Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: Andrew Zollman

What I ReadThe Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires #1) by Jim Butcher

Find It @YCLD: Here!  

What It's About: Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Loyal to the people of Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the coming war with Spire Aurora. He has accomplished this by disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines and attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

 The Cinder Spires have stood for thousands of years, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. They protect and shelter humanity from the harsh outside world where the light and very space you move can make a person mad, and the surface of the earth is all but inhospitable to normal life forms. There are many spires surrounding the earth, each with a different civilization and aristocratic house to govern within their halls. They have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

As Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. There is another enemy lurking in the shadows pulling the strings. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death is sure to follow in its wake…

What I Thought: I have rarely been able to get through a steampunk-type novel without a strong reason to enjoy the story. With all of the descriptions necessary to explain how inventions work and how things run it can get confusing. Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass exceeded my expectations in this regard. He did a wonderful job of integrating both the characters and the technology into the story without making the reader feel overwhelmed. The tone had a sort of matter-of-fact quality to the writing.

As you know from reading my other reviews, I enjoy strong or well-written characters in the stories I read. They can be broken. They can be romantic. As long as they show a well-rounded personality and traits you would find in the real-world that’s what I am looking for in a character. Jim delivered that for me. My favorite characters were Bridget and Rowl, and you will see why when reading it yourself.

Like Jim Butcher’s other books, he writes in an in-your-face manner when describing conflict and dangerous situations. Follow along and enjoy the ride. Remember, this is the first book in the series, he will expand on the culture, characters and scope of the world as it progresses. The first book is but a glimpse of conflict between only two spires and the people who fight for them.

Readalikes: Agatha H. and the airship city by Phil Foglio

Or look this book up on NoveList!


Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: José Beltrán

What I Read: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: The science of advertising is about how corporations want to create a habit in us to buy their products by creating cravings in us. The routine becomes a habit. Habits are the brain’s way to save effort. The automatic three step process of cue-routine-reward loop becomes automatic i.e. a habit. The habit becomes automatic. However, “habits can be ignored, changed, or replaced as needed.” “Habits never really disappear, because they are encoded into the brain. Unfortunately, the brain does not distinguish between a bad habit and a good habit. Habits are a way to protect the brain from being overwhelmed by details. The Golden Rule of habit change. Use the same cues, and get the same reward, but shift the routine, and one habit replaces another. We must first identify the cues and rewards. “The brain can be reprogrammed, just be deliberate about it.” We must have the belief that change is possible. That belief is easier within a support group. 

What I Thought: This book provides ample examples of habit-forming from real life: Alcoholics Anonymous; drug addicts; champion swimmer Michael Phelps; Paul O’Neil on creating a culture in Alcoa by finding the grit to remake workplaces through an emphasis on safety; dieting by simply keeping a food journal. Willpower (self-discipline, self-regulator skills) is the single most import keystone habit. I do not watch TV football. The author enthralled me with his exciting play by play of Major League football teams under coach Dungy. Wow! It kept me on the edge of the seat.

Our basal ganglia control our habits. What bad habit do you want to lose: overeating, gambling, debt, sex, drugs, hoarding, self-mutilation, smoking video game addictions, emotional dependency… Why is AA so successful? Because it attacks not the symptoms but the root of the problem, the habits that surround the vice. Is it a habit or is it an addiction? There’s nothing we can’t do if you get the habits right “like opening and closing a door, driving, or even eating." Without habits, we would be hindered in communicating, because we could not understand body language. Unthinkingly we would go through life as human robots. “However as useful as habits are a blessing they can also be a curse.” Unlike an automaton, we can make the decision and effort to change our automatic behavior as needed to reprogram ourselves. Habits create unconscious neurological cravings. Cravings, unfulfilled desires makes us angry, unhappy, mopey, frustrated, depressed, disappointed, but they do keep us motivated. What will an alcohol or cigarette addict not do for his addiction? A habit cannot simply disappear: it must be replaced!

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: Jim Patrick

What I ReadThe Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: The book’s lengthy subtitle indicates the wide scope of historian Doris Kerns Goodwin’s latest publication.  She gives detailed biographical sketches of not only Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, but also of their parents, wives and children.  As in her other bestselling books, she fills her account with fascinating stories of the domestic lives of the Tafts and Roosevelts, including courtships, friendships and fall-outs, and parental sorrows and joys.  The wives, Nellie Taft and Edith Roosevelt, are both featured prominently in this book.  For example, Nellie Taft is shown to be much more ambitious and “political” than her husband William who always wanted to remain a judge.  Edith Roosevelt faced many challenges, such as marrying a widower with a young child, and being the wife of such an impetuous risk-taker as Theodore Roosevelt.  William and Theodore were the best of friends and close political partners until Roosevelt became disillusioned with Taft’s presidency.  The emergence of this painful rift is recounted in riveting detail by Kearns Goodwin.

The book’s subtitle also signals another major topic of The Bully Pulpit—the work of groundbreaking journalists of the Progressive Era, such as Lincoln Steffens, Ida Tarbell, and others who wrote for McClure’s magazine.  Kearns Goodwin clearly admires these journalists and their crusading spirit.  She illustrates how Roosevelt and the journalists had a generally positive and mutually beneficial relationship, while Taft was leery of the press and disliked having to cultivate relationships with reporters.

What I Thought: Loyal readers of Doris Kearns Goodwin know that her books arrive slowly but are always worth the wait.  Whether writing about Roosevelts, Kennedys, Lincolns, or any other historical subject, Kearns Goodwin always tells wonderful stories with her history, and she has a knack of making historical names come alive as real characters on her pages.  That’s why she is not only an excellent historian, but a popular one, as well.  At 750-plus pages, The Bully Pulpit is not a fast read, and its ambitious scope might be intimidating to those who haven’t read previous books by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  However, the various strands of this real-life epic are woven together by the author with her usual grace and skill, making for another enjoyable classic in the field of popular history.

Readalikes: The Roosevelts: An Intimate History by Geoffrey C. Ward; Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris; Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Or look this book up on NoveList!


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Mess by Barry Yourgrau

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: Laurie Boone

What I Read: Mess: One Man's Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act by Barry Yourgrau

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: The author writes a memoir about hoarding and clutter from his own perspective as both a hoarder and investigative reporter. He interviews psychologists, hoarders, and even spends time with a decluttering service and in anti-hoarding group therapy. His longtime girlfriend gives him an ultimatum: clean up his mess and his life or jeopardize their relationship.

What I Thought: For those who find the problem of hoarding a fascinating topic and for those who could use some incentive to clean up their cluttered lives, this book delivers. Barry Yourgrau is an endearing, clever, well-traveled and well-read hoarder who is in denial about his issues. He is never pathetic and I was rooting for him throughout. It is a funny and inspiring read.

Readalikes: Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Gail Steketee

Or look this book up on NoveList!