Reading Fanatic Reviews

All Nonfiction Reviews

Italian Short Stories for Beginners and Intermediate Learners by Language Guru

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Interested in another language besides Italian? Check out these other books in the series!

Italian Short Stories for Beginners and Intermediate Learners*

One Tool for Extensive Italian Language Learning

I have read two other books in this series, and I believe these books would be of great help to anyone learning the particular language featured. They are surprisingly similar, as each short story in all the books is essentially the same—the first one about diet, the second about exercise, etc.–with small changes made for cultural differences. For instance, some of the food mentioned in the Italian first story is different than the ones in the Korean book.

Before the short stories, there is a brief introductory section where the author discusses extensive vs. intensive learning (among other topics), stating that this book is meant to be used with extensive learning practices. In case you don’t know the difference, intensive learning is how we often learn a language in school, where we drill and drill on the basics and look up every word we don’t know. Extensive language learning is more volume driven; we are meant to expose ourselves to the language in a variety of ways, not fussing particularly over understanding every word or grammar concept. Both types of learning have their place. I think intensive learning is needed to get a basic grasp of the language, but then extensive learning can help you really get up to speed with fluency if you dedicate yourself to the process. This book does have some elements of intensive learning, as each book does have a vocabulary list as well as a full English translation of the story. But in the how to use this book chapter, the authors state that you can certainly just read the story first, though they do also recommend, alternatively, that you can start with a vocabulary list before reading the story. I’ve tested out both ways, and I find I prefer to read the vocabulary list first. I don’t try to memorize it, though (like I would in intensive learning). Rather, reviewing it just kind of gets me ready to approach the language.

Also in the how to use this book chapter, the author discusses spaced repetition. But they don’t really say how to apply it to the stories. In fact, one of the first things they say in this chapter is that you should just read these stories once and once only. So how does spaced repetition fit in? I wish they had said.

But the book is really about the stories. Each story section contains multiple parts: the story itself in Italian, a vocabulary list, a quiz in Italian, and the English translation of the story. I did find the vocabulary list helpful, as stated above, to help get me into an Italian language frame of mind as well as a reference. I wish it included some other words, particularly verbs and what the verb form means in terms of tense. And some words included in the vocabulary list are silly, as their English translation was very clear. I actually laughed when I saw the vocabulary list included pizza! Well, I don’t, you know, like to give spoilers for books, but let me state that the translation for the Italian word pizza is pizza! LOL. I hope I didn’t give too much away. 😉

If you already have a solid basis in Italian and want to add to your vocabulary and ease of working with the language with an aim to increase your fluency, you may benefit from reading this book.

I received a free copy of this book, but that did not affect my review.

How to Self-Publish and Market a Book by Hank Quense

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Scribd, Smashwords, Mondadori, and Angus & Robertson

How to Self-Publish and Market a Book*

Some Solid Information But Some Gaps and Errors

As a freelance editor and published author myself, I am inexorably drawn to any books about writing, self-publishing, or book marketing. I have read a previous book by this author (the one on creating stories). While I appreciated his knowledge and story-crafting expertise, I did have some issues with the book, especially with the grievous amount of grammar and punctuation errors and a somewhat quirky beginning to each chapter. So I was curious about what this book was going to be like.

The editing seems to be marginally better, although there were still issues with proper punctuation. According to the front matter, this book has been professionally edited, yet the required comma between independent clauses of a compound sentence was only sometimes present. There were a few other missing punctuation marks as well scattered throughout. Words are misspelled (Fivver instead of Fiverr… really?). But I won’t harp on this, though it is a particular pet peeve of mine.

Like the other book, I think this one does a good job of showing one man’s way of doing things in the author/self-publishing space. As you would imagine from the title, this book focuses on self-publishing and marketing, which the author insists must be seen as an integrated whole, not two separate parts. I would agree with that assessment. The information given throughout the book is solid, though I could see the limitations; I wanted to add more info from my clients’ experiences (and my own) to each chapter! I thought that some details given were perhaps unnecessary for a newbie author. For some inexpensive but complex tasks, it is just better to hire a professional than to try to do everything yourself.

