Category: Non-fiction

Crack
October 21st, 2019 by diane92345

It was the eighties and everything was about making money. Reaganomics gave the promise that everyone could be rich with some smarts and initiative. So what were poor African-Americans using as their method to achieve this American Dream? Crack.

With a 40% unemployment rate for African-American teenagers in 1984, there weren’t any other ways to get rich quick in the poor neighborhoods where most lived. There was definitely no shortage of buyers. However, once the gangs moved in and took over crack sales, the homicide rate of those same teenage boys skyrocketed. The only way to expand their market was by taking over some other gang’s territory—usually involving extensive bloodshed on both gangs’ part.

Interesting and important information about both the Crack epidemic and the cocaine one that preceded it. However, it is very “academically” presented. While that makes sense considering the publisher, just be aware that this is an incredibly well-researched study and not a pop-culture type book. 3.5 stars!

Thanks to Cambridge University Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with:

Best of Cryptograms
October 18th, 2019 by diane92345

Scientific studies have shown that exercising your mind will keep you mentally young. The Best of Cryptograms is conveniently large-print for those of us getting older, which is all of us if you think about it. The large-print is also double spaced giving you plenty of room to write two choices for a letter if mistakes occur (and you are foolish enough to attempt these puzzles with a pen as I do).

Cryptograms are puzzles that substitute each of the 26 letters of the alphabet with another letter. They have been used for war, espionage and for fun as long ago as Julius Caesar. In this book, all of the puzzles are quotes—some from people and some from movies, books and plays. In fact, there are seven chapters: US History; Lines from Movies; Artists, Musicians and Actors; Authors, Writers and Reporters; Science and Technology; Books and Plays; and World History.

With 450 cryptogram puzzles, the Best of Cryptograms will give days of quality entertainment. The only downside to this book is that the puzzles are not graded as Easy, Medium, or Hard as in most puzzle books. I would recommend looking for puzzles that are on the long side and have many one, two and three letter words if you want a less difficult puzzle. You can also look for the author’s name to make the solution easier. For example, I found Martin Luther King Jr by seeing the two letter last word in the US History section. Once I had his full name, I had a thirteen letter head start by filling in those substitutions in the actual quote from him.

There is also a one-letter clue on a separate page from the entire answer that could be useful if you are stuck at the beginning of a puzzle. There is also an answer key in the back of the book. What is nice is the clue and the answer key are in regular print. You will know that you are “cheating” because you have to put on your reading glasses—aptly called cheaters.

The quotes are interesting. Many were new to me. Some were thought-provoking.

Okay, I admit it. I was somewhat addicted to cryptoquotes and logic puzzles from middle school through college. It has been a long time since I last did one. However, as I was doing these puzzles, I remembered why I enjoyed them. Now, thanks to scientific studies suggesting that doing puzzles will slow or prevent age-related thought issues, I can feel good doing what is enjoyable. I think you will enjoy the challenge and have fun too! 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

Art of Reading Minds
October 17th, 2019 by diane92345

“All our thoughts [are] reflected in our bodies; the reverse is true as well.”—from the Art of Reading Minds.

Reading minds is achieved by reading body language—no New Age mumbo-jumbo is necessary. This book can make you a body language expert. “You already do it, but you could do it better.” You can use the skills taught here to read another person’s underlying feelings. You can also learn how to build rapport with others. By projecting the body language most likely to make someone feel comfortable with you, you can build a common ground even if you are disagreeing with their stated position.

The Art of Reading Minds works! It provides simple methods to build your mindreading skills. Mimicking the other person’s gestures, body position, and even voice characteristics will encourage others to feel you are on their wavelength. So you can test out the techniques, the author provides simple exercises. You can prove to yourself that pupils get bigger when a person is interested in you and your conversation. Another exercise uses an imaginary lemon to prove how your thoughts automatically impact your physical body. You can also discover if you are a visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or neutral (logical) thinker. If you emulate another person’s style in word choice, cadence and volume, it quickly builds an underlying rapport and a feeling of closeness between the two of you.

This is such a fun and useful book. Though it may feel initially manipulative, these techniques are invaluable tools to use with clients, bosses, and even with future mates. Let me reiterate, they work! 5 stars!

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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My Creative Space
October 16th, 2019 by diane92345

What if I told you there was a way to stimulate your creativity? In My Creative Space, the author does just that with 48 ways to enhance yourself or your environment to encourage creativity.

