Book Review: Breathe, Annie, Breathe


Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (Great! Solid book with minimal issues)

Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally is the latest release for the Hundred Oaks series. I was not familiar with the series or author but enjoyed the story immensely. I was initially drawn to this book, because the main character is training for a marathon. I will be running a half marathon in November and just started my training. After reading, I felt like I received a little pep talk and really loved the athletic aspect of this story. I quickly devoured this book and loved every minute.

The Skinny

Annie is a senior in high school about to graduate and start college. Her life is overly complicated as she deals with the recent and accidental death of her boyfriend Kyle who was training for his first marathon. In memory of Kyle, Annie dedicates herself to running the marathon with absolutely no experience or endurance. She joins a running group where she meets and is instantly attracted to mysterious and athletic Jeremiah. With the pain of Kyle’s death still fresh in her mind, Annie is not sure how to move on and deal with her new feelings for Jeremiah.

My Thoughts: Readers Should be Running Toward This Book

When I finished this book, I was definitely feeling a reading hangover. I wanted the story to keep going because it’s so addicting. I immediately identified with Annie’s apprehension and feelings toward running a marathon. Like Annie, I am not the best runner, but this is a challenge I have always wanted to overcome. This story made me feel like Annie and I were on a journey together which made me root for her that much more. The training details are accurate and realistic including the interactions between Annie and her trainer, Matt.

“He hops off his bike and pushes it along beside me. I can’t believe he walks as fast as I run. “You need anything? Water? Tylenol? Vaseline?”


He shrugs. “Yeah, for chafing. Are you having any issues?”

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a man would ask if I’m chafing. “No, thanks.”

I remember laughing at this. This is the less glamorous side of running which can definitely ruin your day pounding the pavement. I’m glad the author has knowledge about marathon training, because it provides a more authentic story for the reader. This is definitely a strong component of the book.

Kenneally did a stellar job developing characters, Annie and Jeremiah. On the surface they are attractive and seemingly normal teenagers; however, what’s underneath really adds the depth to the story. Annie is dealing with the loss of her future with Kyle and feeling guilty about her new feelings for Jeremiah. I admire Annie’s drive and dedication to running which made me excited to begin training myself. Before meeting Annie, Jeremiah is an adrenaline junkie and lady’s man. He’s only thought about himself and finding the next adrenaline high, but that all changes when he finds himself falling in love for the first time with Annie. Both characters are dealing with family drama on top of everything else providing the reader a vivid picture of their lives. I love Jeremiah for Annie, because they complement each other so well. Each character is damaged is some way, but together they find solace in one another.

My only issue with this book is the end. The story ends abruptly leaving the reader to speculate, and it feels unfinished. I would have rated this book a five if it wasn’t for the end. I really wanted to have a more complete story; however, I was still very impressed and really enjoyed reading Annie’s story. Ending aside, this book is definitely a refreshing take on teenage romance which I absolutely loved.

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I applaud you Miranda Kenneally!

I would definitely recommend this book to readers 17 years and above due to some sexual content. If you enjoy contemporary, romance, and coming of age stories this is right up your alley.

**I obtained a digital copy of this book via NetGalley.

Book Review: She Is Not Invisible

Rating: 2 out of 5 (It’s Okay. Some good qualities but mostly negative.)

Marcus Sedgwick, 2014 Printz Award recipient for Midwinter Blood, is back with his latest offering She Is Not Invisible. The story is told from a blind girl’s point of view and her search for her lost father following a series of clues and events. When I read the synopsis, I was intrigued by the mystery and possible fantasy elements. However, after reading I am left wanting more. I wouldn’t recommend this to most people unless you are a fan of Sedgwick’s.

The Skinny

Sixteen-year old Laureth has a talent finding patterns with numbers. Her seven-year old brother Benjamin can render electronic devices useless with his touch. Their father is working on a book about coincidences which has consumed his life for the past seven years making life difficult for the family of four. While on reconnaissance for his book in Sweden, Laureth receives an email from someone in New York City explaining they found her father’s research notebook. She is convinced her father is missing and tries to get her mother to listen without success. Laureth secretly books a plane ticket for her and Benjamin from England to New York City in order to find answers with the key being her father’s notebook. In order for any of this to work, Ben needs to be her eyes on this dangerous journey. Promising story right?