I did find some errors of fact that I thought were a little disturbing. For instance, when he discusses using/buying software to format your book, he lists Upwork and Fiverr as a resource to buy software! I don’t think you need to be ordering gigs for software development! Instead, you might consider using someone from either of those places to do the formatting for you. Just a strange little thing that seemed odd to me.

The book is well organized, with the bulk of it being essentially a month-by-month publishing and marketing schedule with each step clearly defined. These scheduling chapters are preceded by an introductory chapter which gives the reader the lay of the land for the six-month plan and defines a few terms. In looking over the schedule, it truly is a good one for a self-published author to follow. Lots of nuggets of wisdom here, even if it is imperfect on several levels. I wish the table of contents showed the self-publishing and marketing tasks for each month. It would have been nice to have this “at a glance” so the would-be author could quickly see where everything was heading. This book would be suitable for authors who are considering this route and certainly for any who will definitely be using it.

Fit After Forty by Jordan Vezina

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, Thalia, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, Indigo (Chapters), and Bol.de

Fit After Forty***

Staying Fit in Middle Age if Already There

As the cover might suggest, this book appears to be geared for people who are already fit and are perhaps struggling to maintain that as they get older. (Although, I have to say that I don’t think that either cover model is anywhere near 40!) As someone who is not into fitness beyond walking and using a stationary bike, I found myself confused by some terms in this book, especially in the exercise section. Things were better in the other chapters. I wasn’t familiar with the author before reading this book, so I was surprised at some of the ideas and attitudes expressed in the book. While I have no problem with an author advocating a keto diet, I was surprised at the seemingly random slam at vegan authors of anti-inflammatory diet books.

Many of the ideas in this book are not new to me, like drinking adequate water, but I found the emphasis on breath to be unusual and interesting. Especially in the beginning of the book, I thought that the author talked a little too much about himself. Now, an author doesn’t have to keep himself out of a book completely, but much of the first part felt like it was all about him. The book is rather short and can be read quickly, but if you don’t have much knowledge about exercise fitness, many of the terms and discussions will feel foreign to you, as they did to me. I wish he spent a little more time specifically addressing fitness as one heads into middle age. Much of what was written seemed to be more general.

100+ Keto Chaffle Recipes by Sam Kuma

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100+ Keto Chaffle Recipes*

Some Pretty Inventive Ideas

I used to run a specialty food store in northern California, so I am always attracted to any cookbook that I see at my favorite book review site. I also have friends who follow the keto diet, so I like to review those books for them. When I first read this title, I will admit that I had no idea what a chaffle was; I actually had to look it up on the ‘net! For those of you who don’t know, a chaffle is a waffle made with eggs and cheese as a base instead of the typical carbohydrate ingredients.

I thought the organization of the book was a little bizarre. He called the first section of recipes simply “keto chaffle recipes.” Aren’t these all keto chaffle recipes? The first couple of the section were basic ones, but the rest in this chapter were actually more of the “sweet” variety of chaffle, even if the sweet was not accomplished with carbohydrates. Sections followed with chicken chaffles, cake chaffles, savory chaffles, and finished with pizza chaffles. I was surprised to find that one of the basic recipes was for a vegan version, made with vegan cheeses and a flax meal egg substitute; vegans don’t get enough love in most keto books.

Unfortunately, the book didn’t follow some of the standard ways of writing a cookbook, which could make it confusing to some cooks. The list of ingredients should follow the order of their use in a recipe. This rarely happened in this collection. The recipes themselves sounded fine; in fact, some sounded quite tasty. There are also some issues with the introductory section of the book. For instance, a section labeled “About Keto chaffles,” more talked about the keto diet rather than the chaffles. While the author did include some hints and tips—which I think are good—I found it curious that he didn’t address why all of these recipes require a mini waffle maker instead of a regular-sized one. I imagine it would become rather tedious if you were making these for a family. However, if you have a hankering for waffles and you’re on the keto diet, you may very well enjoy this diverse set of chaffle recipes.

