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Deb Nam-Krane "dnkboston" RSS Feed (Boston, MA United States)

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Seattle Postmark: a novella
Seattle Postmark: a novella
Price: $0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet story of a young mother finally getting what she needs, July 24, 2014
Disclosure: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. This did not bias my review at all.

I laughed and cried while reading this novella. Helen's a young woman who's keeping it together for the sake of her son in spite of her dysfunctional parent, failed marriage, teeth-gritting job and compromised health. The Guy Who Got Away is the perfect salve for her wounds- unless being selfish isn't something people outgrow. So what does she need? I'm not going to give it away, but it's literally staring her in the face. Watching her realize that was delicious.

Recommended for fans of chick lit.

Vincent Mallory Edgerton (Semya Slotin Mystery Book 4)
Vincent Mallory Edgerton (Semya Slotin Mystery Book 4)
Price: $0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The origins of an intense love story, July 18, 2014
Semya Slotin is brilliant, loyal and brave (or is it reckless?). Hyper-competent and self-sufficient, she'd get through life just fine with her best friend/partner-in-crime Polliannah Koch. But she doesn't have to; the perfect man for her is out there, and his name is Vincent Mallory Edgerton.

Vincent is also smart, loyal and brave, but just as cocky (being born into a loving, uber-privileged family can do that to a guy). But his family does try to give back, hence the creation of FREGG, a secret crime fighting organization that doesn't answer to any government but occasionally gets tapped on the shoulder by one. Vincent is the second generation and one of their best it takes something as serious as an attempted hit on him to make his superiors (including his father) put him on a deep undercover assignment. Vincent is pretty sure the next two years are going to be hell- until tying up some loose ends puts him directly into a beautiful detective's path. Just one problem: the gorgeous woman who's seemingly made for him is related to the people who put the hit on him. Make that two problems: she doesn't know. One more: he can't tell her.

Think I just gave away the plot of the book? That's just the sideshow; the real work is tracking down a missing person, and that investigation quickly reveals something much more nefarious. Good thing Vincent is so how come Semya keeps getting the scoop first?

I loved this; fast-paced, international reach, and a case that had personal meaning for the detectives (and an issue that's shockingly prevalent across the world). Semya shows real vulnerability for the first time in this series; she's earned the right. (But even at her most vulnerable, she still manages to do some damage...) But I still have questions: Why is Semya's adoptive mother sniping at Vincent's father, and why did Semya's biological mother go to him before Semya was born? How come her biological father was never told about her? What isn't Vincent's father telling us? Finally, where is Vincent now? I am waiting impatiently for the next book to answer those questions!

Recommended for lovers of mystery and romantic suspense

The Summer of Dead Toys: A Thriller (Inspector Salgado)
The Summer of Dead Toys: A Thriller (Inspector Salgado)
by Toni Hill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.04
63 used & new from $6.97

5.0 out of 5 stars An eerie mystery, July 9, 2014
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This was a slow start for me; not because it wasn't well-written, but because the opening scenes were very dark. (But you know that since the description mentions "human trafficking"). Once I got to page 40, however, I was hooked and stayed up until 1 AM to finish it.

Inspector Hector Salgado is trying to hold onto his job after he uncharacteristically lost his cool- but young, self-mutilated young prostitutes might have that effect on anyone. His boss Savall desperately wants to hold onto him, and a guilt-ridden negligent mother just might be the excuse he needs to do so. But if the "accidental" death of young Marc Castells doesn't get under Hector's skin as much as the previous victim did, the piles of young bodies- both in the present and in the past- just might. And can the brilliance of young Investigator Leire Castro and the loyalty of Sergeant Martine Andreu make up for the loss of his beloved ex-wife Ruth?

You'll realize pretty quickly that Marc's death wasn't an accident, but you will be left trying to figure out who killed him and why until the second-to-last chapter. (My only hint: irony is lost on some teenagers, particularly when they're in the middle of it). As Christie frequently remarked in her Poirot stories, the character of the victim is key to unraveling the identity of the killer, and when you understand the full-scale horror of what drove the victim, you'll understand what happened, even if you don't approve.

The story had a kaleidoscopic effect; the story is told from the perspectives of multiple people, including the "good guys" and the "bad guys". Instead of exposition, Hill takes inside of a memory, switching to the present tense; I'm not always a fan of that style, but it works here.

