Monday, May 22, 2017

Douglas J. Wood’s Presidential Declarations: A Book Review



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Douglas J. Wood’s Presidential Declarations is the sequel to his 2014 novel Presidential Intentions, and is the second book in the Samantha Harrison trilogy. While I did not stumble onto this novel on my own and was asked to review the series by Wood’s press team, I found this text to be a worthy sequel that built upon the foundation that Wood established with his freshman effort.

In terms of plot, the novel follows Harrison’s life starting two years post 2016 presidential election, starting with Harrison’s failure to win her state’s senate seat. In the wake of an uncertain future, Eric Cantor, now the Governor of Virginia, nominates Harrison to a recently vacated House seat. Yet, within in weeks of reentering Washington as a lawmaker, Harrison finds herself appointed to the post of Secretary of State for the very president that beat her in the 2016 presidential race. Eyes set on 2020, Harrison struggles to occupy her role for the country while holding on to her political aspirations.

At this point, Harrison enters a twisted and at times entrancing political thriller. Her role places her in danger, sticks her into the hands of Hamas, and allows her to assume control of the country when a terrorist attack decimates Washington D.C. and leaves President Clinton incapacitated. Bombs explode, terrorists are detained, and life goes on. As Vonnegut would say, “So it goes.”

At times, Wood dazzles, especially when he tosses politics aside and focuses on story telling. Instead of debating the success of Obama or Bush era policies, Wood is at his best when he presents a situation, crafts a response, and finally leads both Harrison and the fictional version of the United States through the case study. The bulk of the novel rests in the story, yet these political debates resurface when they hasty 2020 election occurs. That said, holding with Wood’s style, the chapters start with a smattering of politically centered statements, each drawn from Harrison’s political campaigns. At times these segments did well to further characterize Samantha Harrison, but at others they served to distract and delay the true narrative.

While Presidential Intentions darts throughout Harrison’s history, Presidential Declarations follows a linear path through pre, during, and post crisis America. This choice allows one to settle in and enjoy the narrative without working to determine when and where it is coming from. That said, the writer in me cringes from time-to-time as Amanda remains a relatively flat and underdeveloped character and Watts, who is fully flushed out in book one, is reduced to largely a stage prop in this incarnation. In the end, the novel stands as a satisfying sequel to a promising debut.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dr. Steven R. Gundry’s The Plant Paradox: A Book Review



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When TLC book tours asked me to review Dr. Steven R. Gundry’s The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in "Healthy" Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain (click here for hardback and here for kindle) it came at the end of a string of self-help books and right after reading Dave Asprey’s Head Strong which tackled similar topics head on. Like Aspery, Dr. Grundy tackles the fallacies of both the western diet and lifestyle. Yet, at the same time, this book is an easy read, one that will open your eyes to both diet and lifestyle factors.

Dr. Gundy takes on lectins, their presence in our food supply, and the devastating effects that these compounds have on our gut. Citing evolutionary principles, he notes how plants have adapted to the predators by inserting lectins into their flesh. Plants find ways to spread their seeds (babies), and thus when we consume the wrong food or the right food at the wrong time or an item of foodstock we have not coevolved with, our gut suffers. When our gut suffers, the bacteria that we need to feel good suffers as well, meaning our bodies inflame, our gut’s leak, and our health suffers. We get sick (most of immune system originates in our gut) and our brain’s fog. Beyond his discussion on NASIDS, GMO's, and other modern concoctions, Dr. Gundy expounds upon the negative outcomes from lectin consumption.

How prevalent are some of these mistakes? For example, most apples you find in your local produce department are not fresh, but rather an item picked six to nine months prior. These apples were picked when they weren’t ripe and therefore they would have tasted horrible at the time and made their prey sick. They are stored, sprayed with a chemical compound to ripen right before they hit the shelves, and are thus purchased in the same state. The problem in the transaction comes in the form of the fact that the lectins originally in the apple to prevent premature consumption and protect the seeds are still present because the apple was not tree ripened. When we eat the apple, we consume the compound and are dealt with the deleterious effects. Such food faux pas litter our existence.

As a cardiologist, Dr. Gundy has had chance not only to treat many of the maladies that poor diet causes, but also the wherewithal to experiment, consider, and alter the lives of his patients. He has created a careful list of approved foods. His method consists of hitting the approved list only for a time in order to seed the gut and cleanse the body, then and only then, can we reintroduce other foods in order to explore whether our body can tolerate them. Further, he provides recipes, discusses the misconceptions, and even dissects the world’s blue zones in order to discover the secrets of human diet and longevity. In the end, he crafts a strong, great read that will establish life altering changes.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sarah Robb O'Hagan’s Extreme You: Step Up. Stand Out. Kick Ass. Repeat: A Book Review



Sarah Robb O'Hagan’s Extreme You: Step Up. Stand Out. Kick Ass. Repeat represents a departure from the typical book I review. That said, I found the premise interesting and thus jumped at the opportunity from TLC book tours and Harper Collins. While I may not assign the text a perfect score, O’Hagan details an intriguing life, one that has taken her from working for New Zealand Air to Virgin Atlantic to Atari to Nike to Gatorade.

What separates the book from a lengthy stack of self-help texts comes in that O’Hagan does not admit to having all the answers. O’Hagan posits various philosophies to court the Extreme You, this exaggeration on personal greatness ranges from checking yourself out and exploring the options before you as well as the depth to your soul. She lists numerous strategies, but also details her numerous failures. While she fails to fully acknowledge luck as a player in her successful rise through the world of corporate enterprise, she does craft a trail of persistence. She pushed herself, pushed those around her, pushed buttons, took chances, and tried to upend nearly everything in her path to success.

Her real bits of wisdom rest in these failures. She missed a fundamental shift at Virgin and was left out in the cold. That’s right, not only did she get fired, but she admits her faults and encourages us to do the same. Later, she fails to understand her lack of interest in video games and nearly ruins her career path. It is here, as at other times, where her persistence pays off with a dash of luck. At Nike she feuded with a marketing team without taking the time to understand the direction of the company and in the end her efforts nearly cost her all of her credibility. Her extremes prompted both her successes and her failures, and while her career path has not been perfect, she has come out on top time and again due to these very same characteristics.