Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Laurie R. King iPad mini Giveaway

You know how every time I review a Mary Russell book by Laurie R. King I tell you to start at the beginning?

So when I reviewed The God of the Hive here and Dreaming Spies here, I was basically telling you "This is a great book that you can't read yet. Go do your homework and come back to this review."  Which is not nice, really.  I think that makes me a bit of a tease.

Today I can make it up to you.

In order to promote the release of Dreaming Spies (that happens on February 17, 2015), the lovely people at Random House are giving away an iPad mini preloaded with all of the Mary Russell books (and all of Laurie R. King's other books).

How fabulous is that?

 A new tech toy and 17 new books!

Here's the link to the giveaway:

It's open until February 6, 2015.

Now, go forth, enter and win!

Pin It

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki & Peg Fitzpatrick

I received a free e-version of this book from the authors.  I'm 97% sure I heard about the giveaway on Twitter.

Fair warning: The next handful of books I review will be titles I picked up to see if I could use them in my college-level classes.  As I'm a marketing professor, that means these books will be nothing like my normal selections of urban fantasy, romance, mystery or YA.  Feel free to walk away briskly.

In general, I find way too many business books to be fluffy.  By that, I mean that too many lack enough insight and new material to justify an entire book.  So, as some point, the authors start repeating themselves or are using a fourth or fifth example to illustrate a point we all understand after the first or second depiction. I skimmed through two different social media-related books in December, and was so frustrated with one of them (that shall remain nameless) that I immediately e-mailed my senior capstone class and told them NOT to buy any of the books I picked for them this semester.  Instead, I decided to supply readings.  I would allow me to cherry-pick the useful pieces and avoid the fluff.


It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I clicked on a Twitter link for a free copy of The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Kitzpatrick.  

I had already hit my quota of business-related fluff for the foreseeable future.  
But it was free.  
And I, like so many professors, am on a continual hunt for the perfect texts for my classes.

So I clicked.

ohmygoodness, oh my goodness, OH MY GOODNESS am I glad I did.

I finished it up on the flight home from a class trip.  I practically tackled my co-chaperones to tell them how useful and practical The Art of Social Media is.  I lucked into a third row seat, so while I was waiting for the rest of the class to deplane I actually tested out two of the things I learned from reading the book.

I'll be using this book for a summer class I've proposed for our Italy program and for a required class for my new Digital Media Marketing major, the DMM minor and the DMM certificate.  The ONLY thing I'm unsure of is if I should require students to buy the e-version*. 

As the authors state in the forward "the purpose of this book is to enable you to rock social media", and they work through 12 chapters giving you straightforward and (fairly) step-by-step instructions on how to do that.  They cover the predominant social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, G+, LinkedIn, Instagram & blogging), and they start with the beginning (setting up a strong profile), provided insight on content creation, content curation, and promotion before ending with a chapter on how to put it all together (building a foundation, amass your digital assets and go to market).

In particular, I found chapters 1, 2, 7 and 12 exceptionally useful for working with students.  But all the chapters are written in an accessible style and can be adapted to fit both an immersion course (short duration, longer class sessions, short turn around between classes) or a traditional semester course.

In additional to finding this book to be useful, practical and accessible, I was impressed by how i felt like I could immediate sit down and DO the things they described.    The chapters are written so you feel empowered to handle your own social media--not so you feel like you know what to ask an expert to do.

If you're trying to teach social media or master if your for own interests, The Art of Social Media is a great resource.

P.S. I knew I had stumbled up on something interesting when the first quotation in the book came from my beloved Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker's Guide.

*The e-version contains hyperlinks to sources and examples depicted in the text.  This makes the e-version a very rich experience, and pretty much perfect for my on-campus classes (where we have Wi-Fi), but the hyperlinks might be frustrating in our travel courses when Wi-Fi can be scarce.   Pin It

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Business Adventures by John Brooks

(I received a free e-ARC for this book from Net Galley.)

Fair warning: The next handful of books I review will be titles I picked up to see if I could use them in my college-level classes.  As I'm a marketing professor, that means these books will be nothing like my normal selections of urban fantasy, romance, mystery or YA.  Feel free to walk away briskly.

