Paint It Black – How Rock-n-Roll and Other Tools are the Best Problem-Solving Techniques

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Get past the fairly weighty title and subtitle and this book features a cleverly-written approach to self-help (a genre that ordinarily has more than its fair share of offerings).

The work of economist Rom Werran Gayoso is not clever in a funny way, but rather in the way the material is presented. It’s done as a series of short stories whose characters are facing various life decisions or situations that we can all relate to.

The author was influenced by the technique of scenario planning, originating during the Cold War. It’s a very simple-sounding yet highly successful approach to one’s life, whether business or personal in nature. The principle is to think through matters by evaluating, “If this happens, then that happens.” It’s more or less a cause and effect way of decision-making. Surely this isn’t the first book to address that topic, but what sets it apart and makes it highly readable is Gayoso’s method of imparting wisdom.

It’s done by way of several short stories drawing readers in and causing them to care about the characters.  Stories include the tale of 17-year-old Josh, whose parents offer him either a motorcycle or an opportunity to join an exchange program abroad. But only half the story is about a bike or a trip – it’s about how Josh arrives at his decision and why.

In “Sophie’s Wedding”, we encounter a couple (Sophie and Abe) who come from very different backgrounds and faiths, but are in love and getting married. They hope to be able to blend the two families along the way – especially the relationship between Sophie and her future mother-in-law. But this is about so much more than a wedding. A helpful technique called “mind mapping” is explained and we learn how better relationships between our characters were formed.

The story of Pedro centers around a young man in Ensenada who is contemplating establishing a hot dog cart in New York City. On the surface, readers may ask what stories such as these and others can mean to them. But stay with it – you may not want to run a hot dog cart, but you may have a decision that is somehow strikingly similar to the one that fictional Pedro faces.

At the end of each story is an interactive round up, where readers are asked a series of questions pertaining to the story, showing how the story may indirectly relate to situations in their life. It thus becomes very personalized.

The book’s title choice may be attention-grabbing, but don’t expect much about the Stones’ song or about rock and roll – there’s only one story that loosely deals with this. However, the material in general is quite informative, in an engrossing way. Enjoy – and learn!

 

 

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The Haunted House Diaries by William J. Hall

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Objects moving or disappearing, a child playing with an invisible entity, voices and groans, mysterious balls of light – it all sounds like the making of a blockbuster ghost movie. But the stories shared in The Haunted House Diaries are chillingly true.

They took place in a 1790s Connecticut farmhouse over a long span of time, and the last five decades of events were chronicled in journals by Donna Fillie, a longtime resident of the property, whose family has had a long history there.

She began making the entries when she was 16, never dreaming that the spine-tingling events would continue, or even realizing what she was capturing on those pages.

It wasn’t just Donna living through the events – her parents, sister, eventually her children, and several other family members, experienced the unexplainable phenomena. Eventually famed ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren investigated the secluded farmhouse, declaring it “Ghost Central.” Connecticut resident, paranormal researcher and columnist – not to mention magician – William J. Hall visited the home, spending hours reading Donna’s diaries and then calling in experts and other researchers to further investigate.

What they found amounts to a portal of sorts, also known as a paranormal flap, opening the farmhouse and its surroundings to not only ghosts but perhaps aliens, UFOs, and any number of otherworldly creatures. The stories and findings are presented in the book in a simple but highly effective manner. It will have readers looking over their shoulders and jumping at noises.

Its only flaw lies in the selection of photos. Most are not paranormal in nature, but rather innocent pictures of rooms and areas mentioned in the book – disappointing. The very few that are said to show spirits or orbs are less than convincing. There is, however, a link to a site that is said to have examples of video and sound recordings during the ghostly encounters. However, when this reviewer repeatedly tried the link, it was not working. Nevertheless, the book is well worth a read.

Published simultaneously on http://www.bookpleasures.com.

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Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston

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This book has all the elements of a good, modern-day crime/mystery novel – London’s wealthy class vs. the poor, a night club dancer who schemes to marry a man expected to inherit a fortune, the wealthy uncle whose death is the only way the young couple can marry, and a plot for what seems like the perfect murder.

 

The only difference is that this exciting work was written nearly 80 years ago. It’s part of a recently discovered treasure trove of novels from the British Library, all originally published during the Golden Age of British Crime writing. The current publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, plans a release of 12 books in total this year, and another 12 in 2016. The authors of the books were all pioneers in crime fiction or spy fiction – all before such genres officially existed.

 

This book’s author, Charles Kingston, wrote with a style that was on one hand clearly a reflection of an earlier London in style and customs, yet the plot and writing fit in beautifully with today’s world, as well. There’s no flowery language – it’s just an honest-to-goodness joy to read.