My Thoughts: Like opening a present only to find nothing in it…

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Intriguing premise, but disappointing end

This story has great potential, but fell flat at the end. Characters, Laureth and Ben, make this book somewhat enjoyable. Laureth is a brave, passionate, and smart young lady who is admirable in her pursuit of her father. She must overcome her blindness in order to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance and rely on her intelligence and resourcefulness. For seven-years old, Ben is extremely mature for his age. Not only does Laureth take care of Ben but the roles are reversed as well. Without Ben, Laureth would be helpless. Ben cares for his big sister physically, but emotionally as well. I also really liked the solving clues aspect of the story. Sedgwick leads the reader through some well thought out mysterious events that had me problem solving right along with Laureth. Unraveling the mystery and figuring out who, what, where, when, and why is a high point reading this book.

I gave this book a 2 because the plot is too thin. The book is 146 pages and way too short to fully develop a complex and flushed out story with this premise. The story has great potential, but there isn’t enough substance to make this a great book. After reading, I felt like I only skimmed the book. I had trouble recounting details to even write this review because it lacked depth. Some parts of the story were distracting and lead to nowhere making me feel mislead at the end. The end is uneventful and unsatisfying and nothing like I hoped. I probably would not recommend this book to most readers.

Book Review: While We Run

Rating: 4 out of 5 (Great! Solid book with little or minimal issues)

While We Run by Karen Healey is the follow up to the entertaining 2013’s When We Wake (read my review here). This sequel did not disappoint and readers who enjoy science fiction and dystopia should be flocking to this series.

The Skinny

When we last left Abdi and Tegan, they were on the run from the Australian government. After learning the true goal behind the cryonics program, they tried to spread the truth to the public without success only to be found and captured. Now prisoners, they are forced to be spokespeople for the cryonics program encouraging the public to support and donate to the cause. In order to comply, they are put under physical and emotional torture. Feeling helpless and beaten down, Abdi is forced to watch Tegan tortured if he does not comply with his evil handler, Diane’s, every whim. Will they rise above and escape? Can they save the public?

My Thoughts: No Sugar Coating in this Book!

I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of this book and it did not disappoint. Let me start off the positives with the beginning of the book. I was immediately sucked back into the story. Considering I read the first book last year, that is quite an accomplishment. I was utterly captivated by Adbi and Tegan’s imprisonment. The torture and mind games played by their captors resulted in complex thoughts and emotions from Abdi, the narrator of this story. There is no sugar coating his feelings toward the world, Tegan, and his primary torturer Diane. Healey doesn’t gloss over those feelings, instead she delves deeper by making Abdi’s inner conflict front and center. While being tortured, Abdi is made to believe that Tegan has conformed resulting in resentment and hatred toward someone he thought he loved. Abdi is confused and emotionally exhausted bringing him to the brink. He is trying to sort out his feelings for Tegan, but the abuse he endured leaves a permanent scar. As the book goes on you learn more about the torture Abdi in particular experienced and it answers a lot of questions about his sanity.

Another element I loved about this story is the evil Diane. She is a GREAT villain who you want to see killed in the most horrible way imaginable. That is truly how you know you have created a great villain (Commodious in Gladiator anyone? How about Joffrey in Game of Thrones?). She is sick, twisted, and without feeling who will stop at nothing to inflict pain. Her character blows away any traces of sugar and fluff in the story which I absolutely love.

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Joffrey would approve

This little gem below is when Abdi didn’t comply with Diane’s wishes. To get back at Abdi she forces him to watch Tegan be tortured.

“You know how this works, Abdi.” Diane sighed. “I’d hoped you’d learn a little faster. I really don’t enjoy having to do this.”

That was a lie. Diane loved her job. It was in the mocking slant of her smile as she held the screen in front of my eyes. Sometimes I wondered what had been done to her to make her like this. Surely she hadn’t been born evil.

“You’ll watch,” she said, her voice quiet and clear. “You’ll watch and you’ll remember. (pg. 31)

While I enjoyed Abdi’s refreshing and unique narration, it made me realize how much I liked and missed Tegan’s voice. During the story, I found myself pondering her thoughts and missed her sassy and strong personality. What I loved so much about the first book, is missing in the sequel; however, I wouldn’t change it. The story needed to be told by Abdi, but I would have loved a chapter told from Tegan’s perspective.

