Search This Site
Follow Stuff I Like on Twitter

Every Day Above Ground by Glen Erik Hamilton

Do cover blurbs by popular authors work? If I’m a litmus test, then yes they do. Hell, I still give books a try based on Stephen King recommendations, and he seems to have written hundreds of them! On the cover of Every Day Above Ground, between the author and the title, is “This guy has got what it takes” - Lee Child. 

Bam, I’m in.

Going by the press release, this is the third novel from Hamilton featuring his primary guy, Van Shaw. I’m kinda stunned I’ve been unaware of Glen Erik Hamilton and his work. His Van Shaw is clearly the reason people people compare Hamilton’s work to Lee Child, but I’m telling you, no matter how flattering that is, Every Day Above Ground stands firmly on it’s own. This book is outstanding all the way through.  

Van Shaw is an ex-Army Ranger living in the grey areas between law and his own set of rules. Life since the Army has been tough. He’s trying to rebuild his family home after a fire; his career thief grandfather, his adult role model, has passed away. Shaw is a good guy, by all basic measures, but isn’t afraid to tackle life head-on and utilize his lifetime knowledge of thievery and Army training to take care of himself, and those he cares about.

That compassion is where trouble finds Shaw. Everything in his life begins to unravel after an old prison acquaintance of Van Shaw’s grandfather lands on his doorstep. His  fantastic story and opportunity involving millions of dollars in gold quickly draws Shaw in, though quickly the game changes and the stakes grow much higher. 

Tense action and a lively storyline throughout kept me eagerly reading and wondering and hoping. When millions of dollars in gold bricks are at stake, relationships change quickly and events move faster. 

Hamilton proves to be more than effective with plot and drawing personality on the page. With only his third novel, he assumes a place in the top thriller / mystery ranks. I enjoyed getting to know Van Shaw and several other of his friends, and certainly felt I had a stake in how Shaw was going to extricate himself and his captive friend from the situations they were in. A few timely surprises along the way proved welcome and fit the plot nicely - quite an array of “bad guys” are all over this story.

I look forward to more from Glen Erik Hamilton, and will find copies of his first two novels and add them to my “must read” stack. 

@GlenErikH, @WmMorrowBooks, #EveryDayAboveGround, @TheRealBookSpy



House of Spies - Daniel Silva

I’ve less patience with books than I used to have. It doesn’t take much for me to put a novel aside out of boredom, or sudden realization I don’t give a damn about any of the characters, or worse yet, don’t even feel I know them. 

House of Spies is a big book. These 524 pages make it something decisions have to be made about. Do I lug it to the beach? Out to the deck? Are there all these pages ‘cause the author can’t figure out how to bring people to life with words, or because he thinks he’s Tom Clancy and the plot dances all over the place for the first half?

Yeah, I think of all this stuff. Which makes my applause for Daniel Silva’s House of Spies all the more relevant. Read in a relaxed manner, letting Gabriel Allon, the master spy and assassin disguised as an art restorer, weave his web of accomplices and plots slowly and carefully around the nefarious Saladin, is entirely satisfying every turned page.

Complex spy novels, notably those involving Russians, often become blurry and difficult (and boring) to follow. Silva kept me engaged at all times, with pacing tied closely to events and plot developments. I felt the story unfold around me as I read, helping me care and understand about bad guys turned “almost good guys”. 

Crossing borders amid global terrorism, Allon and his teams form unlikely alliances in an all-hands effort to prevent horrifying acts. How this is pulled together, how everything is even dreamed up, is a testament to the masterful storytelling abilities of author Silva.

Now I’m faced with a great situation. There are a bunch of Daniel Silva’s books I’ve not read, but I'm going to rectify that. Clear a bookshelf!


@danielsilvabook, @TheRealBookSpy, @HarperCollins, #houseofspies, #danielsilva


Matchup - edited by Lee Child


Matchup is a collection of thrillers, short stories, written by unlikely male/female collaborators featuring their best-known characters. Such an fascinating premise. Editor Lee Child seems to have made it his mission to pair writers who otherwise would never have worked with each other.