My Creative Space explains how to make your home or office a space that encourages imagination and problem-solving. Many of the ideas are surprising. Staring at a bare light bulb, looking at family photographs, and making a fire can make you more creative. Many of the ideas are counterintuitive. Have a drink, make some noise, and work when groggy (or take a nap) are all scientifically indicated to boost originality. For each suggestion, the author lists what to do, why do it, why does it work, and how to do it. The studies supporting his suggestion are fully spelled out if further research is desired. All the suggestions are accompanied by many photographs showing how people have implemented the suggestions in real life. They are gorgeous and definitely encourage readers to try to do the suggestions themselves.

Overall, this is an excellent and original book on an unusual topic. It would be useful to anyone trying to solve problems or complete a creative project. Writing a book or illustrating a graphic novel? Solving programming or other analytical problems? Painting a picture or quilting a memory quilt? All of those activities can be assisted by being done in a more creative space. 5 stars!

Thanks to the author and Skyhorse Publications for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Follow the Golden Brick Road
October 13th, 2019 by diane92345

If you want to Follow the Golden Brick Road…to financial freedom, the author states real estate is the way to go.

Less risky than starting your own business or playing the stock market, real estate allows smart investors to win whether the economy is up or down. But it does take patience and sacrifice. Patience to wait to find the right property. Sacrifice to save for the down payment and renovation costs for the first house.

I’ve been looking into this field for a while. I want to use it as a cushion once I retire in a few years. Despite reading many books on the subject, I found several new ideas here. First, investors can use their IRA to begin their real estate journey. Once that journey is well on its way, investors can move from passive investors to active investors, which can save a lot of money on taxes. There were several nuts and bolts ideas here to save on taxes. There was also practical advice about how to begin. Plus what attributes do successful real estate investors have in common. Overall, Follow the Golden Brick Road is a useful guide for people thinking of investing in real estate—either flipping or renting the newly renovated homes. 4 stars!

Thanks to FTCW PC and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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The Twilight Man
October 8th, 2019 by diane92345

Rod Serling, famous host of the fifties sci-fi anthology series The Twilight Zone, is The Twilight Man.

Beginning his biography with his service in the Pacific theater of World War II, this graphic novel uses pictures to show us Rod’s life. He was diagnosed with shellshock after the war (now called PTSD), which left him with horrific nightmares for the rest of his life. Rod moved from college to Midwest radio to NYC television before landing The Twilight Zone.

The Twilight Man is an interesting step back into a more innocent time. World War II, its aftermath, the end of radio dramas, the beginning of television, McCarthy’s red scare, and conspicuous consumption are all addressed here. Rod definitely lived in interesting times. If you would like to read a bit of entertainment history or like biographies, this is a great choice. 4 stars!

Thanks to Life Drawn, Humanoids, and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Graphic Novel, New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

The Iconist
October 5th, 2019 by diane92345

How can a person, place, or thing stand out in the huge deluge of information now? In The Iconist, the author uses the KISS method. KISS stands for keep it simple stupid. He also recommends using large, bright, simple and symmetrical blocks of visual information to engage distracted humans. Finally, he recommends repeating the same message over and over. Familiarity is a good thing in our complicated world. Once people see your block and, more importantly, remember it, it becomes an icon.

The Iconist presents several examples of how blocks have been used in the past by artists and architects. This section seemed a bit unconvincing to me. If you look at anything closely enough, you can see the underlying geometric shapes. I did enjoy the examples of blocks in music. The best part of Bad Guy is the Duh! hook. It does get your attention and makes the song unforgettable. The author continues to provide many more examples of how blocks can work in any industry.

Overall, the idea of repeating a short engaging phrase to represent you or your company sounds good. I am going to try it on my blog in the near future to see if it works. If you are trying to get attention in a crowded world, it can’t hurt. 3.5 stars!

Thanks to BenBella Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with:

Little Women Cookbook
October 4th, 2019 by diane92345

With over 50 recipes, every food event in Louisa Mae Alcott’s Little Women is replicated using modern ingredients and cooking methods in the Little Women Cookbook.

From simple lemonade and hot chocolate to fruit trifles and Jo’s corned beef, the book has recipes for all skill levels. Many of the recipes are vegetarian like the garden pot pie. There are breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack recipes but the emphasis is on desserts. Or that just may be me. Many are little remembered now like apple slump and jellyroll cake.

I enjoyed the Little Women Cookbook. It was fun to see recipes that I had read about but had no idea how they were made. This a fun gift for the reader in your life. The only downside is there no nutritional information provided. 4 stars!

Thanks to Harvard Common Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

Stephen King at the Movies
October 3rd, 2019 by diane92345

Running from Carrie through upcoming film Doctor Sleep, Stephen King at the Movies shows both the good and the bad of movie and tv miniseries adaptations of King’s work. But there are secrets scattered throughout the text.

The Shining as a fugue or an autobiography? The original Pennywise in It was terrifying but was it as iconic as the one used? Was Misery really based on King’s idolization of Bruce Springsteen?