The ending is somewhat open, but for the most part tied up. I liked the ending, but would definitely welcome a third book. Out of the two books, I like the first one a little bit better because of the focus on Tegan. Check out this series!

Book Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Nice Effort! Still enjoyed it despite negatives)

Laurie Halse Anderson, author of the Printz Honor book Speak, is back with her latest offering The Impossible Knife of Memory. This contemporary young adult book deals with serious and emotional content focusing on a troubled war vet with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and his teen daughter. The book packs an emotional punch and is beautifully written.

The Skinny

Hayley and her father Andy have been on the road for five years. Andy, a war vet, suffers from PTSD leaving him practically incapable for caring for Hayley. Hayley is in constant fear for her father’s well being and events in her past have kept her from letting anyone past her tough facade. After years being home-schooled, Andy decides that Hayley needs to go to high school and they settle back into their hometown. Hayley must adjust to a “normal” life while still living with the fear of her father’s condition on a daily basis. She reconnects with an old friend and is introduced to mysterious good guy Finn. Finn brings out a side in Hayley she thought disappeared which allows her to hope again that things can get better. As Hayley’s armor begins to fall, old wounds are reopened when someone from her past comes forward and complicates everything.

My Thoughts: A Solid YA Contemporary with Heart

After finishing, I caught my breath and enjoyed a sigh of relief. This books definitely puts you on a roller coaster of emotions from highs to lows along with some bumps. I enjoyed the whole premise of the book focusing on the implications of PTSD in a family. The raw and gritty content hooked me and connected perfectly with Anderson’s writing style. My favorite part of the story is the culmination of events which I will not spoil. The intensity and emotional impact of the scene had me on the edge of my seat and on the verge of tears. The story is filled with real emotion including the romance between Hayley and Finn. Hayley experienced emotional trauma as a child, as a result, she developed a cynical and sarcastic mask to hide behind to keep her safe from any more disappointments or hurt. Finn breaks through that mask and challenges Hayley’s perception of the world and how she has lived her life thus far. Seeing their relationship progress forward is satisfying; however, seeing the faults and problems adds more depth and realism to their story.

The two issues I had with this book are the slow beginning and uninspiring end. I had a hard time getting into the story initially because it lacked action. The beginning laid the foundation for the background of Hayley and Andy explaining why they decided to permanently move back home. The story focuses on Hayley’s struggle adapting to high school and the constant worry about something horrible happening to her father. The plot seems to take a little too much time establishing this part of Hayley’s life. The story really starts to move forward after the bonfire scene and when Hayley and Finn’s relationship move past friendship. As I mentioned before, my favorite part of the book is the climax at the end of the book. However, the events after seem to pail in comparison. I was expecting more to happen, but it never manifested. It’s an okay ending which does work, but I was expecting more. Overall, I recommend this book for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson, contemporary YA fiction, and emotional stories. The story is beautifully written and the voice of Hayley breathes life into these issues making them relevant to teens today.

Book Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (Great! Solid book with little or minimal issues)

Imagine if your secret crush discovered your affections by reading a love letter addressed to them. You had no intention of revealing that information or for anyone to ever lay eyes on that letter. Imagine if this happened to not one crush, but five! This is what happens to sixteen year old Lara Jean Song. Lovers of contemporary YA and romance will devour this book just like I did.

The Skinny

Lara Jean is about to start her junior year of high school and still has never had a boyfriend. Her older sister and best friend, Margot, is leaving for college in Scotland and just broke up with her boyfriend of two years. Josh is not just a boyfriend, but an integral part of the family and Lara Jean’s best friend. Her father and younger sister Kitty round out the tight knit family. When Margot leaves for college, their world turns upside down.

