Monday, October 31, 2016

NetGalley Review: Katie Cox goes Viral

Everybody's watching Katie Cox...

Katie Cox is used to going unnoticed- by her mom, her dad, even her best friend. But when a video of her singing in her bedroom goes viral, she becomes a superstar overnight. As the views skyrocket and a recording contract beckons, the real world starts to feel very far away.

It isn't long before Katie starts riding high on her newfound fame. But the higher she flies, the farther there is to fall...

My Review:

Maybe I'm getting old, but most of this book had me going "You had ONE JOB KATIE." Seriously, most of this book was a normal teenager going through extraordinary circumstances. The rest of it was the same teenager making incredibly basic mistakes that make you want to shake her.

Maybe I should be saying "omg she's so real, so flawed. I love her." But I don't. You know who I love? Her sister Amanda, who does so much to try to make things easier for both her mom and her sister, and gets like Zero credit. Jaz was alright, but she seemed like a bit of a plot device, not so much a character in her own right.

Really, if you were a teenager who was suddenly offered a record contract while your life was falling apart and it felt like the only real thing in the world, you'd go for it. But if you're given ONE RULE about getting the contract and you go home and break that ONE RULE, what do you expect will happen? 

This book had me feeling meh. There are better ones, there are worse ones. If it's ever in flash sale and you can get it for free or for like 30 cents or something, go for it.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

NetGalley review: 100 tricks to appear smart in meetings

Funny because it's true.  From the creator of the viral sensation "10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings" (5+ million views and hundreds of thousands of shares) comes the must-have book you never knew you needed, 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings.  In it, you will learn how to appear smart in less than half the time it takes to actually learn anything.

You know those subtle tricks your coworkers are all guilty of? The constant nodding, pretend concentration, useless rhetorical questions? These tricks make them seem like they know what they’re doing when in fact they have no clue. This behavior is so ingrained, so subtle, and so often mistaken for true intelligence that identifying it, calling it out, or compiling it into an exhaustive digest has never been attempted. Until now.

My Review:
This book was hilarious. I love the doodles, the nod to my generation's short attention span with bullet points and to-the-point tips, and the flippant sarcasm sprinkled throughout the book.
It also kind of got me thinking on some points, but whether or not I use these tips at work is to be determined.
Overall, this is a short, funny book that sheds some humor on the meetings no one really wants to be in. (You know, like the memo on a new plan for customers that totally could have been an email)
This is definitely a book you want to get for yourself and a friend, so you have an inside joke to enjoy when the top manager pulls one of these tips on you.

Monday, October 24, 2016

book review: You are two

Narrated in the second person, You Are Two is a charming read-aloud that addresses the baby directly. Supersaturated ink-and-wash illustrations play with pattern and perspective and lend a contemporary, artistic feel to the book. The diverse group of babies pictured comes to life on the page and adds to the text’s warmth and broad appeal. The second in a three-book series,You Are Two is designed as a whimsical gift for toddlers or parents who will enjoy reflecting on all the highlights of the second year and expressing how much their little one is loved.

My Review:

Let's talk audiences. First, readers. The full description of this book includes reading levels and some kind of common core code. The kids reading this in school are older than two years old. but, it is a fantastic book for older siblings. Maybe kids seeing that the baby "works now" (as my nephew said of my daughter once she started walking) would benefit from this book by seeing the sorts of things a lot of two year olds can do. They may not be able to play on a playground like a 6 year old, but they can run and go up stairs.

Second, two year olds. My daughter liked the pictures well enough, but I wish there were drawings of things that were more easily recognized. She understands 'baby'. Everyone is a baby in this book. Maybe the stairs could have been more recognizable, the phone could have been something that was around in the last decade (don't tell me two year olds don't know what a cell phone is. THEY DO.). 

Third, parents. Ultimately I like what the illustrator was going for because it give a kick of nostalgia to the books I read as a wee one, but my own wee one has moved on to more modern times. If I received this book as a gift I can't say it would make me any happier than any humor parenting book out there. I would probably find the first opportunity to regift it, actually. That, along with the mommy wars feeling that you get when milestones are discussed (my daughter can go up stairs herself fine, we're still working on down. And spoons? we just avoid soupy things altogether. forks are way easier.) Having a book like this just makes you feel bad if your 25 month old baby can't pass the checklist.

