Monthly Archives: April 2015

Bitter Greens, by Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens“Oh, I must have some of the witch’s rampion, or I shall surely die.” And so, compelled by an overwhelming pregnancy craving, Rapunzel’s mother launched an evil pact: a baby girl in exchange for some bitter greens.

Author Kate Forsyth researched all of the Rapunzel stories told down through the centuries and re-imagined them in three women’s stories spanning the seventeenth century, folded into one another over and over. As the novel begins, we see the writer and socialite Charlotte-Rose de la Force in despair as she is forced to join a convent after being banished from the sparkling court of King Louis XIV in 1690. She refuses to believe that she will be there long, but as the dreary days go by she is befriended by one of the older nuns who enlists her help in the garden and spins tales of a young girl a century ago who was locked up in a tower by an evil witch who climbs into the tower using the girl’s long hair. These three stories of Charlotte Rose, the witch herself, and the girl in the tower are told alternately throughout this spellbinding novel. Tucked in between the chapters are snippets of the classic Rapunzel story as told by many authors over the years. The three stories come together startlingly, yet perfectly, at the end.

Historical fiction and retold fairy tales are two of my favorite genres, and Bitter Greens was a skilled example of both. Sensitive readers should take note that the author often states that there were three paths available to women in the seventeenth century: wife, nun, or prostitute (and I cleaned that up a bit). There is one particularly gruesome scene, but also a pervasive understanding of sex as a way to achieve goals, whether it is just food and shelter or social climbing. There are also beautiful romances, of course. Forsyth has penned an absorbing tale that will make twenty-first century women appreciate their freedom to follow their dreams while reveling in the eternal beauty of true love. Recommended.

Disclaimer: I read an advance reader copy of this book. Opinions expressed as solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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Dude, Paleo Is So Rad

I spend my days, Monday through Friday, staring at books on a screen. Then I come home and stare at actual books— or Book TV, blogs, or other reading material that feeds my addiction. In the course of a day, the publishing world marketeers have great fun with me, sticking ads for all kinds of books in my face in the hopes that I will buy them— which I do, to the tune of almost a couple million dollars a year, but only children’s and teens’ books. However, the ads I see are for all kinds of books, and if I’m particularly interested, I’ll look them up.

wild dietLast week, a new Paleo book came out, and since I am a low-carber, I had to take a peek. Paleo is a diet and lifestyle that emphasizes eating food the way our very distant (as in, pre-row crop agriculture) ancestors did, as well as strength training, rather than aerobic exercise. The new book is called The Wild Diet, by Abel James, and as I continued to search, I saw that Mr. James has a website with a blog and a long series of podcasts. I sent a reminder to my home email so that I could listen later, since I doubt that my employer would be able to see a connection between Paleo bio-hackers and Pete the Cat.

Abel James is known as the Fat Burning Man, as seen on his website www.fatburningman.com, where he tells his life story and interviews all sorts of other health-conscious types. I listened to the podcast with Mark Divine, a former Navy Seal and founder of Sealfit, and they talked about de-stressing and the importance of life beyond biceps and burpees. I also listened to the one with Dr. Alan Christianson about thyroid, since hypothyroidism seems to be an epidemic among women these days.

Abel James

Abel James

The next day, I looked around at Paleo in general and found Robb Wolf, who wrote The Paleo Solution Diet five whole years ago, and who also happens to have a website with podcasts, called, very simply, www.robbwolf.com. When I looked at his latest podcast, guess what! It was Abel James. Apparently, it’s a very tight little world out there in PaleoLand. James has a great story to tell, though. He was a sickly child, but his mother, who was a nurse, understood nutrition and herbal medicine very well, and he grew up to thrive. Then he went to work in D.C. for the evil food industry and had to eat the foods he represented, and consequently, he became weak and sick. His doctor continued to give him more and more medication, until he didn’t know if his symptoms were caused by a disease or his medication. (This is uncomfortably familiar to me.) He was also placed on a low-fat, “heart-healthy” diet and felt worse every day. In the meantime, his brother, who was tall and scrawny at 140 pounds, started lifting weights and eating the high-protein and fat diet common to body-builders, and gained 60 pounds of pure muscle. Abel started to do some research, tried Paleo, and is in the best shape ever. I found it fascinating that he could not tell the whole story in his first book, because he was still under the non-disclosure agreements that he signed for the food industry! I think he got to reveal more in The Wild Diet, just because enough time has gone by. Can’t wait to get the scoop there.

These guys are so smart, with years of scientific information about nutrition and strength training, but their world is so testosterone-soaked it is hilarious sometimes. They can go from a meaningful exchange about some obscure chemical in the body to a conversation that sounds something like this:

“So, we were out there bouldering, man,…”

“Dude, that is so rad.”

“Totally.”

By the time we got to the end of the podcast this morning, I was wiping tears of laughter from my eyes, but my husband thought it was great, which is so terrific! Let’s face it, most diet and exercise books are for women/ by women, so getting guys into caring about health is an achievement. Granted, most of these men are on the radical fringe of health, bio-hacking with measured amounts of coffee with coconut oil or “intermittent fasting,” which is probably not a spiritual exercise. However, they are getting into the deep weeds of biological research, and we can benefit from their discoveries without all the discomfort. Furthermore, what guy doesn’t want to hear about mud runs and dead lifts and bouldering, whatever all that may be? Totally.

Ladies, the Fat Burning Man website does have recipes and articles on misleading food labels and such, so it really is interesting. But guys, there is also a podcast called “100 Awesome Ways to Eat Bacon.”

Haven’t you clicked over there yet?

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