Investing for Your Financial Future by Edgar Plain

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Investing for Your Financial Independence Made Easy*

Too Short to Be of Much Use

I have read a variety of books about investing and personal financial management. While the author proclaims in the book description that this book is intentionally short and not meant to be a heavy technical manual, I found it to be too brief to be of much value. If you look at the table of contents, many topics appear as though they will be addressed. They are, but so briefly that there isn’t much benefit to it. I find myself wondering if the author’s knowledge and the book topic would have been better served by splitting up the information into a series of books so that he could keep the book lengths short but go into some of these ideas in more depth. I don’t honestly feel like I can recommend this book.

Anxiety Relief by Elliot Wood

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Anxiety Relief*

Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

The full title and subtitle of this book is “Anxiety Relief: A complete guide to eliminate negative thinking, stress, dерrеѕѕiоn, angеr and panic attасkѕ.” in general, I do not believe that any books, especially a short one like this, can be a “complete guide” to any medical topic. But I also found the subtitle to be an odd combination of concepts. What does anxiety have to do with negative thinking, depression, or anger? These could only be loosely linked together, at least to my mind. The subtitle also makes you think that this book is going to be all about these other topics and how they relate to anxiety or anxiety relief. But over half the book was a more general discussion of anxiety, including different types and other information. Some ideas presented struck me as rather bizarre. Like in a section that was labeled 14 destructive types of anxiety, two of them were ones that I would not think of as being necessarily “destructive” but rather just annoying, like test anxiety and shy bladder syndrome. In all honesty, it felt like this book was haphazardly cobbled together from a variety of websites or perhaps other sources. I could be wrong, but it seemed that way to me. And it also had that annoying tactic that some nonfiction authors in particular seem to use; that is, right in the middle of the book as your reading along, the author begs for a review. Yes, I know that reviews are important to writers, but asking for them like that is just the wrong way to go about it. In all honesty, you most likely could find the information in this book on the internet.

Four Weeks for Prosperity by Elwyn Hayes

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Four Weeks*

28 Days to an Expansive Money Mindset

I found this to be a fascinating approach to getting a better mindset for prosperity and abundance. The book is grounded in the Law of Attraction, but the author says he sees it in a slightly different way. Here’s a quote from the book: “Thinking about attracting something means that there’s a separation between you and the thing you want, let’s say money in this case. I believe that instead of working on attracting things, we need to expand our consciousness and embrace the things we want. You can’t attract a desire if you think the desire is bigger than you…”

The book has a very small introductory section, and the bulk of the book is 28 essays and a variety of exercises (one for each day)—including meditation, affirmations, tapping, and more—to help you key into the particular topic of the day. While I haven’t given it all a try, I plan to. I found the ones I have done to be relaxing if nothing else; it also was calming. I’ll be interested to see how it turns out at the end of 28 days. Will it have affected a shift in my thoughts about money?

Your Rebel Life by Tikiri Herath

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Available at Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, 24 Symbols, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, and Indigo (Chapters).

Your Rebel Life*

Maintaining Your Rebel Life

I have read the other two books in this serious, Your Rebel Dreams and Your Rebel Plans, and I enjoyed both thoroughly. I thought the author gave a fantastic blueprint to claim the life you want. The two earlier books look at how to figure out your vision and then plan to make it a reality. I’ve actually been anticipating this book for a couple of months because I so enjoyed the other two. This series-ender is a little different from the other two, but once I understood what the author was going for, I appreciated what this book has to offer.

In looking at the big picture of the three books in this series, I think I can liken it to the trajectory of a weight loss plan. In this scenario, Your Rebel Dreams (the first book) is like choosing which diet you think would be best for you and your body. Your Rebel Plans would be the phase where you are actually structuring and implementing your weight loss plan. I would call this book the maintenance phase: You’ve established a plan, worked the plan, and now you need a longer range vision about how to maintain everything that you’ve worked so hard for.

