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Book Review: "The Beautiful Mystery" by Louise Penny

The Inspector Armand Gamache mysteries, written by Canadian author Louise Penny, offer an amazing glimpse into the internal workings of Quebec's official police force, the Surete Du Quebec.

A thread of conspiracy and intrique is building slowly throughout the series, forcing the characters to choose whom they will stand beside when the final confrontation occurs. Penny also has added a more human (and humorous) element to her books by splitting the action between Montreal and an idyllic rural community where the residents seem to have a penchant for murder. 

Book Review: "Salt: A World History" by Mark Kurlansky

Salt book cover

What Mark Kurlansky did for cod in his book of that title he also does with Salt: A World History. This is an encyclopedia of the world's only edible rock, covering a variety of aspects of a substance so essential to our existence. This common substance has a myriad of uses apart from our daily sprinkling on our food. In fact, the salt industry claims it has at least 14,000 uses including pharmaceuticals, fertilizer production, soap making and even textile dyeing. 

The book begins with a fascinating account of salt's use in religious, magical, and folk rituals. In Ancient Egypt, salt had a role in both food preservation and the mummification process of less important people. Kurlansky details the actions of alchemists and chemists extracting elements from salt and recalls how Humphrey Davy extracted sodium using electrolysis. We also learn of methods used through time to obtain salt in both brine and solid form. 

Salt has been the cause of wars and disasters and has even been used to create works of art. Miner near Krakow in Poland created entire underground churches with statues and carvings that remain tourist attractions to this day. 

Book Review: "When the Killing's Done" by T. C. Boyle

Book CoverWhat do you get when you cross influential, determined biologists, well-to-do, radical animal lovers, eccentric-yet-lovable retirees, wild animals, attractive rollicking seas and the beautiful California central coast region? Another one of T. C. Boyle's tales with a purpose.

In When the Killing's Done, alternating chapters are narrated by the level-headed protagonist Alma Boyd Takesue, a National Park Service biologist, and by her foil, the hot-tempered antagonist Dave LaJoy. Dave is a local businessman who, in fierce opposition to the schedeled "elimination" of invasive animals, will go to great lengths to sabotage the aims of the park service and the work of Takesue.

What both of these determined characters forget, though, is the impartiality of nature and its powerful ability to upend the most carefully laid plans of man. These three forces at odd lead to some riveting scenes that involve several fascinating people, wild and breath-taking scenery and intricately woven events. In classic Boyle style, controversial topics are examined in a very personal way through the eyes of complex characters with competing interests.

Book Review: "How to Talk With Your Doctor" by Ronald L. Hoffman

All of us must go to a conventional doctor sometime for an injury, ailment or a checkup.

In "How to Talk With Your Doctor," author Ronald L. Hoffman instructs us how to approach doctors, develop conversations and direct those conversations to important issues, using a blend of knowledge from both conventional and alternative treatments.

Hoffman is in the camp of alternative and natural medicine and points out proven alternative/natural treatments that can supplement or complement conventional medicine. He offers sidebars throughout the book for both the patient and doctor to refer to, offering tips on how to improve communication and furnishing reliable internet sites and sources of medical information.

Also included are ways to practice preventative medicine with alternative therapies to chronic problems with references to studies and treatment methods to discuss with your doctor. This book would be a good read before you make an appointment for that next office visit.

--Review by Rodney Combs, Reference Librarian

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