Flavia de Luce: amateur sleuth and devoted student of chemistry. Flavia loves murder and poisons and finds herself right in the middle of the action. In Alan Bradley's fifth Flavia mystery, she does not disappoint. Flavia is present to observe the opening of St. Tancred's tomb in the crypt of St. Tancred's church. Her smaller hand makes her the obvious person to shine the torch through the small opening between the rock that won't budge and the wall of the tomb. She is the first to see the body, not of the Saint but of Mr. Cullicut the church organist.
The discovery of the missing Cullicut adds to the strange events in Bishop's Lacey. Eerie lights float through the graveyard at night, a bat invades the church organ, the Archbishop and a botanist arrive. Flavia's miserable sisters act of out character.
Flavia's investigation leads her into tunnels in the cemetery, discussion with her eccentric neighbours and midnight excursions. Danger is ever present and she handles it with aplomb. Her bicycle, Gladys is a personality in her own right.
Alan Bradley (Canadian, by the way) has one more Flavia book planned. He has left us to wonder what will happen to Flavia's ancestral home, Buckshaw. Has it been sold to cover her father's debts? Will her sisters continue to be outlandishly kind to her? The last sentence in the book is a zinger. No spoiler alert here, because the ending won't be spoiled. Just know that Bradley has fans crying, "NO. What happens?" And there'll be no answer until Flavia's next adventure.
Sale Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Indeed. Michael Moss is an investigative reporter and as the book cover shows has won a Pulitzer Prize. Not for Salt Sugar Fat but this book demonstrates his ability to thoroughly research and expose the dirty underbelly of the Food Giants in the US. They hooked us in Canada, too.
Billions of dollars are spent annually in research at General Foods, Kraft, Nabisco, Post, Kelloggs, and Nestle to name a few. Many of these huge corporations have been taken over by Phillip Morris, the big tobacco company that employed so many scientists to show that smoking isn't really harmful to health. They had a great success until the legal war over tobacco that ended in a 1998 settlement in four States forced the release of the internal records made for the case. This opened the way for Michael Moss to locate food-related documents.
The history is insidious. Brilliant minds have wasted their best creative years in the search for the "bliss" point...the point at which sugar spikes the addictive areas of the brain and tastes best to us. They have wasted years of research into fat taste to discover their is no real upper limit on its flavour. Humans always love it- the term in the research is that it adds mouth feel. Research worked on adding salt. This ingredient is so cheap that it can be thrown with abandon into foods and the spillover swept up from the floor of the factory and tossed out. Salt adds flavour, it makes baked goods crisp and brown ( along with sugar) and we are addicted to the flavour. Taste buds can be retrained but salt is a big addition to cereals marketed to children. It isn't the only thing adding to the sodium load of prepared and fast foods; the load is increased by a plethora of chemicals to lengthen the shelf life of processed products.
Scientific research is one tool used to make us crave convenience foods. The other tool is marketing. It is used to convince us that we don't have time to peel that potato, grill that meat or wash that apple. There is a better product. Open the package and heat. The food is vitamin and mineral enriched; it's better for you than the real thing and it's so convenient.
Billions are spent every year to develop new, improved products that people will crave even more. TV adds target children and adults alike. Recent research and marketing has focussed on how to get around the bad publicity and how to lobby underfunded government regulatory agencies so that there is no legislative control on what goes into the processed food. Big Food has been so successful that they have turned products originally meant to be used once a week or so (when people found themselves in a real time crunch) to something that is food. Something that you grab and can eat anywhere- on the subway, in your car, on the street. Eating has become an anytime, soothe yourself anywhere acceptable activity.
The affects on health are obvious, yet somehow North Americans remain oblivious. They are overweight, obese and underactive. They have type two diabetes, hypertension and other weight-related diseases in un-precedented numbers yet more and more people ignore their problems in exchange for convenience. The children growing up have old arteries, over-taxed pancreases. They are the only generation to have a lower life expectency than their parents.
Hooked, hook set, line reeled in. North Americans are caught and without changes to lifestyle and food habits will suffer defilitating diseases too early.
Again, I ask. Ever been to Eastend, Saskatchewan? Again, I answer. Me, neither, but after reading Sharon Butala's Wild Stone Heart, I will be visiting. This book is a lyrical, intensely personal narrative of the land, its features and its secrets. Butala spent 20 years studying a field owned by her and her husband. The field drew her and as she studied it, reluctantly revealed some of its secrets. Wild Stone Heart is not a scholarly study of "facts", although the research needed to write this book is in depth. The problem is that for every fact, there is more mystery. Most things cannot be known and others only surmised. Many of Butala's experiences in the field cannot be explained by European rationale. The geology is unique and fossils abound. There are stone cairns and circles. The field is a Amerindian burial ground and those buried there do not rest peacefully. There are restless spirits who occasionally reveal themselves to Butala but they only deepen the mystery. In the end, the land is ancient and its past veiled. Tiny rifts in the veil have given Butala the insight to realize how little we know and how we need to recognize a different world view. The stories d
I am an avid reader and like to share some of my "finds" with others.