From middle school to now, Lara Jean has had five secret crushes. She never had the courage to reveal her feelings, instead, she wrote love letters to purge those emotions to get over them. One day at school, a popular boy named Peter, one of her crushes from middle school, confronts Lara Jean about the letter mailed right to his door. She is beyond mortified, not only because her feelings are now public, but because one of those letters was to Josh. Yes, her older sister’s now ex-boyfriend and her best friend! In order to save face in front of Josh when he confronts her, she sees Peter in the hallway and kisses him to convince Josh she has a boyfriend. To make matters worse, Peter and his longtime popular and ruthless girlfriend broke up. Genevieve may have a new boyfriend but she still thinks Peter belongs to her. At first Peter and Lara Jean want nothing to do with each other; however, they come to a mutual arrangement to help both of their situations. Peter wants to make Genevieve jealous and Lara Jean wants to make Josh think she doesn’t like him anymore. Lara Jean goes from being an unknown wallflower to having the most popular boy in high school thrust her in the limelight and treat her like his girlfriend. Will Margot ever find out about the letter to Josh? How will Lara Jean deal with the publicity of her fake relationship with Peter? Read and find out!

My Thoughts: The Ending was…Oh Wait, There’s a Second Book Coming Out?!

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There’s going to be another book?! I couldn’t be more happy about this. This book ends on a slight cliffhanger and knowing that there will be a second makes me feel like Cookie there.

Alright so let me explain why I enjoyed this book so much. This book is around 350 pages, and I read it at a ravenous pace which made it seem like it was only 100 pages. The flow of the story is paced well and Jenny Han does a great job in setting up the story explaining the family dynamic, including Lara Jean’s motivation and direction. While reading, I couldn’t predict what was going to happen which I loved. I like books that aren’t predictable and I find that to be unique or rare in young adult writing. I love the family dynamic between the sisters and their father. It’s adorable and actually refreshing to read about such a loving and close family. I also enjoyed seeing progress and growth from Lara Jean and Peter. They all start off one way and morph into a more mature and better version of themselves. The only issue I had with the book was the ending. The events aren’t fully explained, but with the second book coming that makes me forgive the ending.

I could go on into specifics but prefer to leave readers with some surprises! I highly recommend this book to romantics and fans of realistic YA fiction.

Book Review: The Here and Now

Rating: 4 out of 5 (Great! Solid book with little or minimal issues)The Here and Now

YA Sci-fi and dystopian readers rejoice! The Here and Now by Anne Brashares is a pulse pounding time traveling adventure filled with intrigue, government corruption, and forbidden love. A strong female protagonist, detailed world building, and unique plot set this book apart from the crowd.

The Skinny

Even though seventeen year old Prenna James has been living in New York for five years, she still has had difficulty fitting in and leading a normal life. This is because Prenna is a time traveler from 2098. The future is filled with deadly diseases that have wiped out millions of people all stemming from a mosquito bite. In order to discover the cause of the disease and change the future, a small group of time travelers have made the trip to the present. They live in a monitored and rigid community where they must adhere to twelve rules that are supposed to prevent cataclysmic effects to the future. The most important rule to follow forbids community members to have any physical or emotionally intimate relationships with anyone outside the community. When Prenna meets Ethan (cute and charming boy at school), all the rules go out the window. With the fate of the world at stake, Prenna must decide if the one thing she has always wanted is worth giving up.

My Thoughts: Not a Fan of Sci-Fi?  Neither am I!

I believe I have stated this in a previous review, but I do not like science fiction. However, I do like dystopian and this novel blends the two perfectly. I love that this novel crosses genre boundaries and appeals to a larger audience by not going heavy on sci-fi elements. The romance between Prenna and Ethan is slow at first then becomes a whirlwind. Their relationship is the guts of this novel allowing readers to go beyond the sci-fi genre and just enjoy the story. Prenna never experienced normal teenage dating due to the horrible future she had to live through. The normal experiences like going on dates to the beach, sneaking booze with a fake id, and dealing with the jitters of having sex for the first time are nothing that Prenna has ever experienced. I found these normal moments to be critical in explaining that Prenna may be trying to save the world, but she is still a teenager going through physical and emotional changes just like any teen. These brief moments allow the reader a break from the foreboding mission and see Prenna finally finding herself. She’s got a lot on her plate for a seventeen year old and I admire her journey from obedient suppressed drone to independent confident leader. I loved the moments when Prenna stands up for herself and completely unleashes on her oppressors. I highly recommend this book if you like romance, sci-fi, dystopian, strong female leads, and time travel.

