21 Lessons for the 21st Century
September 9th, 2018 by diane92345

The 21 Lessons for the 21st Century cover five broad areas: technology, politics, despair and hope, truth and resilience.

In the 1990s, it appeared that liberalism had won its war with communism and facism. Even Russia had become, nominally at least, democratic. During the Trump and Brexit era, liberalism is once again on the ropes. Trump has an agenda of liberty only for Americans with a wall forcing foreigners to stay out. England, with Brexit, is attempting to limit liberty to only their own citizens too.

What is replacing liberalism? Nationalism and nostalgia for each country’s most prosperous time in history is being felt by both the US, England and even Russia with Putin and his tsarist fantasies. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century attempts to give some suggestions for where we should go idealogically from here. Per the book, in the shadow of the coming biotech and infotech revolutions with the threat of ecological collapse looming, zenophobia will not be easy or effective.

During the industrial revolution, machines replaced mankind’s physical abilities by moving heavy objects and speeding up processes beyond what man could do. With the recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI), machines may soon be able to replace mankind’s thinking abilities too. When that happens, what advantage will man have over machine? Worse, what jobs will be available?

Once AI advances to replace soldiers, what will prevent rich megalomaniacs from taking over the world? Once biotechnology allows the DNA manipulation of humans into superhumans, how will the rest of us survive? This and other ominous questions are asked throughout this book. Only the last few chapters have anything positive to say about mankind’s near future.

While this is an important book to read, its unfailingly grim view is tough to take on. Even though the future may not contain conscious robots like in the Terminator, it still seems pretty scary. While it seems credulous to say so, current times may be looked back on as the good ol’ days by our grandchildren.

If you lean toward depression or always see the glass as half empty, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century may not be a good reading choice. If you are staunchly religious, this book pushes secularism rather heavily. It goes so far as to call religion the most long lasting fake news. Also, if you are a Trump or Putin fan, be aware that both are demonized within this book. Because this book reflects more of the author’s views than any scholarly appraisal of trends or even actual events, I can only give it 2 stars. I think it will anger or scare most readers more than inform them. Such a shame and disappointment from the highly acclaimed author of Sapiens and Homo Deus.

Thanks to the publisher, Random House, and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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

Die Me a River
September 8th, 2018 by diane92345

In Die Me a River, the small rural town of Scumble River is still recovering from the tornado in the last book in this cozy mystery series.

The town is abuzz with complaints about the shady practices of Homestead Insurance. Claims are being reduced, denied and seldom paid timely. When their insurance inspector turns up dead in a bombing, Police Chief Wally must investigate a plethora of suspects. Wally would much rather be at home with his school psychologist wife, Skye, and their still unnamed newborn twins. Skye is on maternity leave. She is seemingly being stalked by a new town resident, Millicent Rose, who just wants to go the twins’ baptism. According to their priest, Millicent has gone to both of the other baptisms since she arrived in town and gave each baby some type of verbal gift.

Die Me a River is the second in the rebooted Scumble River series. However, there were nineteen books in the original series too. Despite never reading any of those books, I had no trouble catching up with the character’s backstories. This works well as a stand-alone.

Most readers, and I include myself, read cozies more for the ambience and characters than for the puzzle. This book does a great job pulling the reader into small town Illinois life. While there are a lot of characters here, each has such a diverse personality it is is easy to keep them separated.

The two mysteries are well-presented. I actually liked the fairy godmother sub-plot better than the insurance main plot but that was just personal preference. I enjoyed the minor mystery around the naming of the babies too.

Die Me a River is a great, relaxing cozy mystery. It is recommended for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in someone else’s life for a day. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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Boy at the Keyhole
September 7th, 2018 by diane92345

Boy at the Keyhole is a suspenseful psychological thriller by a debut author.

In 1961, nine-year-old Samuel is at home in England with his housekeeper, Ruth. His father is dead and his mother is searching for business investors in America. Samuel is concerned because his mother has been gone four months. Her only contact are bi-monthly postcards from America. Ruth tries to cut expenses as much as possible but the home’s artwork is being sold to pay the bills. Where is Samuel’s mother and why isn’t she sending money home? Why does Samuel suspect foul play and especially that Ruth is the killer?

Boy at the Keyhole slowly builds suspense and dread about what happened to Samuel’s mother. The atmosphere is really the star here. A paranoid nine-year-old is an unexpected choice as an unreliable narrator. Are the clues he sees as facts really just his childish imagination? The penultimate twist is a true surprise. However, I hated the inconclusive finale. 3 stars but I am looking forward to the next book by this debut author.

