Bones to Ashes–Kathy Reichs

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Yet another of the Temperance Brennan mysteries. In this one, she’s trying to find out if the bones she got from a provincial coroner belong to a friend of hers that disappeared off the face of the earth nearly forty years earlier.

They’re also looking to solve a series of missing persons cases that they believe are tied to some unidentified bodies. There are six girls missing over the course of nearly 20 years, and there are three unidentified bodies which might correlate.

As they dig into the missing children cases, they start to suspect that the children were affiliated with a skeevy photographer. Further investigation indicates that said skeevy photographer might have been involved in some child pornography and if you have child pornography and then the children involved go missing…that’s not a promising sign. And it looks like Temperance’s friend might have been one of the girls involved in child pornography.

A trip to the middle of nowhere Canada to talk to her old friend’s younger sister provokes a rash of retaliatory harassment, likely from the sister’s husband, who runs a bunch of dive bars and strip clubs.

If you’re thinking that there might be a connection between strip clubs and child pornography…that’s also what Temperance thinks.

In the end, of course, they find the source of the child pornography, as many bodies as can reasonably be expected, and solve the mystery of the missing childhood friend.

Not recommended for people who get very disturbed by child abuse. We all get disturbed by child abuse, of course, but if you’re the kind of person that will have nightmares about it, skip this one.

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The Hundred Foot Journey–Richard C Morais

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This book was recently made into a movie starring Helen Mirren, but I haven’t seen the movie. I’m not sure I even want to, because although everyone loves Helen Mirren, it seems like the movie only covers part of the book and does it in the sappiest way possible.

The book is about an Indian boy and his family. They have a restaurant in India, but after a riot that left the mother dead, they moved to England and a few years later to France. They find a place to settle in France and they open a new restaurant. There’s a high-end French restaurant just across the way. The owner of that restaurant resents the presence of competition, even though the restaurants are vastly different and cater to different clienteles.

The French chef realizes that the Indian boy has a gift for cooking and eventually seeks to have him come intern in her restaurant so she can train him properly. From there, he builds a glittering culinary career over many years, becoming one of the most highly decorated chefs in France.

It’s a sweet story, but I’m not sure there’s much depth to it. It’s fluffy and probably good for a beach read, since beach season is coming right up.

Winter’s Bone–Daniel Woodrell

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Many of you have probably seen the movie that they made of this book, but there might be a few of you out there that, like me, are so far behind on movies that there’s no hope of ever being current. It’s ok. There are more things in life than being current on movies and TV shows.

This is an incredibly sad book.

The main character is Ree, who is a 16 year old school dropout, tasked with keeping her family alive and functioning. They live in the rural Ozark valley, and her mom is drugged senseless for her mental health issues. Her dad, who participates in the local common trade of meth manufacturing, is often gone. It’s on her to keep the younger kids alive and in school.

Her dad is currently gone again, awaiting a court date on a meth manufacturing charge. The sheriff comes to warn her that he put the house and land up to secure the bond, and if he doesn’t show they’ll be homeless.

She doesn’t trust him to show–understandably, since he’s clearly a flake–and goes looking for him.

I live in a warm climate, but the imagery for the cold that she suffers made me shiver. Her hood freezes into a sheet of ice at one point. I can’t fathom that kind of cold. Terrible and scary.

As it turns out, her neighbors (who are either part of her extended family or rival families) are dangerous people as well. She begins to suspect her dad has been killed, but that’s not her biggest problem. Her biggest problem isn’t to mourn, but to prove he’s dead so they don’t lose the house.

This is a beautiful, haunting book. Sad, of course, but beautiful.

Food Rules–Michael Pollan

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A rare non-fiction book for this site!

This is a quick read, although I wish I had purchased it in a physical form instead of getting it in ebook form from the library, because it’s the kind of thing you should really be referring to repeatedly until you get really familiar with the various rules.

He’s dug into the nutritional research and come up with a basic set of rules for food that should keep people more healthy than they are on the current western diet.

These rules boil down to “eat food, mostly plants, not too much.” The rules themselves are far more specific, of course. They include things like, don’t eat food that includes ingredients a third grader can’t read, as well as things like, shop around the outside of the grocery store, and don’t eat cereal that changes the color of the milk.

The not too much part is interesting, because I’ve been reading a lot about intermittent fasting and caloric restriction and that seems to be a real thing, that eating way less calories than we normally do is associated with better health and longer lives.

On the other hand, we’ve probably all read the article out this past week about how the contestants form “The Biggest Loser” all have severe metabolic issues, likely as a result of their extreme weight loss. So…caloric restriction is good, but too much is bad? Maybe? And how much is too much? The entire thing is incredibly baffling to me.

Then again, it’s not like most of us are walking the fine line between survival and starvation on the regular, so for most of us, eating less food would probably be a reasonable step from a health perspective.

Regardless, this is an interesting book with a lot of simple, clear, reasonable advice for better living through nutrition.

Break No Bones–Kathy Reichs

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I’m continuing to push through on this series, which is the basis of the TV show “Bones.” In this book, Temperance Brennan finds a modern skeleton mixed in with the skeletons of pre-Columbian people on a historical dig. It’s not actually her jurisdiction, but the local coroner is a friend of hers who is also fighting cancer so she’s willing to help out as much as she can.

Her husband–from whom she’s been separated since the beginning of the series–is staying at the same beach house that she is as he is pursuing a financial investigation for a client that tangentially involves tracking a missing person, all affiliated with a religious organization and their free health clinic.

When a second body is discovered with the same very unusual markings on the bones as the one found at the historical dig, and that body turns out to be the private investigator looking for that same missing person, it seems like the cases have a point of intersection.

Her Canadian boyfriend comes for a visit, making for awkward in-house socialization, and he helps her pursue the possibility that something is very wrong at the free health clinic. This feeling is strengthened when they find yet another body with the same cause of death, this one belonging to a patient of the free clinic.

They convince the sheriff to serve a search warrant on the clinic and find a far better equipped operating room than is necessary for a free clinic, plus the presumptive murder weapon, a wire loop used for garroting the victims. Very very nasty.

The question then becomes, who is responsible for the murders? The doctor who runs the clinic, or his nurse, who is a trained surgical nurse? The idea is that the victims were killed for organ harvesting, and the amount of surgical skill needed to remove organs if you’re not trying to keep the donor alive is not beyond that of a surgical nurse.

These books are so good. They’re easy to read, even for people like me with no medical knowledge, and they’re always interesting and hit a nice balance of intense enough to be exciting without being terrifying.