Not perfect, and yet another story I would give 4.5 stories to if it were an option. The Big Reveal (though not of the killer's identity) wasn't paced as well as it could have been; I expected something a little bigger, and while the memory contained within the scene was hard to read, the setting of it was a little pat. Still, that memory was one of the most chilling things I've ever read.

The end might make you gasp, or at the very least, hint that there's a sequel. I sincerely hope so; I'd like to see more of Inspector Salgado.

Recommended for mystery fans.

Men's Health Your Body is Your Barbell: No Gym. Just Gravity. 28 Days to a Lean, Strong, More Muscular You!
Men's Health Your Body is Your Barbell: No Gym. Just Gravity. 28 Days to a Lean, Strong, More Muscular You!
Price: $9.92

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No-gimmick, well-explained bodyweight training guide, July 6, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As a former yoga and Pilates instructor, I didn't need to be convinced that you could achieve impressive results using your own bodyweight. I'm pretty enthused about the trend toward bodyweight fitness. There are two things that make this guide useful to me: 1) the clarity of the organization and 2) the guide to progressions.

As others have mentioned, the book presents eight base exercises and then variations and progressions for all of them. These are not randomly chosen exercises; there are four for the upper body and four for the lower body. Upper body work is balanced to include two "push" exercises (pushups and handstand pushups) and two "pull" exercises (rows and pull ups). Lower body includes two exercises that emphasize the hip joint (the hip thrust or bridge and the hip hinge) and two exercises that emphasize the knee joints (squats and single leg squats). Gaddour goes into just the right amount of detail to explain the philosophy behind the choice of exercises. While he does mention a few aesthetic considerations, the majority of his explanations are functional (and thank goodness). While the program is pretty "straight up", his progressions also include suggestions to include rotation, something many traditional strength training programs usually leave out.

As someone who isn't naturally strong, particularly in my upper body, it's very frustrating to read other guides that say things like "the only way to learn to do a pull up is to do a pull up" or "if you're really serious, you can do this". In contrast, Gaddour has a five-step program to take you from what he calls "Ground Zero" to "Superhero". (I suspect most of us will be perfectly happy with "Advanced" or "Intermediate".) For example, to get to a pull up, you start with a hang, or the "bottom" of the pull up. Once you've mastered that (mastery being multiple sets of 60 second hangs), you move onto the "top" of the movement, or holding the pullup with arms bent. Then you're ready for the pull up. Neither of those progressions are easy, but they are more approachable than jumping into the full movement immediately. Each of the exercises has the same kind of progression, and I'm finding them particularly useful for the upper body exercises, squats and single-leg squats; I suspect other experienced exercisers will also find that they can progress through the hip-dominant exercises a little more quickly.

Although these are body weight exercises, they do require *some* equipment, particularly for the pull exercises, but also for the hip thrust, squat and pushup progressions. He demonstrates the exercises on a free standing pull up bar as well as an aerobic step with risers; however, he also offers alternatives using household amenities, including a door (for pullups), a table (for rows) and a chair and/or sofa for the lower body exercises. While you might eventually want to buy equipment, you should be able to start out without any.

It's not entirely perfect; if I could give this 4.5 stars I would. Gaddour includes a great cardio program (also using eight moves) in addition to the strength progression and burpee instructions, but no flexibility program. While the emphasis on balancing the body will do a lot to prevent imbalances, you'll still need flexibility training to prevent injury and encourage recovery. Given his logical approach to the other two components of fitness, I would have liked to have seen his suggestions for that one.

Still, I'm very happy to have this guide, and I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in a logical, comprehensive bodyweight training program.

The Angela Panther Collection (Books One and Two)
The Angela Panther Collection (Books One and Two)
Price: $6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect comic chicklit paranormal mystery series, July 1, 2014
Angela Panther is one of the most reluctant psychic mediums ever written; she'd be perfectly happy working out, eating cupcakes with her best friend Mel and getting it on with her hot husband Jake. (Having to deal with her snotty teenager she could do without, but nobody's life is perfect.) The powers that be have other plans, and her deceased mother Fran helps nudge (and occasionally shoves) her into recognizing that suddenly being able to see ghosts is a gift. After all, how many can say they help the dead work through their final issues?

Angela can see the snark in everything until it comes too close to home or her heart. Not to give too much away, but her weak spot involves children, and not necessarily her own. As much as I chuckled through much of it, there were several points in both books where I sniffled and wiped my eyes. Underneath it all, Angela is a softie who wants to do the right thing, and you root right along with her as she figures out exactly what that is.

