Last post provided some interesting, and I use that word advisedly, information in comments, which in turn provided more fodder for internet diet rabbit hole exploration. It was dark and humid down there. There was also some actually-cool info that was not about horrifying diets; I definitely recommend reading the comments if you missed them. Includes a discussion of cooking with cricket flour. I would try it. Seriously.

Here are a few highlights, by which I mean lowlights:

I was introduced to the monomeal. I propose it as the villain for the next Godzilla movie. Monomeal Stomps Tokyo!

Some diet freaks think fruit is bad. Others claim that fruit is the One True Way and each One True Fruit should not be contaminated by eating it with anything else, including other fruits.

Meet Freelee the Banana Girl, a vlogger who is scarily thin despite devouring 50 bananas every day and who once dated another vlog personality by the you-can't-make-this-shit-up name of DurianRider. You will be unsurprised to hear that she thinks chemotherapy rather than, you know, cancer kills people with cancer. And also that periods are a sign that you have toxins in your body, so if your period stops when you go on an all-banana diet, that proves that it's good for you.

My conclusion is that any time anyone says cavemen did anything and follows that with diet advice, their knowledge of cavemen consists of The Flintstones.

And also that anyone can get rich or at least Instagram-famous quick by coming up with an idiotic diet with a catchy name and a scientifically illiterate caveman justification.

I propose Monkey Meals (TM). You can eat anything you like as long as you eat five bananas first. Guaranteed weight loss! (Because bananas don't have many calories, but if you eat five of them before you eat anything else, you'll be too full and/or nauseated to eat much else. Seriously, I think this would work. For as long as you can stand it.) Like the monkeys they evolved from, cavemen ate lots of bananas. So as long as you eat enough bananas, you will be as healthy and skinny as a caveman!
For reasons that really don't bear rehashing, I spent the last two years getting told to go on diets. Every kind of diet. No "nightshades." No acid. No gluten. No dairy. Low-FODMAP (bans dairy, gluten, soy, legumes, and half of all fruits and vegetables.) Low-fat. "Eat nothing but bone broth that you made yourself, and if you don't simmer it for six hours, it's no good." "Microwaving food destroys its nutrients." At one point I had successive doctors tell me to go on a low-fiber diet and a high-fiber diet.

Every single diet-pusher, whether doctor or rando, said or implied (usually explicitly said), "If you don't do this, you'll never get better. Don't you want to get better?"

This was especially infuriating given that I was so underweight that I had symptoms of malnutrition. And also that in two years of dieting, there had never once been any indication whatsoever that my illness was caused by diet or that changing my diet was helpful. I eventually came to the conclusion that Americans are fucking insane about food and that a primary manifestation of sexism is controlling women by controlling what they eat.

Anyway, I am not dieting now. But now that I am slightly less likely to hit NEON RAGE APOCALYPSE at the word "diet," I clicked on a link and fell into an internet rabbit hole of diet advice. Like the evolved forager that I am, I bring you my findings for amusement, analysis, and mockery:

- A comparison of wild fruits and vegetables with cultivated ones, concluding that eating fruits and vegetables is unhealthy because they are unnatural and not what the cavemen ate.

By that reasoning there is literally nothing we can eat unless we get air-dropped into some untouched stretch of rainforest to forage for wild bananas.

- Eating fruit makes you fat.

- Humans did not evolve to eat fruit.

We're PRIMATES. Monkeys love bananas.

- Corn causes Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

- Corn causes ADHD.

- Corn causes autism.

- Corn causes cancer.

- Broccoli causes cancer.

- Hot water causes cancer.

The last one, from a study saying that drinking hot beverages can cause cancer, had the best response: David Spiegelhalter, a professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Britain's University of Cambridge, said: "In the case of very hot drinks, the IARC concludes they are probably hazardous, but can't say how big the risk might be," according to the Australian Financial Review. "This may be interesting science, but makes it difficult to construct a sensible response."

- A Breatharian – as defined in the book A Year Without Food – is a person who chooses to live mostly, or completely, from Pranic nourishment. Israeli author Ray Maor claims that once Breatharians have trained their body to absorb this energy from the air and sunlight, they are no longer dependent on food. Many of them continue to taste food for enjoyment, but do not need it for survival, he says.

Umm.

- Brian J. Ford has suggested that ketosis, possibly caused by alcoholism or low-carb dieting, produces acetone, which is highly flammable and could therefore lead to apparently spontaneous combustion.

The Atkins diet will make you burst into flame!

