Book Review – The World of Post Secret

TITLE: The World Of Post Secret
AUTHOR: Frank Warren
Format: Hardcover
PUBLISHED: 2017

 

The World Of Post Secret is the newest PS book and it breaks a five year draught where all we had was weekly secrets on the internet (If you’re a fan of post secret, you know what I’m saying).

For those who don’t know, Post Secret was started by Frank Warren when he made up a bunch of blank postcards and left them in public spaces.  One was blank, one side had instructions to fill the blank side with your secret and then stick it in the mailbox.

Over the years, Frank has become the secret keeper.  He’s amassed millions of secrets and he’s the one who brings them back out and travels the world with them, displaying them in gallery shows and lectures, and of course putting them in these books.

I have read all of the Post Secret books.  I own half of them.  So when I saw this one at the library, I grabbed it in a hurry.  And I immediately opened it and couldn’t put it down.  

Hands down, this is the best book they’ve done.  The early books just displayed postcards.  This book arranges them in a conversation.  There are interviews from Frank’s first mail carrier, Frank, even some of the people who run PS in other countries.  

There’s a section on the app, I’ll fated because people are jerk so, but it’s amazing. There was a secret where somebody wanted to travel the world but only had a month left because of a brain tumor.  It was arranged on a page with responses – photos of people sharing their locations so the OP can travel from her armchair…  

I have always felt a little like a voyeur looking at the site and seeing the secrets.  But with this book, I felt like I was part of the conversation  Like I was asked to open a part of me and be the secret keeper too.  And they were all so very raw and very real.

If I could, I would give this book a better rating.  5/5 for sure from me.

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Book Review – The Anti-Bride

TITLE: Anti-Bride Etiquette Guide: The rules and how to bend them
AUthoR: Carolyn Guerin
Format: Paperback
Published; 2004

I got engaged on January 1, so of course the first thing I did when I made the next trip to the library was to find the wedding section and get a couple books.  I started reading this one right away and was done in a  very short amount of time.
The purpose of the book is pretty much to make brides relax a bit.  Just because your mother talks lovingly about wearing her mother’s wedding dress or your sister shared her special day with 18 attendants in matching head to toe ensembles doesn’t mean that you have to continue those traditions.

The initial format of the book is pretty nice.  She’s arranged chapters by thing, and they’re pretty much chronological.  There’s definitely nothing complicated about this.  Each chapter starts by telling you the history of whatever it is, and then expands in to a Q&A/FAQ type format where it talks about ‘do you have to’ or what ifs or whatever.  [note: the wedding cake history isn’t entirely right]

It’s not bad.  It’s nice to know why we do the things we do, and the author wants you to understand things before you decide to do them differently. There are charts to show expectations of things like what to wear and when.  It’s also nice to know that there are silly fuddy-duddy things that don’t need done anymore.  (And have people say it’s okay – there are so many details a bride has to think of that I’m sure there are plenty that are afraid to go off script.)

That said, I had some issues.  For starters, the author likes ridiculous examples of things and doesn’t offer real world solutions nearly as often as she could.  Also a lot of the things she brings up are a little clichee – like dyeable shoes – but that could also be a product of the fact that the book is 10 years old.

Unfortunately, the bottom line is that I didn’t learn hardly anything from this book (I did learn that “honor of your presence” should only be used if the wedding is in a church), and a lot of the scenario/answer things were pretty common sense or out there. “My mother’s been telling her yoga class.  Help!”  Well, so what?  Is your wedding a government secret??  And some of it wasn’t even thorough.  “I didn’t get a present, I feel slighted!” should have had the “hello, they have a year!” reminder in addition to her actual advice of don’t keep score.
I didn’t gain anything whatsoever from this book and I think it fell very short where it could have been fabulous.  Also, updating things would make a lot of these answers so much better.  I mean, the book is over a decade old, so it barely mentions the internet’s existence.  (And really, if it were done today, there’d be a total ETSY RULES!! chapter.) I think the book had potential, but I think it fell completely short of where it should have been.  If you’re new at this and don’t have a clue, it may be helpful.  But I can sum the book up as “it’s okay to relax tradition” and you can skip it, too.

