Friday, March 31, 2017

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Epic Measures by Jeremy N. Smith


Moneyball meets medicine in this remarkable chronicle of one of the greatest scientific quests of our time—the groundbreaking program to answer the most essential question for humanity: how do we live and die?—and the visionary mastermind behind it.

Medical doctor and economist Christopher Murray began the Global Burden of Disease studies to gain a truer understanding of how we live and how we die. While it is one of the largest scientific projects ever attempted—as breathtaking as the first moon landing or the Human Genome Project—the questions it answers are meaningful for every one of us: What are the world’s health problems? Who do they hurt? How much? Where? Why?

Murray argues that the ideal existence isn’t simply the longest but the one lived well and with the least illness. Until we can accurately measure how people live and die, we cannot understand what makes us sick or do much to improve it. Challenging the accepted wisdom of the WHO and the UN, the charismatic and controversial health maverick has made enemies—and some influential friends, including Bill Gates who gave Murray a $100 million grant.

In Epic Measures, journalist Jeremy N. Smith offers an intimate look at Murray and his groundbreaking work. From ranking countries’ healthcare systems (the U.S. is 37th) to unearthing the shocking reality that world governments are funding developing countries at only 30% of the potential maximum efficiency when it comes to health, Epic Measures introduces a visionary leader whose unwavering determination to improve global health standards has already changed the way the world addresses issues of health and wellness, sets policy, and distributes funding.

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Harper Wave
ISBN 0062237500 (ISBN13: 9780062237507)

About the Author

Jeremy N. Smith has written for Discover, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chicago Tribune, among many other publications. His first book, Growing a Garden City, was one of Booklist's top ten books on the environment for 2011. Born and raised in Evanston, Illinois, he is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Montana. He lives in Missoula, Montana, with his wife and young daughter.

Check out the author's website

My Thoughts
If we want to improve how we live as well as how we die, we need to know the full measure of our diseases and disabilities-- what doesn't kill us as well as what does.
Dr. Christopher Murray had an unusual upbringing. At 10 years of age, he was living in Diffa, Niger where his missionary parents were running a clinic. Chris and his sister Megan and brother Nigel were all put to work at the clinic, where 10-year-old Chris found himself working as pharmacist and errand boy.

While there, the family made the discovery that the malnourished seemed almost entirely free of "malaria and common viral illnesses", yet days after being given food and medicine these same people would become horribly ill from those same illnesses they appeared free of just days before. The family theorized that the virus was as dependent on iron as humans, and the fact that these malnourished people had anemia left the virus starved and spent. Once they were on a healthy diet, including iron, the virus thrived. So food and vitamins could kill these people, if the virus was left untreated!

The family (minus young Chris, who was too young to have participated in the study) published an article about their findings in The Lancet on March 22, 1975.

It was experiences like this that led Chris Murray to conclude:
Conventional wisdom can kill.
Murray went on to attend Harvard in 1980, and was chosen as a Rhodes scholar his senior year. It was while on tour of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1985 that he found himself awed by the same organization he would one day challenge. Murray would later introduce himself to Alan Lopez of WHO and tell him that "...everything you've written about mortality in Africa is wrong". Murray and Lopez would go on to become friends and co-founders of the Global Burden of Disease Study, which would turn the world of epidemiology on its head.

The author first met Chris Murray in 2012, and he describes him as "blunt, often abrasive, hyperenergetic, supremely confident, yet fiercely collaborative", and overall just plain fascinating. He notes that Murray was argumentative and loved an open dialogue; "the push and pull of other people's ideas and willing to listen to any serious proposition, no matter the source".

Many others entered Murray's orbit and played a part in the change that came about in the world of epidemiology and continues to this day. One of those people is Bill Gates, who was impressed with Chris Murray's vision and funded the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation with $105 million in 2007.

I could go on and on. Chris Murray is my new imaginary boyfriend. What he does with "Big Data" makes me weak in the knees. He was behind the creation of the GBDx, which was a software platform for compiling, organizing and displaying all of the data regarding the health of the world. They can click on a country and instantly see a visual representation of all of the conditions and diseases impacting the health of the people of that country, This is exactly the type of thing I would do, if I had Murray's skills! My brain naturally wants to organize data in this manner and make sense of it. This is the type of project that I would find "fun".