I’ve always wanted to move to Maine. To visit Murder She Wrote’s Cabot Cove in Autumn or King’s Castle Rock in Winter. However, after reading that The Shining’s winter madness was inspired by King’s view of Maine’s excessive snow outside the fledgling author’s trailer, I’m rethinking my plan.

Stephen King at the Movies is a good overview of movies, mini-series, and even single episodes of series featuring King’s writing. It is full of pictures of the actors, scenes, and original movie posters. Perfect for any Stephen King or horror fan. 3 stars.

Thanks to Palazzo Edition and Edelweiss+ for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Plaintiff in Chief
September 29th, 2019 by diane92345

President Trump has been involved in over 3,500 lawsuits throughout the years. That makes him the Plaintiff in Chief. But what else does that tell us about him?

By all accounts, young Donald wanted to be like his father—rich and aggressive. Fred Trump lied obsessively about everything. He believed that the law didn’t apply to him or his mobster friends. However, he was partial to suing people defensively to prevent someone from doing something he didn’t like even if it was perfectly legal and even just. Donald expanded on that by also using lawsuits to advertise his “Art of the Deal” brand. Once Donald befriended Roy Cohn, a mob lawyer in the 1970s, whatever moral, ethical or even practical inhibition he might have had was lost.

I found the facts in Plaintiff in Chief fascinating. It is amazing what a person can get away with using just prevarication and chutzpah. However, I felt the author was writing from an emotional point of view. He would repeat himself frequently. I am also not totally on board with some of his conclusions. Therefore, even though it was an interesting read, I would only recommend it to people who already dislike President Trump. I don’t think it will change anyone’s viewpoint. 3 stars.

Thanks to All Points Books, St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Be a Free Range Human
September 28th, 2019 by diane92345

To Be a Free Range Human requires leaving the 9 to 5 corporate work culture behind for a better work-life balance.

The book suggests that everyone has a bit of entrepreneur in them just waiting to be discovered. By using exercises, it tries to help the reader find their inherent skills that can be transferred to a gig lifecycle. Once the idea is found, the book explains how to test the merits of your ideas in as short as one week. Does it pay enough to support you and your family? The book is full of myth-busting of old ideas that may be stopping you from starting out on your own. For example, your idea doesn’t have to be original. Not everyone can invent an iPhone but plenty of companies including Android, Google and Amazon can copy that formula and reach a different audience. There are also many empowering stories describing how real people became free range humans.

Anyone needing motivation to quit that corporate job that is slowly killed them from the inside out will enjoy this book. That said I’m not sure how many practical skills for beginning a company are listed here. It is all well and good to say that you don’t need a business plan, an MBA, or to research to start your own business. That may be true for many readers of the book. However, for most readers, they will need to do some research. If they need a loan to begin their own company, they will also need a business plan. I think it would have been better if the author was a little more honest in her assessment of how easy it is to start a business when you are not a person with a million bucks (or even $10,000) in the bank. But again, the stories within this book will motivate you to work towards your dream. However, expect to read several other books in addition to this one. I wish the author had included a “For Further Reading” list at the end of Be a Free Range Human. Because she didn’t, I can’t give this book more than 3 stars.

Thanks to Kogan Page Ltd. and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

Sorted
September 26th, 2019 by diane92345

Jackson Bird had a problem growing up in a 1990s suburban Texas neighborhood. Born female, Jackson identified more with boy clothes and haircuts. However, in high school, Jackson tried to ignore the feeling by dressing feminine. During college, Jackson became a gay trans male and a videographer. This is his story.

Jackson’s story is heartfelt and emotional but also empowering. He now is happily pursuing his most important documentary—his own story. He tells of confusion about trans culture because of growing up in a heavily role-based town. Both girls and boys had parts to play in life and there was little to no variation allowed.

To avoid that issue with other people, Jackson does YouTube videos, TED talks, and this excellent book that explains how to speak and interact with people who just happen to be trans. It also is a memoir of Jackson’s experience of awakening and ultimate transition. By Sorted, the author means like by the sorting hat in Harry Potter—not in the British slang meaning of fixing a problem. It’s not a problem, it’s just Jackson.

While Sorted is a great book if you or a loved one is having some gender issues, it is also an excellent memoir that most people will enjoy. Jackson’s story is brutally honest and compelling to read. 5 stars!

Thanks to Tiller Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: , ,

Healthy as F*ck
September 22nd, 2019 by diane92345

Being Healthy as F*ck is hard. You have to change your habits. You have to change your mindset. You have to put your big-girls panties on.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. This book attempts to straight talk you into actually changing your habits—but only the ones that provide the most bang for your buck. Nothing here is original: eat more veggies, eat less protein, sleep more, drink less alcohol, etc. It is the way the book seems to speak straight to you that is new.

