Category: Non-fiction

Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves
November 5th, 2018 by diane92345

Theories abound, but few conclusions are reached in the interesting, but ultimately disappointing, Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves.

Recently, there has been a spate of celebrity suicides: Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain and Avicii (Tim Bergling). Despite having an outwardly successful life, these people, and many others over the years felt that suicide was the best choice. Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves attempts to answer that question using scientific studies and the author’s own suicidal tendencies as a roadmap.

The statistics and studies are fascinating.  For example, 43% of suicides are caused by genetics, and 57% are caused by environment. 90% of the genetic issues are mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder. The worst risk is when a person genetically predisposed to suicide runs into one of the environmental issues like the death of a loved one or loss of a job. The risks stack rather than run concurrently. However, the book’s episodic nature jumps from the police’s difficulty of determining suicidal intent conclusively to whether animals commit suicide to pure scientific research about brain chemistry.

Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves attempts to answer the “why are people suicidal” question. However, the presentation of a multitude of theories, many of them conflicting, fails to provide a clear answer. The conclusion presents some interesting facts about prevention, which answers only the “how are suicides done” question. The why remains a mystery.

Readers interested in how to prevent suicide rather than why suicide occurs will enjoy this book. Also, therapists or police officers interested in learning the results of studies of suicides would appreciate it. However, it is not recommended for families dealing with a suicide that has already occurred as it will generate more questions than answers. Also, anyone contemplating suicide would be better served by reading one of the many self-help or therapeutic books on the subject. 3 stars.

Thanks to University of Chicago Press and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with:

Laws of Brand Storytelling
November 3rd, 2018 by diane92345

Filled with countless examples of great brand storytelling featuring brands familiar to everyone, the Laws of Brand Storytelling helps any business tell their story in the most efficient and effective way.

The twenty-nine Laws of Brand Storytelling are grouped into six categories: Protagonist, Strategy, Discovery, Story-making, Channel, and Engagement. The largest category, Story-making, is filled with excellent ideas on how to tell a great brand story. A few examples of the Story-making Laws are consistency, simplicity, language, diversification, urgency, and optimization. Optimization focuses on how to target your marketing to find your perfect audience. The best advice from the Laws of Brand Storytelling is to focus on what your company and its employees hope to accomplish for the world rather than just on the product or service that you are selling.

With the speed of change in technology and social media increasing daily, all companies must reassess how they are connecting with their customers. No longer will a few Super Bowl ads with cute frogs make your company a household name or double your sales. Now, your brand’s audience must be found across a multitude of platforms: Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Google ads, streaming channels, traditional television channels, websites, etc. How can you engage an audience continually moving on to the next shiny object?  This book uses many examples of ways real companies both find and keep their customers. The Laws of Brand Storytelling is an invaluable tool to build your brand and also your business’ profit. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, McGraw-Hill Education, and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

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

Nightmare Before Dinner
October 31st, 2018 by diane92345

The Nightmare before Dinner includes recipes used in the famous Beetle House restaurants in New York and Los Angeles.

There are chapters for sauces, appetizers, soups/salads, entrees, and desserts. Most look more tasty than scary though they do have clever names like Edward Burger Hands, Silence of the Lamb Chops, and Bloodbath Cobbler. The best part is the cocktail recipes that look both scary and tasty like the bubbling This is Halloween. Also included are menu and decor suggestions for four different dinner parties.

I wish the food recipes included nutritional information. However, they all seemed simple to make with mostly easily acquired ingredients. The drinks looked delicious. I can’t wait to try The Beetle’s Juice with tequila, blackberry schnapps, lime juice, bitters, and simple syrup. Yum!

The Nightmare Before Dinner is recommended for hosts who want something different for their next party. 3 stars.

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

Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: , , ,

Lady in the Cellar
October 28th, 2018 by diane92345

A long-dead body is found in the captivating, and true, Lady in the Cellar.