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, March 28th: Lit and Life
Thursday, March 30th: bookchickdi
Friday, March 31st: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Tuesday, April 4th: Sapphire Ng
Wednesday, April 5th: Readaholic Zone
Thursday, April 6th: Man of La Book
Monday, April 10th: Doing Dewey
Tuesday, April 11th: Based on a True Story
Wednesday, April 12th: Kissin Blue Karen
Friday, April 14th: Read Till Dawn
Friday, April 14th: Jathan & Heather

My final word: I was concerned going into this that I would find this book and/or the material boring. No worries! I loved this book! I think Chris Murray is a fascinating character. He has a brilliant mind, and a knack for seeing (and convincing others) that spending some money on world health can save the world billions in the long run. Unhealthy people are a drag on society, and healthcare for all should be a priority!

The author does a great job of making this information readable. Knowing how ornery Murray can be only makes him more human to me. The author takes what could have been a very dry and boring read full of data and turns it into what almost feels like a thriller as you follow along with Murray's endeavors. Especially fitting for this day and age, I strongly suggest everyone read this one. It brings forth an important message-- and my imaginary boyfriend is fantastic in it!

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:

The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Friday, March 17, 2017

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Dishing Up the Dirt by Andrea Bermis


Andrea Bemis, the creator of the popular farm-to-table blog Dishing Up the Dirt builds on her success with this beautiful, simple, seasonally driven cookbook, featuring more than 100 inventive and delicious whole-foods recipes and dozens of color photographs.

For Andrea Bemis, who owns and runs a six-acre organic farm with her husband outside of Portland, Oregon, dinners are inspired by what is grown in the soil and picked by hand. In Dishing Up the Dirt, Andrea offers 100 authentic farm-to-table recipes, arranged by season, including:

Spring: Honey Roasted Strawberry Muffins, Lamb Lettuce Wraps with Mint Yogurt Sauce, Spring Harvest Pizza with Mint & Pea Pesto, Kohlrabi and Chickpea Salad

Summer: Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Biscuits, Roasted Ratatouille Toast, Kohlrabi Fritters with Garlic Herb Cashew Cream Sauce, Farmers Market Burgers with Mustard Greens Pesto

Fall: Farm Girl Veggie Bowls, Butternut Molasses Muffins, Early Autumn Moroccan Stew, Collard Green Slaw with Bacon Gremolata

Winter: Rutabaga Home Fries with Smokey Cashew Sauce, Hoisin Glazed Brussels Sprouts, Country Girl Old Fashioned Cocktails, Tumbleweed Farm Winter Panzanella

Andrea’s recipes focus on using whole, locally-sourced foods—incorporating the philosophy of eating as close to the land as possible. While many recipes are naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegetarian, many others include elemental ingredients like bread, cheese, eggs, meat, and sweeteners, which are incorporated in new and inventive ways.

In short essays throughout the book, Andrea also presents an honest glimpse of life on Tumbleweed Farm—the real life of a farmer, not the shabby-chic fantasy often portrayed—offering fascinating and frequently entertaining details about where the food on our dinner tables comes from. With stunning food photography as well as intimate portraits of farm life, Dishing Up the Dirt allows anyone to be a seasonal foodie and an armchair farmer.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 14th 2017 by Harper Wave
ISBN 0062492225 (ISBN13: 9780062492227)

About the Author

Andrea is the writer, recipe developer, and photographer behind the food blog DishingUp Her recipes and Tumbleweed Farm have been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Well and Good NYC, and Eating Well Magazine. She lives on her farm in Oregon with her husband and dog.

Follow the author on Instagram
Friend the author on Facebook


My Thoughts
I've learned many lessons in the seven years since my life took a radical turn for the dirt. I'm physically capable of doing tasks that I would never have dreamed I could do in my prefarming life. I now organize an entire calendar year between the first and last predicated frosts of the season. I know community is everything. Food is medicine. And most important, cocktail hour should never be passed up after a long and hard day of work.
Author Andrea Bermis lives with her husband Taylor on a six-acre farm named Tumbleweed Farm located outside the town of Parkdale, population 266. While living in Oregon in 2008, they made the unexpected decision to move to Taylor's family farm in Massachusetts to learn how to live the lives of farmers. After several years of hard, back-breaking but satisfying farm work, the author and her husband could deny their longing for the west coast no longer, and they moved back to Oregon to start their own farm from the ground up.

The recipes in this book utilize fresh local grown ingredients and are organized by season, so you get them at their freshest. The author begins with a brief introduction before shifting the book to seasons.