Overall, 2/5. It was okay. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Ebook review: Free Souls

When your mind is a weapon, freedom comes at a price.

Four months have passed since Kira left home to join Julian's Jacker Freedom Alliance, but the hole in her heart still whistles empty where her boyfriend Raf used to be. She fills it with weapons training, JFA patrols, and an obsessive hunt for FBI agent Kestrel, ignoring Julian's worries about her safety and repeated attempts to recruit her for his revolutionary chat-casts. When anti-jacker politician Vellus surrounds Jackertown with the National Guard, Kira discovers there's more to Julian's concerns than she knew, but she's forced to take on a mission that neither want and that might be her last: assassinating Senator Vellus before he can snuff out Julian's revolution and the jackers she's come to love.

Buy on Amazon

My Review:

Like the other two books, the writing in this book is great. It's engaging and makes you want to know what's next. Unlike the other two books, I couldn't make that reach of 'yeah, this could totally happen'. Kira's jump in abilities from book two to three just felt too sudden, too convenient. 
Kira's feelings for Raf felt desperate and out of character. 
Despite the writer's privilege complaints, this book was good. It had great pacing, the emotional scenes had just the right amount of emotion, and the action scenes had an appropriate amount of description. I imagined what it would look like as a movie, and unless we got a look at the insides of people's heads it would be a lot of....staring...and the occasional person fainting. Not quite as interesting.
Still, if you've gotten to this book you've already been hooked by the first two so you already know you're going to get it. Go grab it.

Monday, October 17, 2016

NetGalley Review: The Dream Protocol, book one.

In fiery young Deirdre Callaghan's home of Skellig City, no one has dreamt their own dream in over a thousand years. Dreams are produced by the Dream Makers and sold by the Ministry, the tyrannical rulers of the city. In Skellig City, years of life are awarded equally and the ruined are cast away beneath the city on their 35th birthday.
Unbeknownst to the Ministry, Deirdre's handsome friend Flynn Brennan is afflicted with a terrible disease - a disease that accelerates the aging process. Knowing his fate if the Ministry should ever discover his illness, Flynn has lived his whole life hiding from their watchful eyes. When Flynn's secret is finally discovered, Deirdre is determined to free him from the Ministry's grasp. But to save him, she will have to reveal herself to a shadowy that none of them even knew existed.

My Review: 

I liked this book. Ever since reading the ending of 1984 as a kid, I've been enamored with the idea of psychological fears as an official punishment. Think--no riots in jails, upon finishing a sentence criminals are weakened (although the whole unpredictability thing of PTSD would be tricky to get around) and best of all, government ordered nightmares fit right in with the state of the union these days.

My husband and I were actually talking about life imitating art and the influences of Orwell and Hemingway. This is no time for an English lecture, but essentially we came to the conclusion that while we're well on the way to thought police, there haven't been any publicized or officiated methods of punishment involving personal fears or nightmares.

This book is not necessarily about the authority's punishment systems, but it was a very important and (for me) very interesting part of the novel. As for the story itself, the beginning was a bit cloudy but once I got into the book I was hooked all the way through. The characters are kind of fledglings, like this story was dreamed up (ha ha) as a multi-book series. The plot felt like it was just getting started, too, but the writing itself is enough to make me interested in the next book.

Recommendation? Get it, for sure. It's on Kindle unlimited for free, and the prices for regular kindle (2.99) as well as paperback (about 7 bucks before shipping) aren't bad, and this is one you'll want to circulate among your friends.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

ebook review: trash talks

A lively investigation of the intimate connections we maintain with the things we toss away 
It's hard to think of trash as anything but a growing menace. Our communities face crises over what to do with the mountains of rubbish we produce, the enormous amount of biological waste generated by humans and animals, and the truckloads of electronic equipment judged to be obsolete. All this effluvia poses widespread problems for human health, the well-being of the planet, and the quality of our lives. 
But though our notorious habits of disposal have put us well on the way to making the earth inhospitable to life, our relation to rejectamenta includes much more than shedding and tossing. In Trash Talks, philosopher Elizabeth V. Spelman explores the extent to which we rely on trash and waste to make sense of our lives. 