In the Book Description section of the Amazon page for Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street you can see the following phrase: 

"Business Adventures is truly financial journalism at its liveliest and best."

The liveliest of financial journalism, huh?  That sounds, err, fascinating.

The truth is John Brooks is a great storyteller even if his subject matter isn't the typical stuff of campfire recitations.  The professional reviews of Business Adventures also compliment Brooks on his prose (a fair assessment) and his insight (also fair).  Business Adventures is likely a great read for a well-educated Baby Boomer with a strong personal interest in business machinations and the financial world.  Specifically, I found the essays about the founder of Piggly-Wiggly, the creation (and failure) of the Edsel, and the court definitions of insider trading to be fascinating.  I have absolutely no background in finance (three communication degrees), so you don't need to be a Wall Street Whiz to appreciate these stories.

The twelve classic tales of Wall Street were originally published in the New Yorker in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, so let's break down those components to see if this book would be a good fit for my students as compared to the group I've already identified as as a good audience for this book (well-educated Baby Boomers who like finance).

 a)  published in The New Yorker 
Google allows you to filter your search by reading level. (Did you know that? I didn't before I began this review.)  I went looking for information on reading level because more than once in reading Brooks' essays I had to stop and think about the meaning of a word.  While I don't pretend to be a walking dictionary, I read a LOT. I also like to think that I have a strong vocabulary.  I KNOW I have a stronger vocabulary than many of my students, so I wanted to find an objective measure of how difficult it would be to read New Yorker essays.  

Take a look at this table to see a comparison of news sites and reading levels.  Think of basic as elementary-level texts, advanced as technical or scholarly articles and intermediate as everything in between. (Those descriptions came from here.)

The reading level percentages were generated on 1/18/15.

So, in today's world, The New Yorker is more difficult to read than general news sites but not as difficult to read as specialized financial publications.  What's even more interesting to me is how much those numbers have changed in the time Google has made this filter available.  Below is a chart of reading levels from December 2014 as reported in this blog post.

Sherk didn't report the numbers for The New Yorker.

If the reading level has decreased that much in four years, it's conceivable that essays written for a print publication in the 1950s and 1960s had an even higher reading level then the same publication does today.  But, obviously, I have no data to support that assertion.  It's based on my subjective comparison and a familial trait for speculation.

But even at today's reading level measures, essays from The New Yorker could be a stretch for students accustomed to reading text measures and tweets.

b) published in the 1950s and 1960s
This is, likely, the biggest stumbling block for using the book in my classrooms.  These stories are so much older than my students that they seem like they're written in another language.  In essays related to the New York Stock Exchange, parts of the tales are dependent on how far behind the Exchange can get on reporting current trading prices.  For a generation of students who can find scrolling stock prices at the bottom of a television screen or on a monitor in business school buildings, this challenge is difficult to comprehend.  Similarly, for readers who can finding breaking news at their thumb-tips on their mobile devices, the idea of waiting for information from a press release to trickle through the public before making stock trading decisions on that information seems truly foreign.  I'd almost like to see an annotated version of these essays with comparisons and translations today's world of information technology.  For instance, it would be useful to know how long after a 1964 press conference a news agency would publish or air a story, so that my students could see the time lag (as compared to today's industry events being live-tweeted) and then understand how those present truly would be better informed than the general trading public.  

In summary, while I believe there's an obvious target market for this work and I enjoyed reading several of the essays, this book is not a good choice for my classrooms.

Pin It

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Extraordinary Journey of a Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe

I wasn't sure what to expect, but I quite enjoyed this book. Clearly fantastical, it still manages to ring true as far as thoughts and reactions.

Long title...

So... The title kind of gives away the main idea of the book. Aja, a fakir (magician type), comes from India to Paris in order to go to Ikea. He's a total con man, meaning to use a fake 100 Euro note to buy a new bed of nails, and fly home in 24 hours. His plans, well, as you can guess from the title of the book, go awry.

It's been a good twenty years since I read Candide, but that was certainly the book that came to mind as I started to get into this story. Aja is both clever and a fool, but charming. You can't help but root for him through his crazy journey. I enjoyed the way the stories of some of the minor characters intertwined.

Once I got into the book (It took a couple of false starts) I finished it in one eager sitting. The language is certainly approachable without feeling simple.

