One Third Off by Irvin S. Cobb

One Third Off
Have you ever tried to lose weight? More than a few pounds? It takes more than a special diet as Irvin Cobb discovered. Cobb thought that he was just “big boned” and that his size was genetic. His family always filled out in their thirties….

Cobb recounts the true and humorous story of his attempts to reign in his weight. Cobb wasn’t a lazy glutton. He just had a sedentary lifestyle and a special relationship with his food. He and his food had a special bond he told himself. (The bond was more obvious to everyone else.) Interestingly, Cobb describes the various self-delusions that he went through to convince himself that he wasn’t overweight.

  • The suit didn’t fit anymore cause it was cheap and shrunk.
  • The weight gain was a family trait.
  • He wasn’t fat, just well developed.

But, lest you think that this short work was boring, it was anything but that. Cobb eventually went to several doctors who were apparently quacks. Only a quack would call him obese. Cobb went to the gym and the steam room. He tried running. He tried everything but changing his eating habits.

His mealtimes were sacred.

It wasn’t until an obviously obese friend and he both got on scales together that his self-delusion started to crack. When Cobb realized that he was only a couple of pounds shy of the man he always viewed as obese, reality struck.

Eventually, Cobb owned up to his obesity and decided to solve the problem. He read every book on the subject and found that each generation of doctors and dieticians had a different philosophy. Some said that meat was evil. Other that you should avoid starch. Still others said to eat starch and meat to excess. In the end, they only agreed on one point: boiled spinach was acceptable.

You will empathize with Cobb, well I did anyway. Let’s just be perfectly clear: I have never EVER had to take One Third Off, but I have to be careful. I have also found that Cobb’s solution is correct. The only solution to drop 10lbs or 1/3 your body weight is the same regardless of who you are: eat less, eat healthy and exercise. Gag. None of it is fun, but then life isn’t about having fun.

You can hit the above picture and buy it from Amazon (and support the site) or you can do like me: free audio or free text. 🙂

One Third Off

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Dead Men’s Money by J. S. Fletcher

Dead Men’s Money
Dead Men’s Money begins in a manner reminiscent of Stevenson’s Treasure Island. There is a young man, whose father is long dead. A mother who rents a room to a stranger. A stranger with secrets. And a secret trunk. The mysterious stranger becomes ill and needs to send the young man, Hugh Moneylaws, to a secret meeting in the middle of the night.

…a meeting that never occurs on account of the murder of one principal and the death of the other.

Hugh quietly notices a stranger traveling the country streets that night but doesn’t pay much attention. Later when he finds the corpse, who was supposed to be alive and conversing with him, Hugh is propelled into a tangled web of intrigue that crosses three continents and leads to other nefarious murders.

Hugh an apprentice/head clerk to the town solicitor, a Mr. Lindsey, rapidly becomes embroiled in mystery death and intrigue. Mr. Lindsey and Hugh track this strange killing over the next several weeks. On several occasions Hugh comes within a hands breadth of death and once even closer. There’s plenty of intrigue with more than one twist throughout.

The good? The book is engrossing and brings out plenty of morals. The author emphasizes personal discernment, responsibility, importance of justice and a good character and so on. Intriguingly, the father of Hugh’s fiancee, prohibits them from being married for several more years. He wants to see Hugh better established and the lovers accept that judgment. I can’t see THAT being very popular anymore.

Overall, I had no complaints with the story. There were no objectionable elements that should discourage anyone from reading the book. If I had any complaints they would revolve around the writing style or plot structure, and to be honest, nothing stands out as worth mentioning. I wouldn’t say to drop everything to read this story, but you could do much worse. If you need some light reading, then by all means grab this and enjoy.

Audiobook and Text

The Price of Love by Arnold Bennett

Arnold Bennett
After reading The Card, I assumed/hoped that this would be a similar story. It was, in that it was set in the Five Towns. Other than that, there was not much similarity. This was a much more serious work. There seems to be conflicting elements to the story as if the author and the editor went a few rounds over the ending. While, this thought of a battle over the end is purely supposition, I suspect that it occurred and that the editor won.

This story is about a young lady named Rachel Fleckring, a house maid to a moderately wealthy and somewhat eccentric old woman. As the story opens as a local businessman deposits almost 1000 pounds at their house overnight. Shortly thereafter, the two nephews come for a birthday party. One nephew is brutish, but has strong moral character (i.e. quite trustworthy). The other, Louis Fores, is charming while lacking in the moral fortitude department. The scene is set and that night the money vanishes from the house.