Thanks to Hanover Square Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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Sleepyhead
September 6th, 2018 by diane92345

Sleepyhead is a great resource for those that either have trouble falling asleep or staying awake.

The author suffers from narcolepsy and frequently falls asleep at inappropriate times. He relates his own story and states that the average time before narcolepsy diagnosis is 15 years. However, Sleepyhead goes further than just narcolepsy.  It also contains the possible reasons for other sleep disorders like SCN. SCN is the molecular circuit that controls when your body wants to sleep and rise.  Many people do not have a 24-hour cycle meaning that they go to sleep and rise at variable times each day. Even moving your bedtime by 15 minutes per day either earlier or later makes a large difference over the course of a year.  The book also discusses seasonal effective disorder and insomnia as well as the impact of daylight savings time on a body’s sleep cycle.

The best part of the book for me was the author’s note at the end that tells readers how to find more information about their particular sleep issue. In addition, Sleepyhead has comprehensive end notes referencing all the sources of the information in the book. The end notes make up 20% of the book.  Sleepyhead is a great resource for the sleep-challenged among us. 4 stars!

Thanks to Perseus Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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

Lake Success
September 6th, 2018 by diane92345

The rich and obnoxious American is alive and well in Lake Success.

Barry is an uber rich hedge fund manager. He has a just diagnosed autistic 3-year old son. He has split from his wife, Seema, a first-generation Indian immigrant. And he wants to recapture his youth by taking a Greyhound bus trip to visit his college girlfriend, Layla, who he hasn’t spoken to in more than a decade. Unfortunately, Barry doesn’t have much real life experience. He has to ask his chief of staff to pull strings to get him a bus ticket after the depot is closed.

Barry is the most unlikeable main character I have ever encountered. Seema isn’t much better—having an affair less than two days after their split. It took me about a quarter of the book to see that Barry is intended to be a Trump parody (or possibly satire) even while Trump himself serves as a background to the story. Generally, parodies/satires are humorous. This one wasn’t. While Barry eventually has a human feeling, it was a long time coming.

I think Lake Success will probably be a hit with critics and win some literary awards. It’s recommended for literary fiction fans but decidedly not for Trump supporters. While I loved the author’s Super Sad True Love Story, Lake Success just didn’t resonate with me. 3 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Random House, and NetGalley for an advance copy.

Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books Tagged with:

Drink Beer Think Beer
September 5th, 2018 by diane92345

Worldwide, beer is the second most popular beverage (after coffee). No wonder everyone wants to Drink Beer Think Beer.

With only four basic ingredients—water, malt, hops and yeast—it is staggering how many beer varieties are available now. With breweries popping up everywhere and even inexpensive home brewery kits available online, beer is definitely experiencing a renaissance from its former bowling league ambience.

Beginning with a brief history of beer, the book quickly segues into the eccentric world of craft beers. Beers are made with some very unusual add-on ingredients. Some of the weirdest that are mentioned are beef hearts, stones, money and moon dust though the author admits that some are just publicity stunts or solely for collectors—not drinkers.

This is a absorbing study of a favorite subject of many. Whether you like beer to drink, collect or are just following the trends, Drink Beer Think Beer is a good choice to make you more knowledgeable about beer. 3 stars for me but if you love craft beer, this could easily be a 5 star read for you.

Thanks to Perseus Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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Hot Wheels
September 4th, 2018 by diane92345

 

From its start as a dream in Mattel’s eye, this is the story of Hot Wheels written by one of the first designers.

Realizing that model cars would be more fun if you could race them, Mattel had a hit with its innovative Hot Wheels cars and tracks. The cars were designed by real gearheads who were basing their models on popular souped-up cars from 1960s car mags. The designers were pulled from Detroit’s car makers by letting them design an entire, though 1/64th scale, car rather than only a small piece of a real car.

I loved Hot Wheels as a kid and snatched this book quickly off of NetGalley. The pictures of vintage Hot Wheels certainly brought back memories of my own cars. While the pictures are awesome, the story of how something completely different was created from the ground up is the star. This is a tale of how business innovation works. Have a great idea. Ignore the naysayers. Hire a great staff. Don’t rest on your laurels but keep reinvigorating your product line.

A great choice for the Hot Wheels fan. It also would be fantastic for that entrepreneur wannabe in your life. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Motorbooks, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Depth of Winter
September 4th, 2018 by diane92345

This time it’s personal in Depth of Winter, the 14th entry in the Longmire series.

