Why are the Dutch Different: Into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands by Ben Coates

Why are the Dutch Different: Into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands by Ben Coates
Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Non-fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Stranded at Schiphol airport, Ben Coates called up a friendly Dutch girl he’d met some months earlier. He stayed for dinner. Actually, he stayed for good.

In the first book to consider the hidden heart and history of the Netherlands from a modern perspective, the author explores the length and breadth of his adopted homeland and discovers why one of the world’s smallest countries is also so significant and so fascinating. It is a self-made country, the Dutch national character shaped by the ongoing battle to keep the water out from the love of dairy and beer to the attitude to nature and the famous tolerance.

Ben Coates investigates what makes the Dutch the Dutch, why the Netherlands is much more than Holland and why the colour orange is so important. Along the way he reveals why they are the world’s tallest people and have the best carnival outside Brazil. He learns why Amsterdam’s brothels are going out of business, who really killed Anne Frank, and how the Dutch manage to be richer than almost everyone else despite working far less. He also discovers a country which is changing fast, with the Dutch now questioning many of the liberal policies which made their nation famous.

A personal portrait of a fascinating people, a sideways history and an entertaining travelogue, Why the Dutch are Different is the story of an Englishman who went Dutch. And loved it.

Many people have preconceived notions of the Netherlands, but are they right? Author Ben Coates, a British man, and married to a Dutch woman, has made his new home in Rotterdam. He gives readers insights into the culture and history of the Dutch people.

Some things we may have all read about, and Coates touches upon these; however, he adds many new things that the average reader may not have yet encountered. The Dutch have their own way of doing things, and it is both educational and amusing at times to read about them here. Why are the Dutch the way they are? Why is this country not just Holland? Why is the color orange so important to these people?

The Netherlands has its own problems due to geography and the physical aspects of the land itself. They find unique solutions, and these are laid out in an entertaining way of discovery for readers. Why not learn a bit of Dutch history as well? It intertwines with that of other countries. Readers will feel smarter for the gained knowledge and will likely enjoy themselves reading this travelogue.

The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell

The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell
Publisher: Icon Books Ltd.
Genre: Travel, Non-fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Given the opportunity of a new life in rural Jutland, Helen Russell discovered a startling statistic: Denmark, land of
long dark winters, cured herring, Lego and pastries, was the happiest place on earth.

Keen to know their secrets, Helen gave herself a year to uncover the formula for Danish happiness.

From childcare, education, food and interior design to SAD and taxes, The Year of Living Danishly records a funny,
poignant journey, showing us what the Danes get right, what they get wrong, and how we might all live a little more Danishly ourselves.

In this new edition, six years on Helen reveals how her life and family have changed, and explores how Denmark, too – or
her understanding of it – has shifted. It’s a messy and flawed place, she concludes – but can still be a model for a better way of living.

Helen and her husband are a hard-working British couple who get an exciting opportunity. Helen’s husband is offered a job to work for the Lego company in Denmark. As humor underlies Helen’s story of this time, she refers to her husband as Lego Man throughout the book. Other people receive this same type of honor: Friendly Neighbor, Bearded Man etc.

Helen and Lego Man set off, not for the busy capital, but for a rather isolated part of the country, but they do visit the big city. Helen regales her readers with anecdotes of daily living, sometimes comparing it to life in her homeland of England. She tells readers of the culture, food, politics, values, and even the weather of her new temporary home.

Readers are sure to be drawn in by a tale of nonfiction that comes across in a fun way. So many interesting tidbits are described as Helen and her husband make the adjustment and learn their new expectations.

As the author and Lego Man are expecting a child, readers get to hear about how the state treats new parents. Facts unroll in this adventure and offer many things to think about.

This is a great book to learn about another culture while being entertained. Hopefully this author will write more such books.

In Search of the Animalcule by Steven L. Berk, M.D.

In Search of the Animalcule by Steven L. Berk, M.D.
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

When he is born in 1847 Vienna, Jacob Pfleger shares just two days with his mother, a female obstetrician who dies, like thousands of other women around the world, of the mysterious childbed fever. Because his birth father wants nothing to do with him, Jacob is placed in an orphanage. His mother’s dying wish is that he will grow up with resilience and independence.

As Jacob matures into a precocious twelve-year-old, he is told about the legacy of his mother by her colleague, Ignaz Semmelweis, and learns that his father is a winemaker in Lille, France. Determined to find his father and his destiny, Jacob embarks on a quest to locate him. When he arrives in France, Jacob is introduced to Louis Pasteur who is working with is father to determine why the wines of France are spoiling. As he is led on an intense scientific journey, Jacob eventually also works with Joseph Lister and Robert Koch, participating in the great discoveries of the era that uncover the animalcules, the bacteria, that have caused global disease and death. Later Jacob studies to become a doctor under the mentorship of Sir William Osler at Johns Hopkins.

