or the Neo-Romans of the planet Palatine.

Palatine was an American colony that broke away to complete independence from America. The Romans go for all of the scary technology most science fiction writers think should be banned until we become better people: cloning, cyborgs and nanotechnology. The Romans also have a habit of colonizing inhabited planets against the rules of the League of Earth Nations and they allow slavery. When combined with the United States’ outright jealousy at the brain drain caused by the Romans’ looting many intellectuals and secret societies for those that have kept the dream of Rome alive, we can see how the Americans and Romans would fight. Except when the Hive is near.

To deal with the Hive, Roman has agreed to temporarily halt hostilities and send to the Merrimack a patterner, an enhanced human with the ability to plug into computers and sift data for useful information. Augustus arrives as a man of mystery hated by much of the crew and takes his post as Intelligence Officer.

By rights this book shouldn’t have worked what with all the disparate elements at play: intrigue, romance, diplomacy and the action against the Hive. Meluch picked the right character archetypes fleshed out into people that allowed the story to seem whole and organic. We have female sluts described as the squadron welcome mat who fly into rages when their boyfriends are outed as being married. We have the usual mix of fighter pilot types with more guts than sense. We have Captain Farragut trying to get along with Augustus and a deepening relationship between the welcome mat and her CO, Colonel TR Steele, that breaks all the rules. Gee, the Hive almost doesn’t have to show up.

But, the Hive will always show up. The space bugs appear ready to eat everything organic in its way. They’re practically the product of the blender writers use to come up with ideas when stuck. Relentless eating machines with acid blood that can slip through energy screens will always get the readers’ attention even if we have seen the same movies.

I enjoyed the conceit of the book that humans had to be very circumspect in fighting the Hive. The bugs don’t think up new things, but they do learn to adapt to human trickery quite readily. Fighting the Hive usually involves shutting down excess electronics and pulling out swords to hack and slash under a rain of lye to counteract the acid. We really have seen the same movies.

I also enjoyed the wide range of personalities that come into play. Some people are apes looking for the next fight or hookup. Some joined the military for the educational benefits showing that it takes all kinds. Captain Farragut is depicted as the perfect warrior in that he fights as well as he inspires others to get through hopeless odds.

If there were something more that I’d want from this book it would be a deeper understanding of Augustus’ life as a patterner. But, I suppose some things should be left for the sequel.

Myriad is a great beach read for those of us that like science fiction with a little bit of everything for everybody.

Sherman Alexie

Review © 2009 G.N. Jacobs

What is going on? I read a collection of short stories by a Native American writer and there isn’t a single reference to a skinwalker or Wendigo. For a writer that dresses his angst and memories, however distorted, up in starkly drawn archetypes that scare, thrill and/or amuse, a mostly autobiographical collection of short stories from a segment of America that is almost as alien to me as the Barsoom culture of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy seems like a stretch. But, then I read everything and worry about what sticks later.

Sherman Alexie writes of his childhood on the Spokane Indian Reservation by turns far more stark than anything that bubbles out of my mind, but maintains a love and reverence for the people in his life to whom he extended the Names Changed to Protect the Guilty status. I suppose the operative rule here is that we grow up loving our families, even if they are drunks. It takes a lot to wipe clean the psychic scars of our families.

Lone Ranger causes a an intense emotional rollercoaster for the reader as much for the shared debate about our history as for the simple power of the stories about Indians on a reservation that lived the stereotype of drunks with no hope. We write what we see around us and Alexie saw fistfights on the lawn, fathers abandoning their children and a river of alcohol. Is it stereotype or autobiography?

The best writers say F-O and make their daily page quotas. It is not the writer’s job to second-guess his life for appropriate review by people who weren’t there. Even still, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to weep for a culture destroyed by greed or simply shrug and let people figure out on-their-own that everyone has choices to make.

Alexie uses some clever shifts in narrative style to tell interlocked stories about the Spokane Reservation and the people with whom he grew up. Sometimes the narrator or focus character is Victor and sometimes Junior Polatkin. Both of these voices tell tales of alcohol-fueled stupidity mixed with echoes of the great stories of the tribe’s past and a deep all abiding passion for basketball.

We all have our booze stories and we all think ours are the greatest until we read stories like these created by professionals. I haven’t directly experienced fistfights between family members like in “Every Little Hurricane.” I only heard about them a few days later. But, even on Alexie’s reservation good things happen.

Boys skip school to visit grandfathers. Friends share beer, good times and fantastic stories. Mothers make fry bread and make do with government cheese. The people endure. The stories endure, especially when told by Thomas Builds-Fire, a storyteller like Cassandra to whom no one listens. The dream-stories of Indians winning against the whites or at least gaining a more favorable place in society serve as a counterpoint to the misery and despair of reservation life. Indians steal horses and play cowboy songs and hold their own.