In London in 1879, many people were looking to make their fortune by living together in boarding houses. In one, at Number 4 Euston Square, a well-to-do older woman’s body is found in the coal cellar. Her putrefied skeletal remains are clothed partially in silk along with a clothesline tied roughly around her neck. Though her time of death is years before, the London constabulary discovers through extremely thorough detective work her identity. The victim was Matilda Hacker. She was a wealthy heiress that never married. Despite being in her sixties, she dressed as a young girl. When her sister died, she seemed to have increasing mental issues. Convinced people were stalking her, she frequently used assumed names and moved around England. One such place she moved was Number 4 Euston Square.

I loved the great descriptions of how police work was done in England in 1879. Victorian England was a time of significant change in policing. Investigations were beginning to use the scientific method rather than intuition to solve crimes. The setting in London is vivid and makes the reader feel that they are there. However, the plot takes many wrong turns following what the police probably did at the time. It is disconcerting to spend fifty pages on a potential suspect only to have him eliminated in a few paragraphs.  Also, the resolution was not what I expected.  Some of my hesitancy in recommending Lady in the Cellar for its plot is perhaps my issue with being used to clear conclusions in fiction.  I do recommend this book for writers setting their story in the same location and time. 3 stars!

Thanks to White Lion Publishing and NetGalley for granting my wish for an advance copy.

Posted in Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: , ,

Beyond Weird
October 25th, 2018 by diane92345

Quantum mechanics is Beyond Weird, which is why this book’s easy to understand explanations, with minimal math, is such a great read.

The first mention of quantum occurred in 1900 during prosaic research on emitted heat. This accidental discovery was to change physics and also our understanding of the universe.

Quanta is neither wave nor particle and can be both inside and outside a box like Schrodinger’s cat. Does the inability to understand something logically make it untrue? Of course not. However, does it smell like the ancients use of ether to force their math to work? Maybe…

If you have any interest in science, the inability of scientists to explain the weird behavior of quantum mechanics is fascinating. If you have ever wanted to be Galileo discovering the Earth circles the Sun, there is an obvious task for you to take on. I suspect that the elusive Unified Field Theory will also be found by an amateur who has no fixed ideas of how physics should work. Or perhaps someone who enjoys science mysteries that are Beyond Weird. 4 stars!

Thanks to the University of Chicago Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.

Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: , ,

Putting the Science in Fiction
October 22nd, 2018 by diane92345

Whether you write mysteries, fantasy or science fiction, Putting the Science in Fiction is an exceptional way to avoid factual errors. But it is also just a great way to catch up with current technology trends.

When your spaceship dramatically explodes into a fiery cataclysm, scientists everywhere are screaming (with laughter). Of course, in space, no one can hear you scream. However, you should also know that without oxygen, you know like in outer space, fiery explosions can’t occur. To avoid giggling scientists, read this book.

The range of subject matter within Putting the Science in Fiction is impressive. From simple lab protocols to poisons, genetic engineering, mental health issues, disasters, rocket science, biology, computer science and more, this book has something for everyone. Each story is written by an expert in their field. Most are less than ten pages long.

Even for non-writers, some of the misconceptions exposed are fascinating. Walt Disney probably wasted his money freezing his head. Most of the Terminator series is impossible. However, the storm trooper’s pulse (really an intermittent laser) cannon has already been tested successfully by the US Navy. Unfortunately, Luke’s lightsaber is a non-starter as are all of the rebel’s ships. I guess we know who really would have won the (star) war.

Okay, I admit it: I am a total nerd. I absolutely loved this book. I am planning to use it at parties to debunk (okay, maybe ruin) popular movies. However, even as a non-writer, Putting the Science in Fiction gave me at least five great plots for a future bestselling novel. Unfortunately, it won’t be written by me. Perhaps you will write it so I can have the pleasure of seeing my idea in print. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Writer’s Digest, and NetGalley for an advance copy.

Posted in Fantasy, Mystery & Thrillers, Non-fiction, Science Fiction Tagged with: , ,

She Wants It
October 18th, 2018 by diane92345

She Wants It is a Hollywood film and television memoir by Jill Soloway. Jill is the writer/director of Amazon’s Transparent. Transparent is based on Jill’s real life.

Jill’s father was depressed and a mostly absent workaholic father during her childhood. After Jill and her sister, Faith, went to college, their parents divorced.

