A strong debut novel about life among lower-class Dubliners, Trevor Byrne uses a colloquial, unorthodox, wri...moreI won this book in a First Reads giveaway.
A strong debut novel about life among lower-class Dubliners, Trevor Byrne uses a colloquial, unorthodox, writing style to disorient and entrap the reader, forcing them to empathize with his despairing protagonist or, if the reader is less determined, make them give up entirely.
While the plot itself offers little new, the patient reader will find joy in the finer details of character development and humorous moments shared by the not-quite-grown-up Denny and his friends as they get by on very little, unsure of how to get out of their rut.
Byrne's work was not genericised for American consumption and I say that to its credit. However I feel there are portions, not in vocabulary where one can pick up meanings contextually, that are probably more rewarding if you have a deep knowledge of Irish lore and culture, or at least knowledge significantly less shallow than mine.
Worth a look if you like stories about underdogs and/or Ireland in particular.
In an all too brief book, Rawn James Jr. manages to simultaneously educate and frustrate the reader with exce...moreI won this book in a First Reads Giveaway
In an all too brief book, Rawn James Jr. manages to simultaneously educate and frustrate the reader with excellent prose that does not delve deeply enough into the subject matter.
In dividing his limited page count, 235 pages of text plus footnotes & index, between profiling Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall, and illustrating their attempts to end segregation, James fails to really do service to either.
James covers the basic premise of each trial and indicates their outcome but doesn't really dive into courtroom events. Similarly he attempts to depict the relationship between Houston and Marshall but somehow can't get beyond generalizations about their personalities.
It's not that the volume does bad job of listing the events leading up to Brown vs Board of Education, but it constantly leaves the reader expecting more and doesn't deliver.
In the end, it serves as sort of a history-lite volume: better than you got in school, but probably not well suited to the dedicated history buff.(less)
Shallow, trashy, tawdry, and titillating in a way that appeals to 14 year-old boys (well 14 year old boys in...moreI won this book in a First Read's giveaway
Shallow, trashy, tawdry, and titillating in a way that appeals to 14 year-old boys (well 14 year old boys in the late 80s, I suppose), if you know what Heavy Metal and pulp fiction are then you know exactly what you're going to get in this volume.
Women are objectified, the hero is virile yet chivalrously chaste (in that order), unless the woman in question is a prostitute and then she's clearly begging for it, and cliched dystopian conspiracies abound. As much as I didn't like the book, I can't really bring myself to hate it.
It's like the parable of the scorpion and the frog, Heavy Metal Pulp: Pleasure Model: Netherworld Book One knows what its nature is and I can't really blame it for doing a good job of being itself. Even if the itself in question is something I don't particularly like.
Sam Eastland's affable first book of an investigator in Stalin-era Russia is an interesting, if predi...moreThis was a book I won in a First Read's giveaway.
Sam Eastland's affable first book of an investigator in Stalin-era Russia is an interesting, if predictable, read.
For a "thriller," the novel is noticeably lacking in thrills. The first four-fifths contains no sign of an adversary as the hero and his cohort extensively investigate the Romanov's disappearance with no resistance at all. "Chill[s}" likewise are noticeably absent from this formulaic murder investigation. Until very late in the book, there is no clock to race against, no threat against which the heroes must fight, just a simple question, most of which is answered very early on.
Additionally, unlike Soviet authors of the time period Eastland writes about, surroundings and characters are sparsely described, leaving much to be filled in by the reader's memory and imagination. At a brief 265 pages, it will not take up much of your time. Of those 265 pages, a significant portion is taken up with flashbacks developing Pekkala's character. Eastland is allegedly working on a follow-up volume, but I'm not sure what he'll have to say.
Eastland does illustrate some things well: the absurd nature of Stalin's propaganda, the doomed resignation of a populace too exhausted to be scared, the underlying absence of logic in a completely dysfunctional system. Indeed, Eastland provides a great example of Stalinist Russia without the reader having to know the significance of a character's buttons going missing.
Still, one wonders where Eastland is going with this series. By the end, the intriguing Pekkala has made a decision that has me curious to see what Eastland will do. Is a proverbial deal with the devil going to be shown for what it is, or will Eastland sanitize history for the sake of entertainment? I'd be willing to give the second book a shot to find out.(less)
I get nervous whenever someone (or their publicist) claims to create an "Authoritative" anything but,...moreI won this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway.
I get nervous whenever someone (or their publicist) claims to create an "Authoritative" anything but, 19 days and 684 uncorrected proof pages later, I have to yield the point to Thomas Asbridge.
