Book Review: Shinrin Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing

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Shinrin Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing

by Yoshifumi Miyazaki

Review:

First, I’d like to say that I absolutely loved this book! It is one of my top three books so far this year. I have been telling everyone who will listen about the things I learned in this book. (I’ve probably annoyed a few people doing it too, but it’s so worth the read!)

What is Shinrin Yoku? It is the art of forest bathing. By bathing, it does not mean getting into water. It means immersing oneself in the experience of being in a forest. It can be for 20 minutes or two hours, but the idea is to get out there in nature. The author is a researcher who has studied the effects of this practice on many people, from stressed-out office workers, to city dwellers, etc. His results are astonishing, but probably not too surprising to those who spend a lot of time in nature.

The benefits are enormous. Lowered stress hormones, improvement in mood, enhanced creativity, lower blood pressure, more energy, improvement of the immune system, better sleep, and more.

The photos throughout the book are fantastic. So beautiful and relaxing! You will want to visit those places. Very appealing artwork!

Studies are shown in the book, along with details of the results. The researchers have published many scientific papers on this subject. Research is supported by the government in Japan too. It is important research and one can hope that the American government would follow this example and fund more research into the benefits of forest and nature therapy.

For those who have no access to a forest, other options are given. Such as growing bonsai or using essential oils. Essential oils mimic the effects of the natural terpenes you would find in a forest. In Japan, many of the trees give off these terpenes and these have been shown by research to help people relax and experience these benefits. But, you don’t need to travel to Japan to experience these benefits. There are many amazing forests in Japan, but there are natural areas all over the world too. Some of the forest therapy places in Japan are documented in the book, should you desire to go visit them. They look beautiful and the photos help the reader see these places.

Other books have written about the effects of nature therapy (Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, and F. Williams’ The Nature Fix come to mind), but this is the first book I’ve read that was written by one of the actual researchers who has studied this firsthand. I enjoyed seeing the actual studies and the results that they documented. They studied a variety of citizens to see if the effects are the same across the board and they seemed to be. Having spent a lot of time in nature myself, I can attest that these techniques really work.

If you want to learn more about how to get these benefits, read this book! I can’t recommend it enough. If more of us would go out in nature and use the methods described here, our overall health would improve, our stress levels would drop and we’d be better off as a whole. I encourage you to try it. You won’t regret it.

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Book Review: No Word for Wilderness

No Word for Wilderness

By Roger Thompson

Review

The title of this book refers to the fact that there is no word for wilderness in Italian. According to the author, in Italy, national parks are not the big deal that they are in other parts of the world. The locals don’t go visit them often. So, when something threatens the existence of the last bears there, people are not familiar with them.

One bear made himself known though. The author tells the story of Bruno, a bear who wreaked havoc during a major sports event. This bear killed sheep and didn’t eat them all, upsetting plenty of farmers. The bear ended up in Germany, where it was killed. The story was known internationally.

The other bears live quietly in the mountains and go about their lives in relative secret. There are estimates of as few as 40 of the brown bears left. They are called the Abruzzo bears after their location. But many threats to their continued survival exist. Not much is known about them since they have not been studied in depth.

There are lots of politics involved, including the appointment of the supervisors of the various parks. Plus, oddly enough, the Mafia is involved in cattle ranching, which poses another threat to the bears’ habitat since they are keeping the cattle in the parks. This is allowed under Italian law, so the bears are not in a good position.

One scientist wants to clone the bears and other endangered species. His technique looks promising, as shown in the book. But, is that the best solution?

This is primarily a book about the various threats to the continued existence of these bears. It does not seem to be intended to be a thorough life history account of the Abruzzo bears. It’s more about what is happening to them and what is being done at the moment.

The book is a good introduction to the bears and what challenges they face. Will it be enough to awaken an interest in preserving the last brown bears in Italy? This book is a must-read for conservationists or bear lovers. There must be something that can be done to save the last of the bears before they go extinct.