Book Review: Fangirl

Rating: 5 out of 5 (Perfection! Everyone should read this!)

Eighteen year old twins, Cath and Wren, are off to their first year of college.  Up until this point, they have been at each other sides writing fan fiction and being best friends.  Wren decides that college should be about meeting new people and tells Cath she does not want to be roommates. Meanwhile, Cath wants everything to remain the same and keep her sister as her best friend. Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is a fantastic coming of age story that is filled with humor, emotion, and depth.  This was my first Rainbow Rowell novel and is one of my favorite books I have ever read. You will like this book if you enjoy realistic fiction, strong female leads, romance, fan fiction, and if you breathe air!

The Low Down

Cath and Wren couldn’t be more different.  Wren is outgoing and the life of the party and Cath just wants to blend into the background.  When they first arrive at school, Cath meets her new roommate Reagan and her maybe-boyfriend Levi. Reagan is blunt, quiet, and intimidating; however, Levi is happy-go-lucky, friendly, and charismatic.  Cath hates the idea of meeting new people and becomes extremely reserved staying in her room only venturing out for classes. Her favorite class is a junior level fiction writing class.  There, she meets a cute guy, Nick, who shares her love of writing.  Meanwhile, Wren is going out way too much partying and drinking all weekend.  In addition to Cath worrying about Wren, Levi, and Nick, her father is having a hard time adjusting to life without his daughters.  Will Cath be able to juggle these new feelings and survive her freshman year?

My Thoughts: Love at First Page

This is how I felt after I read this book…


I can’t stress enough how much I am in love with this book.  The plot is simple yet interesting and the relationships, along with the secondary plots, are complicated, thoughtful, and realistic. My favorite character, the heroine of the story, is Cath. There were numerous times in the story I found myself rooting for her and I never got frustrated with her choices. I can relate to her personality and I could put myself in her shoes. The scene at the end with her estranged mother made me cheer even though some may view it as not the right thing to do. I loved it for it’s authenticity and also that’s how I would have reacted. Every time Wren did or said something hurtful to Cath, I felt personally insulted (as silly as that sounds!). Kudos to Rowell for creating this awesome story. I had a hard time finishing the story, because I didn’t want it to end.  That is the same feeling I had reading the final Harry Potter. Please go read this it’s the perfect story that will have anyone swooning. I wish I could go back and read it for the first time. 

Book Review: Ozma of Oz

Rating: 5 out of 5 (Perfection!)

Ozma of OzBeware the Wheelers! However, you shouldn’t beware of this whimsical and wonderful adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s third Oz classic novel. Ozma of Oz, written by Eric Shanower and illustrated by Skottie Young, is a graphic novel written for the young adult audience and everyone who enjoys anything related to the Wizard of Oz. This is the third installment in Marvel’s Oz series. I was quite excited to find this graphic novel due to an assignment for one of my classes in library school.  I love anything Wizard of Oz (except the “King of the Forest” song…I fast forward that part of the movie, so annoying) and the idea of making this into a graphic novel sparked my intrigue.

The Skinny

Making their way to Australia on the high seas, Dorothy and Uncle Henry must survive a tumultuous storm that threatens to send them overboard. Dorothy finds herself separated from Uncle Henry and while searching for him she is swept off deck into the stormy sea.  She finds a chicken coop to use as a makeshift boat and falls asleep to pass the time.  When she wakes, she meets a talking hen named Billina and finally reaches the Land of Ev. Convinced she is “not in Kansas anymore” (considering this hen can talk and only in magical lands can animals talk), she embarks on a journey through this mysterious land to try to find her way back home once again.

My Thoughts: Don’t Mess with Dorothy

Deep blues and purples make the moon almost glow from the page

The glowing moon jumps off the page.

This was my first time reading a graphic novel and I have to say I see why they are appealing and addicting.  The first thing that caught my eye was the amazing artwork. The illustrations are Tim Burton-esqe invoking an edgy and dark tone, but still colorful and eye pleasing.  Due to some of the dark themes and content, such as murder, beheading, and war, the artwork complements the plot providing a seamless and blended reading experience.  Graphic novels are mostly artwork and illustration so it is extremely important ensure a continuity between that and the story.  This artwork inspired me to create something based on these illustrations which I will begin to work on soon!