The moral of the story isn't pounded over the reader's head, and the social issues won't be as familiar to some Americans, I'm sure (though immigration is again hitting the limelight here.) The moments of humor are amusing (at least to my taste.) I will be recommending this book to my friends. Pin It

Friday, January 9, 2015

Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King

(I received an Advance Reader Copy of Dreaming Spies from Net Galley.
Also mild spoilers.)

My love of Laurie R King's Mary Russell has been previously documented on this site here.

As I stated in my previous review, in this series, King has re-envisioned Sherlock Holmes, and Mary Russell is his partner in life and in solving crimes.  King's Sherlock is completely awesome.

Seriously, Ms. King writes the best Sherlock.
And I don't care who thinks that's blasphemous.
Best Sherlock is best.

Anyway, a new Mary Russell book, Dreaming Spies,  is coming on February 17, 2015.
Image from

This story is set on a cruise ship, in Japan and at Oxford.  The Russell-Holmeses do get around.

Traveling on a ship from India to America, Sherlock recognizes a man he believes to be involved with blackmail.  Russell knows well that Holmes need a good puzzle to keep himself occupied, and she wonders if his not-quite-obsession in ferreting out the blackmailer is just a means to avoid boredom.  (Russell prefers to entertain herself on-board with her reading material.)

But as hard as Mary works to convince herself that Sherlock merely needs a distraction, she can't help but notice some strange things happening on the ship--a passenger goes missing, the possessions of other passengers are being moved around, and Holmes and Russell meet an actual, real-life shinobi or ninja.

At the behest of the shinobi, they change their plans. They disembark in Japan and hitchhike, incognito, through the countryside--acquiring an appreciation and familiarity with Japanese customs. As they're mastering the art of hiding in plain sight, they're asked to help avert a national crisis. Despite their best efforts, foiling the plot costs two men they're lives.  And when they return home, the dramatic entrance of the shinobi  suggests that the case wasn't closed when they left Japan.

Dreaming Spies, like so many of the Mary Russell books, is a mystery wrapped in a travelogue.  If you haven't read one yet, start at the beginning with The Beekeeper's Apprentice, but, please do start. The series has all the smart detection of classic Sherlock with much better character development, and loving dedication and appreciation of world cultures. Pin It

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole

(I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from Net Galley.)

I heard of Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole on Twitter from authors Alisha Rai and Moira Rogers (technically, Bree is half of Moira Rogers).

So, I was intrigued. And greedy.
Which pushed me to request an ARC from Net Galley, and I was approved.  
And I approve.

Radio Silence is the first book in the Off the Grid trilogy; it's set in a world where the power has recently gone off--no electricity, no cell phones, no Internet.  At least, as far as roommates Arden Highmore and John Seong can tell, the whole world is that way.  Turns out you can't exactly check in with neighboring communities or distant countries when all the typical means of communication are disconnected. Society isn't coping well, so Arden and John take off walking to find John's family house.  It should be safer--John's parents own a grocery store and his family members are all versed in Boy Scout-y type things.

But before the roommates can make it all the way to the house, they must be rescued from a vicious attack by John's brother, Gabriel.  His dominant, sexy, older brother, the medical doctor that Arden can't stop obsessing about even when he holds her responsible for the injuries John sustains in the attack.

The set-up, today's world without power and with society breaking apart at the edges, is riveting in the scariest kind of way.  The new reality of living in world where nothing works the way is supposed to and nobody knows why is harrowing. You all know I'm completed addicted Twitter and Pinterest and Amazon Prime and texting my sister.  How in the WORLD would I get along with all that? What survival skills do I have?

Seriously.  I need my texts.

So, based on the set-up, I'd have recommended the book and told I was craving the second one.  (One drawback to reading Advance Reader Copies is that I'm jonesing for the second installment before the first one is even released.  Le sigh.)  But gleefully, I can tell you that the characters in this story are even more intriguing then the scenario in which they're placed.  The friendship between John and Arden is real, and developing much-more-than-friendship between Arden and Gabriel is sizzling hot and completely believable.  Ahhh, yeah.  Radio Silence is a good one.

You all can pre-order the first installment before its February 2 release.  I'll just sit here and fret about the sale date for the second one.

Pin It