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Twisted Prey - John Sandford

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold - John LeCarre

UNSUB - Meg Gardiner

A Spy Named Orphan by Roland Philipps

How It Happened by Michael Koryta

The Word Is Murder - Anthony Horowitz

Star of the North - D.B. John

The Sinners - Ace Atkins

The Outsider - Stephen King

Spymaster - Brad Thor

The Other Woman - Daniel Silva

The Man Between - Charles Cumming 

Operation Mincemeat - Ben Macintyre 

Berlin: Caught in the Mousetrap by Paul Grant 

Berlin Game - Len Deighton (for the Spybrary book club)

Desolation Mountain - William Kent Krueger

Podcast Favorites . (The life and Legacy of Ian Fleming, with author and historian Jeremy Duns, always an excellent and entertaining interview) . (the true story of Oleg Penkovsky, regarded by many as the greatest spy of the Cold War era - with Jeremy Duns, whose book on the topic, Dead Drop, is a classic) (wonderful history of Ian Fleming's involvement at Bletchley Park during WWII, and Anthony Horowitz making a presentation about his new James Bond novel, Forever And A Day. "How I Nearly Started World War III" with Mark Valley, host of the Live Drop Espionage podcast



Complete Nutrition Expands with New Product Line

One of the busiest booths at the Arnold Classic in March was the Complete Nutrition booth. Centrally-located, these ambitious first-time attendees had four lines going at all times, giving away bags of product (in return for names and emails, of course). Pre-Arnold, Complete Nutrition told me they were bringing 180,000 samples to the show! That’s serous commitment. I was impressed with the consistently happy-to-see-yoy attitude displayed by their employees throughout the exhausting three-day run.

Complete Nutrition has a new, extensive line of products, all announced at the Arnold and handed out in massive quantities. Their new Charge On Bars enter a crowded marketplace of all-natural, whole-food protein bars. I like the first ingredient in their proprietary protein blend: whey protein isolate. Also included is milk protein isolate, whey protein crisps, whey protein concentrate, tapioca starch, calcium carbonate, and sunflower lecithin. Basically, traditional protein bar label reading. Charge On Bars taste good, I like the relatively soft texture and mouth feel. The 16 grams of fiber in each bar is a good thing, balanced with the relatively small 5 grams of sugar. Each bar contains 28 grams of carbs. As protein bars go, Charge On bars seem as viable as any others. Keep in mind, real food and protein powder is always superior to bars in most situations, in my opinion.

Moving into the pre-workout market, Complete Nutrition does so with Liquid NX6 Shots. This 4 fluid ounce bottle is a single serving, believe it or not (it’s pretty big). Included is Beta-Alanine, arginine silicate, Amla Fruit extract, taurine, l-arginine, l-citruline malate, and vanadyll sulfate. The taste is good.  I’ve experimented with using Liquid NX6 pre-workout with a breakfast containing only protein/fat, and with a carb-heavy oatmeal breakfast. My pump was superior following the oatmeal, naturally, no surprise there, but even in a near-ketosis situation, I could feel myself filling out during the workout when I drank the NX6. I used it in the gym, right before beginning the session.

Also part of the new line are Charge On RTD Protein Drinks, in big 16.9 fluid ounce bottles. Each contains 20 grams of protein, and in the words of Complete Nutrition, “The 20 grams of isolate protein is supercharged with Velositol, an innovative new ingredient shown to double the power of protein.” Frankly, I have no idea what that is and whether it can possibly have such benefit. I’m not a fan of RTD protein, in any case. I much prefer blending quality protein powder with BCAA and creatine and MCT oil, trusting my choices for going into the blender.

Amino Uptake is a packet of 5 grams of amino acids, dosed with green coffee bean. The standard for many BCAA blends today is to add caffeine in one form or another. I’m not sure why. I consume plenty of coffee and espresso on my own and don’t need it in my amino acids, but it’s there all the time, it seems.

Pre-X7 is a powdered pre-workout supplement. Each serving has 3 grams of creatine, 750 milligrams of a nitric oxide (Nitrosigine), 3.2 grams of Carnosyn (glucose to help get through your workout strongly), and an unknown amount of AGmass, which Complete says enhances glucose uptake. I’ve not tried this yet, and I think I only have one packet, so I’ll not really know how it compares to other similar products.

Muscle Recovery RX4 interests me; each jar contains 120 softgels, 3 per serving. These have CLA, L-Leucine, MCT oil, ashwaganda root, a fancy form of calcium, and tart cherry powder. I’ll use these for a month along with my post-workout shake. 

Citrine is the “weight management” product, 120 capsules per jar (60 servings). This is their empty stomach fat burner, I assume. In each capsule is Vitamin B6, B12, caffeine, Theacrine, Huperzine, Casicum Extract, citrus avantium 6% synephrine, rhodiola rosea extract, ashwagandha root & leaf extract, and ginkgo bilobo extract. I’ll use this Citrine the same month I use the RX4, on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. Citrine bottle label

I find this new lineup of products interesting, but not ground-breaking and innovative. However, I’m not looking for magic. There’s already enough snake-oil merchants selling easy solutions. As a group of health and fitness supplements added to the existing Complete Nutrition line, this appears a worthy addition to their stacks and existing lines.