This comprehensive, exhaustive, yet not at all exhausting book chronicling the rise of the First Crusade to the fall of the last Christian outpost in the Middle East 200 years later may well do a better job of examining that history of warfare, politics, faith, and propaganda than any general history book I've read concerning a particular period.
It is a commitment book. You will have to put in the time to make it through the work. But, if you like history, you will find this one highly rewarding.(less)
First, to Joseph A. Griffin, I must apologize as I have no actual construction background experience. I entered th...moreI won this in a First Reads Giveaway
First, to Joseph A. Griffin, I must apologize as I have no actual construction background experience. I entered the giveaway for this book in hopes of using it as an aide in planning the finishing my basement.
Now to the work itself. In all honesty, it's a textbook. There's a certain amount of wall-of-text feeling you're going to get whenever you're faced with a a heavy technical terminology focused work and this is no different. I'm not going to say it was fun to read the book.
That said, when evaluating a textbook, the most important question is "Can one actually learn from it?" In that, I must conclude that it achieves its task well.
Griffin not only develops project management concepts to be used over the life cycle of a residential building program, but effectively answers those most important questions of when and how those skills should be applied. While it does appear, at times, that many of these techniques are essentially methods of covering one's rear, Griffin is honest in that they are means to protect the project manager from potentially significant difficulties both at the present time and into the future of the project.
What this book is not, is a means for experienced project managers to learn about residential construction planning. This book's focus is on educating experienced construction professionals about effective project management and, in many cases, it's at a survey level. But it provides an excellent starting point and great references for deeper research when required by a dedicated reader.
In addition to the book itself, the publisher provides supplemental web documents related to the concepts introduced to the book. While I have to admit to only reviewing some of the 13 available downloads, they provide concrete examples of introduced concepts, useful templates for creating one's own project management documents, and additional advice on related topics in such areas as marketing, lighting, and finance.
In summary, a very useful book for an arguably small niche. If you're looking for a introductory book in this particular area, I would definitely recommend it.(less)
In this alternately frustrating and captivating work, W. Crag Reed, selects some events from this history of...moreI won this book in a First Reads giveaway
In this alternately frustrating and captivating work, W. Crag Reed, selects some events from this history of Cold War submarine history to fill out the page count on a memoir of his and his father's lives.
First, the strengths. When Reed is not talking about his own family's history, he does a solid, if frequently formulaic job of discussing many events during the period he covers. Best of these are the stories of four Soviet Foxtrot submarine captains during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which provides a gripping and enlightening portrait of the harrowing experience through the enemy's eyes.
Sections on the Ivy Bells, tapping Soviet communications cables,were almost as good, but suffer from a case of superfluous information, repetition, and blunt foreshadowing.
The weakest portion is the author's own family memoirs. Containing too much background, tangential notes, and strained associations with greater events, these portions, told from a first person perspective, drag out interesting contributions to dominate and diminish the overall work.
I have no doubt both the author and his father served honorably, but the memoir style conflicts with the straight history told in other portions. The author is right in that an authoritative work on Cold War submarine warfare would be a welcome addition. Sadly, this is not it.
Author Paul Lima's introductory book on business writing establishes a casual tone appropriate for the "Workshop i...moreI won this in a Goodreads giveaway.
Author Paul Lima's introductory book on business writing establishes a casual tone appropriate for the "Workshop in a Book" series of which it is a member. This style defines Harness the Business Writing Process more as a conversation than a rule book, but then Lima is not trying to make it one.
Instead, in the first half he establishes basic principles and moves on to more detailed descriptions as he provides frequent exercises to assist the reader. He then devotes most of the second half to applying these concepts to particular document types, e.g. media releases, executive summaries, and writing for the web.
Lima builds upon his foundation throughout these examples, bringing in new concepts when he feels they become necessary, while occasionally taking time to devote a later chapter to a style point in lieu of a document. This helps refocus the reader while also establishing additional concepts that are quickly applied in the follow-on chapters.
It's not a perfect work. The Collaboration and Revision chapter, perhaps to avoid discouraging the reader, appears too late. And Lima frequently makes use of an asterisk (*) notation (usually implies a note in my experience) however no follow-up or explanation is made for the marks.
Ultimately, this book would best be used as part of preparing to write, before one puts words to a page. Lima emphasizes the preparation aspect of writing and, as a reference, one could use the book to orient themselves before commencing their research, not so much as a look-up while one is actually writing.