In this amazing story that captures the real lives and work of the great scientists of the time, an orphan assists in shocking discoveries that change the worlds understanding of disease and uncovers the field of infectious disease.

To read an entertaining and engaging account of what is probably the most important medical breakthrough of the nineteenth century—germ theory—this book should not be missed! It is seen through the eyes of the highly likeable orphan boy, Jacob, whose mother died birthing him at the hands of doctors who didn’t wash their hands. Jacob’s mother was a doctor who believed that germs, or rather, animalcules, were responsible for many deaths. This sets young Jacob on a life-long course to discover more and save lives, but first, he must find the father he never met.

Jacob starts off on an adventure and runs away from the orphan home in a quest from Vienna to France to find his father, a vineyard worker. What comes next is a tale of danger, showing what a brave boy Jacob is. He heads out on foot with little food.

Over the course of the story, he runs into interesting people, both fictional and real. The characterization is done with excellence, and readers are treated to wonderful inside views of doctors and scientists who made history: Pasteur, Lister, and others. The author of this story is not only a doctor who understands the medical aspects involved but knows how to write these concepts in a way that laypeople can understand and enjoy.

Jacob’s interaction as he lives and works with those who have dedicated their lives to unfolding the mysteries of germ theory is not only charming but also enlightening. Readers will learn things, which is a bonus to being entertained. They will see what it was like to be a researcher in an era without modern equipment.

The author doesn’t forget the women who were involved and includes their important contributions. Jacob’s relationships are at times motivating and at others heartbreaking.

Setting in this story is done in a way to bring in even more realism and put readers there with a sense of time and place.

This is a fascinating account that is sure to touch readers’ hearts and inspire their minds. It is worth the read!

The Mouse in The Tabernacle by Myrtle Brooks

The Mouse in The Tabernacle by Myrtle Brooks (Author), Sidra Mehmood (Illustrator)
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Children’s, Inspirational
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

A timeless, inspirational tale of faith, determination, and listening to the heart.

Kettie is just a mouse. And small, even for a mouse. But her faithful, obedient heart and fearless spirit have caught the attention of her Creator.

Traveling as a stowaway in a donkey cart with Shem, a Levite traveling to Shiloh to serve at the tabernacle, she tells a fellow mouse: “I don’t know why I’m going.”

“Maybe,” he answers, “it’s because you’re supposed to go there first before you understand why.”

Once there, she discovers that the tiniest pinpoint of light can tend a fire. For, as one priest observes, “It is our thinking that needs to grow bigger. The rest of the mystery will unfold as the days come.”

Come, make the journey with her.

This story has adorable vividly colored illustrations. It takes readers back on an adventure to the ancient world. We are immersed there with well-written mundane details of everyday life.

There is a sense of suspense, as the cute mouse character, Kettie, does not know what lays ahead for this adventure to a new place. Complex concepts are brought down to a level children could understand through the technique of the little mouse asking her parents questions.

Little Kettie forges ahead with faith giving her courage. She meets human characters, and interesting concepts come up. This is not a book for beginners learning things but rather comes across as an entertaining and thoughtful read for families of faith.

Things take a dangerous turn for Kettie, and humans will learn a thing or two. The themes of patience and faith underline this cute story. This is a good story for families of faith.

If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura

If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

The young postman’s days are numbered. Estranged from his family and living alone with only his cat, Cabbage, to keep him company, he was unprepared for the doctor’s diagnosis that he has only months to live. But before he can tackle his bucket list, the devil shows up to make him an offer: In exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, the postman will be granted one extra day of life. And so begins a very strange week that brings the young postman and his beloved cat to the brink of existence.

With each object that disappears, the postman reflects on the life he’s lived, his joys and regrets, and the people he’s loved and lost.

This timeless tale from Genki Kawamura (producer of the Japanese blockbuster animated movie Your Name) is a moving story of loss and reconciliation, and of one man’s journey to discover what really matters most in life.

A young postman is facing his early death, and the devil visits him with an intriguing proposition. The young man will die within 24 hours unless… He will get one more day on earth is he agrees to the disappearance of one thing worldwide. This can go on indefinitely.

As the man makes one thing disappear after another, he sees the results of the world and people’s lives without that item. He does a lot of reflection on society and his life. Realizations hit him such as the truth about his relationships.

Some things are easy to make disappear, and then the idea of making cats disappear comes up. This young postman has a loyal feline companion named Cabbage. Cabbage adds some humor to this situation.

Now things have become a bit too tricky for the protagonist.

This is a thoughtful book, one with an interesting premise. It is not a fast mover, but readers will be curious to see what happens along the way and in the end.

