Thursday, July 21, 2016

"You Are What You Eat" says Jan Tilley in her new book

This review appeared in the July 15, 2016, edition of
The Boerne Star.
Whether your goal is to avoid disease and sustain good health, to lose weight, or to insure that your family eats a healthy diet, registered dietitian Jan Tilley wants to make it easy for you. In Tilley’s new book Eat Well to Be Well: Living Your Best Life through the Power of Anti-Inflammatory Food, (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2016, ISBN 978-1-62634-266-8) you will learn how to make wise choices in your food selection based upon you and your family’s special needs and requirements. Tilley cites medical evidence that concludes that chronic inflammation in our bodies leads to ill health. She provides room in her book for readers to make notations and she explains why inflammation is so harmful.
          In addition to working full time as a dietitian, speaker, and writer, this Bulverde author is a business owner, a “foodie,” a wife and mom, an avid cook, and a dinner party guru. Most of Eat Well to Be Well is made up of healthy, delicious, and easy-to-make recipes. She has divided the recipe section of the book into Eggs and Breakfast, Salads, Soups and Stews, Beef, Poultry, Pork, Seafood, Vegetarian, Side Dishes, and Desserts. The recipes include codes for heart-healthy, gluten-free, diabetes-friendly, and kid-friendly. Recipes such as “Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup,” “Asian Flank Steak,” “Spinach Stuffed Orange Chicken,” and “Apple Granola Bites” are fuss-free, tasty, and healthy. The final portion of the book helps the reader create a personal anti-inflammatory plan. 
          “In my years of practice,” writes Tilley, “I have realized that there simply had to be more we could do to get out in front of chronic disease and give people the tools they need to help prevent it from happening in the first place. I set this out as a challenge to my brilliant team of professionals . . . and together we have spent countless hours researching the data on anti-inflammatory foods and their positive impact on long-term health. From these findings, I have designed four easy-to-prevent steps to give you a practical approach to making [anti-inflammatory] work for you.”
          Tilley is CEO of a professional practice JTA Wellness. She and her team of dietitians accept referrals from most health insurance companies and provide services for private-pay individuals, as well. Tilley sees anti-inflammatory living as being a “four-legged stool” comprised of “balanced nutrition, moderate exercise, managed stress, and high-quality sleep.” 
          Eat Well Be Well contains beautiful color pictures of some of the recipes and is organized into an easy-to-follow format. It is available from Tilley’s website, Amazon, and other major booksellers. She has also written two other books, Getting Your Second Wind and Healthy Meals for Hurried Families.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Tell Me Your Stories" will delight pre-schoolers

This review was published in the
Boerne Star on Tuesday, April 19, 2016
        Child development specialists agree that learning the art of storytelling is an essential component for optimal childhood socio-intellectual development. In their book Tell Me Your Stories, Michelle Horstman and Ashley Long provide a platform for parents and educators to encourage storytelling in young children.
        The authors describe the idea behind the book as providing “a starting point for children to allow their imaginations to flow with many stories that are all their own. Using unique scratchboard engravings, we have tried to offer just a hint or two of what might be happening in each scene. Our hope is that the child might have a new or altered story to tell every time they look though this book.”
       In fact, each spread in the book consists of a rhyme printed on left pages and a scratchboard engraving on the right facing page. The book was illustrated on scratchboard by Michelle Horstman and her pictures are exquisite. Scratchboard, or scraperboard, is a technique that begins with a hardboard surface coated with a porcelain-type clay. A layer of black ink is brushed over the clay and various engraving tools are used to etch fine lines. There is an enormous amount of detail in Horstman's pictures.
       Each rhyme in the book is open-ended and asks a question. The child is encouraged to tell a story about the verse and the picture that faces it. For instance, the verse that accompanies a picture of a mouse sitting on an owl’s head is “Was it smart of Little Mouse to hide on Mr. Owl’s Head? Or was this a big mistake that he might learn to dread?”
       One of the grea t things about Tell Me Your Stories is that it can be read over and over. A child’s imagination will be sparked each time he or she looks at the book.
       Tell Me Your Stories is available through Amazon and other major booksellers as a physical book and as an e-book. You can check out Horstman’s and Long’s website at and their Facebook page at