The book has a relatively straightforward structure. There is a section of introductory material, some of which was familiar from the previous books. Here, she sets the foundations about the particular constructs of all these books, like the Passion Pyramid and the Heroine’s Journey. The bulk of the book looks at the ten key pillars of life as defined by the author. Specifically, she has you look at each of these areas and assess your strengths and weaknesses so you can set small goals for improvement. She then gives ten tips that will help with that particular pillar. There are check-ins at the end of each month for each pillar where you state what your goal was, how you did with it, and steps from there. I found this a fascinating approach to try to keep yourself and your life not only in balance but in a constant state of improvement, a little kaizen. If you’ve read the other books, you’ll most likely enjoy this maintenance phase of your Rebel Diva life. If you haven’t read the other two books, you probably should before you delve into this one as those two books will truly set the foundation for this one.

The Cure for Stupidity by Eric M. Bailey

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Available at Amazon, Thalia, and Bol.de

The Cure for Stupidity*

A Case for Communication

I have an interest in neuroscience; it fascinated me while I was in nursing school even though I didn’t ultimately become a neuro nurse. So I was intrigued by this title when it showed up at one of my favorite book review sites. It is very easy to read compared to other books on the thought and communication. It felt almost too simplistic at times. But at least it is more accessible than many books I’ve read on the topic. In this book, the author explores concepts like perception, content, bias, and distractions. For me, this book felt too loosely woven together. It was hard to see the interrelationship between all the various parts of this idea. Because of my interest in neuroscience, this was not my first time hearing some of these concepts, so most were not new to me. I thought the title and the subtitle were a bit disingenuous, as neither really had much to do with the book itself. I didn’t really make the connection between the content of the book and stupidity (although it could be argued that not understanding the basics of human engagement could lead to some stupid actions or decisions) nor did I feel that the book was very heavy into neuroscience, as I hoped it would be. Also, too, the subtitle states that this is about communication in the workplace; again, this didn’t seem to be the major thrust of the book, which seemed more about the theories in general than a lot of practical information. The book at its core is about communication on a variety of levels, though. It is about aspects of thought and human behavior that can affect how we perceive, think, decide, and act. Despite some deficiencies, I did still find this to be a fascinating read. If you have an interest in communication, perception, or bias, this book might interest you.

Microsoft Word in 30 Minutes or Less by Angela Rose

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Thalia, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, and Bol.de

Microsoft Word in 30 Minutes*

Surprising Helpful, if at Times Too Simple, Guide to Word

I have used Microsoft Word since it was a DOS-only program. I still use it every day as a writer, YouTuber, and freelance editor/proofreader. I used it in the past during college as well. I thought I knew the ins and outs of Word pretty well as I’ve used it for so long and in so many capacities. But I recently updated to Microsoft Word 2019 as a part of my 365 subscription, and I had noticed that things looked a little different but didn’t really take the time to explore them.

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting from this book other than a brief look at Microsoft Word. The book purports to be able to be read in 30 minutes, but it definitely takes longer than that to go through the book, especially if you decide to take a few concepts for a spin in Word itself. Maybe it would take 30 minutes if you skip the parts that you already know (or think you know). Some information in this book is too basic, like how to copy and paste or save a file. Don’t we all know how to do simple computer tasks like that now? But there are plenty of nuggets of information here for people who haven’t used every bit of Word’s impressive capabilities. For instance, it has been a long time since I had had to do anything with references or citations, so it was good to get a refresher course. I also have never built an index. I was also intrigued to see the new things added to Word 2019. There is certainly more to Word than a simple word processor. If you aren’t sure about all that Word has to offer you, you might enjoy this book so you can understand its current possibilities. If you are relatively new to Word, this quick read will introduce you to the basics and then some. I recommend this book as a quick reference to anybody who uses or wants to use Word.

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