If you are ready to make some uncomfortable, but not painful, changes to your lifestyle, Healthy as F*ck is a great motivating tool—like a blunt, foul-mouthed cheerleader in your corner. You gotta love a diet/fitness book that uses Einstein, Grover, and Mr. Burns for examples. Again, as you can tell from the title, this book holds back no punches with its honesty but also its underlying support of the reason you want to get healthy. We all want to feel good about ourselves and this book might help you get there. 4.5 stars!

Thanks to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Once Upon a Time in France
September 18th, 2019 by diane92345

Once Upon a Time in France tells the, so unbelievably it must be true, story of Romanian Jew Joseph Joanovici.

After immigrating to France in the 1920s, scrap metal makes him rich. When World War II begins, he slowly starts supplying the Nazis with metal after they occupy France. He uses his money and connections to the Germans to save his family and many other Jews if France from death. He also contributes some his war profits to the French Resistance. When the war ends, society has a difficult time characterizing him as either a hero or a villain. In truth, he was just a man making hard decisions. War truly is hell.

Joseph is a complex character stuck in a bad situation. After World War II, people wanted to glorify war heroes and vilify its villains. Unfortunately, Joseph was a little of both. The story is enthralling and little known in popular culture. Once Upon a Time in France does an excellent job drawing the reader into a completely different time and place. It forces contemplation of what the reader would do if in Joseph’s place. The artwork is beautiful and really enhances the feeling of immersion in French culture and the shock of war. 4.5 stars!

Thanks to Dead Reckoning, Naval Institute Press and Edelweiss+ for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Graphic Novel, New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: , ,

Superhero Thought Experiments
September 15th, 2019 by diane92345

A comic book blogger and a philosopher walk into a bar—actually they shared a college copier—and Superhero Thought Experiments was born. They have got to stop meeting like this…

What is the difference between philosophers’ thought experiments and comic book plots? Surprisingly little. Take this short quiz and select the real comic book plots.

  1. “What if lightning struck a dead tree in a swamp and transformed it into The Swampman?”
  2. “What if trying to travel to the past transported you to a different universe instead?”
  3. “What if a time traveler returned to his childhood and told his past self about the future?”
  4. “What if a mad scientist removed your brain and is keeping it alive in a vat?”
  5. “What if you and all the universe were just the thoughts of a small child?”

Not as easy to distinguish as you thought, right?

The comic book plots are item number three and five (from 1975’s The Defenders and 1997’s Heroes Reborn: The Return, respectively). The rest were thought up by philosophers. The book’s “goal is to use superhero comics to illustrate philosophy, and in turn use philosophy to analyze superhero comics.” It does that by using the What If questions from above plus five more.

My Review

First up, for those of you partial just to DC or only to Marvel, both are used to illustrate the authors’ points.

It is hard to explain why I liked this book but let me try. I’ve only taken an introductory class in philosophy. My favorite philosopher is Kant, who basically believed if your intention is good, you are morally good regardless of any unintended consequences. According to this book, that is also the attitude of my favorite superhero, Batman. Coincidence or my subconscious mind looking for matching belief systems? Who knows but it is definitely thought-provoking.

I can totally see this book being a textbook for an introductory philosophy course. Conversely, if you liked your philosophy course and read comics, this is an engrossing book that will deepen your understanding of both. Finally, I believe any writer or fledgling writer of superhero comics must read Superhero Thought Experiments. It will encourage compelling plots that reflect enduring questions about the human condition. 4 stars!

Thanks to University of Iowa Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Indistractable
September 15th, 2019 by diane92345

“Being Indistractable means striving to do what you say you will do.”

The author presents four steps that fight the major time sucks in your life and how you deal with them. First, there are concrete methods to master internal triggers that distract from the task you should be doing. The author then states how to make time in your busy schedule for tasks that are a better match to your values. Next up are ways to avoid external triggers that lead to distraction. Finally, ways to prevent distraction are analyzed. There are several chapters on how to encourage your children to be indistractable too.

I see a lot of my behaviors in this book. Even though I blame my pesky co-workers for my lack of focus, many of my problems are actually internal. I get bored easily. I can envision using the tips in this book, essentially gamifying my mundane tasks, will help me focus more. I’ve been setting Alexa’s timer for ten minutes to see if I really need to do something different as the book suggests. Often the desire for doing something else vanishes. The book calls this “surfing the wave” and it has worked for me. Reading Indistractable is a great use of your time so you can schedule time for what matters most to you. 5 stars!

Thanks to BenBella Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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