- Our ancestors NEVER ate a carb. They ate meat and fat and that was it. On that diet, they grew, improved their lot, invented the wheel, survived in caves and hinted in groups.

Bad history aside (even in the Arctic, people ate seaweed and lichen), anyone who's ever lived in a small town or attended school knows that a major human activity is indeed hinting in groups.
Explanation on FMK tag if you missed it. Please feel free to discuss your vote in comments.

Poll #18446 FMK # 3: Drugs, Deserts, and the Devil
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 60


The Black Arts, by Richard Cavendish. A history of black magic from 1968. Normally I would think this is total bullshit but it does have footnotes and a bibliography.

View Answers

Fling
21 (42.0%)

Marry
5 (10.0%)

Kill
24 (48.0%)

Chasing the Scream, by Johann Hari. A history of the US War on Drugs, starting from the death of Billie Holiday. Sounds like it might have a lot of info I didn't already know. By an award-winning British journalist, so probably good; probably also incredibly depressing.

View Answers

Fling
16 (30.2%)

Marry
20 (37.7%)

Kill
17 (32.1%)

Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey. Classic book from 1968 on being a park ranger in Utah; nature writing + politics, I assume. I'll be curious if it's aged well.

View Answers

Fling
27 (52.9%)

Marry
14 (27.5%)

Kill
10 (19.6%)

Do No Harm, by Henry Marsh. Memoir of a brain surgeon. I really liked some articles I read by him. Unlike the stereotype of surgeons, he seemed humble and compassionate.

View Answers

Fling
34 (66.7%)

Marry
15 (29.4%)

Kill
2 (3.9%)

A Higher Call, by Adam Makos. Nonfiction about an encounter between two fighter pilots, an American and a German, during WWII. I'm assuming it went a lot farther than one encounter, and no, I don't mean THAT sort of encounter.

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Fling
18 (35.3%)

Marry
15 (29.4%)

Kill
18 (35.3%)

A Voyage Long and Strange, by Tony Horwitz. The history of America interspersed with Horowitz's road trip to try re-enactments, go down the Mississippi on a canoe, etc. I've enjoyed some of Horowitz's books and found others forgettable.

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Fling
25 (49.0%)

Marry
6 (11.8%)

Kill
20 (39.2%)

Soldiers of the Night, by David Schoenbrun. A history of the French Resistance. Back cover mentions "the bilingual, bisexual American who executed Nazis and collaborators with an ice pick or his bare hands" and "dear little old ladies who became master thieves."

View Answers

Fling
33 (61.1%)

Marry
18 (33.3%)

Kill
3 (5.6%)

The blurb writer was confused; this is not a Gothic, but a regency. However, it does briefly turn into a Gothic for about ten pages toward the end, so I see how that could happen. I too struggled to categorize it, as, unsurprisingly considering the author, it's hard to categorize. It has the plot but not the substance of a romance; the heroine only displays brief flickers of romantic feelings for the hero, and they don't interact much. It's mostly a comedy with a lunatic excess of plot, about half of which is crammed into the last twenty pages.

The time is 1815. The heroine is Philadelphia "Delphie" Carteret, music teacher and caretaker for her sick and periodically delusional mother. The plot begins when she goes to some long-lost relatives to hit them up for money to take care of her mom, accompanied by her madcap neighbor Jenny. The relatives own a castle with a moat, into which Jenny cunningly flings herself and pretends to be drowning so the hero, Gareth Penistone, will (reluctantly) rescue her and ensconce her and Delphie at the castle, over the objections of cousin Mordred. Once ensconced, Delphie is astounded to find that the family thinks she's an imposter, because someone named Elaine has been claiming to be the Carteret daughter for the last twenty years.

This lunatic farrago of wackiness plus semi-random Arthurian references (there is also a notorious and deceased ancestor named Lancelot, and ten peppy children who all have Arthurian names) is completely typical of Joan Aiken. So are the funny names. I do not for a second believe that she was unaware of the implications of a hero named Penistone (yes, I know it's a village in Yorkshire), especially given this line of dialogue: "I don't like these angry voices and all this talk of Bollington and Penistone!"

Though a series of ridiculous events, Delphie fake-marries Gareth Penistone; needless to say, the fake marriage turns out to be real, to everyone's dismay. The ten Arthurian kids tend to a languid poet in debtor's prison, the hero poisons a sick mouse he's supposed to be nursing back to health, Mordred lives up to his name (name a kid Mordred, and you deserve what you get), and the last chapter consists of long blocks of text in which characters madly explain who secretly married who and why the impersonation-- all of which was so convoluted that I did not even try to follow it.