During an early morning phone call, Jill is the first family member to which her father comes out to as trans. Jill’s first thought is this is part of her story and she was going to tell it. If her father can become Carrie London, why can’t she become the film writer/director she always aspired to be?

Jill polished up an old script and it was green-lighted. After post-production is complete and Afternoon Delight is submitted to Sundance, Jill goes with Faith to meet their father for the first time as a woman. When her terminally ill aunt asks her to deliver a card to her father asking him not to dress as a woman at the aunt’s funeral, she begins writing Transparent.

She Wants It is a great memoir of how someone hurtles the obstacles of getting a screenplay developed in Hollywood. It also incorporates a bit about Jill’s life as a wife and mother of two. There are many psychological asides about life and her own journey to understanding the non-binary world. I was expecting more about the real-life childhood experiences of having a trans parent. However, for those looking for a Hollywood memoir, this is a good choice. It just wasn’t what I was looking for and I never felt connected to the author though her personal story is heartfelt. 3 stars.

Thanks to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for an advance copy.

Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: , ,

Vault of Frankenstein
October 17th, 2018 by diane92345

From Mary Shelley’s 1818 book to The Munsters and beyond, the Vault of Frankenstein is an extensively researched look at the impact of a single book published 200 years ago.

“Only Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan and Dracula have appeared more often in media than Frankenstein’s monster.”

Not bad for a nineteen-year-old first-time writer who only wrote the horror tale on a dare from two older published poets. Her real story is almost as famous as the monster himself. It opens the Bride of Frankenstein and was the entire plot of three other movies.

The Vault of Frankenstein explores how a book written so long ago has inspired so many interpretations. Emphasizing movies and television shows, the book also briefly summarizes plays and books based on Frankenstein. The illustrations include pages from the first edition books, engravings of locations, playbills, movie posters, candid production shots, and movie stills. The final chapter goes beyond film into cereal, cartoons, comics, dolls, models, and music in the Frankenstein genre.

I consider myself a horror fan. I even had the Frankenstein model shown in this book. However, I learned many new facts from the Vault of Frankenstein. Who knew the original silent 1910 Frankenstein film is 13 minutes long, restored and available on YouTube? Or that Igor (or his original incarnation, Fritz) was a device used by plays and movies so the audience would know Dr. Frankenstein’s thoughts? He wasn’t in the book at all.

The Vault of Frankenstein is perfect for a horror fan or Frankenstein memorabilia collector. The hardcover includes replicas of book manuscript pages, a playbill, movie posters, and stills. This book is a fascinating deep dive into Frankenstein lore. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Becker & Meyer, and NetGalley for granting my wish and providing me an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Horror, Non-fiction Tagged with: , ,

Operation Devil Horns
October 15th, 2018 by diane92345

A true crime memoir that reads like a thriller! The takedown of the notorious street gang, MS-13, is described in Operation Devil Horns.

“A special agent is never—ever—off duty.”

MS-13 expanded from El Salvador throughout Central America to Los Angeles and finally San Francisco’s Mission District. Local cops were unable to stop the gang’s crime and violence. The city’s sanctuary status ties their hands. Sanctuary cities vow not to deport illegal aliens or help the federal government to do so, which takes away a significant law enforcement tool. The San Francisco Police Department was unable to deport illegals to break up the gang. Enter the feds.

Santini, a federal special agent, finds two gang members, Diego and Casper, to report on the gang’s activities. By threatening them with deportation and offering the carrot of legality and witness protection, he was able to turn two hardcore gang bangers into rats. His goal was to use the federal RICO statute, already used to break up mafia families, against the 20th Street MS-13 gang.

Operation Devil Horns is a superb book. It is perfect for true crime and mafia fans.  However, it is also highly recommended for thriller readers. I loved getting a behind the scenes story about how gangs work and how law enforcement brings them down. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Rowman & Littlefield, and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Non-fiction Tagged with: , ,

Low Life in the High Desert
October 12th, 2018 by diane92345

The wild wild West is alive and well high above Palm Springs in the Mojave Desert. Low Life in the Desert tells the allegedly true tale of Pioneertown in the early noughties.