This story studies many aspects of love and relationships through the microcosm of these few characters and the theft of the money: the elderly and upstanding Mrs. Maldon, the unscrupulous businessman Thomas Batchgrew, the brutish nephew Julian Maldon, the nephew Louis Fores, and the star Rachel Fleckring. Throughout the story, Bennett opens the readers eyes to the many aspects in which a person can be both wise and foolish in their interactions. We’ll look at that more in a minute.

The story does not have a strong drive towards a climax. In many ways it meanders along seemingly without direction. The key to the story is to study the relationships between the characters instead of seeing it as a mystery novel. There are a few twists, but overall this isn’t a “mystery” story.

I found this a difficult read as it reminded me of the foolishness of some couples I have known. Sometimes one cannot quite get their head wrapped around the seemingly foolish decisions that people make. Why do people turn off their brains when it comes to love? Why do people ignore the sage advice of their elders and become attracted to foolish spouses? I think that teenagers should read this book before they begin dating.

Mrs. Maldon tries to warn Rachel of the flaws in Fores, but cannot bring herself to do so as Fores is family. Rachel, an eminently practical young woman, refuses to listen to any opinions that speak against the character of Fores. She even ignores her own practical nature because Fores makes her feel “wonderful.” Batchgrew is not a model citizen but cares for Rachel and would have helped her if she had listened.

And so the relationships shift and change continuously with Rachel justifying her love of the foolish Fores. Even when Fores treats her poorly, she clings to him as if he was a life preserver and she a drowning soul.

Why? Who knows, but Rachel learns the price of her love.

You can get the audio book here and the text here.

The ABC Murders, by Agatha Christie

ABC Murders

Hercule P. is a Private Detective of some repute in London, so he gets threatening letters every week. His intuition sends warning signals, however, at one particular letter from a person claiming to want 26 people dead– in alphabetical order. Several bragging letters and corresponding murders later, our hero has no clues and fewer ideas. The family and friends of the first three victims get together to help Hercule solve the mystery, but how will they solve it without a single shred of evidence?

Good: I can see why Agatha Christie is so beloved: her writing style here really draws the reader in and makes them anxious to know more (even if they get irritated with Hercule alot, but more on that later). The whole question of who the ABC murderer is, and what his motivations are, is framed very convincingly. All the characters are well rounded, and make for convincing figures in the story. Every person who speaks is given a little bit of dimension, making for lots of believable rabbit trails. The story’s details dip into horror territory just enough to satisfy fans of that genre, but overall the structure is a very solid mystery. Some of the banter between Hercule and other people is really funny, but the plot never really deviates from its you’ll-never-guess-who-done-it focus.

Bad: Hercule’s desire to get into the mind of the bad guy, while the ultimate way he solves the mystery, results in some vivid recounting of a murder, more than anyone under 13 really needs to know. Also, there are anti-prison comments made by our sidekick that imply its better to kill someone than to bring them to justice if the result is a prison sentence. While it would be interesting to discuss the merits of execution vs. life in jail, the sidekick doesn’t frame it as an argument over what kind of punishment. Merely condemning the punishment itself implys that no punishment would be better, and the Bible is clear on the role of government in administering justice. Its a fairly minor series of comments, but worth noting as a heads-up.

Overall: I like three things about murder mysteries in general; a) I can figure out what is going to happen in the future because of the clues the main hero gets, b) whenever I can’t figure out what’s going on, the main hero can and thus earns my respect, and c) the significance of murdering another person is a major reason why the murderer being brought to justice is a good thing, regardless of why they decided to kill in the first place, and brings a strong sense of victory when they are brought to justice. While death has plenty of gravity associated with it herein, when we finally find out whodunit, its very casual. The reason it has to be so casual is that there is no evidence and thus no clues pointing to the murderer. Our hero’s intuition finally solves the case, (which seems kinda pointless since all the clues he cites are actually faked in order to obtain a confession). But for most of the book, no one has any idea what’s going on, and can’t find any evidence that would help them, so I never really developed any repoire with Hercule, as he never showed his famous intelligence until the last few pages. However, now I know what the classic cozy English murder mystery is like, and its not half bad. If I preferred to be surprised in the end, or to appreciate the hero because of his perseverance in the face of nothing to go on, then I would probably have loved this book. As it is, I enjoyed the chase part (and now, Stephen, you have permission to regale me on Agatha Christie in the comments section, since reading this was your idea), and the conclusion was a twist I never saw coming. If you like to be surprised, you’ll enjoy this book.