Funny, fluffy, utterly absurd. If it sounds fun, you will enjoy it. Some animals are collateral damage of villainous plotting.

Only $3.99 for the ebook on Amazon: The Five-Minute Marriage

Amazon has a number of similarly priced Aiken books on Kindle. Grab 'em if you want 'em!

If any of the people who wanted this book from me would rather have it in hard copy, I'll send my copy to the first who comments for Paypaled postage.
This is the first book I’ve read by Walsh. I think she’s best known for a children’s time travel novel, A Chance Child, and official Lord Peter Wimsey fanfic.

Earth has been environmentally devastated and is about to be destroyed; it’s unclear if that’s because of war or something else. Many people have already fled in spaceships. The book is from the point of view of a very young girl, Pammy, whose family is with the very last group to flee, in a low-grade spaceship and with minimal preparation and supplies. The mad scramble to get out results in everyone being allowed to bring exactly one book, but no one consulting with each other to prevent duplication; this has major repercussions on the planet they end up on.

This is children’s sf, very short, written in clear, simple prose but with some remarkably beautiful imagery. It’s written from the point of view of a very young girl, Pammy, but she uses “we” and “Pammy” rather than “I,” reflecting that she’s part of a community of children.

The best aspect of the book is the evocative descriptions of the alien world and its landscapes and ecology. I absolutely love this sort of thing, and the world here is my favorite type: dangerous, strange, and beautiful. The book was worth reading just for that. It also has an excellent ending.

I had some problems with the plot, both because some crucial points required everyone to be idiots and that some things needed more explanation to be plausible or emotionally resonant.

The rule about bringing only one book is supposedly because of weight/space issues, but a tiny children’s paperback and the complete works of Shakespeare are both considered “one book.” This makes no sense. It should have been determined by weight or mass, as those were the reasons for the restriction.

Other issues are spoilery. Read more... )

The Green Book
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
( May. 27th, 2017 12:22 pm)
How to play: Fling means I spend a single night of passion (or possibly passionate hatred) with the book, and write a review of it, or however much of it I managed to read. Marry means the book goes back on my shelves, to wait for me to get around to it. Kill is actually "sudden death" - I read a couple paragraphs or pages, then decide to donate or reshelf (or read) based on that. You don't have to have read or previously heard of the books to vote on them. Please feel free to explain your reasoning for your votes in comments.

Italics taken from the blurbs. Gothics have the best blurbs.

Poll #18418 FMK # 2: Houses Are Terrifying
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 48


Castle Barebane, by Joan Aiken. A series of lurid murders... a roofless ruin with crumbling battlements... nephew and niece callously abandoned in a slum... a man of mysterious origins and enigmatic habits... dark emanations from London's underworld... Mungo, an old sailor...

View Answers

Fling
24 (53.3%)

Marry
14 (31.1%)

Kill
7 (15.6%)

The Five-Minute Marriage, by Joan Aiken. An imposter has claimed her inheritance... a counterfeit marriage to the principle heir, her cousin... family rivalries festering for generations... a shocking episode of Cartaret family history will be repeated.

View Answers

Fling
27 (61.4%)

Marry
9 (20.5%)

Kill
8 (18.2%)

The Weeping Ash, by Joan Aiken. Sixteen-year-old Fanny Paget, newly married to the odious Captain Paget... in northern India, Scylla and Calormen Paget, twin cousins of the hateful Captain, have begun a seemingly impossible flight for their lives, pursued by a vengeful maharaja... elephant, camel, horse, raft... The writer has used her own two-hundred-year-old house in Sussex, England for the setting.

View Answers

Fling
19 (39.6%)

Marry
14 (29.2%)

Kill
15 (31.2%)

Winterwood, by Dorothy Eden. The moldering elegance of a decaying Venetian palazzo... pursued by memories of the scandalous trial that rocked London society... their daughter, Flora, crippled by a tragic accident... Charlotte's evil scheming... a series of letters in the deceased Lady Tameson's hand

View Answers

Fling
21 (52.5%)

Marry
4 (10.0%)

Kill
15 (37.5%)

The Place of Sapphires, by Florence Engel Randall. A demon-haunted house... two beautiful young sisters... the pain of a recent tragedy... a sinister and hateful force from the past... by the author of Hedgerow.

View Answers

Fling
20 (47.6%)

Marry
7 (16.7%)

Kill
15 (35.7%)

Shadow of the Past, by Daoma Winston. An unseen presence... fled to Devil's Dunes... strange "accidents..." it seemed insane... the threads of the mysterious, menacing net cast over her life... What invisible hand threatened destruction?