 David, an Australian journalist, moves to Los Angeles to be with his girlfriend, Boo, who is writing a Disney film about Australians. When he first arrives, they move into a pre-gentrified Venice Beach. The local police assure him that the best way to solve his problem with his rich, white, utterly insane crackhead neighbor is to shoot him and then drag the body onto his property. After respectively declining, the LA SWAT team uses tear gas to arrest the neighbor. Deciding they have had enough of Venice, they find LA real estate too expensive and decide to buy a house in the high desert.

Boulder House is a house literally carved from boulders and mountainside. On 17 and a half acres, the house is massive and includes a pool. All for $200,000. The nearest town is Pioneertown. Built in the 1940s to film the popular movie and later television westerns, the town is now full of iconoclasts, ex-cons and bikers. The residents stage a “shootout” every Sunday at dusk even when no tourists appear to watch. Low Life in the High Desert is the fish-out-of-water tale of David and Boo becoming desertized.

It is nice to read a memoir and to drop into the most exciting moments of someone else’s life. Low Life in the High Desert is a fascinating episodic look into life in the margins of society. However, the episodic nature is part of the problem with this book. Some episodes seem to have been added only to reach a certain page length. A story about Palm Springs’ gay, drunken Hollywood history and another about a burlesque museum don’t seem to fit into the main story at all. The main story is interesting, however, and worthy of 3 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Scribe US, and Edelweiss+ for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

Simply Bento
October 11th, 2018 by diane92345

All kinds of lunches, dinners and holiday meals are included in Simply Bento.

This cookbook includes Japanese, sandwich, noodle, rice and sushi bento recipes. It has a full chapter featuring vegan bento recipes and another for low carb bento. Each entree’s recipe comes with suggestions for side dishes and a make-ahead plan. Most recipes include a beautiful full color picture.

As a lover of Japanese culture through manga and anime, I want to create a real bento box for myself. Only three things stand in my way: being gluten free; not having any time to cook anything, even breakfast, in the morning; and not being a great chef. While this cookbook doesn’t provide allergen information, the recipe ingredients can be easily reviewed and substituted if necessary. The second issue means that almost all of these recipes have to wait for the weekend for me (and I assume many others) to have the time to cook them. Many of the cooking techniques require at least a medium skill set. If you are a beginning chef, it’s probably better to start with an easier book.

I loved the instructions for loading up your pantry with Japanese staples. Simply Bento includes instructions to make most of the Japanese sauces, like teriyaki and sweet and sour, from scratch. I also loved the cute side dishes like cherry tomatoes stuffed with cottage cheese and Tako (octopus) Sausage made with cocktail franks. Some of the recipes are traditional Japanese and some are Americanized like Taco Rice, Hamburger and Hot Dog Bento.

Love Japanese culture? want to try something different for lunch? Have an extra 30 minutes in the morning and some good knife skills? Simply Bento is highly recommended for you. Unfortunately, due to the lack of nutritional information, I have to take off 1 star leaving Simply Bento with 4 stars.

Thanks to Quarto, Race Point Publishing and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: , ,

True Indie
October 8th, 2018 by diane92345

“Making a no-budget indie film is like going to war. But you’re not General MacArthur storming the beaches with a force of a hundred thousand soldiers. Instead, you’re more like a small squad of Vietcong guerillas behind enemy lines, trying to complete an impossible mission using guile and your wits, the odds stacked against you. It’s risky, difficult, and dangerous. I can swear to it. I’ve been there.”

–from the prologue of True Indie.

Beginning with a middle school film called The Fish Movie, the author’s life was filled with dreams of filming Hollywood blockbusters. Borrowing money from his father at 18 to make his first feature film, Coscarelli sells it to Universal Studios for a cool quarter million dollars. Turning down a seven-year contract at Universal and previewing his first feature, Story of a Teenager, the same week as the blockbuster Jaws debuted brought his studio career to a swift end. He was 20 years old.

If you have any interest in film, this memoir is a fabulous backstage look at the process. It is also a great look at someone realizing his childhood dream. The writing style is excellent. It feels like your middle-aged neighbor is talking about his long-ago exploits. There are plenty of secrets from Coscarelli’s films. You can’t ask more from a Hollywood memoir than the story of a True Indie. 5 stars!