Still, if one doesn't mind Lima occasionally reminding you that you'll have to make some decisions on your own, it's worth having on hand.(less)
I liked the book well enough, I suppose. Unfortunately Beirut 39 attempts to do too much with too little space. Few of the prose entries, many of them...moreI liked the book well enough, I suppose. Unfortunately Beirut 39 attempts to do too much with too little space. Few of the prose entries, many of them chapters from larger works, are able to build up a solid narrative over the limited page account. There are a couple, which do well, but it's pretty average overall.
The poetry fares better and provides some striking imagery, especially when read aloud. However, one gets the sense something is lost in translation and that it would sound even better in the original language.
Ultimately, I wouldn't recommend this book to a someone who wasn't curious about Arab literature in general, but those who are already curious might enjoy it.(less)
Kris Krohn is selling you something and if you don't forget that, then you'll do alright with this slight vo...moreI won this book in a first reads giveaway.
Kris Krohn is selling you something and if you don't forget that, then you'll do alright with this slight volume on real estate investment strategy
Krohn lays out a feel-good optimistic argument to investing in real estate, arguing win-win scenarios with a specialized rent-to-own plan his company has developed, allegedly providing rewards for both the investor and their, hopefully, short-term tenants. Why such a cheerful hopeful outlook? Because Krohn wants his readers to trust him. He's not selling just a book; he's selling his company's financial services package and there's the rub.
Krohn's principles of investment, targeting undervalued properties, finding tenants with questionable credit histories who can afford to rent but need time to develop a good credit score so they can buy, and avoiding short term profit in lieu of reinvestment are positive ideas. But there are significant omissions and standard sales scare tactics which call into question his generally positive tone.
The biggest omission is any discussion of the nature of rent vs cost of ownership analysis which should be undertaken by any investor. During the housing peak, it cost significantly more to pay for a home (per month) than it did to rent one. Investors seeking clients in such a market will not have much like finding positive cash flows from rental income. That's not to say that one's current market is not more accommodating, but that Krohn completely omits the information is concerning.
In terms of scare tactics, the big one is discouraging investors from financial markets or retirement savings plans. Anecdotes revolve around losses in 401Ks and mutual funds but no mention is made of losses in real estate value because of the housing bubble. Meanwhile Krohn constantly hammers on an absence of risk, despite tying oneself to multiple mortgages with potentially adjustable rates in a time when many people forecast inflation and higher interest rates, with his program. Why hammer away at an already weakened target if your alternative is so much better?
As to the plan for identifying and acquiring properties, Krohn lays out the vague idea of a complex system which, I suspect, if one is willing to put in the effort, might actually work. But his brief detailing appears intended to discourage the reader from putting in their own effort, and instead encourage the target to place his trust in Krohn's company to identify and finance the purchases. It seems to continue the leveraging program Krohn advocates in the book itself in his discussion of partnership.
Furthermore, part of Krohn's program involves educational seminars for his tenant clients. I suspect there are fees associated with them as well, which further expands his profit sources. No small investor is going to have the resources to develop these on his own, at least not early in the effort, meaning a poor credit tenant is a bigger risk than it is for the experienced multiple property owner. Thus it encourages the investor to turn to Krohn's company for these resources.
In short, if you're an experienced real estate investor, aside from the curious rent to own program, Krohn advocates, I don't think you're going to get too much out of the book. If you're not, go in with your eyes open and understand Krohn is trying to sell you, and perhaps your inevitable tenants, something. Don't rely on this book, and especially not on Krohn's company, for your plan.(less)
Filled with half-truths and outright lies, Jeremiah encourages a passive, "take care of yourself, because the end times are coming," outlook where it's "okay to be rich," even though he himself cites the troubles of a growing rich-poor divide, and an outright hostile approach to governance in any area that isn't pro-military or pro-christianity.
In short, Jeremiah wants people to distrust the government and stay out of politics in such areas as financial regulation as much as possible. The effect being that business would go on as usual.
No one should read this book. It is a sham and a fraud. Yet, this is the first book I'm going to put into Goodreads' bookswap because the only thing worse than someone reading this book is allowing Jeremiah to make a penny off of it.(less)
I won this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway
It's hard to come around and endorse Jeffrey Pfeffer's latest book. Not because it's inaccurate or...moreI won this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway
It's hard to come around and endorse Jeffrey Pfeffer's latest book. Not because it's inaccurate or deceptive or dishonest, but precisely because it's none of those things.
Pfeffer lays out a survey level argument of why power politics exists, what it takes to obtain and maintain it, and why the system is not going away. When combined with current events, for example the recent film Inside Job, it provides a solid explanation why so many people who get so many things wrong remain in positions of authority.