Every story has it’s own rhythm and pace. Child co-authored “Faking a Murderer” with Kathy Reichs, pairing his legendary Jack Reacher with her Temperance Brennan. Reacher, with his brevity of speech and cutting-to-the-chase language is starkly contrasted with the world of lawyers he finds himself caught up in. This helps Child’s writing be all the more entertaining. I love how Reacher lives so vividly in his own world, yet adapts quickly when circumstances dictate. His “What’s an IPA?” is a laugh-out-loud moment near the end of a suspenseful story.

Child of course introduces each story, detailing how these writers got together and giving readers a bit about how they mingled their often very different writing styles, processes and characters. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Matchup from beginning to end. Eleven adventures flow between the covers, including such favorites of mine as John Sandford, C.J. Box, Sandra Brown, Michael Koryta and Lisa Scottoline. Some of the pairings create tensions and flow quite different from what readers may expect. 

Want to know how much I enjoyed reading Matchup? The book followed me around the house. I looked for five minute spaces of time to read a few pages. Usually I am reading several books at a time, but once Matchup opened itself up to me, I had nobody else until the final page was turned.


#matchup, #leechild, @simonandschuster @TheRealBookSpy @leechildreacher


Matchup with Lee Child

Hell yes! I've been waiting for Matchup, edited by the great Lee Child. @LeeChildReacher, @SimonSchuster, @amandalanger, #leechild#matchup


Cookbooks, Food for Training, Food for Healing

 One Part Plant is another entry in a long line of recently published plant-based eating books. I’m not quite certain who all these vegans are, but publishers are lining up to satisfy their taste in cookbooks.

Author Jessica Murname doesn’t think of this as a food trend; she feels there are millions of Americans transitioning to eating more plant-based foods or at least getting away from processed foods. I’m hoping there’s truly a movement away from overly-processed fake foods.

I enjoyed One Part Plant. Murname isn’t dogmatic and doesn’t treat plant-based eating like a religious cult. In fact, she actually only advocates eating just one plant-based meal daily. Who wants to argue with the logic of that experiment with oneself? Her book contains pantry and shopping suggestions, basics how-to cooking instruction, and a slew of recipes. 

No meat, dairy, gluten, sugar or packaged foods - this isn’t for everyone (I need my varied protein sources each day). If you have struggled with food allergies, or just feel crappy and wonder if an elimination diet would be beneficial, I’d study One Part Plant and try this for yourself.

#onepartplant, #jessicamurnane, @jessicamurnane, @harpercollins


The Vegetarian Athlete’s Cookbook appeals to another niche. In my lifetime of hanging out in gyms and participating in various athletic challenges, not to mention the last decade+ of personal training, I just don’t run into many vegetarians. Part of this may be that I live in Wisconsin!

However, my cautions aside, Anita Bean’s cookbook is quite interesting. I worry about a relative lack of protein in many of the recipes, and I find the ratio between fat/carbs and protein to be sad, at times. However, Bean redeems herself with the use of whey protein powder in some of her recipes, notable those involving a blender. I’m happy to see this.

Another gigantic check in the plus column for The Vegetarian Athlete’s Cookbook is the box of nutritional data accompanying each recipe. As a (now) decently hardcore food logger, complete with digital scale, I frankly wouldn’t even try most recipes without the information already figured out. So a big thanks to Bean for including it.

Macro-nutrient numbers may not seem that important to some, but more and more I’m finding it critical to myself, my clients, and plenty of others who are taking charge of their health and fitness.

#vegetarianathletescookbook, #anitabean, @anitabean, @bloomsburypub


James Hamblin is a senior writer for The Atlantic, coming to the attention of many a few years ago with his “If Our Bodies Could Talk” video series. His new book, of the same name, is entertaining and light-hearted.

Hamblin call his book “A Guide to Operating and Maintaining a Human Body,” a subtitle doing no justice to how readable and useful the book is. Oh, did I mention Hamblin is also a doctor? Combining writing skills with logical medical knowledge equals a damn fine guide to answering the every-day questions we all have about how our bodies work.

No where else will readers definitively learn about defining the jaw by chewing gum (no, you cannot), or why females don’t have Adam’s apples, or whether tight pants are dangerous (to sex organs). C’mon, you have questions I’ll bet Hamblin has answers to.