Each seasonal chapter begins with a description of life on the farm during that season. Spring is hectic and full of anxiety as they rush to get seedlings into the ground and nurse them through damaging weather and protect them from foraging wildlife, and raise and rotate chickens and harvest their eggs. This chapter leads into recipes utilizing springtime ingredients like strawberries, various lettuces and herbs, radishes and beans and eggs.

Summer on the farm is a time of teeming life and prayers for rain. Lots and lots of time is spent weeding to produce healthy plants without pesticides.
This is our life all summer long. Weed. Water. Harvest. Weed. Water. Harvest. Rinse and repeat.
And Tuesdays in the summer brings CSA boxes that must be packed and delivered to their members who love the fresh and organic produce delivered straight from the farm. And summer evenings consist of enjoying the sunset with a beer and a view of the crops, followed by dinner on the deck by candlelight. Dinner might include dishes like Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Yogurt, Corn Salad with Walnuts and Feta, or Summer Squash and Corn Pasta with Garlic Tahini Sauce.

Autumn channels in the beginning of the cooler weather. Autumn is about "reaping the rewards of the last several months of tireless work". This is when the root vegetables like potatoes and carrots and turnips are dug up for delivery or storage. Gone are the frenetic days of spring and summer, and this is the season to start to sit back and enjoy all of their hard work. The author and her husband host a "thank you" party at their farm for their CSA members who put their faith in the them each year that they will produce food for all of them to enjoy the following year. Then there comes the preserving of food-- pickles, jams, vegetables, pesto. Winter projects are planned, and winter recipes include ingredients like beets, peppers, carrots, mushrooms and all sorts of squash.

Winter is a time of dormancy. The fields and greenhouse are barren and hibernating for the winter, the stores and freezers are packed with food to get the couple through the winter. The biggest concerns are winter storms and warm chickens. It's a time to make plans and purchase supplies of seeds, fertilizers and soil for the coming season. And cold winter nights are spent filling up on hearty meals like Tumbleweed Farm Winter Panzanella, Venison Stew, Spiced Winter Porridge, and Roasted Chicken Thighs with Root Vegetables.

I'll admit that the recipes in this book didn't really "grab" me. They are more rustic than I'm use finding in a lot of the cookbooks I get, or they have ingredients that are somewhat foreign to me, so I just couldn't get really excited with the flavor the recipe held in store. However I decided to try the recipe for Chicken and Chickpea Pesto Summer Salad. Yes, I know this book is organized seasonally, but I live in Florida where we have no seasons! So summer cooking is fine in the middle of winter!

And may I just say that I was pleasantly surprised with how refreshing this salad was? Full of shredded poached chicken and chickpeas, thinly-sliced cucumbers, radishes and celery, tossed with pesto and topped with parmesan, it was full of flavor! I'm sure it will be even better tonight after the flavors have had time to meld. I admit that I cheated and used jarred pesto, so it could probably be even better with homemade, but I was still duly impressed!

I also made a batch of Farmer's Candy, which are oven-dried cherry tomatoes (like sun-dried tomatoes, but better!)

The author suggests "If you can resist eating them in one sitting, try adding them to pasta and eggs, or top your morning toast with goat cheese and a small handful of these guys". I've stored a batch in the freezer for use over the next few months.

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, March 14th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, March 15th: Just Commonly
Thursday, March 16th:
Friday, March 17th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Friday, March 17th: Under My Apple Tree
Monday, March 20th: Wall-to-Wall Books
Tuesday, March 21st:
Wednesday, March 22nd: Sidewalk Shoes
Friday, March 24th: Create With Joy
Monday, March 27th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, March 28th: G. Jacks Writes
Wednesday, March 29th: Luxury Reading
Thursday, March 30th: Literary Quicksand
Friday, March 31st: Library of Clean Reads

My final word: I must admit that when I first got this book, I wasn't initially impressed from the outset. The actual structure of the book reminds me a bit of a school textbook, so it left me feeling that I was about to have to do my homework or something equally unpleasant. However once I dived in I was pleasantly surprised at how charming this book actually is. It's down-home and genuine and honest, and the recipes are rustic seasonal recipes for the way I should be cooking. The recipes, like the author, are honest and bared for all to see.

This is a really lovely cookbook. I just wish it didn't resemble a textbook so much. I fear that it could cause it to be overlooked, when it deserves to recognized for what it is: A beautiful love story about the love shared by the author and her husband, and the hard yet fulfilling farm life that they've chosen to live together.

And it reminded me that I really need to grow some radishes again.

Buy Now: 

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:

The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.