A.J. Jacobs: Drop Dead Healthy (review)

healthy-1So if you are in your 40s and starting to get a bit chubby – or at least your wife starts making comments about your tummy – what do you do? Well, if you are A.J. Jacobs, you of course see it as a chance to take on a new project. A.J. has previously spent time living biblically as well as reading the Encyclopedia Britannica. So of course, after taking care of his mind and spirit, he now focuses on the body and he decides to become the healthiest person alive. To be as healthy as humanely possible – or even more than that – from head to toe.
To do so, he puts together a 53 pages long list of things to improve, things to try out and daily tasks to perform. He embarks on a series of diets, exercise programs and health appointments. He dedicates weeks and months to various parts of the body. He is tested and prodded and probed. He tries to live as a raw food vegan, eating a paleo diet and more. He buys gadgets and head phones and generally annoys his surroundings with his behavior. He tries to eat as many super foods in one meal as possible – while also discussing if such thing as a super food even exists. He learns about hygiene, the best way of chewing, finger fitness and so much more.
The book was a funny journey through the health industry’s many twists and turns and what it reveals more than anything is that although we know a lot about health, there’s also a lot we don’t know. And what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another. He does try to show both sides of things – raw food vegan diet v. the paleo diet or bacteria phobia v. the ideas that we are quite capable of dealing with the bacteria in our surroundings.
There are a few things you can take with you from this book. It is important to be mindful when you eat. Maybe not so mindful that you visualize eating a blueberry for 10 minutes before actually eating it, but pay attention to what you put in your mouth. Also move more. It’s undeniably healthy to move and even though one doesn’t have to do it the A.J. way where you run errands or write while walking on a tread mill (although it does seem proven that sitting is just about the worst thing we can do), we just need to move, move, move. And then also remember to take care of ourselves by paying attention to our sleep, notice our surroundings and how noisy they are and spending time with our loved ones.
It’s a very personal journey A.J. takes. It’s not a book to read if you want clear cut advice about what to eat if you want to be healthy but as a funny backdrop to listen to while walking the dog or doing the dishes, it’s excellent. I didn’t learn much new information but even though it was a bit of old news, the presentation of them is so full of humor that it doesn’t matter if you’ve heard it before. A.J. himself narrates the audio version of this book and it makes it even more personal to listen to his various successes and failures, his relationships with his wife, sons, parents, grandfather and aunt. He brings even more life and humor to the text and he did inspire me to take some really long walks with my dog to keep on listening.

  • Title: Drop Dead Healthy
  • Author: A.J. Jacobs
  • Publisher: Simon & Shuster
  • Year: 2012
  • Pages: 402 pages
  • Length: 10 hrs 10 mins
  • Narrated by: A.J. Jacobs
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

Lisa Shearin: Con & Conjure (Raine Benares #5) (review – audiobook)

It’s actually really hard to write reviews of this series since they all just seem to blur together. Yes, I know I start listening to the next one as soon as I finish one but they are all so similar that it’s difficult to separate them.

This of course is the Raine Benares series. It consists of six books, taking place over a rather short amount of time. In the first book, Raine helps a friend steal a necklace with a stone. She puts it on – and is instantly bonded with the rock which turns out to be the Saghred, a soul stealing nasty thing that can destroy whole kingdoms and normally, turns it’s wearer, it’s bond-servant, insane. However, Raine is able to wear the rock without getting insane and the rest of the series is spend with Raine trying to get rid of the stone and find a way to destroy it as well as trying to avoid the psychopath Sarad Nukpana who wants both her and the rock. Luckily, Raine has help from not only her friends but also from new friends like Paladin Mychael Ellisor and archmagus Justinius Justinius Valerian.

As per usual, this one starts off with a bang. The conflict between the goblins and elves is slowly escalating and when the Goblin prince Chigaru Mal’Salin arrives to Mid, things gets moving. The prince is wanted dead by almost everyone so before he even sets food on Mid, several assassins try to kill him. Luckily, Raine is there to save him – even though not all the goblins see it that way.

While the elves – or at least some of them, led by Sylvanus Carnades – is trying to get their hands on Raine, having a specially prepared cell ready for her with magic-reducing manacles in the cellars of the elven embassy, the Goblin king and Sarad Nukpana is preparing to attack the elves – and just being nasty as usual.

It seems to me that the new characters being introduced in these last books in the series, are rather more interesting than some of the ones who have been in all the books. In this one, we’re introduced to Raine’s cousin Mago, a banker, who’s of course still in the family business of sneaking, stealing and other sorts of criminal activity. He’s the prince’s banker and is of course in an excellent position to help Raine. Also, we have Raine’s ex-boyfriend and former fiancé who is a most skilled assassin who’s of course after the prince. And maybe others? Someone at least is taking shots at Mychael.

So when you listen to a whole series, it’s hard to come up with something new to say about the narrator for each book. However, when you have listened to a whole series and the narrator suddenly starts saying something in a different way, it does distract from the listening experience. For some reason, in this book Eileen Stevens has started saying ‘the Saghred’ in a different way.The Saghred is mentioned a lot and every time, she says the word in this new way, I start wondering why she has changed it and it takes me out of the listening experience and ruins the flow of the story for me.