 

At the heart of the story are several characters of varying degrees of class and morals. It begins with young Bobbie Cheldon, who wishes to marry Nancy, a dancer at a Soho night club. He’s madly in love. She’s in love, too – with the prospects of the fortune and status Bobbie stands to inherit if his miserly Uncle Massy Cheldon would just pass away. Bobbie, with only a modest level of finances, knows that Nancy aspires to a high level of stature and fears he cannot yet provide it. Then, one day, the family maid tells him that her boyfriend has left her for a wealthy woman, courtesy of the suspicious passing of a wealthy uncle. Bobbie thinks of the similarities to his situation, and once he spends more time with Nancy’s unscrupulous friends Nosey Ruslin and dancer Bobby Bright, a plot hatches.

 

We are also introduced to Chief Inspector Wake of Scotland Yard, who’s already watching the activities of Nosey Ruslin and Bobby Bright. A clever cat and mouse game ensues, and to say more would give away key elements of the story. Then, just when readers feel the loose ends of the story are being tied up, the last 20 pages or so include not one but two twists that come out of the blue – a perfect end to a gem of a novel.

 

Originally published in 1936, Murder in Piccadilly is still relevant and highly readable today.

Published simultaneously at http://www.bookpleasures.com.

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The Naked Truth by Jean-Pierre Dorleac

designBeyond the beads and sequins, the glitzy parties and awards shows in New York and Hollywood, there lies the very serious profession of costume designing, as explained in The Naked Truth, by multi-award-winning designer Jean-Pierre Dorleac.

Not that there aren’t delightfully entertaining examples of the glamorous and fun side – those are plentiful. But he reveals, through personal stories, the truth about the 14-hour days, the last-minute changes, working miracles on a small budget, and the hopes of pleasing a multitude of producers, directors and stars. And though he has had a highly successful career, he doesn’t shy away from talking about the jobs he almost got, or the movies that failed. The only complaint is that it stops when it feels there is more to tell, which is a tribute to his writing.

The book opens in 1973. His career is already underway and he wins the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle award for costume design. Over the years, as the book progresses, his career expands into many more plays, television shows and films, most of which the reader will remember vividly.

What’s intriguing is the way Dorleac interweaves celebrity stories and encounters with the real art and business of designing, from first idea to the actual production and beyond. It’s exciting to take his journey as his personal “star” begins to shine even more brightly with time.

The book is lengthy, but very fast reading, told in a chatty tone that doesn’t hesitate to be funny and touching, but also brutally honest, if not downright bitchy, in a delicious way.

The names read like a “Who’s Who” of Hollywood past and present, including Edith Head, Lana Turner, Louis Jordan, Ann Miller, Jane Seymour, June Lockhart, Henry Fonda, Brooke Shields, Christopher Reeve and Christopher Plummer, to name but a very few who are featured. There are tales of the darlings and the divas – a couple of them quite surprising. This isn’t “name-dropping”, however – these are the people he knew – the people he worked with and was friends with.

The Naked Truth should be mandatory reading for anyone considering a career in fashion or design. It should not only prepare them for the reality of design, but also inspire them to go forward. But film, stage and television lovers will be thrilled by the insider stories, too. It may well change the way we look at any production from now on.

 

Published simultaneously on http://www.bookpleasures.com

 

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Atlantis Explained by Dennis Brooks

atlantisThe “Lost Continent of Atlantis” has been a mysterious topic of conversation and interest for many, many years. Where was it located? What happened to it…and when? Did it really even exist at all?

Author Dennis Brooks has spent the last 20 years seeking answers to these and many more questions, sharing what he’s found in Atlantis Explained, whose curious subtitle is Noah’s Flood and Why Europeans are White.

His massive research reveals some compelling findings, and while he readily admits he doesn’t “solve” the entire Atlantis mystery, he puts forth evidence and theories that are fascinating to read and will perhaps pave the way in the future for other researchers or archaeologists to take the challenge even deeper.

Much of the theories are based on the writings of Greek philosopher Plato, but other seekers of truth, including some archaeologists and geologists from more modern days, form the basis for some conclusions.

It may surprise and excite readers to know that some theories place Atlantis close to home – the area around Florida, to be exact, especially what we now know as Tampa. Miami and Cape Canaveral. Much of North America (long before it was called “North America”) was affected, including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and New Mexico – again, all before any of the states were thought of as the United States, of course. The Gulf of Mexico may have been involved, as well.

Other evidence the author presents ties Atlantis to Noah’s Great Flood, and to the Great Pyramids of Egypt.