 

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Book Review: Kings of the Yukon

Kings of the Yukon

by Adam Weymouth

Review:

The people, the river, and the fish. Kings of the Yukon is a book about more than just salmon. Author Adam Weymouth journeyed down the entire length of the Yukon River, along the way meeting local residents, native peoples, seeing the incredible sights and learning more about the salmon.

The King Salmon is a dying breed. The author paddled the entire length of the Yukon River, from Canada to Alaska. Along the way, he talked to many people involved in the salmon fishing industry, First Nations people whose culture depends on the salmon, cannery workers, people in fish camps, and more.

The King salmon is also called the Chinook. It is native to the northwest and the Arctic. Over many years, the fish runs have collapsed, to the point that many First Nations people upriver have voluntarily stopped fishing for them, hoping that the populations will rebound. Not only that, but the fish that do return now are much smaller than historically. This may be because fishermen select the largest fish and this leaves only the smaller ones to make their way back to their natal streams, where they spawn.

The salmon’s story goes beyond just Alaska and Canada though. Salmon is shipped worldwide from there. It is served in fine restaurants and stores. Salmon used to be in many river systems from which it is now missing. The author tells us about the salmon as he makes his way downriver.

I enjoyed how the science of salmon was woven into the story of his journey. The people he meets all have something to say about the salmon. He sees tiny villages, fishing camps, and big cities as he goes. Everywhere, he eats salmon, from fresh caught from the river to canned. As a reader, you get a glimpse into this world that not many of us will ever see. It’s remote and difficult to get to. Seeing things from the river gives you a unique perspective on this story. Although King Salmon are found on the river where I live, I learned more in this book about them than I have ever before. I highly recommend it. It’s eye-opening to see how humans have affected every ecosystem on earth. The point will come when our harvests are no longer sustainable. This book will show you the effects of this.

It’s a good solid read and will leave you with plenty to think about later.

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Book Review: The Dream Daughter

The Dream Daughter

by Diane Chamberlain

Review:

Time travel stories really have to be done right to pull it off and make the story believable. In The Dream Daughter, author Diane Chamberlain does just that.

The story begins in 1970 where we find Carly Sears pregnant with a sick baby. The doctors are unable to do anything to help the baby, who has a heart defect. Carly is alone, having lost her husband in the Vietnam War. She lives with her sister and her husband, Hunter. Fortunately for Carly and the baby, Hunter is a time traveler. He sends Carly to the year 2001, where she can have fetal surgery to repair the baby’s heart and save her life. However, the baby’s health is not good and Carly is forced to return to 1970 without her, in what she hopes is a temporary arrangement. When she tries to return to 2001 though, something goes terribly wrong.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The concept of time travel is one of those well-worn plot elements, but this author did it right. The story melded together very well and the plot was not too unbelievable. Carly’s experiences in a new decade were totally convincing. The time travel method is not overly complicated for a reader to understand either. The reasons for everything Carly does are solid too.

My one objection is that Hunter made such a glaring mistake. Anyone who lived in the era of 9/11 would remember it. It would be seared in their memory. So, I was upset when Hunter ‘forgot’ and accidentally sent Carly back on the morning of 9/11/2001. He should have known that any such large disturbance would affect the calculations. If even a wind could make a difference, then those events certainly would. I understand that it was integral to the plot that something throw off the calculations, but at the time when I read it, I was angry with Hunter for failing to take that into consideration. Good writing does that. It draws the reader into the story and they react to the characters as if they were real people. So, it did work the way it was supposed to. After all, if he’d been correct, then the rest of the events would never have happened and it would not have been as good a story. As a reader, you could predict what was coming though, if you counted the months between Carly’s arrival and her due date.

As it was, the story was quite good, with a big conflict around the decisions Carly has to make once she finds Joanna. It was emotionally painful to see that she lost her baby, but she did regain the relationship eventually. The hard part was knowing how many years would separate mother and child.

This book is one of my top 5 of the year so far. I enjoyed it that much. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good time travel tale.