The Love of My Other Life by C.J. Connolly

The Love of My Other Life by C.J. Connolly
Publisher: Joffe Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Imagine you woke up with the perfect life . . . But it wasn’t yours.

Today is Josie’s 36th birthday.

Josie is a single British woman living in a tiny walk-up in Brooklyn. She misses her family, but her radio show is starting to go places. And sure, she could be a dress size smaller, but no one cares what you look like on the radio. The guy she’s had a crush on for months is finally going to break up with his girlfriend. She hopes.

She’s zipping through traffic on her way to meet her friends for dinner at a SoHo restaurant. There’s a screech of brakes, Josie crashes her bike and her world goes black.

Then something extraordinary happens.

She wakes up in hospital. The handsome stranger by her side, holding her hand and telling her he loves her, is Rob. Her husband of two years. They live in a chic Manhattan penthouse. She works in real estate. And she’s thirty pounds slimmer than when she got on her bike that morning.

Josie has no idea how she got here. This new life is everything she ever wanted. But there’s one very important thing missing . . .

And now she has to decide: should she go back to her old single life in Brooklyn or stay with the love of her nearly perfect new life?

What would you do?

What if you found yourself in a great situation suddenly, but the world around you wasn’t the one you had always known? Josie, turning 36, suffers a bike accident and wakes up to discover that her “husband” was a stranger. Also, she’s now suddenly wealthy.

This is a parallel universe type of story where two “Josie’s” live each other’s lives. They trade places. Both of their lives have advantages. Josie #1 (Me) and Josie #2 (Her) see benefits in staying in their new worlds. For example, Josie #2 now has her brother back. He never died in this world. She gets to enjoy seeing him fall in love and start a family.

Josie #1 is now living in luxury with a gorgeous man who loves her. However, both women will have to sacrifice something important to stay where they are. Interesting questions come up. They end up falling for each other’s men. Is it cheating when they get involved with them? Would it be worth going back to their rightful worlds?

Things escalate as the stakes get higher. Characters are developed well enough to differentiate and make a difference to the plot. Two sides of Josie come out, and the people around them have realistic reactions to them. Their worlds are described well enough to give readers a real feel for them.

This book is good escapist reading. Recommended.

Junk Magic and Guitar Dreams by T. James Logan

Junk Magic and Guitar Dreams by T. James Logan
Publisher: Bear Paw Publishing
Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

A guitar, a box of junk, and a pile of trouble…

Fifteen-year-old Otter is in a dark place.

Child Services wants to put him in foster care, or even a home for troubled youth.

Living on his own, he’s one bad decision away from the street. His band’s first gig is only two weeks away, but his crush on their new lead singer has him tied in knots.

Then he inherits a box of random junk from a dead grandfather he barely knew, only to discover that the junk is infused with his grandfather’s memories. Can this “junk” help Otter win the girl of his dreams, reconnect with his family, and keep him out of juvenile detention…maybe even become a rock star?

You’ll love this touching, contemporary fantasy because it will play power chords on your heart strings.

Get it now.

Otter is a kid just orphaned and emancipated at the age of fifteen. He lives in a trailer park and helped his mother as she was dying of cancer. Now he must take care of himself. A woman from child services wants to put him in foster care, but Otter is dead set against this. He wants to take care of himself. He gets a job and misses school.

He has some things in his favor though: some good friends and neighbors and music. He plays bass guitar in a band, and music is a driving force for him. His grandfather leaves him an interesting box of junk, but it’s not just any junk. While going through it, Otter relieves the memories of his grandfather. He comes to understand him and learns some important things. This is an interesting aspect of the story, to see how Otter uses this knowledge in his life.

Otter has a nefarious neighbor, and in dealing with him, one sees how naïve Otter really is. He gets sucked into some bad things without realizing the truth, and this escalates. His best friend warns him, but he blows off the advice. Things get worse when someone steals his bass guitar when his band has an important gig coming up. Otter is already living on starvation wages. Then when Otter is with this troubled neighbor, the neighbor and his cohorts do something terrible in Otter’s presence. What will Otter do? If he calls the police, his life could be in danger, but he wants to do the right thing. This truly is a dark hour for him.

The story is underlined with his romantic interest, friendship, and other themes of family, racism, poverty, dreams, music, immigration, and other important issues. The characters are realistic, and one’s heart will surely be moved by the circumstances the kids find themselves in. The music aspects are done well. Vintage music comes to life here, and the descriptions of musicianship are perfect.

For an entertaining YA story with some depth, why not give this one a try?

The ’86 Fix: A 1980s Time Travel Novel by Keith A. Pearson

The ’86 Fix: A 1980s Time Travel Novel by Keith A. Pearson
Publisher: Inchgate Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Imagine if you could travel back in time and relive one weekend as your teenage self — would you change anything?

