Friday, January 8, 2010

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Robert Langdon is back. The ‘hero’ of The Da Vinci Code, Brown’s blockbuster bestseller, is thrust into yet another romp through history, complete once again with horrific villains, Masonic secrets, art history, and a rapid paced thriller of a plot.

The story opens with Langdon traveling to Washington D.C., allegedly to present a lecture for his longtime friend Peter Solomon in the U.S. Capitol building. The key phrase here is ‘allegedly’. Langdon soon realizes that his travel to DC is just a ploy to immerse him into yet another plot to use his skills as a symbolist. Langdon is being interrogated by the CIA. The first of many clues has been left in the Capitol rotunda. His friend has been kidnapped, mutilated and tortured. Thus the story begins.

In this volume, Landon does not travel all over the world. His unfolding of the twists and turns take place within the Beltway of Washington. However, the smaller geographical setting does not diminish the intricacy of the plot. Symbols must be deciphered. The history of the Masons is once again brought to the forefront of the storyline.

The story is, ironically, predictable with its unpredictable twists and turns. Any reader of Brown’s work will feel a familiarity with the flavor of the plot development. Names and places are different, but the same ‘feel’ is present in this work, and is somewhat a letdown. I kept waiting for something new to be introduced.

What were most enjoyable to this reviewer were the detailed descriptions of portions of buildings in Washington D.C. not accessible by the general public. I would love to have access to the upper areas of the Capitol Building, complete with roof access. In addition, the details given about the Washington Monument were most fascinating.

A history buff will enjoy the book. A reader of thrillers will enjoy the book. A fan of Dan Brown will enjoy the book. I recommend The Lost Symbol, even though I was slightly disappointed.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Instinct Diet by Susan B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Betty Kelly Sargent

This review is contributed by my husband. He really likes this diet philosophy, and is doing quite well with his changes in eating habits.

This book comes complete with much praise from "professionals" in the field of diet, weight loss, and health. The authors have many, many years experience in clinical research, primarily conducted at Tufts University, and this volume is dotted with many anecdotal stories from persons involved in the clinical trials of the diet techniques.

One soon realizes that the foundation for the Instinct Diet is a self-searching analysis of your personal relationship with food and eating. The five instincts detailed most certainly give a new insight into current (and past) food consumption habits. The first section of the book deals with these instincts.

Instinct number one is hunger. The book details means of confronting hunger head-on, and insuring that healthy meals and snacks satisfy hunger cravings.
Instinct number two is availability, and covers rather simple direction for keeping your kitchen environment free from those food items that can and will sabotage your best efforts at control.
Instinct number three is calorie density. Now you begin to get an education in calories and not only their effect on your body, but also an expose of the volume of calories in certain foods. Tips are given on making low-calorie foods more appetizing. The "sandwiching" technique is clever, to say the least.
Instinct number four is familiarity. Routines and rituals are graciously bashed and condemned. Direction is provided to assist even the most die hard, stuck in a rut individual the means to alter their comfortable, non-healthy eating habits.
The final instinct is variety. The premise here is that a restricted variety of diet often leads to hindering weight control. Variety as a tool can be skillfully manipulated to reduce the intake of unhealthy foods, and increase the intake of healthy foods. Clever, indeed.

Once the reader has completed the first section of the book devoted to the five instincts, the authors turn to the meat and potatoes of the volume. Uh, excuse me, I mean the broiled fish and non-starchy vegetable portion of the book. Shopping guides are listed, with detailed descriptions of items to be purchased in order to start the diet plans. Recipes make up a large portion of the book, with a wide variety (remember instinct five?) of dishes presented.

The program outlined in detail is comprised of three stages: The initial two weeks, Stage "I", followed by six weeks of the Stage "II" Keep It Going diet plan, and the Stage "III" maintenance plan. All three stages are explained in great detail.

The authors bring real life examples of success stories, coupled with the feeling of genuine concern they feel for you, the reader. With my diabetes prompted dietary requirements, I have "tweaked" this program somewhat for my personal use. However, simply reading the sections about the five instincts provided for me, as one of the book's references stated, a real paradigm shift in my thinking concerning my eating habits. I strongly recommend this diet book for that reason alone.