Unfortunately, Pfeffer's solution to this is that everyone needs to play the game. That there is no method for a society to escape from the power dynamic is the book's most depressing conclusion. What would be nice to see is a book that helps organizations protect themselves from power players, so that one doesn't continue to listen to the same bad advice over and over again.(less)
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway back at the end of October and it finally arrived on January 14th.
I must confess I feel a bit betrayed by the...moreI won this book in a Goodreads giveaway back at the end of October and it finally arrived on January 14th.
I must confess I feel a bit betrayed by the giveaway lister on this volume and I fear it has colored my opinion of the book. For the sake of clarity, I shall repost the pitch listed in the giveaway
Wendy Walker is one of those invisible forces who has shaped our perception of the world. For the past fourteen years she has been the "woman behind the man", at Larry King Live. As Larry's Senior Executive Producer she has been responsible for landing the exclusive interviews with the most important newsmakers and well-known celebrities from around the globe that have been the hallmark of CNN's #1 show. While she may have been unseen and unrecognized, Wendy's work has shaped all of our lives. She has arranged some of the most iconic interviews of our time. For example, she orchestrated the 1993 NAFTA debate between Vice President Al Gore and Ross Perot; which remains, to this day, one of the highest rated programs in cable television history.
Starting as a secretary at ABC some 30 years ago, Wendy has climbed up the male-dominated world of television production. Her passion and work ethic are undeniable, but it has always been her heart that has been her guide. And it's with the same zeal and loving spirituality that she shares her life in this remarkable memoir.
This sounds like the insightful story of a newswoman working in a time of gender bias, developing and succeeding in an environment unaccustomed to female leadership, facing unexpected challenges and overcoming these obstacles. Sadly, this book is not that memoir.
Instead we get a self-help book of facile, though harmless, lessons and retrospectives mostly focused on significant events during her time as Larry King's senior executive producer. Many of these recountings put her into a passive role. For instance, she recounts Larry King's interview with Marlon Brando because of the way Brando treated everyone, not just King, as important. While the lesson of treating everyone well is not a bad one, her role in this is entirely passive. She did not arrange the interview nor, per the book, did she make any real contributions to the broadcast.
That's not to say it's entirely without merit. The sections where Walker focuses on her early career in Washington, DC at the local ABC affiliate and her early years at the start-up CNN are very interesting. It would have been great to get a book all about her years working on a number of significant stories, including multiple summits
Unfortunately, more time is spent on pop-cultural phenomena like OJ, Scott Peterson, and Michael Jackson. Not that these don't have a place in her book because they were significant parts of her Larry King Live career, but so much more could and should have been said about the pre-Larry King portion of her life.
The book jacket is more honest than the giveaway blurb and I think those who pick up this expecting a self-help book will be more satisfied. (less)
I won this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
Jonathan Miles sets himself a difficult task in chronicling the life of master Soviet spy, Otto Ka...moreI won this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
Jonathan Miles sets himself a difficult task in chronicling the life of master Soviet spy, Otto Katz. As with any spy, one of his goals is to obscure those relevant facts. Combine that with a career that verges on the success of the fictional Sidney Reilly's accomplishments and you have a real challenge.
Unwisely, in my opinion, Miles starts at the end of Katz's career as he faces the fate of many of Stalin's servants. At first I thought it was an attempt to develop sympathy for the character, but I've come to realize it's more a continuation of the dust jacket. Katz's life, assuming Miles is correct (and I have no reason to disbelieve), is so absurd as to have Miles attempt to further sell the reader on reading the story. This preface is not needed and it, along with the murky early years of Katz's life, delay the reader from getting to the enjoyable substance of the book, which really begins after the Reichstag fire.
From there, it's headlong into the rise of Nazi Germany as Katz attempts to rally anti-facist spirit in Europe and the U.S. while his master secretly negotiates with the Third Reich. Involved in the development of such notorious events as the Cambridge Spy Ring and potentially the assassination of Leon Trotsky, while inspiring such characters as Victor Lazlo in Casablanca, Katz went all over the world in multiple identities, all in service to the Soviet Union, only to find himself yet another one of Papa Stalin's victims.
If you can make your way through the weaker early chapters, then you'll find this an interesting insight into the influence one man with many faces had on the 20th Century.
I won this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway
The old cliche goes "Never judge a book by its cover," but to truly appreciate what the author is g...moreI won this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway
The old cliche goes "Never judge a book by its cover," but to truly appreciate what the author is going for, one must begin by considering that very object.