There were some concepts missing from Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven at least in the versions of this book that have been circulating since 1993. I thought the basketball was given short shrift in the stories that passed muster with the editor. Hoops only serves as a symbol of loss, the one good thing that goes away because Indians drink too much and wallow in their sadness most palpable.

Sure, there are a few scenes of characters picking up the rock and shooting hoops until they heal. But, mostly Alexie violates “Show don’t Tell” when it comes to the basketball. One of these stories really needed to take place on the court. Most of us have tried to play sports; we would recognize ourselves in the low post sweat running freely making a commitment that the gomer with the ball will never score on us.

But, we are only told how important basketball is for building and supporting what remains of Spokane Reservation society and culture. It’s a flaw in an otherwise beautiful book where the reader can smell the whiskey, puke and meat not even a dog would touch. I could hear the laughter of Indians trying to hold onto what remains of their dignity. I really wanted to learn more about how Victor and/or Junior stood their ground in the ninety-foot arena, but I was only told “an Indian probably was shooting hoops before Naismith invented the game.”

All in all Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven was a very good reason to learn literacy: that we get to learn new things we would never experience. So maybe their will be a better hoops story in the thirtieth anniversary version of the book.



S.J. Day

Review © 2009 G.N. Jacobs

S.J. Day infuses the first book of her Marked series, Eve of Darkness, with all the high-octane sex and action any literary thrill junky would need. Mostly, this is because the heroine, Evangeline Hollis, wipes out a dragon in the ladies room at Qualcomm Stadium during a Chargers-Seahawks football game. She wore flip-flops at the time making it seem all the more impressive.

God, or at least one of his minions, has picked Eve to bear the Mark of Cain and spend however long it takes killing demons until her sins have been worked off. Her sin, you ask? She is that one special girl that tempted the original Mark, Cain, into impossible desires of home and family, when he is so good at splashing demons. So, allowing ten years for divine justice to play out, Cain’s brother, Abel, seduces her and gives her the Mark.

It is actually excellent writing from the James Bond School of screenwriting that Eve took out the dragon in the bathroom. It is such an over the top teaser set six weeks ahead of the rest of the book that it covers up an awful necessity of first books in most Fantasy/Sci-Fi series: Exposition. Explaining how Marked sinners get that way and with what powers they have been blessed to use killing demons can eat up much of the 350 pages or so allotted by editors for a first release in mass-market paperback.

Still, for all of my indulgences concerning exposition, I still felt there was a tad much all at once. Halfway through the book, while I enjoyed Eve Hollis as a spunky, I’m-not-a-victim, reluctant heroine determined to get time off for good behavior, I was complaining that whatever the bad guys were up to wasn’t happening soon enough due to the exposition.

Let’s see, Eve shags Abel and gets the Mark and then we are treated to dueling sex scenes starring Eve and Cain: once in the present where Cain helps her through the change to Marked and one ten years before showing how Cain took Eve’s virginity. If you add in the business of explaining what Marks can do, there went the first half of the book. If it hadn’t been for the interesting twin mother figures of Eve’s Japanese mother, Miyoko Hollis, and her nice neighbor, Mrs. Basso, there would have been very little plot advancement in the first half, the Kiss of Death to a book.

However, the story picks up in the second half so the reader won’t mind the slow start. Cain and Abel both fall for Eve with the attendant Oedipal references that she bears their mother’s name and start competing to get her naked. Demons attack before Eve has gone through training almost as if she were a Bond girl frozen in the headlights. Some attacks are irritating like being peed on by a Tengu, a demon species behind the gargoyle myths, or facing her very own water demon.

Eve also begins to suspect that some of the people on the good guy side are playing their own agendas and using Eve and her exasperating triangle with Cain and Abel as a key pawn in the celestial chess game. S.J. Day leaves it up to the second and third books published almost concurrently with Eve of Darkness for us to learn whether the Archangels and God will resolve their differences.

One thing I’m curious about is to see if we hear more from Cain and Abel about what really happened in the events recorded in the Bible at least in S.J. Day’s universe. Both characters state that the recorded Scripture is some truth, some fictional embellishment and a lot of parable. It would be interesting to hear why Cain killed Abel the first time instead of having Cain clam up like a man still hurting. Or perhaps Ms. Day is sensitive to the Bible thumpers out there that speak loudly about any perceived threat to the Revealed World of God and doesn’t need to kick over that anthill.

The Marked series is loaded with all kinds of archetypal references that make for great literature and valuable psychology sessions. God, Angels, Demons and the Mark of Cain all make for a grand stage on which a female variation of Cincinnatus stands in the breach daring all comers to try their luck. Between these concepts and the flat out unashamed erotic sex and comic book action of course Eve of Darkness will read like the great book it very nearly is. A kick-ass romp of sex and violence will do nicely.