The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess by Lou Schuler

The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess
by Lou Schuler and various
Paperback ISBN 9781583333396
December 2007
Penguin Group - Avery

Let's get one important fact out of the way before I start this review. This book is written by a man. Lou Schuler wrote The New Rules of Lifting and The Testosterone Advantage Plan, both of which are books specifically for men. Schuler has also written extensively for Men's Health. However, this does not make Schuler's experience and expertise any less valuable. He also addresses this gender issue at the very beginning. He wrote The New Rules of Lifting for Women for two reasons: 1) he got a lot of requests from women to write it and 2) the way a women builds muscle is much different than how a man does. Schuler addresses the latter very extensively in the beginning of the book.

This book provides a whole different way of looking at weight loss and exercise. First of all, the whole "eat less, exercise more" idea is flipped on it's head. If you eat less, then your body has less fuel for exercise. And not only will you burn fat but you'll also lose muscle mass. For those of us who appreciate what muscles do for us (they burn fat on their own!), the idea of losing muscle mass is quite scary. Also, Schuler makes several interesting points about how too much cardio leads to muscle loss. He emphasizes more high-intensity cardio done for less amount of time. So those 1 hour runs you've been doing are not necessary. Schuler's focus here is primarily muscle gain and fat loss and NOT weight loss.

There are technically three authors listed but I found that the whole book seemed to be in Schuler's voice. Alwyn Cosgrove (a man) provides the exercises and Cassandra Forsythe, M.S. (a woman) provides the recipes and meal plans. Otherwise, it's all Schuler.

I have a very conflicted history with exercise. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s I had terrible gym teachers who never taught me anything valuable about exercise. I was weaker than your average student. I couldn't do sit-ups, pull-ups or even run a mile (when they forced me to run a mile cold I would cough up blood because I pushed myself to run too hard). I was never taught to train to do those things or to even warm up. I was treated as part of a group rather than as an individual. Even though I had weak arms, abs, ankles and lungs, I was a very active child. I did all sorts of dancing (tap, jazz, modern, hip-hop, even gymnastics and ballet!), roller skated, rode my bike, played outside and loved sports. I hated gym class because I was always forced to do more than my body could handle. As an adult, this previous experience with terrible gym teachers has scarred me. I could never trust a personal trainer. Also I could never join any sort of exercise class because of the humiliation those gym teachers put me through in front of the other students. I'm all about exercising alone, listening to my body, and pushing myself on my own terms (and not to what others think I should be able to do).

So reading this book was a bit of a trial. I have heard so many conflicting information about weight loss and exercise I don't know who to trust any more. Should I trust this author? He seems to know what he's talking about. I like the exercises shown and have already started to do some of them. And I very much want to be a physically strong woman. Schuler spends a lot of time talking his ideas through which is very good. However, you don't get to the meal plans or the exercises until half way through the book. So expect a lot of talking!

Schuler's tone is very assuring yet stern. He tells you like it is but is also very encouraging. He's pretty much what you would want out of a personal trainer.

I would recommend this book to any woman who wants to be physically stronger and is sick of the hamster wheel that is endless cardio. If you like to work out alone, this is a good book. You'll have some guidance but it's up to you to put the advice and the exercises into practice.

Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang

Charlie Chan
The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History
by Yunte Huang
Paperback ISBN: 9780393340396
W.W. Norton & Company

A couple weeks before I headed off on my Hawaiian honeymoon, I started reading this book. The timing was perfect. I was at least 100 pages in before I left Boston and finished the book while in Oahu, Hawaii. If I had read it when I purchased the book last year, I might not have had the experience that I did.

Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History is not just about Charlie Chan. It's the story of Chang Apana, the original Honolulu Chinese detective, Earl Derr Biggers, the author of the Charlie Chan books and the legacy both of these key figures left behind in the form of the fictional character Charlie Chan. Yunte Huang is most concerned with the story of Chang Apana, a Chinese-American living in Hawaii who proved to be one of the best undercover detectives on the force. In the early 20th century, Hawaii was rife with crime, especially in Honolulu's Chinatown. Chang Apana looked like your average Hawaiian citizen and could open up a can of whoop-ass when the occasion called for it. He was a very smart detective and developed a long history of successful arrests and solved cases. Stories of his detective work made it over to the mainland and caught the attention of author Earl Derr Biggers. Inspired by Chang Apana's detective work and by a sign he saw for a Charlie Chan laundry by a railroad, he put the detective and the name together to create fictional character of Charlie Chan, the honorable detective.

It's very clear from reading this book that Yunte Huang is more enamored with Chang Apana and more interested in Earl Derr Bigger's work than he is with Charlie Chan as a character. So if you pick up this book thinking it's a history of the Charlie Chan movies, then you might be disappointed. That does not mean that fans of Charlie Chan should avoid this book. On the contrary, Huang provides so much context for the origins of this beloved on-screen detective that it only enriches the experience of being a Charlie Chan fan. It is important to note that Huang is also very concerned with the representation of Chinese-Americans (and other minorities too) in the Charlie Chan stories, the books, the movies and even the cartoon TV series. Is Charlie Chan just a silly Chinese stereotype? Or does his ability to outsmart everyone, especially the criminal, make him a superior character?