Recommended for fans of chicklit and paranormal mystery.

Matcha Green Tea Powder - ORGANIC - All Day Energy - Green Tea Lattes - Smoothies - Matcha Baking - Superior Antioxidant Content - Improved Hair & Skin Health- Exclusive to Amazon
Matcha Green Tea Powder - ORGANIC - All Day Energy - Green Tea Lattes - Smoothies - Matcha Baking - Superior Antioxidant Content - Improved Hair & Skin Health- Exclusive to Amazon
Offered by Kiss Me Organics
Price: $39.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious and easy to mix, June 30, 2014
I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review.

I was nervous about the packaging because I've had bad luck with similar containers before (think Trader Joe's). However, the package both opened and closed easily without any of the powder getting caught in the "ziploc".

As I read the package, the recommendation for a cold drink looked roughly like 1/2 tsp of matcha powder to 2 tablespoons of hot or warm water. (I added 1 tsp of sugar because I like the drink sweet. I followed those instructions and the powder dissolved with minimal stirring, unlike some powders I've used before. After adding about 3/4 cup of milk (soy or rice, in my case) and several ice cubes, it made the perfect iced green tea latte, my favorite way to enjoy matcha. So perfect that over two days I've had about six such drinks (NOT recommended by the manufacturer, by the way).

Recommended for lovers of matcha.

The Prime Minister's Secret Agent: A Maggie Hope Mystery
The Prime Minister's Secret Agent: A Maggie Hope Mystery
by Susan Elia MacNeal
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.49
54 used & new from $7.50

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A World War 2 mystery, June 29, 2014
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This appears to be the fourth book in the Maggie Hope series, but I was able to catch on pretty quickly to who was who and what everyone was doing. Maggie is a spy, just back from a harrowing mission behind enemy lines in Berlin in which she had to kill one man to protect herself and saw the depravity of the Nazis. She is suffering from what we would now refer to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and her superiors have decided that she should take "a break" by serving as an instructor at a training facility in Scotland. (Her students might feel differently.) When she has a minor breakdown, her boss demands that she take her good friend Sarah up on an invitation to see her perform in a ballet in Edinburgh. Suddenly Maggie finds herself racing to solve the murder of one dancer before Sarah succumbs to the same mysterious illness- just what the doctor ordered to get Maggie out of her funk.

I would give this 4.5 stars if I could; "whodunnit" is pretty easy to answer, even before the victim drops dead. However, the other mystery swirling through the story- what is her double-agent mother's Clara's game- or is it a game?- makes up for it. The story is also well-grounded in facts, and we see the unfolding of events that lead to the attack on Pearl Harbor (from the American, British and Japanese perspectives), as well as get a taste of how, um, eccentric Churchill could be. MacNeal earns a point for not romanticizing the British "hero" in this series.

Recommended for history and mystery fans.

The Origins of The Second World War
The Origins of The Second World War
by A. J. P. Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.10
120 used & new from $0.34

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars World War 2: A Poker Game Gone Bad, June 18, 2014
Taylor was neither a Hitler admirer nor an Appeasement apologist. It's pretty clear from the outset that he finds Hitler as loathsome as most others would, and while it's not within the purview of this book to spend too much time on it, he makes note several times that Hitler's greatest crimes were done in the name of the anti-Semitism many in his country (and Europe, and the Americas) had been preaching for decades but were unwilling to act on. That Taylor wanted to spread the blame for the war shouldn't make anyone feel better about Hitler.

Taylor's thesis is that the resolution to World War 1 practically necessitated World War 2. "The German Question" tormented Europe's leaders for decades. According to Taylor, the most important thing about the Treaty of Versailles was not the reparations or the disarmament of Germany, but the acknowledgement of "Germany" as one state. Germany, as anyone could see from a map, was then the largest state in Europe at the time. One of the many things Great Britain and France could agree on was that Germany *should* be if not the most powerful state, a more powerful state. While they signed onto the Treaty of Versailles, the British were sensitive to American disapproval (and France followed suit). A decade and a half was spent squirming out of the treaty without obviously abandoning it until the takeover of Czechoslovakia.