The story itself is fun, interesting, and engaging. The quick pace of the story keeps the reader engulfed into the story and allows the reader to finish the book within an hour easily. This is what makes graphic novels so appealing to young adults, because they can be finished quickly and do not need a large time commitment.  This graphic novel is great to use to attract reluctant readers and provide them a fun and entertaining story to sink their teeth into. Another great thing about this graphic novel is the character of Dorothy.  In the movie, she is polite, proper, and cheery which the graphic novel expands and makes Dorothy a more complex character. In the beginning of the novel, she is scared and dependent upon others; however, she makes a great transformation into an independent and fierce female by the end of the book.

I love this story because it reminds me of the Disney movie, Return to Oz, which is very similar to the plot of Ozma of Oz.  The movie  translates the dark and sometimes creepy images and themes to life.  Return to Oz features most of the characters in Ozma of Oz with addition to characters that are featured in the other Marvel Oz series.  Let me just say that this movie is not a typical Disney movie.  To a kid, it will be terrifying, especially the characters of the Wheelers.  Check out the trailer and see for yourself!

Overall, I really enjoyed this graphic novel and found it to be a well done adaptation of a literary classic.  I highly recommend this book for people who love Oz, artwork, comic books, and graphic novels.   Be sure to check out the other books in this series from your local library: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Book 1), The Marvelous Land of Oz (Book 2), and Dorothy & the Wizard of Oz (Book 4).  Reading them in order is not necessary because each story stands on its own. There’s no place like home!

Book Review: Slim for Life

Rating: 3 out of 5 (Nice Effort! Still enjoyed it despite negatives)

Slim for Life by Jillian Michaels, the tough no-nonsense trainer from the Biggest Loser, is the latest addition to her vast collection of health “how-to” books.  I have watched The Biggest Loser for a few years and always enjoyed watching Michaels approach to weight loss with the contestants.  She’s a tough chick and I like that type of motivation while working out. I have one of her workout DVD’s which always leaves me crippled for days after so I am definitely a fan of hers. I saw this book on my library’s new non-fiction display and checked it out immediately.

The Skinny

Michaels uses a simple and full proof approach to changing your lifestyle discussing exercise regiments, eating on a budget, eating on the go, and how to tackle and overcome the common excuses made for unhealthy lifestyles.  Since Michaels is a new mom, she includes more information on time management  exercising with kids, and how to juggle commitments.  This book sheds light on myths of weight loss, fad dieting, and why you should eat carbs.  Each tip and guideline ranks 1-3.  A 3 ranking is something that Michaels finds the most crucial for you to follow to get results, 2 is useful but not essential, and 1 is optional.  At the end of each chapter you calculate the tips that you could feasibly add into your daily life.  At the end of the book there is an overall score taken from all seven chapters with an explanation your score.

My Thoughts: The Good & Confusing

I finished this book in a few hours.  It is a quick read, easy to understand, and allows you to skip sections if it doesn’t apply to you.  The book contains information that I already knew; however, includes tons of new things that people should know when starting or currently practicing a healthy lifestyle.  My favorite part of the book is chapter 4 where she discusses eating on the go.  She talks about how to survive parties, restaurants, work, and travel and provides great tips and advice on how to navigate being away from your home kitchen.  For example, when you order your meal ask the waiter to box up half of the meal before it comes out you.  This is an easy way to avoid temptation and tackle the large portions that restaurants serve.

The only part I found challenging for a wide audience to follow was chapter 2 dealing with exercise.  If you are just starting your journey and have no prior knowledge, this chapter is slightly confusing.  A beginner will not know what a “curtsy lunge into a lateral raise” means.  I don’t know what that is either!  So while this section is hard to navigate for a beginner, it still provides a great plan for exercise and information about intensity, interval training, and outdoor exercise.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to change or tweak their current lifestyle.  I gained some crucial knowledge and learned different ways to optimize my health without having to go overboard.  This book is great for people on the go, parents, and the average person looking to jump-start to their health.  If you like Michaels’ personality then you will enjoy her writing style and no-nonsense approach.  Check it out at your local library today!