Now I just need to watch Phantasm again to truly appreciate the difficulties of filming on the down low with no budget. Okay, I’m back. The author was listed in the credits as the writer, director, cinematographer, and editor. His dad was the producer. Talk about True Indie! It was a much better experience watching the movie knowing some of the filming challenges. On to my favorite film by the author, John Dies at the End.

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.

Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: , ,

Gluten Free Instant Pot Cookbook
October 2nd, 2018 by diane92345

Containing fifty delicious sounding recipes, the Gluten-free Instant Pot Cookbook is both a flavor booster and a 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 lasagna in an instant pot? Or saffron risotto (with 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 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 pictures or nutritional information. The pictures can be found on the author’s Heritage Cook food blog so I’m not sure why they aren’t in the book.

The recipes are surprisingly innovative. For example, the Shrimp and Grits recipe uses the Pot’s saute 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 the Gluten-free Instant Pot Cookbook a perfect gift for a college student with an instant pot but little else to cook within a dorm room.

The recipes are worth 5 stars. However, the complete lack of pictures and nutritional information brings my rating down to 4.

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

Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: , ,

Think Yourself Thin
September 27th, 2018 by diane92345

“The vast majority of dieters who lose weight will gain it all back within three to five years.” To permanently lose the weight, the author suggests that dieters must Think Yourself Thin.

Beginning with the five stages of weight loss: Fed Up, Honeymoon, Stall (weight-loss plateau), Ideal Weight and Maintaining, the author reviews what could go wrong. Her solution is:

Slay resistence

Use visualization

Commit

Control emotions

Establish habits

Support system

Spiritual life

Finally, the author includes a 30-day mental mastery plan and quite a few success stories. The plan includes journaling thoughts, meditating, mindfulness, prayer, and visualizing success.

I’m disappointed that there isn’t much new in Think Yourself Thin. For the author of the 10-day Green Smoothie Challenge, I expected more originality. However, if you haven’t already read a diet book addressing the mental aspects of dieting, this would be a good choice. Think Yourself Thin motivates the reader with its Can Do attitude. The success stories at the end encourage by the variety of ways these people overcome various challenges and finally lost the weight. 3.5 stars.

Thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

Weaving on a Little Loom
September 22nd, 2018 by diane92345

Everything a beginning weaver needs to start Weaving on a Little Loom.

This book has clear and concise instructions—most with pictures or diagrams. It begins with the tools needed. Next, the author describes the different weaving and edging techniques. Finally, there are five project plans: a wall hanging, a clutch bag, a placemat, a pillow and a larger tote or laptop bag. What is nicer are the explanations of how to plan your own projects from the conceptual drawings to yarn selection to spec sheet creation. The spec sheet includes all the detail about the project allowing it to be replicated later.

I love the easy “friend talking about their favorite hobby” feel of the text. The author, by clearly laying out the requirements, makes weaving sound less intimidating than in other instructional books. I especially like the low cash outlay necessary to see if weaving is for you. A reader could do their first small project using only inexpensive yarn, a cardboard loom, a finger skein shuttle, a standard dinner fork, a ruler and scissors. Overall, if you are interested in trying weaving, Weaving on a Little Loom is a great book to jumpstart your success. 4 stars!

Thanks to Princeton Architectural Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.

Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: , ,

Rising Out of Hatred
September 21st, 2018 by diane92345

Rising Out of Hatred is the fascinating true story of how a heir apparent to a white nationalist dynasty turned away from hate.

Home schooled by his racist family, Derek Black seemed on a path to hatred. Derek was a frequent contributor to his father’s prominent white nationalist website. He also had his own white nationalist radio talk show. Derek believed what he had been taught to believe by his family, friends and co-workers. When he subsequently attends a liberal college, he realizes that people that look different from himself are not that different inside.

An inside look at the white nationalist movement along with a possible reason for all the devisiveness in politics and life today. Is it as simple as getting to know your demonized enemy better? We have all met racists who have exceptions for some people of the ostrasized nationality while still being suspicious of the rest of their race. I doubt it is as simple to change viewpoints as Rising Out of Hatred describes for most racists. However, it is a good way to begin a dialogue with the “others” in our world. 4 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Doubleday Books, and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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