Also, the book is in two font colors – black and pink.  Which maybe would be okay with the right font, but the font is a skinny little thing and it made reading really difficult at times.  So there’s that.  I want to be generous and all and give it a better rating, but in my heart, I know this needs to be a 2/5.

Book Review – The Other Side Of Oz

TITLE: The Other Side of Oz: An Autobiography
AUTHOR: Buddy Ebsen
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 1994

This book lets Buddy tell the story of his acting career.  I picked it up at the dollar store brand new a couple weeks ago  (who the heck is stockpliling quantities of Hardback books for twenty years?!), and it was a fairly quick read.

Fundamentally, I had a few issues with this – first of all, Buddy Ebsen was cast as the Tin Man and acted for just a couple weeks before the costume tried to kill him and he ended up hospitalized while his lung re-inflated.  So titling your book after the most famous role you never had seems weird.  Clearly he was trying to cash in on that fame, even though he never got to have any of it.  (I don’t think it’s much of an argument to say that The Wizard of Oz has way more staying power than any of the roles he ever had.  A lot of them are very dated to the time period they came out of.  TWoO seems to have a little bit better longevity as far as that sort of thing is concerned.)

Second of all, this book is not an autobiography.  An autobiography is supposed to cover your entire life up to that point.  A memoir, otoh, covers a specific aspect of your life.  So a book that barely says anything about his childhood, overlooks any aspect of his family life except for a few random mentions of things (“By this time I was divorced and had a new wife.  She suggested I take this role..”)  and doesn’t cover the duration, is certainly not an autobiography.  Honestly, I lose a little faith any time a publisher can’t manage to get those details right.  Then again, they couldn’t manage to sell this volume for 20 years so maybe that explains a lot.

With that said, the book is pretty much Mr. Ebsen telling stories.  Each chapter has a different focus (Shirley Temple, Vaudeville with his sister, acting without his sister, The Beverly Hillbillies, etc).  Unfortunately for a book about somebody that spent his time on the screen, there’s very little content about any of his shows.  “Walt Disney put a show on and there I was…”  isn’t really a description about Daniel Boone.  And if you’re covering fifty years in a career, maybe you *should* explain something or other about the shows because there’s a good chance your fans haven’t been around for all of it, and it’d be cool to get a better understanding of the show anyway.

The book suffers horribly from lack of content and organization.  At first it’s in order, then it skips around.  One chapter pretty much just exists to say that he worked with a famous but now dead actress.  I feel like somebody took a bun, added lettuce and ketchup, and then gave it to us before they put the burger patty there.  In other words, they forgot t he meat of the book.  Plus, don’t let the binding deceive you – the pages are thick and glossy, there are a ton of photos, and the font is large and much bolder than it needs to be.  In a more standard book format, this book would have been half the thickness.

I guess it’s not totally bad.  Some of the stories were entertaining.  It’s just not what I expected when I grabbed it at the store.

Over all, I’m only going to give it 2/5 stars.  If you like Hollywood or were a fan of Buddy, go ahead and give this a read if you come across it.  But just be aware that there’s a lot of fluff and it’s not as it appears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review – Hidden Figures

TITLE: Hidden Figures

AUTHOR: Margot Lee Shetterly

PUBLISHED: 2016

FORMAT: Paperback

Hidden Figures bills itself on the cover as “The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.”  That is a perfect description of the book, which has already inspired a (somewhat fictionalized) movie about the  events in the book.   (Full disclosure, I have seen the movie, but I’m one of those people that likes to read the books that movies are based on as well).

This is a non-fiction recounting of the history of many of the women who are often overlooked in history but without whom, World War II and the Space Race would not have gone the way it did.  The book gives you the history of several of the women involved, including Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson and Katherine Goble Johnson. But Hidden Figures is not just about the work the women did, but also the environment they did it in – mainly the segregated south of the 1940s/1950s/1960s, as well as the atmosphere of the Cold War that surrounded the Space Race.  The book doesn’t stint on the history and how it impacted the many women involved.

