Smarter, Faster, Better (Charles Duhigg)

3 out of 5 stars
The short version:
This felt like a second-rate rehashing of The Power of Habit. Even though the stories are different and *some* of the points are different, you could have probably whittled this down to 2-3 chapters and stuck it onto the back of The Power of Habit and called it a day…

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Posted in Nonfiction

Headstrong: 52 Women Who Change Science — and the World (Rachel Swaby)

3.5 out of 5 stars

This is a very well-intentioned book that is more informative and encyclopedic than actually inspiring. As a female engineer with two daughters, this is the type of reading material I want to see more of, and perhaps because I had such high expectations, I was ultimately disappointed.

The idea behind the book is fantastic: the introduction explains that a New York Times obituary for rocket scientist Yvonne Brill highlighted her cooking skills (I think specifically, beef stroganoff) and her relationship with her husband (following him to different jobs, raising three children)… as opposed to her own, individual accomplishments.  You know, like being a rocket scientist.

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Posted in Nonfiction

Worth Winning, Parker Elling

Since we personally know the author involved, we cannot fairly review/endorse it.

However, it’s a Maggie Unpublished Awards Finalist (2nd Place, 2015) and was selected via Amazon’s Kindle Scout program!

 

Posted in book promotion, Romance

The Big Orange Book of Beginning Books (Dr. Seuss)

Recommended, Repeatable

This is a great book for beginning readers — not only are the pictures engaging in the way that all Seuss-drawn books are, but the words are simple and meant to be either already in the emerging reader’s vocabulary, or on the edge of what they can do. There are great rhymes (which adds to the young reader’s ability to guess at what the words they can’t read must be), and as always, the story flow is great.

There are a total of six books and the only real drawback is that not all of the books are illustrated by Seuss (only I think the first two are both written and illustrated by Seuss, that those are definitely our two favorites (Marvin K. Mooney, Will you Please Go Now! and The Shape of Me and Other Stuff). I think all the books are good, but the collection is definitely worth owning for nothing more than the first two books if you’re a die-hard Seuss fan, or just looking for something that will hold your emerging reader’s interest.

Posted in Children's/Young Adult

The Berenstain Bears: All Aboard (I Can Read Book, Level 1)

Good for ages 4-6

An average “I Can Read Level 1″ book.

Pros:
1. Good for a kid who’s a train lover. They not only are taking a train trip, but also get to tour the train and learn about the various parts/people on a train.
2. Age appropriate, family friend story line.

Cons:
1. As a kid, I liked the Berenstain bears, but now, as a parent and adult, I feel as though there are many better illustrated options out there. They’re illustrated the same way they always have been, but I can tell that my kids aren’t as drawn in by these drawings compared to other books produced under the I Can Read series.
2. The reading level feels a little off to me. It’s definitely not a “My First” level, but it’s borderline Level 2? And some of the words introduced aren’t common words (like “caboose” which is great for this book, probably not going to be useful outside of this book).

Though I’m not disappointed to have bought this book, I think there are definitely better “I Can Read Level 1″ books out there…

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Seed to Plant (National Geographic Readers, Level 1)

4 out of 5 stars

Decent read for 4-6 year olds

Pros:
1. Great pictures, very vivid and will keep even a younger kid’s attention.
2. Nice, basic information on the seed –> plant process with some good vocabulary (germination, pollination)

Cons:
1. Not sure about the appropriate age group here. As a level 1 book, on the one hand, MOST of the words are super basic (seed, plant, etc), but on the other, the more complicated words are like a few levels up (germination, pollination.
2. Similarly, some of the interesting/fun facts are going to be ones that are too basic for a kid who’s already in elementary school, and a bit too left field for a younger kid.

Ultimately, we’re glad we have it in our collection. It’s bright, vivid and educational. The problem is that the target age group is a little hard to pinpoint, and the reading level is not completely level-1-ish (nor is the information)

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Star Wars: The Adventures of Han Solo (Level 2 readers)

Good for 3-7 year olds…
I’m a bit torn on this book.