While the primary coloring on the dust jacket is blue, the edges and other small "flaws" are tan, giving the book a retro, frequently read, appearance. Quiet wisely as David Goodberg is attempting to evoke the classic science-fiction anthologies of the 50s and 60s by authors like Ray Bradbury.
Stories are frequently left open, with the ending clearly implied but not spelled out to the reader. Others are mere passing thoughts which, on their face, seem simple, but reveal their clever nature through further introspection.
They're not all great. Research Methods' conclusion is too easy to pick up beforehand. The competing letters between worlds don't quite gel the way they should. But Goodberg hits far more than he misses in a very entertaining outing.(less)
I received this book free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway
This quick, accessible, non-fiction book on the non-traditional bioengineering movement a...moreI received this book free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway
This quick, accessible, non-fiction book on the non-traditional bioengineering movement and its efforts to increase accessibility to the knowledge, technology, and implications of genetics research never gets beyond the depth of a Discover magazine article but it does an excellent job of introducing the movement to a larger audience without taking a strong stance on the practice.
Marcus Wohlsen is a science journalist and that the book adheres to that writing style. He begins by laying out profiles of leading figures within the Do-It-Yourself Bio movement and uses them to expand discussion on both their scientific pursuits and the potential implications. Wisely, given the likely intended audience, Wohlsen addresses even hyperbolic fears by noting, repeatedly, that no one in this field is anywhere near developing the next superwhatever and, perhaps unwisely, reminds us that there are many easier ways to spread bioterror than the methods these people are exploring.
By and large, he succeeds. Most of the people profiled are attempting small projects, or at least realistic projects for their resources, though I think some questions remain unaddressed. As Wohlsen does note, many of these DIYers have to engage in some small crimes to obtain some of their basic working materials. Are these restrictions legitimate? Clearly the DIYers, mostly libertarian bent, don't think so, but Wohlsen doesn't really come at whether the security regulations are valid.
Still well worth reading as an introductory text to the field, if not necessarily for the raw science as much as the potential.
I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway
Starting in 1990, Afif Safieh spent eighteen years as head of the Palestinian delegat...moreI received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway
Starting in 1990, Afif Safieh spent eighteen years as head of the Palestinian delegation to a number of governments. This collection of speeches and writings spans both his career and the ten years preceding that appointment.
As the Palestinian side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been long underrepresented, this does provide significant insight into the PLO's positions and thoughts with regard to the peace process. As a piece of historical material, it should be a valuable resource for historians studying the period.
But, as it is a collection of independent essays on mostly the same topic, it becomes repetitive for the general reader. As any speaker would, Safieh uses the same quotes, the same anecdotes, and the same turns of phrase throughout the various works. While it does provide, from a historical perspective, a consistency of thought worth acknowledging, it can be tiring to read the same thought on comparing Israelis and Palestinians to two men jumping out of a burning building for the third time.
Still, bringing a new perspective is valuable in and of itself, and those interested in the conflict would be well served by adding this to their library.(less)
Collecting an array of Jeff VanderMeer's non-fiction writing, Monstrous Creatures gathers essays on issues in modern fantasy, reviews of authors' and/or their individual works, and tops it off with a few interviews and personal memories.
The book is dominated by its middle sections concerning authors and their works. These reviews provide exciting glimpses of worlds for the reader to explore further and that's where the primary value lies. Particular regard should be given to VanderMeer's coverage of works not originally in English, which is an area that gets short shrift in contemporary circles (aside from those from Japan).
It will serve readers who have begun exploring modern fantasy, but haven't gotten too far, well. Those deeply involved in the convention circuit/blog community will probably have had most of VanderMeer's thoughts in the early sections and will have read the majority of the works in the reviews.
Still VanderMeer's style is light and entertaining and, even if you have read a particular work, his review will refresh a pleasant memory.(less)
Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen perceive a problem in America, and that's the wussification (my term) of children. Whether you agree with that or not, will go along way towards your perception of their writing, which is a bit unfortunate because the substance of the book, the activities within, is pretty good.
DeBenedet and Cohen open with a legal disclaimer, which is an understandable but contrary indicator to the entirety of their work. Basically saying "kids need to do more roughhousing but we're not responsible for the consequences" which really undermines their whole argument.
Then they compound their issue with an informercial opening with selective disclosure and carefully worded statements that don't tell the full story. For instance, on page 14, "Roughhousing releases a chemical called brain-derive neurotophic factor (BDNF)." and goes on to espouse the benefits of BDNF. I have little doubts of BDNF's benefits, but it doesn't indicate what other activities might release the chemical that may or may not involve as much injury risk or other potential negative consequences.