 

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Book Review: Believe Me

Book Review

Believe Me

By JP Delaney

Review:

Claire Wright is a British actress in the U.S who is struggling to find jobs. She wants to get her Green Card and takes on a job that promises to gain her that document. But, the job turns out more dangerous than she thought. She is working for a lawyer who sets her up as a decoy to find cheating husbands. Her last assignment ends badly when the man’s wife is found murdered. Claire was one of the last people to see her alive. She agrees to work for the police in trying to get the man, Professor Patrick Fogler, to confess. Using all her acting skills, she inserts herself into this man’s life. Things get way more complicated than she bargained for though.

It’s hard to tell who is deceiving who is this complex story. First, the reader thinks it’s Patrick, then Claire. The plot is well-woven and the reader is drawn into the mystery. But, there is also a certain darkness to the novel that will probably repel some readers. A lot of it deals with psychological perversions and really “out there” stuff. If you don’t want to read about these things, I would avoid this book. The characters are deeply involved in this subculture surrounding the violent poetry of Baudelaire.

I found it difficult to get into to the writing style in the book. The main character is an actress and often imagines her dialog in her head in a form that reads like a written script. I am not really a fan of live performances, and would have preferred a more standard narrative form to the writing. But, the author uses this as a gimmick because the main character is an actress, and there is a play in the last half of the book as well. I can see how this style is fitting with the theme, but it was difficult for me to read.

The storyline itself was convoluted. At one point, Claire is sent to a mental hospital, which I found somewhat misplaced. It seemed like that whole section could have been left out. Except for the fact that Patrick has to rescue her from the situation, that whole part of the novel didn’t seem to have a real purpose to me. It probably served to let the reader know that Claire was doubting her own sanity, but I didn’t think the novel needed that scene.

Honestly, I liked the first book by this author a lot more than this one. I just couldn’t get into this one because I was put off by the counterculture stuff and the seeming unnecessary parts to the plot. The ending was interesting, but seemed contrived to me. It was pretty far from reality, in my opinion.

I can’t really give this book a full five stars. I think this author has done better work. I give this one 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: The Boy From Tomorrow

The Boy from Tomorrow

By Camille DeAngelis

 

Review:

Alec Frost and Josie Clifford, along with her sister Cass, are best friends, but they have never seen each other in person. The girls live in the same house as Alec, but 100 years in the past. They all live at 444 Sparrow Street, but the girls are there in 1915 and Alec is in 2015. They communicate by using a spirit or talking board, which we today call a Ouija board. Josie’s mother is a psychic who conducts séances in her home.

The friendship develops over time and, as the kids get to know each other, Alec realizes that the girls might be in danger from their abusive mother.

The time travel aspect of this book was interesting because it was done in a completely new way. The kids didn’t step into a time machine or a portal or anything that’s been done before. They communicated with the talking board. Josie’s mother, Lavinia Clifford, is horrible to her children! When she discovers their communications with Alec, she uses it for her own gain, forcing Alec to tell her things about the future in exchange for communicating with Josie. Then, they find the phonograph and wax cylinders and are able to continue to communicate without the mother’s knowledge. Josie is also able to pass notes to Alec by hiding them places in the house where he might find them in the future. I thought that was really cool.

Cass has an odd doll named Mrs. Gubbins. One mystery of the novel is: who is she? How is it that she can communicate? Cass talks to the doll and the doll tells her things that no one the girl’s age can know. What happens to Mrs. Gubbins in Alec’s time? Does she communicate with him? We never really learn much about Mrs. Gubbins’ history, which was disappointing.

The girls are never allowed to leave their home. Their abusive mother keeps them out of school and inside all the time. She locks Cass in a cabinet as punishment, or locks the girls in their room. There are other incidents of cruelty that could be disturbing to young readers. These incidents are treated as part of the story and are essential to show that the girls are in danger in their own home. These things could bring up bad feelings in readers though. I would suggest maybe offering some resources at the end of the book for kids who may find themselves in similar situations.

Alec has made a couple friends in his new home and one, Danny, is very helpful to him. They conduct their own research into the history of the house, visiting the library and the local graveyard for answers. Alec is not sure if he wants to find the graves of his friends from 100 years before though.