If one believes in the whole Atlantis concept (and there’s much reason to do so, it would seem), it’s clear that wherever and whenever, it was an event of massive destruction – earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, possible comet fragments falling to Earth – a chilling picture of what havoc a natural disaster can create.

Some of the writing is quite scientific and deep, with heavy emphasis on Greek mythology. The reader is advised to stay with it, even if it means skimming lightly over any portions that seem confusing, because overall, it’s a fascinating read.

And there really is a valid explanation for a question we have probably never asked – why are most Europeans white? Even if we’ve never thought about it, the answer is intriguing and does tie in to the Atlantis catastrophe. Suspend any disbelief, and just enjoy this book!

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Wake Up! Awakening through Reflection by Suzanne Ross

Product DetailsAre you looking to make some major changes in your life? Do you want to move beyond the past into a bright future? You could find a motivating series of workshops or classes to attend. Or – you could accomplish the same thing by reading Wake Up!, the second in the Up! Trilogy of inspirational books by Suzanne Ross. Ross has long been involved in fitness, as a trainer and also a motivator in the areas of mind, body and spirit. “We are spiritual beings having a physical experience,” she says. Part of the spiritual input in the book comes from Janet Myatt, a spiritual counselor and associate of Ross’s. There are many self-help or “make your life better” books on the market, but this one really is different. It’s presented as though it is part of a 10-day workshop led by Ross, and it definitely feels like the reader becomes an attendee. This makes it easy to progress as fast or as slow as desired. The book covers such topics as transformation, transition, closure, new beginnings, harmony, healing, reawakening, synchronicity, suffering and death and dying. The basis of the book is that we must look at our past – in all its glory or heartbreak – and then move away from it, in a sense, so as not to dwell there or repeat our mistakes time and again. For example, to experience happiness, the author says, we have to have known sadness. To appreciate health, we must have experienced sickness. Indeed, the biggest challenges in our lives, and the most difficult people we encounter are not actually mistakes, but were placed in our lives to help us grow and progress. This, she says, teaches us the most about life and about ourselves. Some of this may sound familiar to those deeply into spiritual and motivational works. But even so, a good jolt of recognition of these simple and obvious truths may really be necessary now and then. Ross makes the learning process move very smoothly, using her own experiences as examples, and then getting into interactive, almost “workbook” style areas for her readers to participate in. The message is that we need to identify major stages that transformed our lives thus far, and use them to build toward a future that only gets better. Readers are asked what they most want in life, and to then decide why they don’t already have those things. Following the steps the author outlines can help achieve these goals. Simple meditation, visualization and movement techniques also play a key role in the process, including a “fantasy reality visualization” called The Golden Dream, which is sure to be a favorite with readers. The book is written in a friendly, supportive way, yet it doesn’t shy away from asking readers to look back not only at good moments but at some painful events as well. It’s not always fun, but it becomes apparent that you really do have to “go there” in order to unravel patterns of the past and prevent them in the future. It’s well worth a read.

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Cast Away – For These Reasons – Economic Jihad by Jo M. Sekimonyo

Cast Away: For These Reasons: Economic JihadAny title that contains the word “Jihad” is bound to capture attention. Hopefully, it won’t also scare off readers, because there’s much to be learned in this book. To calm everyone’s nerves – this Jihad has nothing to do with terrorist atrocities. It is a serious look at the potential collapse and destruction of the world economy as we know it.

The author has an intriguing personal history and African heritage which he interweaves with the serious and insightful observations he makes about what he feels lies ahead in our world if we do nothing to stop it.

There  are a few “warm and fuzzy”, motivational quotes, such as “We ask ourselves ‘who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God”, or, “Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.”

But readers won’t get a chance to feel too cozy, because also included in far greater frequency, are observations such as “Nairobi has passed an ordinance criminalizing poverty instead of raging a war against inequality.” He reveals hard facts and thought-provoking insight into what he calls the “brutal economic system” known as Capitalism.

Sekimonyo’s goal is to expose injustice, irrational thinking and anything else he feels can bring down the economy, mincing no words along the way.

He looks deeply at poverty in obvious places such as Africa, Ethiopia, Haiti, El Salvador, and India but his major focus is on the United States. He exposes eye-opening facts such as the one concerning the U.S. Congress, which “came together to bail out banks and insurance companies, while in 2013 also slashed billions of dollars from the food stamp program. He takes on villains such as Saddam Hussein and Muammar al Gaddafi, but also Bill Gates, Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein and (gasp!) Pope Francis.

Cast Away may not solve the world’s economic problems, but the author’s hard-hitting, raw writing style, and massive experience and research, is sure to wake up complacent readers and perhaps jump-start them into action.

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