On the way home from school in 1986, Craig Pelling decided to buy a can of Coke. He wasn’t to know a seemingly innocuous visit to the local newsagent would dramatically change the course of his life.

Fast forward to his forties, Craig finds himself trapped in a loveless marriage, earning a living in a dead-end job as the manager of an electrical store. He could have been so much more, achieved so much more.

However, fate hasn’t finished with Craig Pelling yet.

A school reunion proves to be the catalyst for chaos, and decades on from his visit to that newsagent, Craig’s mundane life is turned upside down as his past comes back to haunt him.

As he plummets towards rock-bottom, all seems lost for Craig until he’s thrown a lifeline — the miraculous lifeline of a brief trip back in time to 1986.

Will he be able to fix his life? Is it as simple as just reverting one decision he made over thirty years ago?

Craig is about to find out.

Imagine making an important decision in your teens that left your life a wreck by the time you were in your forties. Now imagine that you could go back to that particular day in your youth and reverse what you did. Craig Pelling did that in this sci-fi time-travel novel.

Craig returns to his present, and things are different. There are some positive changes, but some things went really wrong. Craig searches for a way to set things back to his original difficult life. Why would he do this, and if he succeeds, but then?

This is an interesting take on the genre and somewhat unpredictable. The protagonist is well-developed, and the secondary characters enough to fill out the storyline. Parts of it are funny, and parts make a reader think about humans and their situations.

The story comes in two installments, where the second book picks up where the first one ends. For an entertaining vintage eighties sci-fi, time-travel story, why not give this one a try?

The Rule of Three by E.G. Scott

The Rule of Three by E.G. Scott
Publisher: Dutton
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Once a week, three women get together for book club in Kingsland, a private, gated community full of neighbors looking to do their business away from prying eyes. On the same night, their husbands meet up to play poker, where much more is being planned than anyone could guess.

But on this particular night, something goes terribly wrong. When all three men end up dead or hospitalized, and the entire town is being questioned, no one seems to be able to answer the only question that really needs asking: What the hell happened?

This is a riveting story, not just of powerful women or vengeful men, but of secrets, neighbors, blackmail, business gone wrong, and the most intimate of desires spilling into full view.

The novel starts right into the exciting action with a triple murder/attempt and three grieving wives. Who could have done such a thing? Two sisters and a friend are investigated along with some obvious suspects. The story delves deeper into some shady dealings with the husbands.

Interesting secondary characters round out the scenes, and they are easy to picture. Suspense builds as the mystery deepens. The setting is presented well, so readers can picture enough details to fill things out.

As things roll along, it will be tricky for readers to guess who the guilty party is. There are twists in this book, and the surprises add to the intrigue.

For those who love murder mysteries, this one is worth checking out.

The Coffee Lover’s Diet: Change Your Coffee, Change Your Life by Bob Arnot, M.D.

The Coffee Lover’s Diet: Change Your Coffee, Change Your Life by Bob Arnot, M.D.
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Improve your brain. Extend your life. Enhance your health. Discover the power of Polyphenols. Drop those extra pounds.

Dr. Bob Arnot, the bestselling author of The Aztec Diet, shows you how to use the power of America’s favorite drink—coffee—to achieve improved health, longevity, mental clarity and weight loss in this unique, groundbreaking wellness guide.

For years, we’ve been told that coffee was bad for our health. But new research reveals that, consumed properly, coffee can be the healthiest, tastiest part of your day. It can sharpen your focus, jumpstart your workout, help you lose weight, and even help fend off disease, from diabetes and liver disease to heart disease and Parkinson’s.

In this revolutionary handbook, Dr. Bob Arnot explains how coffee became a staple of the human diet, and reveals why having a cup is the best thing you can do each day. He also teaches you how to find the best beans from around the world and how to create the best brew and food pairings. The Coffee Lover’s Diet includes a full diet plan with corresponding recipes to ensure you get the full benefits of this miracle bean—in the right amounts and in a variety of ways—as well as tips for putting all of this invaluable information and advice to work to help you shed pounds, gain energy, and make the healthiest choices every day.

What if you discovered that one of your favorite drinks–coffee–could actually be good for you? Would this be inspiring? Dr. Bob Arnot has traveled the world in search of the best coffees. He has looked for not only quality, including excellent taste, but for other benefits as well.

Coffee is not all equal. Some is actually quite good for you. Arnot explains and gives evidence that one can enjoy a great-tasting coffee while also receiving health benefits. He talks of his experiences on coffee farms and in labs and offers plenty of charts with ratings. He discusses coffee equipment and water as well.

The book is entertaining and fun to read. As a bonus, the doctor gives readers plenty of delicious-sounding coffee-related recipes. Included are calorie counts. For those who want to take off a little weight, or even if not, this is a great book to check about and learn some surprising things about coffee.