Furthermore, in their vaguely self-help writing style, DeBenedet frequently stumble on a friend's favorite aphorism "the plural of anecdote is not data." Filling the book with these anecdotes may serve their agenda, but it doesn't really back-up their claims.
Despite all this though, I'm not going to pan this book. The actual exercises are pretty good. They provide creative interactive activities for you and your child with appropriate age limitations and easy-to-follow guidance. As a parent of a very physical six year old, I took the time to test most of the age appropriate activities and both of us enjoyed ourselves immensely.
Still, even in this section there are flaws. Some of the exercises are redundant. Sleeping Bat (pg 50) is really just a brief hold version of K2 (112). Even the standard dismount from K2 is the release from Sleeping Bat. And Underdog (178) is just an advanced version of It Don't Mean a Thing (174) Meanwhile, Wacky Whirling Dervish (64) is begging for an elbow or shoulder dislocation, featuring a hold they specifically warn you not to do earlier in the book.
The short answer is, read the execises carefully, skim the rest, and try and have some fun with it. There is some to be found here.(less)
I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
Paul Trynka's analysis of David Bowie's life and career reads much the same as his s...moreI received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
Paul Trynka's analysis of David Bowie's life and career reads much the same as his subject. It's a little murky to begin with, bursts into brilliance as Bowie's star rises, bloats as Bowie begins capitalizing on his success, and then fades with disinterest as Bowie wanders off into his own semi-retirement.
It's not fair of me to write that. It's actually a very good book, well researched and complete with a full analytical discography worthy in its own right. But Trynka is primarily inerested in how Bowie's life shaped his music and vice-versa. Bowie's other pursuits, like painting, are largely left unexplored.
Still, if you're a fan of, or even just curious about, David Bowie, it's well worth reading.(less)
I received an uncorrected proof for free in a Goodreads giveaway
Lawrence Scott Shields spent the last twenty years watching the Soviet Union disintegr...moreI received an uncorrected proof for free in a Goodreads giveaway
Lawrence Scott Shields spent the last twenty years watching the Soviet Union disintegrate into a disparate array of states, many in disarray. This memoir collects some of his experiences as a reporter for Reuters and NPR. Mostly set in the failing southern, largely muslim states, Shields brings a refreshingly contextual view to a number of events that were poorly covered by the American media when they occurred.
As a memoir, it's neither a complete narrative of the post-Soviet era to date, nor does it have a coherent message to convey. Indeed, if one could find a singular message, it's that the Soviet Union was never the monolith America thought it was and those differences are only widened by the Union's collapse. For most, things have changed quickly and people's fates have turned on the smallest of whims, including the author's.
This book will not be as rewarding for those unfamiliar with Russian history. Sheets makes cultural references, like Potemkin Villages, which are going to be unfamiliar to a complete neophytes. But there are enough moments, particularly around the U.S. Afghan invasion and the South Ossetia war that will be enhanced for those who only followed American press reports.
As noted, I received an uncorrected proof. While I'm not going to gripe about typos, though Marist-Leninist just makes me laugh, or small word errors, there Sheets' inexperience as a writer shows up in a couple spots. For a particular resort, the windows were "shattered" no less than three times over ten pages. While it may even be true, the repetitive illustration of conflict's proximity to the author tires quickly.
Regardless, I still think this book is worth reading, even if it expects a lot of its audience.
I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
With sixteen stories in a scant eighty pages, including illustrations, Kevin M. Foll...moreI received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
With sixteen stories in a scant eighty pages, including illustrations, Kevin M. Folliard doesn't really have the time to do the build-up that true terror requires. Instead, he opts for the twist, the dark conclusion, or just out and out savagery. No one is safe in this collection of dark horror stories. Anyone can be a predator or prey.
The short stories are quick and efficient, but unfortunately that reduces the horror. There's no time to pause and consider with the I limited word count. They feel like they'd be the appropriate length for a campfire story. When spoken, the teller has the opportunity to use pauses for effect that can't really be done on the page. Unfortunately, most prospective sharers will not find a welcoming audience gathered around the Christmas dinner.
The stories are not going to challenge an experienced horror reader. This one is better suited for a younger, new to horror, audience. That's not really a criticism. The short page length works in favor of this goal as it allows the reader to put it aside or skip ahead if any particular story strikes too close to the mark.