Sunday, March 27, 2016

"Uninvited" and “Unleashed” are provocative books for teens

 The date is March 15, 2021. The place is Boerne, Texas. On that day, the U.S. Surgeon General releases a new report on Homicidal Tendency Syndrome, a genetic predisposition for murder. When high school senior Davy Hamilton tests positive for the “kill gene,” she is ripped from her family and friends and sent to a special camp for teenagers who have the genetic mutation.
 In her two dystopic young adult novels, Uninvited and Unleashed, Sophie Jordan tells the story of a high school senior, Davy, who is a gifted musician and a straight-A student. Davy seems to have it all—beauty, intelligence, family wealth, and an awesome boyfriend. She’s all set to attend Julliard after she graduates from high school and her future looks bright. Davy’s world, however, is shattered when all of the students in her school are tested for the “kill gene” and she is revealed as a carrier. She is transferred to another school where she will complete her senior year caged with other students like herself. While at the special school Davy is befriended by an older boy named Sean who quickly becomes her protector.
           In the first book, Uninvited, after a carrier commits a mass shooting at a Houston mall, citizens who have the “kill gene” are methodically tattooed with a large “H” on their necks and transported to special camps. Davy is taken from her home and sent to a special unit for gifted teenagers. To her relief, Sean is banished to the same camp. 
           Davy describes her journey. “They’re taking us to a place called Mount Haven. This much I glean during the van ride and plane trip. Our group grows as we travel. By the time we land in New Mexico, there are nineteen of us. . . we get plenty of stares as we’re led through the airport and ushered through security. At least ten of us bear the imprints, and people actually press to far walls and clutch their children close as we pass.”
           While at the camp, Davy and Sean hatch a plan to escape. In Unleashed, the sequel to Uninvited, Davy, Sean, and some of their friends from Mount Haven undertake a dangerous cross-country journey to Mexico to find freedom.
           These plot-driven books are full of conflict, both inner and environmental, and Jordan successfully creates suspense from numerous twists and turns. The story-line is intense and the characters are well-developed. The story is told as a first person account by Davy, the primary protagonist of the novels.
           Author Sophie Jordan grew up on a pecan farm in the Texas hill country. A former high school English teacher, she is a “New York Times” and “USA Today” best-selling author. She has also written numerous historical romance novels and now resides in Houston. She obviously understands the teenage mind and, while not overtly “preachy,” these books do carry a message. Are you satisfied with just going with the flow, or do you want to do what’s right—a theme appropriate for all teens. Check out Jordan’s website Her books are available from all major booksellers.
This review appeared in the March 22, 2016 edition 
of The Boerne Star.

Monday, February 15, 2016

"South of Nowhere" is north of great!

When building contractor Julia Kalas discovers a male body stuffed in a coffin-sized hole under some floorboards in a farmhouse she is restoring, she braces herself for trouble. Originally from California, Julia and her husband ran a money-laundering outfit. They were attacked by a skinhead gang and Julia’s mate was killed. After turning state’s evidence and testifying against the gang members, Julia was put into the federal witness protection program and relocated to Azula, Texas. Ultimately, her cover was blown and her new identity exposed. She lived in fear that gang members would find her.

        In Minerva Koenig’s follow-up to Nine Days, (South of Nowhere, Minotaur Books, February 2016, ISBN 9781250051950), Julia’s search for the dead man’s killer takes her through south Texas to a bariatric clinic in Ojinaga, Mexico. Flush with over $50,000 from witness protection and working with a private detective, she maneuvers through a labyrinth of deception and evil and unearths an illegal human smuggling operation. Julia’s trek through northern Mexico provides the impetus for her to reconnect with her past love-interest, Hector. When she and Hector embark on a dangerous journey onto the Tohono O’odham reservation deep in the Arizona Sonoran desert, Julia reunites with her alcoholic mother with whom she has been estranged for many years.

        “I’d forgotten how small she was, and she’d shrunk a little with age, so that the top of her head now only reached about earlobe height on me. At five-two on a good day, I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of people I knew who had to look up to me. There was some gray in her dark hair that wasn’t there last time I’d seen her, but her eyes were still like live coals in her expressionless face, full of appetite and uncertainty.”

        Despite their flaws, Koenig’s outside-the-box characters are believable and likable. Julia must deal with dissociative episodes and recurring feelings of suffocation that interfere with her ability to sniff out the bad guys and Hector is incapable of faithfulness to a single lover. Both are willing to step over a moral line, if only for a moment.  The author’s powerful and meticulously crafted narrative arc guides the reader through an unpredictable, action-packed drama that holds up to the scrutiny of the most discerning reader.

        For bibliophiles who love to be kept in suspense and who appreciate surprise endings, “South of Nowhere” will keep you guessing. One word of advice—don’t start it in the evening unless you’re willing to sacrifice a night’s sleep.