Why was Complete Nutrition investing so much money and time at the Arnold Classic? Their primary competitors, GNC and Vitamin Shoppe, no longer consistently set-up. GNC has gone from a major sponsor of strongman events, with a large interactive booth, to no visible presence at all. I’ve no inside information at all, but I’ve heard enough rumbling the last couple of years that GNC is hurting. Perhaps Complete Nutrition is taking a run at GNC itself, hoping to carve a bigger piece of the ever-expanding pie.

@completenutritn, @arnoldsportsfesitival


Tried a Weird Flavor Combo

Progenex Flow (salmon protein powder) has a tough flavor to disguiseI've had single-serving packets of Progenex Flow, their salmon protein powder, for sale on my table at CrossFit Green Bay for a couple of years. Sales of this particular protein have dragged. One, it's costly. Two, it's salmon and people fear it will stink when they open the packet. They're right; it does.

Recently I decided to end the madness, pull the Flow from the on-sale display, and cut my losses by using the remaining packets myself for post-workout shakes. Mixed with a packet of Build, the sweet-potato-based carb powder, I was hoping the initial Flow taste would be cut down. It is, but not enough. There is a decided pre-chug aroma from Flow that's not wonderful. Once I'm drinking it, the flavor isn't too bad at all, but the initial flavor rush is tough to take.

A few workouts later, my inventory of Flow is gone. While I appreciate it's quality as a protein, it's not something I need to keep in stock for re-sale. I wonder how sales of Flow are for Progenex in general? It's been in the line for two or three years.

#progenex, #progenexflow


The Healing Kitchen (175+ Quick & Easy Paleo Recipes to Help You Thrive by Alaena Haber and Sarah Ballantyne  


Cookbooks centered around a Paleo theme are commonplace. The days of “Hey, a new Paleo cookbook is coming out!” are long gone. Everyone knows what Paleo is (or at least they think they do). 

The Healing Kitchen rises above many of the books crowding bookshelves featuring Paleo in the title. Yes, there are a hell of a lot of recipes in here. I’ve not tried any yet but a few look crazy good. Sweet & Savory Shepherd’s Pie caught my attention and will be my first creation from these pages.

There’s so much more to The Healing Kitchen. Shopping lists of food are taken to a level I’ve not seen before. Authors Sarah and Alaena created meal plans tailored to the style of life you live. If you’re always running, the shopping homework differs for you compared to someone sitting at a desk all day. Such a good idea.

Every plan, each recipe, all the information in The Healing Kitchen conforms to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. On top of that, the authors understand the need of most people to budget for grocery shopping. No exotic and overly-expensive ingredients are featured. There’s no necessity to purchase high-priced spices or foods rarely needed in the kitchen. Logic prevails.

I particularly enjoyed chapter two, Healing Through Food. A good deal of useful (and proven) help is in these pages, written clearly. Writing such as this goes a long way to make The Healing Kitchen essential in your life.

@VictoryBeltInc, @grazedandenthused, @thepaleomom, #TheHealingKitchen


Ditch the Wheat: 120 Paleo Recipes for a Gluten-Free Lifestyle by Carol Lovett  

I figured out what sets Ditch the Wheat apart from other Paleo cookbooks with similar titles. It’s not specifically the recipes (though I’m taken with the simple roasted leeks and will be trying them soon). For me, it’s the attitude. 

Author Lovett hasn’t merely compiled wheat-free recipes; it’s the “lifestyle” bit that’s key. As with many Paleo books, the first chapters are the best here. Readers learn about food, where it really comes from, how to make broth, what best to do in restaurants while maintaining a Paleo life.

Just what are the ingredients of Paleo food and cooking? Lovett provides three great pages breaking down coconut milk and cane sugar and the like. This is valuable help, as Paleo goes mainstream and the masses look for answers.

Make your own aioli, or maple butter, or BBQ sauce. Use the whole animal. Don’t drag it into your kitchen and open this book expecting answers, but read closely and you’ll learn everything you need to know about using every part of that animal. Lovett break down the tools and equipment you’ll want in your kitchen, all the primary spices and pieces of the Paleo pie 

Over time, Ditch the Wheat could take it’s place as one of the Julia Child-like building blocks of a strong Paleo kitchen. From this long-time Paleo guy, that’s high praise.

@VictoryBeltInc, @DitchTheWheat


Easy Paleo Meals by Kelly Brozyna

Yeah, the world is awash in Paleo-themed cookbooks. Not a problem for me, really, because is there such a thing as too many books about food and cooking? I think not. Other than the perennial not-enough-room-in-the-kitchen-bookcase situation (some of them migrate to the basement shelves).

 Kelly Brozyna has written a couple of cookbooks previous to Easy Paleo Meals, but one is about chocolate-based foods, and the other about ice cream, so they aren’t to be found in my house. Here’s why Easy Paleo Meals made the cut. To quote the author: 

“If I’ve proven anything with this book, it’s not that I’m a fan of cooking, it’s that I’m a fan of eating.

Hell yes! This is what I want to hear, a cookbook written by someone who enjoys eating food as much or more than preparing it. I’m no foodie, I aspire to be a better and more imaginative cook than I am, but I consistently find myself working hard to prepare lots of food, and get ahead with meals, rather than researching recipes and utilizing the spices and ingredients already to be found in my kitchen. 

Easy Paleo Meals helps me expand my horizons and try some things outside of my wheelhouse. Sure, Kelly includes lots of desserts and other pastry-type foods I won’t try, but the Sausage & Egg Pizza is in my sights!

Another keeper from Victory Belt Publishing, who seem intent on cornering the Paleo cookbook market.

@VictoryBeltinc, @spunkycoconut, #easypaleomeals