My Review: 

I feel like this book could have been better. The book has so much potential to be interesting that I picked it up, but the presentation of the subject itself was dry. I already knew trash is used in forensics. For whatever reason it was drilled into our heads that police and criminals alike have motive to go through your trash when I was in elementary school. 
It was kind of interesting to find out what other countries do with trash that they import, but it really wasn't anything worth buying a book for. A google search or well placed tumblr post can easily replace it. 
I feel with more every day language and hypothetical situations (like the id fraudster or policemen) with less of an academic approach to the matter would have made this book much more interesting.
As it stands it's pretty much a long essay written by a nerd who likes trash.
If you have the patience and imagination to apply 'garbology' to imaginary situations yourself, this is a good reference book for writers. For the average reader, there are better nonfiction books out there. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

NetGalley Review: Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter

A powerful tale of forbidden love, shame, and revenge comes to life in Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter. Faithfully adapted by Crystal Chan from the original novel, this new edition features stunning artwork by SunNeko Lee (Manga Classics: Les Miserables) which will give old and new readers alike a fresh insight into the Nathaniel Hawthorne's tragic saga of Puritan America. Manga Classics editions feature classic stories, faithfully adapted and illustrated in manga style, and available in both hardcover and softcover editions. Proudly presented by UDON Entertainment and Morpheus Publishing.

My Review:

First, ever since I read it in high school, I've loved the Scarlet Letter. Loved. It. Wrote poems about it. Read my poems to the class, who all snapped (in any other class, I might have been mocked but hey, AP English at my school was very supportive). So I was really really hoping this book would be good.

And while it wasn't really bad, I would never recommend it as a substitute for the actual book, even if you're reading the actual book on SparkNotes with their English Translation Feature (as I may or may not have in high school, which may or may not be the reason I so adore this book once I understood what I was reading). There are a lot of good things about this iteration of Hawthorne's tale.

For example, there's a lot to be said for making various expressions and personalities visible with a graphic novel. Manga has the ability to open up the world, so the reader doesn't get caught up in the common trap of only seeing Hester and Pearl in the bookiverse, unless otherwise noted.

But the Symbolism--Oh My Goooood the symbolism. There is SO much of it in the Scarlet Letter, and I appreciate the effort, but some of my favorites were just not in there. Like the rosebush beside the prison door. A passing reference by Pearl, and nothing more. That's not to say that Hawthorne didn't get a bit in-your-face with symbolism sometimes, but hey. I would have sprung for that extra star if at least all the important red things (the rosebush, some of Pearl's dress, the symbol in the sky, etc) were colored, and not just the letter.

Overall, if you just want to get a feel for the story, or understand what the big deal is in Easy A, then yeah. Go ahead. Read this, it's great. But to truly appreciate Hawthorne shoving symbolism down your throat, you need to read the words. 


Saturday, October 8, 2016

ebook review: 52 ways to love your body

Do you look in the mirror and see all the things you dislike about your body? For many of us, the first step to loving our bodies is being able to look at our reflection and not criticize what we see. And in a culture that worships thin, beautiful celebrities, it’s easy to feel like we just don’t measure up. So, how can you get over your flaws and focus on your fabulous?
52 Ways to Love Your Body is packed with easy and fun practices—one for each week of the year—to help you toss perfectionism out the window, turn down the volume on that nagging inner critic who is always going on about what's wrong, stop the never-ending comparison gameand finally love your body. You'll also find encouraging, in-the-moment affirmations to keep negative self-talk at bay, and give you a much-needed pick-me-up, any time, any place.
If you're ready to start loving your body, this book gives you 52 ways to get started now. So, what are you waiting for?