Other than that, this is just like the other books in the series. Plenty of action, very fast pace, some things are repeated over and over etc. If you’ve come this far in the series, you know exactly what you get. It’s decent light fantasy. It’s quite entertaining when you read it/listen to it but nothing more. I do admit that at a few points in this one, I really didn’t want to put it down but just to keep on listening but normally, I don’t think about it when not listening to it. I’m actually looking forward to finishing this series so I can try out other audiobooks and see if my lack of enthusiasm is because of the book or the medium I experience them through.

  • Title: Con & Conjure
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 2011
  • Pages: 323 pages
  • Time: 9 hours 19 minutes
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

Related posts:

Lisa Shearin: Armed & Magic (Raine Benares #2) (review – audiobook)

So no rest for the wicked. This book has barely begun before the action starts. And not just some nice and easy action, no this is full-blown all-out action. Raine Benares, our main protagonist, has arrived to the Island of Mid to get help to deal with the Saghred but also to be protected from the Goblins, she made so very angry in the first book in the series. Since she has bonded with the Saghred, the most powerful artifact, she can’t just give it up but need magical help for that so of course she turns to the Conclave and it’s Guardians to get the help she need. But she hasn’t been long on the island before an assassination attempt is made on the Paladin Mychael Eiliosior and the Archmagus Justinius Valerian, Raine saves the day – but in doing so, she shows the world what she is now capable of, after being in contact with the Saghred. And that was exactly what the notorious elven assassin, leader of the Nightshades, was counting on. He manages to escape – taking with him a young blonde woman.

But this young woman is not the only one who is kidnapped. Young spellsingers start disappearing. Luckily, Raine is able to connect with them by using her seeker powers, enhanced by the Saghred (which reminds me – whatever happened to Quentin, the thief who officially stole the Saghred? We haven’t heard of him since early in the first book.). Trouble is, no one really believes her except Paladin Mychael Eiliesor and some of his men. She has powerful adversaries on the Council of Twelve. the council in control of sorcerers and sorcery. And of course, they’re not the only ones interested in Raine – and the Saghred. She attracts trouble wherever she is – and on top of the Elven assassinators, the Elven ambassador, the Goblin lawyers and (at least some of) the Council of Twelve, well, there’s of course the main villain from the first book, Nukpana who even though he is caught in the Saghred is able to talk to her – and manifest himself in front of her, enjoying himself rather too much when he does so while she’s taking a bath. And if that’s not enough trouble, there’s also the Saghred’s best friend…

I’m listening to these as audiobooks and I enjoy them a lot. They’re perfect for this medium. But the worst thing with listening to fantasy novels as audiobooks is, that you have no idea how to spell anything. All the names of people and places and things are of course spelled in certain ways – and since I don’t read the actual pages of the book, I have no idea how to do this. So to be able to write this review, I’ve had to google a lot to find the correct ways of spelling…

I also got a bit confused at one point. Shearin has pointed out over and over that to avoid being affected by spellsingers, you have to have some kind of shield to protect you. Either your own person shield or, if a spellsinger performs at a restaurant or a bar, the stage is shielded so the audience doesn’t get affected. The music rooms where the student spellsingers practice are also shielded – and when a vent isn’t covered probably, Piaras almost put the entire citadel to sleep, including the Saghred. Everyone who didn’t put up shields, were affected. But suddenly, Piaras can intend it for some present and not necessarily target all who hear it – how? And even in a battle situation, can’t people put up personal shields? Is this a consistency issue or did I miss something? Is he just that talented?

One thing that is a bit annoying in these book, is the repetitiveness. I can’t count the number of times Raine talks about her family and their bad reputation. She does so over and over and over again – both in the first and in this second volume. Yes, yes, yes, we know the Benares family are pirates, robbers and kidnappers – we know.  Yes, we get that that means they don’t like paying for things and they like their weapons. Now let’s move on with the story. Also, Shearin has a tendency to repeat herself by using the exact same phrases to describe the same thing. When you describe something in a very particular way, don’t repeat it.

I also think Raine lacks a bit of introspection – at least when it comes to the men in her life. She’s pretty much ready to be swept off her feet whenever Tam or Mychael offer. She is yet to have any thoughts about preferring the one to the other – she just seem to prefer the one who’s there. And while that is a valid choice, of course, and all this might just be me being prudish, I would like her to choose one. I don’t know if I prefer Mychael or Tam – but actually, we don’t know much about either one, except one is goblin, one is human, both are extremely good-looking, one is a bad boy, the other is one of the really good guys… All pretty standard for such books.

Still, in conclusion – despite the minor grievances listed above, I really have fun listening to these books. Even though the banter between Raine and her friends can be a bit too much, especially in battle situations, it’s still entertaining banter and if you enjoy light fantasy with non-stop action, humor and very fast pacing, these books are definitely recommendable.

  • Title: Armed & Magic (Raine Benares #2)
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 2008
  • Pages: 293 pages
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

Related posts: