Category: Non-fiction

Castle on Sunset
May 9th, 2019 by diane92345

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Castle on Sunset is not salacious enough. When the topic is the famous Hollywood hotel, the Chateau Marmont, you expect some racy gossip. But if so, you will be sadly disappointed as most of the celebrity stories have been widely told before.

The Chateau was built at the height of 1920s optimism as a homage to a French royal castle. It was finished right before the market crash and the depression began.

The well-researched history of the many owners of the Chateau and its frequent rebranding is the best part of this book. Unfortunately, I was looking for spicy gossip, which is mostly absent. The Castle on Sunset is a serious history. If you are looking for that, you will enjoy this book. However, I wanted more original scoops on celebrities’ lives. 3 stars.

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

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

Me, Myself & Ideas
May 3rd, 2019 by diane92345

Whether you are trying to think up the perfect plot for your great American novel, create a new business, or energize an existing business with a new product or marketing plan, Me, Myself & Ideas can help.

Brainstorming is usually done in a group. But what if there is only you in the room? The authors have modified traditional brainstorming ideas so they can be performed by one person. They begin with breakouts and icebreakers to warm up your brain. But the meat of the book is in the brainstorming exercises themselves. Divided into methods using art, English, drama, and science as their muse, it is likely that at least one or two types will work for each reader.

There is nothing really new presented here. However, the style and humor in the book are a welcome addition to the surprisingly dry academic books on creativity. Years ago, I took a Master’s level Creativity Class that was my favorite MBA course. It presented these same ideas (i.e., mind maps and new ways of seeing old ideas). These methods work!

If you want to up your creativity with some pizazz, Me, Myself & Ideas is a good way to do it. Just a head’s up, I wouldn’t read this book from front to back. Stop and do some of the ideas as you read. 4 stars!

Thanks to Andrews McMeel Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Ultimate Gluten-free Dairy-free Collection
April 26th, 2019 by diane92345

The Ultimate Gluten-free Dairy-free Collection is a huge assortment of both gluten-free and dairy-free recipes. Note that each recipe is both. They may also be nut, soy, and egg free as well as vegetarian and vegan.

The recipes look both tasty and gorgeous. However, most take at least an hour to prepare and contain expensive gluten-free and dairy-free ingredients. If you are only avoiding one ingredient, there are better cookbooks available. However, the Ultimate Gluten-free Dairy-free Collection is a boon for those avoiding both.

Price and/or time prevented me from trying any of these recipes (though the Tomato Tart looked particular yummy). The more than 200 recipes are categorized by meal (breakfast, lunch, weeknight dinner) and type (side dishes and desserts). There is a comprehensive index. But it is not sorted by diet type making this cookbook difficult to use quickly for those avoiding other ingredients. All recipes include a key defining their diet restriction, servings, and prep/cook time. Most have full color pictures. Unfortunately, none have calories or other nutritional information.

Overall, this cookbook is best for gluten-free and dairy-free cooks with at least an intermediate skill in the kitchen, time to cook, and a substantial food budget. 3 stars.

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

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

Hacking Darwin
April 25th, 2019 by diane92345

Hacking Darwin presents an evenhanded look at the future of genetic intervention from a non-scientist’s point-of-view.

The first “test tube baby” was born using IVF in 1978. The human genome was fully sequenced in 2003. CRISPR, a method to cut and paste different genetic code into DNA, was developed in 1988 but first used on human cells in 2013. The combination of these three advances will soon allow IVF embryos to be selected for freedom from disease, hair/eye color, and gender. The ability to select based on IQ, longevity, or personality styles (i.e., extroversion or agreeableness) will soon follow. Basically, our DNA will become an IT product that can be hacked in ways we haven’t even thought of yet.

There are many ethical issues inherent in this ability. Would only the rich be able to afford the cost of manipulating their offspring to be smarter than poorer offspring conceived the old fashioned way? Would one “look” be so popular that races are effectively wiped out? Would this allow an entire generation to be wiped out by a new disease for which they are not protected by natural selection? Will we trust artificial intelligence to make humans that are smarter than even they are?

Hacking Darwin is a thought-provoking treatise on decisions that will need to be made soon to achieve the best results in the future with genetic engineering.  The best part of this book is the author’s easy-to-read style. He uses examples of people in the future casually selecting their baby’s height and IQ. There is nothing so technical here that an average fiction reader cannot understand, or worse, have to Google.

Perhaps it is because I’m a book blogger but I think this book would be a great resource for writers looking for ideas for a plot. There are a lot of unspoken “what ifs” in here. Would the genetically engineered younger children dominate the naturally made older ones? Would the smarter children be able to outsmart their parents? Could a disease wipe out a world made up of Kardashian clones? I’m not even an author so imagine what a real author could think up. For that reason, plus this is just a fascinating and well-written book, Hacking Darwin deserves 5 stars! I can’t wait to read it in twenty years and see how close or far it is from the truth then.

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

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

Curious Creatable Creatures
April 19th, 2019 by diane92345

Why didn’t they have books like Curious Creatable Creatures when I was young? I made a model of Frankenstein that just stood there (and would be worth a lot more now if I had never even opened it).

Many of these twenty-two creatures light up, make music, and move! Two even spit! While your kids are having fun, they are also learning valuable math and science concepts from geometry, chemistry, earth science, electricity, and more. All of the instructions have a difficulty and cost rating. What’s nice is the most difficult, and awesome, projects are not always the most costly making this an ideal book for home schooling moms on a budget.

Curious Creatable Creatures is an ingenious and relatively inexpensive way to get your child into STEAM projects. Plus they will have fun doing it. There are simple projects involving yarn, pipe cleaners and googly eyes for younger primary graders with a parent’s help. There are more complex battery-powered creatures for older elementary age children. Overall, a good choice to see where your child’s interests lie. 4 stars!

Thanks to Voyageur Press/Quarto Kids and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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

Wealth Made Easy
April 12th, 2019 by diane92345

Wealth Made Easy is a short inspirational read for people just beginning to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

Thirty-eight successful entrepreneurs share seventy-four wealth hacks to riches. Some of the hacks are extremely basic, like “find a need and fill it”.  While other hacks are complex, like the biggest lie is “follow your passion and the money will follow”. Some just make sense, like “make your money work for you” through usually passive income streams (i.e., rent or other monthly fee). Many of the hacks are just brief summaries requiring reading another book that is referenced. My personal favorite is Wealth Hack #1, “buy dirt”. It is very specific about how to determine what dirt to buy. It makes perfect sense but I’ve never heard it before despite getting 55% through an MBA before switching to a different major.

Most potential entrepreneurs will find a motivational idea or two within these pages. If you have already read all the books about building wealth or businesses at your library, this may just be a review. However, it is convenient to have it all in one place. Most business creation books have a large quantity of filler or examples just to get the book to a certain page length. Wealth Made Easy does not. It usually only has one example for each hack and the entire book is about 200 pages. Overall, this book is recommended for its motivational appeal. 4 stars!

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

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

Goldmine Record Album Price Guide
April 5th, 2019 by diane92345

With over 110,000 albums listed, the Goldmine Record Album Price Guide is the most comprehensive listing on the market.

This guide lists all albums that are worth at least $15 in near mint condition. In addition, it lists promo and dj copies when available. There is a section describing how to determine the condition of an album. This book includes very clear descriptions of how to tell the $250 copy from the $15 copy using color or changes in the album photo in addition to the catalog number. There are rock, folk, pop, jazz, country, soundtracks, and compilation albums included. Despite being 800 pages in length, it is very easy to find a particular album as they are alphabetized by artist or group name.

It is interesting to go through and see how much the albums from your youth are worth now. For example, Prince is worth more than both Madonna and Michael Jackson. Most of the pop and rock albums are only worth $15, which with inflation is probably what you paid for them. Not only that but trying to reach the near mint condition required to get the $15 basically means that you can’t have played the record much as even bent corners on the sleeve will downgrade the album. It appears that you will have better luck searching for 1960s jazz albums in thrift stores or pawn shops if you are hoping to find a profitable album. My only complaint is that I would like to see more pictures of the album covers in the listings. At most there are only a few per page. But that is a minor complaint. Overall, if you are interested in albums from the 1950s through the 1990s, the Goldmine Record Album Price Guide is the best choice out there. 4 stars!

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

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

Kawaii Origami
April 3rd, 2019 by diane92345

Kawaii Origami combines the cute Japanese pop art with more traditional paper folding to create original art using only colored paper and a few simple tools.

If you or your crafty child love Japanese culture, this is a perfect choice for some fun-filled hours. The set includes fifty sheets of colored paper but I would highly recommend practicing on cheap copy paper first.

All twenty-five projects include a difficulty rating of one to five stars. Even the pictures of the five-star Twinkle Star and Flower Bowl look complicated but the results are correspondingly impressive. Many of the easier projects, like the one-star Lucky Stars, two-star Tea Bag, and three-star Cute Purse are pretty enough to display or give as gifts.

Spend a few hours being a maker and create some cute paper decorations using only Kawaii Origami and some scissors. Your choice of color will make each result uniquely your own. 4 stars for going beyond the usual frogs and birds of traditional origami books!

Thanks to Race Point Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Gluten Free Instant Pot Cookbook--Revised
March 31st, 2019 by diane92345

Containing a hundred delicious sounding recipes, the Gluten-free Instant Pot Cookbook—Revised is both a flavor booster and time saver for gluten-free cooks.

Beginning with a cheesy poblano frittata breakfast, savory creamy polenta and various soups like spicy butternut squash, this cookbook has a bit of everything. Who knew you could make gluten-free meatloaf in an instant pot? Or saffron risotto( no more endless stirring)? The dessert chapter sounds particularly yummy filled with tasty treats like rice and bread pudding plus a to-die-for double chocolate fudge cheesecake. There are also easy bone broths for the paleo fans.

Recipes are clearly labeled with other common allergens like dairy, egg, soy and nut. There are vegan and vegetarian recipes included too. The only issue I have is the total lack of nutritional information.

The recipes are surprisingly innovative. For example, the Shrimp and Grits uses the Pot’s sauté function to cook the aromatics first. The sauce is then covered with a trivet and bowl to cook the grits. After a short time, the grits are removed and the shrimp is added to the sauce for heating. It is very innovative to cook everything in one instant pot making this a perfect gift for a college student with an instant pot but little else to cook with in a dorm room.

The recipes are worth 5 stars. However, the complete lack of nutritional information brings my rating of Gluten-free Instant Pot Cookbook—Revised down to 4 stars.

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

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

How to Write a Page-Turner
March 24th, 2019 by diane92345

If you want your readers to lose sleep because they can’t stop reading your book, How to Write a Page-turner will explain step-by-step how to it.

Beginning with the four types of tension (danger, conflict, uncertainty, and withholding), the book explains exactly how to add each one to the characters, plot, and wording of your book. With copious examples from books of various genres, it is easy to see how other authors have used the described techniques to good effect.

I have never read a Writer’s Digest Book that wasn’t a great tool. How to Write a Page-turner is no exception. This book assumes that you are editing your draft manuscript to ratchet up the tension. However, it would also be an interesting read for those still struggling to write that first chapter. 4 stars!

Thanks to Writer’s Digest and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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

Family Tree Problem Solver
March 23rd, 2019 by diane92345

Family Tree Problem Solver is exactly that. If you registered on any of the genealogy sites, this book can help you make better use of their tools and perhaps save you some frustration.

Beginning with five steps to solving genealogical problems, the book takes the amateur genealogist through the entire process of finding their roots. This edition has updated website addresses and two new chapters. One new section covers what to do when receiving a new hint email from a site where you have placed your family tree. Another describes how to use DNA kit results, either your own or family members, to further your genealogical research.

Family Tree Problem Solver is an excellent tool for any amateur ancestor detective’s armory. 4 stars!

Thanks to Family Tree Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

Wild LA
March 21st, 2019 by diane92345

Who knew there is so much nature around urban Los Angeles? It really is Wild LA.

This guidebook contains something for every Los Angeleno (or visitor). There is a page of pictures, descriptions, and interesting facts for 101 species including birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, snails, mold, and plants. All are found in greater Los Angeles and each profile gives the best locations to find them. There are twenty-five field trips around LA described that include directions, maps, and things to see. Ways to turn your own backyard into a wildlife habitat are also included.

A comprehensive and useful guide to the nature that is all around Los Angeles. Wild LA is recommended for nature lovers around LA and those who wish to educate their children. 4 stars!

Thanks to Timber Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Someday is Not a Day in the Week
March 21st, 2019 by diane92345

It is important to remember that promising to follow a dream “someday” never works because Someday is Not a Day in the Week.

This book gives ten life hacks that can help you align your ultimate goals with your current reality. Are the life hacks new ideas that you have never heard before? No. However, the author has an enthusiasm for them that is contagious. The book is motivating! Unfortunately, it is aimed a bit toward the well-off members of society. For example, I can’t quit my job until I put in the 30 years necessary to get my pension plus I have to wait until I’m old enough for Medicare, which is a long time from now. I wish I could just jump off that cliff with the knowledge that my family will support me like a parachute. However, that is not reality and the book encourages thinking realistically about how to implement your goals. If you are in a position to take that first step to finding a job that brings you joy, Someday is Not a Day in the Week is the perfect book to motivate you to do it sooner rather than later. 4 stars!

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

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

A Short History of Europe
March 17th, 2019 by diane92345

A Short History of Europe begins with Neanderthals and concludes with the 2016 vote by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. In between are births, deaths, court intrigue and full-blown battles.

Whether you are planning to go on Jeopardy or just want to impress academics with your cocktail party banter, A Short History of Europe will assist in your goal. Each chapter is just long enough to read before bed. With enough information to whet your curiosity, you too will be searching Wikipedia for more details of those characters that intrigue you.

My only conplaint is the random first-person comments inserted within some of the chapters especially the rather long portion on the future of the EU at the end. However, the editing of over 4500 years into 400 extremely readable and interesting pages is pretty remarkable. 4 stars!

Thanks to PublicAffairs/Perseus Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

Mastermind. Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal.
March 9th, 2019 by diane92345

Mastermind. Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal. The title really tells the entire story in a nutshell.

Paul Le Roux started out small with online prescription drug sales in the United States. Marijuana dispensaries still use his “doctors prescribe without seeing the patient” methods. Like most legitimate CEOs, Paul expanded his product line; in his case to weapons, cocaine, and meth. Who knew a nerdy programmer could be so business-oriented? His programming skills allowed him to develop an “unbreakable” encryption to keep his identity and location hidden.

Mastermind. Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal. is true crime that reads like a thriller. Kudos to the author’s investigative journalism abilities for uncovering the entire complex story. However, the complexity made it a difficult read. There are so many characters that the author provides a list of the main ones in the beginning of the book. For true crime fans, this book is highly recommended. However, for thriller fans, be warned it is much more complicated than the typical thriller. 3.5 stars.

Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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

Chasing American Monsters
March 8th, 2019 by diane92345

Organized by state, Chasing American Monsters is a fine introduction to monsters found next door and across the United States.

With more than 250 monsters listed, this book is sure to have something to interest every monster fan. I didn’t know that the state I live in, California, has both evil gnomes and giant (six and a half feet long) cockroaches so expect some surprises.

While I liked the brief stories about the monsters, I didn’t see the value of the state overviews. Do I really need to know which state was the last to join the union or has the largest population? Also, I wish there were drawings of each monster rather than just one per state. Overall, Chasing American Monsters delivers on its promise to provide a brief overview of the most famous or unusual monsters in each state. However, fans of particular monsters will want to pick up more detailed books. 3 stars!

Thanks to Llewellyn Publications and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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