A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

BookA Gentleman in Moscow is a beautifully written and magical story. Set in Moscow in 1922 and spanning four decades, we meet Count Alexander Rostov, who exudes old world elegance and aristocracy. He is sentenced by the Bolsheviks to house arrest for life at the luxurious, Metropol Hotel in Moscow and declared a “Former Person.” Despite the hotel’s grandor, the Count is imprisoned in a small attic room, which he attemptos to make cozy and familiar with a few of his favorite items. These include: two high back chairs, an oriental coffee table, a Louis XVI desk, two table lamps fashioned from elephants, and his grandmother’s set of porcelain plates. He also loves his books. “…the book had been written with winter nights in mind. Without a doubt, it was a book for when the birds had flown south, the wood was stacked by the fireplace, and the fields were white with snow; that is, for when one had no desire to venture out and one’s friends had no desire to venture in.”

Confined indoors, the Count spends his time exploring the hotel and making the acquaintance of staff and guests. His friends include Nina, a precocious young girl seeking lessons on how to become a princess, the chef and maître d of the hotel’s famed restaurant and Anna, a beautiful actress and Alexander’s lover. The author, Towles skillfully brings the world to the Count, since he cannot go out into the world. His encounters with each guest and staff member make for fascinating stories. “By their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve not only our consideration, but our reconsideration—and our unwavering determination to withhold our opinion until we have engaged with them in every possible setting at every possible hour.”

A truly delightful read. Amor Towles is also the author of Rules of Civility.

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

Book – Gyre is determined to get off the mining planet she grew up on and to find her mother, who disappeared years ago. The easiest way to do that is as a caver, exploring the depths of the planet to find new sites for the mining companies that run the world. But caving is dangerous, so rather than take the time to build up a proper career and risk dying before she gets a chance to get out, Gyre’s faked her CV and signed on to one big job that should pay her enough to get offworld as soon as she’s done. Of course, there’s a reason this job pays so much, and it’s certainly not because it’s a normal caving expedition.

I never expected a novel about one person alone in a cave, sometimes talking with one person on the surface but sometimes not, to be so emotional. Gyre is a terrific character, stubborn and foolhardy and paranoid, and I was cheering her on even as I was cursing her terrible decisions. While the novel starts out almost like a horror novel, the deeper Gyre goes into the mystery of why she’s been sent into this particular cave and what happened there, the more the broader universe of mining corporations and alien predators – not to mention Gyre’s developing relationship with her handler, the woman who hired her for this expedition – comes into play. I adored The Luminous Dead and I can’t wait to see what Caitlin Starling does next.

A Beginner’s Guide to Low-FODMAPS and Happier Stomachs

Book List– A plethora of trending diets seeking to soothe symptoms of digestive disorders and create happier stomachs, includes the Low-Fodmap Diet. FODMAPs – Fermentable Oligosaccharide (mainly Fructose), Disaccharide (mainly Lactose), Mono-saccharides and Polyols (mainly certain fruits & vegetables) are carbohydrates seen by health ‘experts,’ as poorly absorbed by the small intestine and trigger digestive symptoms.

The low-FODMAP Diet : Step by Step : A Personalized Plan to Relieve the Symptoms of IBS and Other Digestive Disorders with More Than 130 Deliciously Satisfying Recipes by Kate Scarlata and The Complete low-FODMAP Diet : A Revolutionary Plan For Managing IBS and Other Digestive Disorders by Sue Shepherd are especially helpful introductions to the Low-FODMAP diet, offering detailed definitions, guides, and recipes for beginners.

Beat Your Bloat : Recipes and Exercises to Promote Digestive Health by Maeve Madden covers general digestive issues, gives detailed information on specific disorders, and treatment diets, including Low-FODMAPS. In addition to introducing a stomach-friendly diet plan with recipes, this book incorporates exercise-specifically yoga in treating symptoms.  As a super-fan of yoga, I highly appreciated this aspect of the book.

Digestive Health with REAL Food : A Bigger, Better Practical Guide to an Anti-inflammatory, Nutrient-dense Diet For IBS & Other Digestive Issues by Aglaée Jacob is the most informative of the books, giving an overview of digestive issues and personalized diet treatment plans for specific symptoms/disorders. This guide is “bigger” in size and contents, but well worth the read.

The Bloated belly Whisperer : See Results Within a Week, and Tame Digestive Distress Once and For All by Tamara Duker Freuman

What a perfect title – one that inspires hope!  This book includes a detailed quiz to best match symptoms to specific disorders and delves into those conditions in each chapter. I found this helpful to analyze specific symptoms, learn their possible causes, and treatments.

Check out related downloadable ebooks through Hoopla Digital.

The Game Plan (2007)

DVD –  The Game Plan is fun and family friendly. Joe Kingman, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the top scoring quarterback for his professional football team. He is living the high life of a single playboy- sporting a penthouse, owning fancy cars, and enjoying fame. The morning after the biggest play of his game, 8-year-old Peyton arrives on his doorstep claiming to be his daughter, and never knew existed. Many silly things happen as their relationship evolves, from Leaving Peyton behind at a restaurant, to wearing bedazzled clothes to her ballet performance, to rushing to a medical emergency. This movie runs through the gamut of emotions, but relies heavily on the ability to garner laughter.

I found The Game Plan funny and charming. Although categorized as a comedy, the film includes serious scenes that explore family dynamics, trust, friendship, and love. If you are looking for a simple giggle for movie night, I definitely recommend this older gem.