Alec’s mother thinks he is having troubles due to her divorce and sends him to a counselor. When she eventually does learn the truth though, it’s surprising that she believes Alec. But, she does and she supports him, which is refreshing, especially after seeing how poorly the girls’ mother treats them.

I thought the main characters were all well developed. The book itself can be described as part mystery, part paranormal, part time travel, part historical fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed it and rate it as one of my top two books of 2018 so far. I did wish the ending had been a little different. I wanted Alec to be more eager to find out what happened and go visit the address. I wanted there to be a ton of letters telling him all about Josie’s life. I guess I was hoping that the book would not end. I wanted there to be more.

There is a good word of advice at the end that warns of the dangers of using Ouija boards. I was glad to see that. It’s not really something to play with and kids might be tempted after reading this novel.

Overall, I give this book my highest rating. You will love it.

Book Review: The Graveyard Girl and the Boneyard Boy

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The Graveyard Girl and the Boneyard Boy

by Martin Matthews

Review:

The Graveyard Girl and the Boneyard Boy is a wonderful story that will draw you right in. The main character is unique and refreshing. The narrator has a great sense of wry humor that makes it a pleasure to read. You will literally laugh out loud at times.

The story is set in Centralia, which in and of itself is an interesting setting. It opens up some good talking points about history and the whole Centralia story. The real Centralia has been almost a ghost town for years, which may be the appeal of setting a story there. The town had to be evacuated after the Centralia Mine Fire began around 1962. The fire has burned underground ever since, popping up in different coal seams and even in another nearby town, which forced another closure. But, the whole Centralia story is not the main focus of this book. In fact, the Centralia of this book is fully populated, has a large high school, a vibrant town, and a huge cemetery. The cemetery is the central setting, but there are other locations as well. In this story, the characters encounter old mine tunnels and things leftover from the heyday of mining in the area.

The main character is Drake Stevenson, a boy who has albinism. This condition comes with a host of issues, including extreme sensitivity to sunlight, poor vision, etc. Thus, he has to dress fully covered up from the sun and wear sunglasses to protect his eyes from bright light at all times, even indoors. The sun can easily burn his skin, so he has to cover himself with sunscreen as well as long-sleeved pants, shirts, and coat. Indoor lighting is even too bright for his eyes, so his teachers have a hard time understanding and allowing him these accommodations. I have never read a novel with a person who has albinism as a character, so it was interesting to learn. I had no idea that these other things would be issues, but it makes total sense. The difficulties Drake encounters with school staff are all because they do not understand the rare condition he has. But, the story really isn’t about albinism. Drake’s family owns the cemetery and he takes a night job there because he is still in high school and has to be in class during the day. At school, he meets a girl, who happens to be the principal’s daughter. She becomes his first real friend. Then, after work one night, he meets another girl, this one in the cemetery.

The girl in the cemetery is a ghost. Drake calls himself a ghost at one point, due to the albinism. So, in a way, his new friend has similar issues to his. That may be why he can see her and others cannot. Even his sister, who is a psycho (really), can’t see her.

As the story unfolds, Drake learns that a tragedy struck the town the previous summer. While battling bullies at school, his crazy sister at home, and his new boss at work, he tries to figure out what exactly happened and why no one will talk about it. It makes for a really tense plot where the reader wants to learn more too, and you just can’t put down the book. It’s that good.

I enjoyed the sense of humor and the believability of Drake’s character. He’s got real-world problems and faces a lot of issues that other young adults can relate to. The novel tackles such issues as bullying, disability, discrimination, teen drinking, mental illness, divorce, death, and more. But, it does not become overbearing or preachy either. The story moves along at a good pace and you are not left feeling that it drags anywhere. The motives of the people involved are totally believable and realistic. Guilt and redemption are central to the resolution of this one. The plot twist at the end is fantastic and will leave you breathless. At times, you will laugh out loud, cheer for joy, feel deep sadness, feel hope, feel fear, and most of all, come away with an understanding of what it means to walk in the shoes of another person.

Very well-written and the plot is awesome. I am calling this the best novel I have read so far this year. It’s that good. Not to be missed. You will not regret taking the time to read this one.

 

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