Taylor's most shocking assertion comes in one of the first chapters: for all of Hitler's bluster and screaming, he wasn't nearly as well-armed as he boasted he was. Churchill was among those who believed him, but he was wrong. He, like many in this story, stumbled into his conclusions, although in his case he stumbled in the right direction. (Let's end Churchill's deification with that, however; Taylor points out twice that Churchill was an admirer of Mussolini.) Does this add to Hitler's reputation as a bully? Of course- but it's also an indication that he was a skilled poker player, and he was playing for his German audience as much as he was his international one.

Benes of Czechoslovakia and Beck of Poland both saw through him and bluffed at certain points, but only Beck was willing to make the call. The French and English statesmen are not forgiven for their concessions to Hitler; as much as Taylor understands what led to each episode in the chain of events, it's clear that he would have used the phrase "magical thinking" to describe them if that had been in the common parlance. "Hitler hasn't kept a promise yet; well, let's just find the terms that will make sure he does" and "if I don't look at a possibility I can't accommodate, I won't have to worry about it" easily describe the way the statesmen handled themselves. Stalin, too, seems to have understood the kind of person he was dealing with, and his words to Hitler after agreeing to the Non-Aggression Pact make that clear (for all the good it did).

Why is it important to show Hitler in this light? Because it is too easy to explain him away as an Evil Genius. That explanation lets everyone else off the hook. Taylor takes pains to remind people that Hitler said a lot of things- and many of them were quite terrifying- but most of those public statements didn't correspond to what happened; in fact, Hitler concealed most of his plans from his top staff.

If he was a skilled poker player, he was a lousy chess player, and he knew from the beginning that if he had to go to war his cause would be difficult to carry off. He was, in that sense, similar to the other European rulers, none of whom could bear the thought of another World War. This book makes clear that the only major power willing to throw around military might was Japan- but even Japan wasn't willing to engage in battles they couldn't win.

This was one of the best works of history (and nonfiction period) that I've ever read. Even though I knew what would happen and most of the major beats, I still found myself engrossed in the story as much as I might have been a well-written novel. Highly recommended for history students.

The Miniaturist: A Novel
The Miniaturist: A Novel
by Jessie Burton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.88

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What is power- and what is it worth?, June 18, 2014
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This story follows Nella, an intelligent and adventurous but still naive eighteen year old from the countryside of 17th century Netherlands who needs to make a good marriage after her father dies of drink and leaves her family without resources. She makes what she and her mother believe to be a good marriage to older, distant Johannes who is a successful trader in Amsterdam. She tries to feel her way through her husband's mysterious household- particularly her severe sister-in-law Marin- and the intrigues of the Amsterdam business world. The cabinet house she fills with miniatures are at first an annoying obligation, then something more. Will this hobby enlighten her, or is something devious at play? Nothing, however, can be more sinister than a civilization which praises God and Mammon in the same breath, and woe unto the person who can't balance his or her hypocrisy.

The story had a number of twists. The first one was easy to guess, but the others much less so. If Nella can't unravel the mysteries at first, they make sense upon review when we remember that not all rules are applied equally. Some of it is power, some of it is prejudice. Old news, perhaps, but it's always good to question how it should be handled. And not all rules, perhaps, are man's rules.

The setting of this story was unique; I admit I haven't read or seen too many pieces of historical fiction set in the Netherlands, which is odd considering their role in shaping the world. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction with a touch of magical realism.

Good Advice from Bad People: Selected Wisdom from Murderers, Stock Swindlers, and Lance Armstrong
Good Advice from Bad People: Selected Wisdom from Murderers, Stock Swindlers, and Lance Armstrong
by Zac Bissonnette
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.95
71 used & new from $4.42

5.0 out of 5 stars Caveat Emptor, especially when it comes to self-help, June 18, 2014
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I've read and loved Bissonnette's financial guides, not only because of the very sound advice, but because of his sardonic humor. It is, therefore, perfect that he would segue into a book of humor.

Bissonnette's bias toward the financial is still clear in this book as some of the funniest pieces of advice are from failed financiers. (Bernie Madoff: Invest in a low-cost market index mutual fund. Thanks, B.) But he also touches on people like Jim Jones (shudder) and John "Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus" Gray (fun fact: his PhD was from a diploma factory). And, as promised, Lance Armstrong.

Like Bissonnette's other books (and most good humor) this gets to the point quickly, and his point is that most of the advice is common sense stuff that normal, well-adjusted people who can do basic math shouldn't need to be told. In other your money and stay away from self-help books.

Bonus: his prediction that Tim Tebow will make it into his next edition. Naturally.

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