View Answers

Fling
13 (34.2%)

Marry
2 (5.3%)

Kill
23 (60.5%)

The winner of FMK # 1! Alas, I did not fall madly in love with it, but I did enjoy it. FMK is definitely off to a good start, because God knows how long that book has languished unread on my shelves. I'm pretty sure at least five years and possibly ten. But I'm very glad I finally got to it.

Twelve-year-old Lucy returns to the small English village of Hagworthy, which she hasn’t visited since she was seven. There she stays with her aunt, reconnects with some childhood friends and finds that both she and they have changed, and looks on in growing alarm as the well-meaning but ignorant new vicar resurrects the ancient tradition of the Horn Dance, which is connected to the Wild Hunt.

The premise plus the opening sentences probably tell you everything you need to know about the book:

The train had stopped in a cutting, so steep that Lucy, staring through the window, could see the grassy slopes beyond captured in intense detail only a yard or two away: flowers, insects, patches of vivid red earth. She became intimate with this miniature landscape, alone with it in a sudden silence, and then the train jolted, oozed steam from somewhere beneath, and moved on between shoulders of Somerset hillside.

This is one of my favorite genres which sadly does not seem to exist any more, the subset of British children’s fantasy, usually set in small towns or villages, which focuses on atmosphere, beautiful prose, and capturing delicate moments in time. Character is secondary, plot is tertiary, and there may be very little action (though some have a lot); the magical aspects are often connected to folklore or ancient traditions, and may be subtle or questionable until the end.

You can see all those elements in those two sentences I quoted; the entire subgenre consists of inviting the reader to become intimate with minature landscapes.

This is obviously subjective and debatable, but I think of Alan Garner, Susan Cooper (especially Greenwitch), and Robert Westall as writers with books in this subgenre, but not Diana Wynne Jones. The settings are the sort parodied in Cold Comfort Farm. Hagworthy is full of darkly muttering villagers who kept making me think, “Beware, Robert Poste’s child!”

In The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy, Lucy’s parents are divorced, and her mother is now living in another country with a baby brother Lucy has never met. This is mentioned maybe two or three times, very briefly, which is interesting because so many books would make a much bigger deal of it. Lucy returns to Hagworthy for a vacation with her aunt, a botanist.

Of her childhood friends, the two girls have become horse-mad and have nothing in common with Lucy. The boy, Kester, is now a moody misfit teenager, and Lucy, who is also a bit of a moody misfit, becomes friends with him all over again. They wander around the countryside, fossil-hunting and stag-watching, periodically getting in fights over Kester’s refusal to discuss the thing hanging over the story, which is the new vicar’s revival of the Horn Dance to fundraise at a fete. This is very obviously going to awaken the Wild Hunt, and Kester has clearly been mystically targeted as its victim. Though there is a ton of dark muttering about what a bad idea this is, no one does anything about this until nearly the end, when Lucy finally makes first a misfired attempt to stop the Horn Dance, then a successful one to save Kester.

The atmosphere and prose is lovely, and if you like that sort of thing, you will like this book. Even for a book that isn’t really about the plot, the plot had problems. One was the total failure of any adult to even try to do anything sensible ever, for absolutely no reason, until Lucy finally manages to ask the right person the right question. This could have been explained as some magical thing preventing them from acting, but it wasn’t.

The other problem I had was that nothing unpredictable ever happens. Everyone is exactly what they seem: the blacksmith has mystical knowledge, the vicar is an innocent in over his head, the horse-mad girls have nothing in their heads but horses, and so forth. I kept expecting something to be slightly less obvious—for the vicar to know exactly what he’s doing and have a nefarious purpose, for the horse-mad girls to not be as dumb as they seem or to have their horsey skills play a role in saving Kester, for Lucy’s aunt to know more about magic than the blacksmith, etc—but no.

I looked up Penelope Lively. It looks like her famous book is Ghost of Thomas Kempe, which I think I also own.

There’s an album of music based on the book which you can listen to online. It’s by the Heartwood Institute, and is instrumental and atmospheric.

The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy
[personal profile] melannen has been culling her bookshelves by playing "Fuck Marry Kill" via poll. In the interests of doing the same, and also getting back to posting more book reviews, I have decided to join her. (I am doing "fling" rather than "fuck" just because my posts get transferred to Goodreads and I don't want EVERY post of mine on there littered with fucks.)

How to play: Fling means I spend a single night of passion (or possibly passionate hatred) with the book, and write a review of it, or however much of it I managed to read. Marry means the book goes back on my shelves, to wait for me to get around to it. (That could be a very long time.) Kill means I should donate it without attempting to read it. You don't have to have read or previously heard of the books to vote on them.

Please feel free to explain your reasoning for your votes in comments. For this particular poll, I have never read anything by any of the authors (or if I did, I don't remember it) and except for Hoover and Lively, have never even heard of the authors other than that at some point I apparently thought their book sounded interesting enough to acquire.

Poll #18415 FMK: Vintage YA/children's SFF
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 50


The Spring on the Mountain, by Judy Allen. Three kids have magical, possibly Arthurian adventures on a week in the country.

View Answers

Fling
19 (48.7%)

Marry
10 (25.6%)

Kill
10 (25.6%)

The Lost Star, by H. M. Hoover. A girl who lives on another planet hears an underground cry for help (and finds chubby gray cat centaurs if the cover is accurate)

View Answers

Fling
22 (53.7%)

Marry
13 (31.7%)

Kill
6 (14.6%)

The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy, by Penelope Lively. Lucy visits her aunt in Hagworthy and is embroiled in the ancient Horn Dance and Wild Hunt.

View Answers

Fling
27 (61.4%)

Marry
6 (13.6%)

Kill
11 (25.0%)

Carabas, by Sophie Masson. Looks like a medieval setting. A shapeshifting girl gets accused of being a witch and runs off with the miller's son.

View Answers

Fling
19 (46.3%)

Marry
12 (29.3%)

Kill
10 (24.4%)

Of Two Minds, by Carol Mates and Perry Nodelman. Princess Lenora can makes what she imagines real; Prince Coren can read minds, but everyone can read his mind. (Ouch!)

View Answers

Fling
22 (52.4%)

Marry
11 (26.2%)

Kill
9 (21.4%)

rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
( May. 16th, 2017 09:48 am)
Rebel, book three of the Change series, is out now. It's a hopeful post-apocalyptic YA series co-written with Sherwood Smith.

If you haven't read any of the series, book three is not the place to start; book one, Stranger, is. If you have read the first two, I hope you enjoy this one.

Amazon ebook: Rebel (The Change Book 3)

Trade paperback: Rebel

Ebook at Book View Cafe, in all formats: Rebel

Questions or comments welcome, but please use rot13.com for any Rebel spoilers.
Possibly the best view I have ever had. Last night I turned out the lights inside, and lay in bed watching the lights outside. And the Bellagio fountains: Read more... )
You may have heard, as did I, that Las Vegas has gentrified and is no longer a haven for displays of tackiness and titties. Read more... )
rachelmanija: (Default)
( May. 12th, 2017 01:20 pm)
Photos from Vegas. Enjoy (or be appalled) vicariously!
rachelmanija: (Sakura)
( May. 12th, 2017 01:19 pm)
My plane was stuck on the runway in LA for over two hours, because the pilots were reassigned, I suspect in error; the airline people all seemed baffled. But I did finally arrive in Vegas! Photos below.

I was greeted at the Las Vegas airport by a giant iguana.

Read more... )
An absolutely lovely memoir by Oliver Sacks' boyfriend, a love story about Sacks and New York City: each equal objects of Hayes' affections.

Hayes, a writer and photographer, moves to New York City after the unexpected death of his partner. A lifelong insomniac, he wanders the city by day and night, sometimes striking up conversations with New Yorkers and asking if he can take their picture, sometimes simply observing. As a lover of cities and being a stranger in a new city, I found this to be one of the very best books I've read for capturing this state of mind. It also made me really miss New York, which I have not visited in many years.

The other part of the book is Hayes' account of how he met Oliver Sacks (when Sacks wrote him a fan letter), how they fell in love, how they stayed in love, and how Sacks died. It's heartbreaking but a lot more about life and love than it is about death. Love stories, even true ones, often feel generic: the emotions are real but not individual. This one makes both Sacks and Hayes and the particulars of their relationship come to life. Oliver Sacks is exactly as charmingly odd in love as one might expect from reading his books; Bill Hayes is a very different type of person (and an extremely different type of writer) but they share a wholehearted delight in observation, in other people's perceptions and experiences, and in the small details of life that make it an endless source of fascination and joy.

I recommend getting this book in hardcover. It's a very beautiful physical object, with the dustcover cut away to show snippets of the image below, as if peering through apartment windows. It also contains photographs which may not show up well in e-book.

Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me

Thanks to Rydra Wong for the rec!
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