In fact, there could have been a lot more history in the book – the main chapters end at Apollo 11 (the moon landing for those who aren’t as much of a NASA nerd as I am), but the Epilogue continues with more history on some of the women, up to 2015.  Understandably, the lack of ‘more’ is subjective, and the book makes it clear how much things changed at NASA, from its pre-NASA days as the NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) to the 1980s at least.  Granted, it also shows how much hasn’t changed.

The narrative is definitely helped by the author’s personal familiarity with the subject (she knew some of the women personally growing up in Virginia), as well as the years of research she conducted.  She also has a good writing style that kept me interested in the book as a whole.  This wasn’t a dry history of facts and dates.  She helped you view the players not only as professionals in history, but as individual persons.  That’s not always the case in some non-fiction historical narratives I’ve read.

All in all, I found Hidden Figures pretty compelling.  This is an area of history I’m not as familiar with, though I’ve read a lot about the early days of NASA (I may have NASA nerd tendencies).  However, information about these women who were integral to the program was not in a lot of the histories I read, mostly written by the white men who worked at NASA, or were the astronauts themselves.  And, admittedly, there are times when it is a hard read given the societal issues and the language that was prevalent at the time (the author chose to use the language of the times to stay true to her subject).  While I don’t feel that is a reason not to read this book, I know that not everyone feels the same way.

I give it 4 out of 5 pages.

Books Review – Board Book Roundup

My method for picking out children’s books is to walk around the library and look for books on display that seem interesting/cute, randomly flip to a couple pages and see just how much text there is and to check out the artwork (I can’t tell you how many books I’ve put back because the illustrations are awful!), and then read them to a ridiculously smart almost three year old.  Anyway, I decided to combine several in this review.


TITLE: Harold’s ABC
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Crockett Johnson
FORMAT: Board Book
PUBLISHED: Originally 1963. This edition – 2016? 2015? (New book/doesn’t say)

The book is kinda cool.  Harold and his trusty purple crayon (yes, that Harold) go out on an adventure through the alphabet.  This isn’t a typical ABC book.  There’s no A is for apple, turn the page, B is for Banana, etc… Instead, what you get is a story interrupted by that… “To go on any kind of trip, you have to leave home. He started with A for Attic…”  And as Harold is going through this, you see illustrations where the letter is front and center to something they’re talking about (In A’s case, the A makes up the top of the house. Q forms the Queen’s head.)

It isn’t bad, but this book is *small* – like maybe 4 inches or so.  I wish it had been just a little bit larger and the letters had been a little bit bolder.  I’m guessing with a kid a little older who already knows his letters that this story would go over better, but in this case, the toddler knows *most* of his letters and it was a little difficult to get him to pick out the letters and he got bored with it.  [Note: This paragraph brought to you by the phrase “little bit”]

A few of the letters were weak (X is for X-out), and Z was for snore “Zzzl” – um.. since when is there an l in the middle of a snore?  But most of them were good.

I’ll give it a 3/5.  Nothing overly wrong with it, but nothing exceptional about it either.


TITLE: Dig
BOOK BY:  National Geographic Kids
FORMAT: Board Book
PUBLISHED: 2015

So, Dig looked cute.  There’s a photo of large excavating equipment on the front, and when I opened it up randomly, I opened it to a larger photo of the same piece of equipment.  So I sort of assumed that it was about big equipment, which excited me.

Apparently, I should have looked at more pages, because it’s about all kinds of things that dig – people, dogs, whatever.  I was a bit disappointed.  Also, the toddler didn’t really care that mommy and daddy could dig in a garden.  He wanted the big equipment too.

This is an issue I have with board books.  Nothing about the book on the back cover, just a sales pitch for the rest of the series.

Anyway, really disappointed. The book was done well enough, but it isn’t what either of us wanted. And some kid apparently snacked on the library copy, so it tastes good enough.

Still, I’ll give it a tentative 4/5.  I was disappointed in it because it wasn’t what I thought it was (and really, what are the odds that I’d open randomly to the one page of equipment and not any of the other 10 pages of mammals?), but it wasn’t a bad book.