#ifourbodiescouldtalk, #jameshamblin, @jameshamblin, @penguinrandomhouse


Mind Over Meds by Andrew Weil 

I feel like I’ve been reading and watching and listening to Dr. Andrew Weil my entire adult life. Maybe I have, but judging by his author pic, he’s not aged in years. In the 1980s I didn’t much enjoy his nutritional advice, as he was such a vegetarian, meat-is-dangerous guy. But a number of years ago Dr. Weil changed his feelings about many things food and nutrition, became an advocate of the Paleo movement, and admitted he now felt he had been wrong in the past. Amazing and commendable.

Mind Over Meds addresses the too common use and dependance on prescription drugs in our society. Weil isn’t looking for bad guys. His new book details a bit of the current problem, but of more importance, provides integrative-medicine solutions for treatment of high blood pressure, allergies, depression and other common ailments often treated with drugs. 

Author Weil says Mind Over Meds is the go-to resource for anyone who is sick and tired of being sick and tired. I agree. 

#andrewweil, #mindovermeds, @DrWeil, @littlebrown


Heal Your Pain Now by Joe Tatta professes to be “the revolutionary program to reset your brain and body for a pain-free life.” A tall order, but even judging by the tiny slice of the population represented by my personal training clients, an important segment. I hear about constant pain on a daily basis, often from people frustrated by the lack of answers and solutions offered by traditional medical practices.

Tatta delves into nutritional solutions for eliminating inflammation, as well as movement strategies. Many natural pathways exist and should be tested; most people aren’t even aware of them. If you are living with constant, daily pain, read through Heal Your Pain Now and determine if some tidbits of help for you exist on these pages. Odds are, there is something in here that will enhance the quality of your life. 

Isn’t that worth the $16.99 cover price?

#healyourpainnow, #joetatta, @DrJoeTatta, @DaCapoPress


Heal Your Frozen Shoulder by Dr. Karl Knopf

Truth time.  I’ve had this book for a couple or three months, never looked at it. The publicist kept asking me when I was getting to it, but another book or life project always got in the way. Then a long-time personal training client was diagnosed with frozen shoulder. Damn, now I gotta find the book, need to read and study it!! 

Now I’ve read Heal Your Frozen Shoulder. As a life-long athlete and weight-trainer, someone who has ruptured each rotator cuff (and not had surgery - I used Active Relief Therapy), I’ve enough experience with shoulder issues to keep shaking my head “yes” and “that’s right” as I read Dr. Knopf’s book.

Frankly, I had no idea frozen shoulders were as common as they are. I still live with several of the symptoms, and hope some of the simple therapies outlined in the book will assist me. 

Knopf says his book is “an at-home rehab program to end pain and regain range of motiion.” I agree fully. I found the hundreds of step-by-step photos and clear explanations to be instructive, and of immense use to me so I could safely and efficiently help my client recover and rehab from her frozen shoulder.

Heal Your Frozen Shoulder is one of those books that didn’t jump out at me. The cover isn’t flashy, the title is basic. But if you are getting older, are truly active, or work with others in a workout setting, this should be on your reference shelf. When you need this specific book, no other is going to do the job. 

#healyourfrozenshoulder, #karlknopf, @ulyssesspress


The Endurance Diet by Matt Fitzgerald

I used to be an endurance athlete, a couple of decades ago. Long runs, longer bike rides, dreams of epic adventures such as Eco-Challenges (I used to videotape episodes and re-watch them). There was a newsstand magazine devoted to endurance sports that lasted a year or two, and I had all the issues. Now I can’t even remember the title.

Before then, I was a gym rat. Since then, I’m a more dedicated gym rat and CrossFitter and weight-trainer, older and more broken. So no more endurance sports, certainly none involving running.

But I still follow endurance sports, and coach/writer Matt Fitzgerald is one of the people I always find time to read or listen to on a podcast. Always. He knows what he’s talking about, he coaches the best, and he learns in the real athletic world. 

In a nutshell, The Endurance Diet discusses in detail the real diets, the true food plans, utilized by the top endurance athletes in the world, in all the sports. Fitzgerald compares what the best put into their bodies to ensure optimum performance, with what amateurs do, and the differences are breathtaking. 

Fitzgerald has keyed upon five eating habits setting the best apart from the rest of us, and holds nothing back in his detailing of what how and why. Millions of amateur runners and skiers and cyclists will find this advice achievable and sustainable. Listen, read and learn! Fitzgerald provides the answers in The Endurance Diet.

@theendurancediet, #mattfitzgerald, @mattfitwriter, @DaCapoPress