Sheriff Longmire is a long way from his Wyoming home in Mexico. He is looking for his daughter Cady who was kidnapped by the head of a Mexican drug cartel, Tomas Bidarte. His only help is the infamous US Border Patrolman Buck Guzman, a blind Seer, driver Alonzo and tattoo artist Bianca. Posing as a famous football player and being chauffered around in a bright pink Caddy doesn’t seem the best way to sneak up on Bidarte but Longmire somehow makes it work.

The change of setting to the heat of the Mexican desert contrasts nicely with usual coldness of Wyoming. There is an introduction to Mexican culture and Mexico’s current crime issues. A (wo)manhunt for an ethical cause always makes a compelling read. However, some of the plot seems rather unlikely considering the ruthlessness of Mexican drug cartels.

Depth of Winter is recommended for long time Longmire fans. I think it would be difficult for new readers of the series to begin here because of the emphasis on prior book’s plots especially the immediately preceding entry, The Western Star. Unfortunately, though it resolves the cliffhanger from the previous book, it is not one of the better books in the series. 3 stars.

Thanks to Viking Books and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: , ,

Murder of my Aunt
September 3rd, 2018 by diane92345

In an unpronouncable town living with a devilishly clever aunt, Edward Powell is convinced his life would improve immeasurably after the “Murder of my Aunt”.

Edward decides to play a battle of wits to the death with his Aunt Mildred. However, Edward is playing with only half a deck, if you know what I mean.

Edward hates Wales, hates the countryside but hates his aunt most of all. His dream is to write light poetry, which he expects no one will read, while living in Paris or Rome. To reach his goal, Edward only has to murder Aunt Mildred and not get caught. Easy, right? He daydreams constantly about how to do it: leave an obstacle in the road for his aunt to crash into, set her car on fire while she is already dead within it, or use an electrical device to set her car’s fuel tank aflame. He settles on tampering with the car’s steering and brakes in the hope that Aunt Mildred will careen off the mountainous road near their home. To ensure the accident occurs on the steepest part of the road, Edward plots how to have his beloved dog, So-so, cross the road in front of his aunt at the highest point. Of course, his plan goes hilariously awry.

Watching hapless Edward try and kill his much smarter aunt is laugh-out-loud funny. Any fans of Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder gang will certainly see parallels between Murder of My Aunt and the Hot Rock. Literally everything that could go wrong does.

Watching pretentious Edward make mistake after mistake is fun. Murder of My Aunt was originally published in 1934. It is a great choice for British golden age mystery fans who want a lighter look at murder. It would also be a good choice for Stephanie Plum devotees because it has the same madcap seat-of-your-pants feeling. 4 stars!

Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Handmade Houseplants
September 3rd, 2018 by diane92345

Handmade Houseplants shows a beautiful use of paper and your creativity to liven up your home or office.

Using various painting, cutting and gluing skills, the author gives step-by-step instructions for 30 different plants. From carnivorous to poisonous to cactus, most plants you have heard of and a few you haven’t are included. After the reader has done a few of the step-by-step plants, the author includes five more advanced projects like place settings, centerpieces, table/mantle runners and a trellis that is adorable. The finished projects vary in size from 4” to 4 feet wide or tall. The initial supplies needed can be acquired cheaply assuming you already have a glue gun, scissors, iron, wire clippers and needle nose pliers. The book includes a resources page with inexpensive art websites like dickblick.com.

These projects are gorgeous and look totally Instagram or blog ready. If you are tired of making origami frogs, this a great next step in your paper odyssey. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Timber Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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150+ Gluten-free Family Favorites
September 2nd, 2018 by diane92345

If you or a family member lives gluten-free, 150+ Gluten-Free Family Favorites is a useful tool in your cooking shed.

This cookbook includes gluten-free breakfasts, breads, appetizers, entrees, sides, salads, desserts, holiday and kid-friendly recipes. What’s nice is the authors don’t add a bunch of recipes that are already inherently gluten-free. There are no quiches in the breakfast chapter—just yummy scones and cinnamon rolls.

The most confusing part of cooking gluten-free is what flour to use for each recipe. There are basically two kinds of regular flour—all purpose and wheat. But there over 20 different kinds of gluten-free flour that are usually used in combination. 150+ Gluten-Free Family Favorites not only tells exactly which flour to use for each recipe but includes a whole chapter explaining which ones to use for any family recipes that you may want to adapt to your lifestyle.

I love the great variety of recipes and all the information within this cookbook. However, I miss calorie counts and serving sizes. There are also no warnings of other allergens. Worst of all there are no pictures! Looking at the food is the main way I decide if I want to make it. Though I admire the effort, I can’t give this cookbook more than 3 stars.

Thanks to Harvest House Publishers and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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