Pros:
1. If your kid likes Star Wars, your kid will probably like this book.
2. If you kid likes Han Solo, they’re probably love this book.
3. It’s got all the major things you would expect form a Star Wars book (mentions of Chewie, Princess Leia, etc)

Cons:
1. It’s not really helpful in terms of helping your kid learn to read (every like fourth word is proper noun that is useful only in the Star Wars universe).
2. If your kid already likes Star Wars, they’re not really going to learn anything new from this book.

If your kid doesn’t really like to read, but loves Star Wars, this is the book for you. Otherwise, there are other books that are better Star Wars books, as well as books that are better learning to read books. This is for the Star Wars kid who doesn’t otherwise want to read…

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Little Bear (An I Can Read Book)

Our family is split down the middle on this one.

Pros:
1. Cute, completely age-appropriate stories. Little Bear has quite the imagination on him (from going to the moon to making a birthday soup), and Mother Bear is very creative (and caring) in how she handles/teaches Little Bear.
2. As a child, I absolutely adored these stories.
3. A great level-1-ish reading book with great introductory-level vocabulary

Cons:
1. While I LOVED these stories growing up, none of these stories seem to hold my kids’ attention. I think more modern stories (similar reading level) just have a much, MUCH higher ratio of pictures to text. Here, while the pictures are cute, there’s a lot more story to get through.

I think that this will be a great book once my toddlers/kids are older, but there are other “I Can Read” books that hold my kids’ attention much better (from Digger the Dinosaur, which I’m less of a fan of, to Pete the Cat and Wild Kratts). I still love it, I just think that my kids are (perhaps unfortunately) used to more pictures per story :(

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Wild Kratts/ Wild Sea Creatures (Step into Reading, Level 2)

Average Level 2/Step into Reading Book…

Pros:
1. If your kid is already a fan of Wild Kratts, I think this is a good addition to your library
2. Simple enough sentences and age-appropriate content

Cons:
1. Illustrations make animals seem a bit like caricatures (the mean, angry shark, etc)
2. Not a lot of in-depth information on any of the animals, odd spread of facts that are conveyed

If you want books on whales and sharks, there are better options, if you want books that are good in terms of reading level, there are also better options. This is basically a book you buy if you a) like Wild Kratts, b) want something really basic/introductory that’s nominally about ocean animals and c) don’t mind that the drawings are very meh.

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Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior (Leonard Mlodinow)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Well-written, clearly planned and researched book on how our subconscious often has undue influence over what we believe are logically-driven, thought-through decisions. There’s a nice blend of information with anecdote which will be appealing to most readers. Strict scientists will probably occasionally be annoyed by the use of overarching summation instead of strict numbers and statistics, and non-scientists might sometimes wish for a little more to be grounded in friendly anecdotes. Overall, I found this to be a nice blend of science and well-written non-fiction.

Greater Detail:
Mlodinow starts by using a series of anecdotes and past experiments to help ground you in the history of what eventually becomes brain and cognitive science/neuroscience and lays the foundation for quite a bit of marketing madness that has happened over the past couple of decades. We go from some basic definitions (like what does subliminal actually mean) to how the “science” behind this field slowly grew from pseudo-science to a respected, hot-topic field.

A lot of the history shared was interesting, even if you have taken those intro psychology courses — he goes through everything from some of Freud’s less famous early starts to some better-known experiments in the field (everything from Coke vs. Pepsi to reward pathways in our brain and how we often trick ourselves).

I found a lot of the historical asides to be fascinating (especially as they relate to how the field gradually became established) though the beginning sections were more interesting than some of the middle chapters (which I felt meandered a bit).

A very quick, informative, thought-provoking read overall: enough to make you question the validity of this visceral instincts that sometimes guide us (that are perhaps just an unconscious but active processing of subliminal cues) and also make you wonder how much our senses and logic fool us…

Comparison to Other Books:
This is like a far more science-based version of a book like The Power of Habit, and a far less technical version of something like Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow. It’s a really nice blend of science and story-telling, and will definitely make you wonder about just how you’re making your day-to-day decisions.

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Posted in Nonfiction