My Review:
Honestly it took some effort to get past the author's personality to judge the content of her book. "Lawyer-turned-teacher-turned-writer who talks to her heart while balancing on a wobbly indoor standup paddleboard yoga mat unless she's raising chickens" didn't exactly scream 'I'm relateable! I get what you're going through!" to me. 
That, and the self promoting (don't forget she wrote another book, guys!) got on my nerves. It took away from actually flipping through the chapters to find something that I could say "yes. this is useful to me." About a third of the way in, I was losing hope, but the Aspirations chapter finally got on my level. 
But I don't really get the sense that Simpkins really got to a point where she seamlessly loves her body. In a few chapters she mentions things like "If I don't do this, I feel horrible but then I do it again and the bad voices go away."
I'm not trying to take a medicine for self love that only works if you do it. I think of a self-relationship as just that--a relationship. I should be fine indulging in a spa day every couple of weeks, not going into 'self massage' withdrawals. 
Overall, not for me. I don't buy it, but if you're also a lawyer-turned-hippie-turned stay-at-home-whatever then you might like this book. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

NetGalley Review: Oh Joy, Sex toy v.3

Erika & Matthew think the world of sex is pretty rad. Using humor and research, their awesome comics are about everything that relates to sex. They review sex toys, share sex education, interview sex workers, and crack horrible, horrible puns, all in the name of promoting sex positivity.

My Review: 

With a book like this, you can't exactly complain about the NSFW aspect. I do actually appreciate all the different body types depicted in this book, as well as the genuine sex ed parts of the book. But for most of the time, every time I went into a new chapter I kept thinking "oh my god, ANOTHER review??" The reviews actually wouldn't have been so terrible if they were more spaced apart, so in a different universe I hope the book is ordered differently so some of the comics at the very end (which dealt with very real feelings such as body insecurity, as well as funny things like sex with a fantasy made of ice cream) make it more towards the front of the book and break up the advertising--I mean reviews. (even though it feels like advertising, being a published book and all). On the plus side, this book does well as a standalone, despite being the third in a series--this is my first encounter with the authors ever. Which, you know, may not have worked in their favor as I didn't appreciate being called a pervert every other page. I got this book mostly because the description states "[they]...share sex education, interview sex workers, and crack horrible, horrible puns, all in the name of promoting sex positivity." I'm not sure sex positivity or wanting to read sex ed and bad puns makes me a pervert. If it's a groupie nickname, I think a less accusatory one like 'sex fiends' or something would have sufficed. 
All in all, there were some good aspects, but not enough to make me want to actually buy this book or recommend it to a friend. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

ebook review: Spiritual cross training

On a quest for enlightenment, Benjamin Shalva journeyed through the wilds of Tibet and took a pilgrimage to a white-walled monastery in Rhode Island. He wrestled with demons, danced with temptresses, and sang with hundreds of voices under the stars. Now, using the lessons and techniques gained through years of religious exploration and inward reflection, Shalva offers simple and powerful ways to connect with your spiritual self, whether it be in a place of worship or the yoga studio, or even while sitting in traffic, working late at the office, or kneeling in your garden.

In this honest, intimate—sometimes embarrassing and frequently funny—memoir with down-to-earth instruction and guidance, Shalva reveals that you don’t have to be perfect or singularly focused to accomplish deep spiritual work. By cross-training in three simple exercises—silence, stretch, and song—you can strengthen your spiritual muscles and deepen your personal search for meaning.

Inspiring and refreshingly candid, Spiritual Cross-Training encourages you to trust your own path, grow with an open mind and a light heart, and uncover the truth as you search for your place in the universe.

My Review: 
I don't buy it. In fact, I don't think Shalva buys what he's putting on the table here. In the introduction, one phrase in particular popped out at me:
"Patting myself on the back I declared "I meditate." or, "I sing and dance and pray."
That's pretty much the feeling I get from this entire book. Someone with enough money to travel the world in order to figure out what his heart believed is telling us that singing and moving and meditating is the secret to life. He gives us a journal and sells it as self help.
And I don't buy it. It feels forced. Like he got the placebo pill for spirituality and wants everyone to try some. 
As a self help spiritual guidance book, I don't recommend it at all. As a memoir, sure go ahead and get it. You might find a bit of humor under the pompousness.