I do want to note that some of the strongest stories are towards the end. While the earlier stories rely heavily on the morbid twist, both The Maniac and Something in the Basement manage to raise the feeling of dread in the reader as they suffer along with the protagonists. Experienced readers, as I noted earlier, will see what's coming, but that makes it all the more dreadful because you know how it will resolve.
In short, a good book for a narrow audience, but not for everyone.
Disclosure: I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. Further Disclosure: I'm employed at the same NGO as the author (though I...moreDisclosure: I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. Further Disclosure: I'm employed at the same NGO as the author (though I didn't realize it until after I had finished)
Ruth D. Stark set out with the intent to help prepare her daughter for international work but has written a book that is useful for anyone in a temporary assignment. While there is specific information and advice concerning working internationally, when it comes to working in an unfamiliar and temporary setting, Stark's reminders to listen, understand the environment, and involve the regular stakeholders are just as applicable in a domestic locale.
As to the international advice, Stark writes from the perspective of an American travelling abroad, primarily to second and third world assignments, but the major points are still applicable for any traveler as long as one does not get bogged down in the details. Research, preparation, and flexibility are key to a successful assignment regardless of the point of origin or destination.
Stark does reiterate a few points from chapter to chapter. In straight reading of the complete work, it does annoy. But I suspect the intent is for this book to be a handy reference where you refresh your memory by examining a single chapter in preparation for a particular event. In that case, then I think the repetition serves the reader well.
I'm not sure Stark ever got the book done in time for her daughter. If I'm correct, her daughter provides a number of anecdotes for this first edition. But it should certainly provide helpful advice for people new to both international work and any other kind of temporary assignment.(less)
I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability...moreI received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." If that is the case, then James Rickards certainly has that intelligence, because his book is constantly at war with itself to the point that this reviewer cannot recommend it.
When Rickards is addresses the specific issues of monetary policy, both in terms of its use in domestic and international matters, he is insightful and direct. He presents a coherent and unsettling picture of the current predicament the U.S. and world are in with an overleveraged system that is not suffering from a lack of liquidity, but a lack of solvency. The threat presented by a collapse of the dollar is both clear and present and the potential outcomes are disturbing. These portions are valuable and educational.
However, when Rickards broadens his scope to other policy issues, things fall apart. Rickards' hard right libertarian worldview interferes with his reasoning, providing nonsensical talking points unsupported by the examples provided. For example, Richards correctly cites the lack of regulation as being a key component to the banking crisis of 2008. Yet he also repeatedly states, without any supporting evidence, that government regulation is a bad thing and harmful to the economy. Towards the end, he even advocates specific banking regulation to avoid a repeat of the crisis of 2008 while simultaneously advocating for smaller government. The cognitive dissonance is astounding.
In another case, Richards notes that the highly inflationary policies of the Fed are destroying the value of the dollar while advocating significantly reduced tax rates. However, taxation without spending is a powerful tool the government can use to reduce the overall money supply, providing a deflationary pressure to offset the inflation.
As a third example, Rickards attempts to refute Keynesian economics by borrowing from Taylor and Cogan's study of the Obama Administration's Stimulus Package having a net negative modifier effect. In essence, Keynes argues that a dollar spent by the government can have a multiplicative effect by that dollar being pushed into the economy and being used again by the original recipient while Taylor & Cogan's study said that the actual benefit was less than the original dollar spent. But, when Taylor & Cogan looked at individual portions of the package, there was a much clearer effect. Direct support programs like food stamps provided a significant positive multiplier benefit to the economy while the significantly negative effects were caused by the tax cuts in the package. Thus the truth of Taylor & Cogan's study is that the package cut taxes too much and directly spent too little.
And that's pretty much enough to say about it. There's valuable information for those who can read critically and see just how absurd some of Rickard's conclusions are, but I wouldn't encourage reading this in hope of finding a better book without the counterproductive ideology.
I recieved this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway
Chris Matthews' admiration for JFK shines through every word of his latest book. This...moreI recieved this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway
Chris Matthews' admiration for JFK shines through every word of his latest book. This untempered adoration keeps Matthews' exploration shallow and sympathetic, though he never descends into sychophantism.
Running the full gamut of Kennedy's life in a mere 400 pages, Matthews' hews to overarching themes and applies them to JFK's role in significant events of his lifetime. As such, it avoids some of JFK's less savory traits when they cannot be applied in a positive light. While Kennedy's hard-nosed poltical manipulations can be found, you won't see much time spent on his infidelity.
That's to the book's benefit though, as, despite its origins in Kennedy's youth, this book aspires to study Kennedy's political career more than his life. What you learn from this, more than anything else arguably, is the perfect combination of preparation, instinct, and luck that Kennedy possessed which helped him overcome significant physical and prejudicial odds to become and succeed as the President.