 

Book Review – Welcome to the Symphony

TITLE: Welcome to the Symphony: A Musical Exploration of the Orchestra Using Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5
AUTHOR: Carolyn Sloan
ILLUSTRATOR: James Williamson
FORMAT: Hardcover w/attached music panel
PUBLISHED: 2015

Welcome to the Symphony is a fabulous book.  It’s probably best suited for slightly older kids because of lots of big terms… 4-7 maybe?  But the not-quite-3-year-old I read it to enjoyed the music part of it.  I’m sure he won’t be saying timpani anytime soon.

Anyway, the book follows three little mice.  One of them is at the symphony for the first time, so the other two mice explain it to their friend as the book goes along.  It’s a really direct approach to terminology “Tempo is how fast or slow music is played” – AND behavior at the symphony.  “Don’t clap yet, they’re just warming up!”

Plus, as it works its way through a pretty well-known piece of music (I remember this as a background to some cartoons), it explains all the instruments and you can compare them to each other pretty easy.  Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Trumpet, French Horn, Trombone, Timpani.  (And there’s a page about other instruments you may find in a modern symphony that you didn’t find in this piece of music such as the piano, harp, tuba, etc).

In all, this is a really thorough explanation of the symphony and a great introduction for a kid.

My only issue with the book is that you have to hit right on the number for the audio pad to work.  Most of these books, you can hit anywhere in the square; there are a lot of reviews on Amazon that say “This didn’t work!” and I suspect that they’re stemming from that issue.

Regardless – the book works, the toddler loved hearing the instruments, and when he’s a little older, I think this would be a great resource to teach him about music.

5/5 pages and 5/5 musical notes. :p

Book Review – LOST

TITLE: LOST: Lost and Found Pet Posters From Around the World
AUTHOR*: Ian Phillips
ILLUSTRATOR: Ian Phillips?
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHED: 2002 (NOTE: this is the 15th anniversary edition – it says so on the cover)

So… This looked like it would be something cute and amusing and I’d flip through the pages for an hour and not be sad I wasted time.  I mean, it’s the anniversay edition, so… they wouldn’t reprint something that was crap, right? I went to check it out of the library, and the librarian gushed about how wonderful this little book was.

And I took it home and I looked forward to it.

The concept of this book is…different.  People have lost (or very rarely found) a pet and of course, they make a poster for it.  The author* of this book for whatever reason collects these posters and once made a call around the world for them.

There’s a quick prologue explaining that, and a quick … epilogue? appendices?  whatever… with a list of tips for making your own lost pet poster (note – it didn’t say you had to lose a pet first) and a few stats about pets that I find hard to believe.  Oh, and the font the author used is kinda hard to read – its one of those that is probably meant to look like somebody with remarkably neat handwriting printed something, but it’s done in like 80% gray, so it’s just annoying.

On the right hand are pet posters, and they’re… um… well…  Crap a lot of times.  There’s exactly one page somewhere in the book in color, and there’s a lot in the book that have been copied to the point where you can’t make out half the stuff in them.  I don’t know if they were that bad to begin with or if they were poorly reproduced for the book or what.  But since so many of these posters don’t have pictures of the pets in them at all, who knows.  (I want to be annoyed by that. After all, who doesn’t have a picture of their pet and still cares enough to make a lost pet poster, but if the book was printed in 2002 and it’s a 15th anniversary edition, I guess we’re looking at the 80s, so I can see why they sucked so bad.  Still, if I hadn’t found the book in the non-fiction section, I would have had to check to see if it was a humor book)

The best part about the book was that the left side pages formed a flip book, and if you flipped towards the back you saw a dog run into the page, followed by a cat, followed by a bird, and they corresponded with the dog, cat, and everything else section (the last of which includes birds, a cow, and even a sandwich).

But, since the book was designed to show of the posters, I have to give this one a bad rating.  Another in the “I really wanted to like it” category, I give it 2/5 stars.

 

 

*Note – can you call yourself an author when all you do is write 50 words at the beginning and then show scans of something you’ve collected?

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