"All things Charlie, it seems, are radically polarizing." - Yunte Huang

Huang notes that most detectives in fiction are quirky. Take Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Charlie Chan and Miss Marple. They all have unusual personalities and unique back stories. These detectives stand out from every other character in their book whether it be criminal, victim or innocent bystander.

What made my experience reading this book all that much better was reading it in Oahu, Hawaii. It was wonderful to read about places and then just take a quick drive and see them in person. We passed through Honolulu's Chinatown, which featured very prominently in the book. We went to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and saw the exact spot where Earl Derr Biggers posed for a photograph with a fake Charlie Chan. We had dinner and listened to live music at House Without A Key, an outdoor/indoor lounge where it is thought that the original house that inspired the novel/movie once stood. We traveled to Kailua Beach where a scene from the Charlie Chan movie The Black Camel (1931) was filmed. We even went to the Honolulu Police Museum and saw the Charlie Chan/Chang Apana exhibit. There were a few other locations mentioned in the book that we didn't make it to. Including Chang Apana's grave and Punch Bowl Hill where the famous Charlie Chan house can be found (or at least where it supposed he would have lived had he been a real person, it wasn't the actual home of Chang Apana).

What was great about this experience was reading the book influenced our trip to Hawaii! And even my husband Carlos got excited about visiting the Honolulu Police Museum and I caught him several times reading the book. 

It was really wonderful reading this while on my trip to Oahu, Hawaii because Huang provides quite a bit of the early history of Hawaii including it's settlement by Americans, the first cows, horses and cowboys on the islands as well as the early history of law enforcement on Oahu and in Honolulu specifically. If you are interested in Hawaiian history, there is also quite a bit about another detective John Jardine (we saw some pictures and articles about him at the Honolulu Police Museum) and the infamous Massie Trail. Although that was not really connected to Chang Apana or Charlie Chan, it did give really great context about criminal justice and prejudice amongst Chinese-Americans in Hawaii.

I would suggest this book to anyone who is traveling to Hawaii or to anyone who loves history and Charlie Chan.

A special thank you to blogger Meaghan who not only recommended this book to me but tipped me off to House Without a Key, both the novel House Without a Key and the lounge! Check out her review of the book here.

Breasts by Florence Williams

Breasts by Florence Williams
May 2012
Hardcover ISBN: 9780393063189
W.W. Norton & Company

Breasts. They are really important. In fact, they are more important than you think. We are "mammals" because of them. Breasts (mammaries) and the ability to give milk to our young is what sets us apart from the rest of the Animal Kingdom. And even though they are incredibly crucial to human life as we know it, as author Florence Williams points out, they are misunderstood.

Are breasts for men? Are they for babies? What's their purpose? Why are human breasts so big and pendulous? Williams explores the neglected science of breasts. How they function, how ours compare with other animals, how women use them to breastfeed and how they can make us sick.

I was initially drawn to this book when I saw the below trailer linked to in a Shelf Awareness newsletter. The book trailer hooked me in straight away.

The trailer is funny, intriguing and made me curious about the subject. Enough so that I immediately ordered the book online and took it with me on my honeymoon.

I saw that the publisher compare Florence Williams to Mary Roach. I hate comparisons like that but since I really enjoyed Mary Roach's Bonk so I decided to overlook it. In fact, I really should have paid more attention to that comparison.

Let's just say, this book strictly sticks to the subject of breasts and their science. There is little to no social or historical context given. I was hoping this book would be a mixture of science, history and social studies in relation to breasts but that's not what it was. And that's fine. As long as you know going in, that this book is about the science of breasts then you are in for a very informative and illuminating read.

The book is very well-written and insightful. Each chapter takes a look at a different issue or topic related to breasts. Breast cancer, breast feeding, breasts in the animal world, breast augmentation, chemicals and how they affect breasts, etc. While Williams' tone is friendly and inviting, this book is not as amusing as the trailer would have you believe. In fact, parts of it are quite scary.

Coming away from this book, I'm a little worried that my breasts are nothing more than two ticking time bombs. A woman's breasts are highly sensitive to multiple factors including genetic predisposition to cancer, environmental toxicity and the age in which a woman gives birth. While I don't have a family history of breast cancer, the latter two situations give me pause. Have I used too much plastic in my life and exposed my breasts to too much BPA? Have I waited too long to have a baby? Will I ruin my breasts once I do have a baby? Should I breastfeed?

Williams might find some opponents amongst breastfeeding enthusiasts. While she describes how beneficial breastfeeding is to babies, she also makes note several times that breastfeeding is one way a woman can pass off toxins to her child. Remember when I got freaked out about Shark meat after reading Marion Nestle's What to Eat? A similar situation happened when I read Breasts. In the same way the food chain can multiply toxins in sharks (which carry the toxins from their environment and the fish and mammals they eat and the fish that those fish and mammals ate, multiplying the toxicity to higher levels), a mother can pass off the toxins of her environment and all the animals and plants she ate. Yikes! Williams makes no claim that formula is the solution. But countries such as Norway, who have been adamant about 100% rates of breastfeeding, are now taking a step back. What does this mean for the future of breastfeeding?

I think the saddest part of the book is the exploration of breast cancer, especially the chapter about men who have had breast cancer. Don't skip it though. It's really important to read.

If you are concerned about women's health and have an interest in learning more about the science of breasts, read this book! However, if you are more interested in breasts and how they function in society, how they are important sexually and/or the history of their objectification and repression, then skip this one.
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