It's a nice biography light tome. It won't be the one for the in depth history fanatic, but it provides insight for the less exposed.(less)
I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway
Doug Bremner worked as an expert witness for plaintiffs in lawsuits against pharmaceu...moreI received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway
Doug Bremner worked as an expert witness for plaintiffs in lawsuits against pharmaceutical-giant Roche over the anti-acne medication Accutane. During that time, Roche and its attorneys went to great length to try and sway or discredit him, not only with legitimate criticisms, but with spurious accusations. Meanwhile, Bremner was also coming to terms with his mother's death. She had died while he was very young and Bremner had not addressed the circumstances or emotions related to it. This memoir, though described on the back cover as being the story of that first portion, focuses more heavily on the latter. Consequently, it feels like the reader has been misled.
Furthermore, and admittedly this is the fault of the reader, an expert witness, even one who clinically proves the drug's negative side effects, plays only a small part in the story of said drug's impact. Thus, this memoir leaves much of the story out. It would be better to know the victims beyond a couple of statements, or how the trials proceeded, or what else Roche was doing in response to the threat to their prized goose. Sadly, you don't find that information here.
This book could be useful as a resource for someone wanting to write complete story of Accutane, though Bremner neglects to go into details of the methodology and assessment that led to his conclusions, but, were I a book editor (though I'm absolutely unqualified), I would ask the following question during the writing process.
What book do you want to write? If this is a memoir, then it should be written with that focus, but it means selling the book about you, and just you and what lessons you can impart through your experiences. Memoirs are not only about recounting but, more-importantly, assessing one's life. Yes, you can include Accutane because it's part of your story, but Accutane is clearly not the focus of the story here. If it is about Accutane, then make sure to write about the full story, not just your role. Your participation in events, though significant, is limited.
Ultimately, I cannot recommend this volume. Though it reminds us of the perils of libertarianism and the folly of thinking that bad actors can be corrected through lawsuits, it gets lost in the story of a man who lost his mother and took a long time to come to terms with it.(less)
I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
Taras Grescoe is a lifelong urbanist and views transportation as fundamental to the...moreI received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
Taras Grescoe is a lifelong urbanist and views transportation as fundamental to the formation of the modern city. Visiting locations both in North America and abroad, Grescoe advocates strong public transportation infrastructure as the key element to long term health and growth.
While cars dominate major American metropoli like Phoenix, European and Asian cities have developed significant rail infrastructure that obviates the need to own an individual car. This, in turn, allows for increased density, which enables populations large enough to sustain local businesses. Increased economic opportunity increases the attractiveness of the area to outsiders and further encourages similar development and so on.
Grescoe does not advocate that everyone should live this way, rather he advocates that if cities wish to survive, they need to adopt this structure. Furthermore, expanding this structure to enable non-car commuting from the suburbs will, in the long run, further encourage the kind of community that is more dense, less car based, and more sustainable in the long run. He makes a convincing argument.
But I will note, and at this point I should disclose I'm a suburban commuter who rides light rail transit each weekday, that despite the opportunities presented in here. Despite the amount to which I agree with him, I couldn't get excited about reading this book. While I enjoyed the passages I read, the history of Japan's rail lines, the development of the bus system in Bogota, the economic desolation that is Phoenix, I was never eager to turn back to this book after I set it aside because, for example, I got off the light rail to finish my transit home. I'm not sure why the book didn't enthuse me more, this should be right up my alley, but it never really gripped my attention.
There are some positive notes to take away from this, and I suspect readers who are mildly interested but unexposed to the field will find this an excellent primer. But I don't think I can sit here and say "Here read this if you want to know why I think there needs to be more public transit". I don't think it'll sell anyone on the idea.
I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway
Jamal Joseph's life has been a struggle, from beginning in broken home to joining the...moreI received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway
Jamal Joseph's life has been a struggle, from beginning in broken home to joining the Black Panthers at an astoundingly young age, to multiple stints in prison, to becoming a leader in the New York arts community. His memoir at an efficient, but effective, 287 pages begins a bit slowly but rises throughout to a rousing conclusion.
Through this autobiography, readers unfamiliarwith or misinformed about the history of the Black Panthers will gain a broader perspective of the movement's motivations and goals. Furthermore the reader is exposed to the story of a young boy who grew up in truly remarkable circumstances.
Well worth reading for students of the civil rights movement or of progressive causes and youth advocacy in general.(less)