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review 2016-07-14 00:00
HUGE X3 - Stephanie Brother HUGE X3 - Stephanie Brother So I went into this one thinking I was going to get some hot menage action, with a little storyline thrown in. What I ended up with was a WHOLE bucket full of serious drama llama real life issues. Talk about depressing!


For that reason I just never connected with the characters. There was WAY too much going on and the relationship (if you want to call it that) just wasn't believable. Bryan was a HUGE pussy that let his father pressured him to stay away from the woman he apparently "LOVED" for three years. Not until she started banging his two half-brothers did he grow a pair. Even then, it took over half the book.

"Too many of my BFF’s have partnered up. First Jenna with her step brother Harrison, then Carrie with her step brothers Ethan and Nathan. Maybe that’s my problem. I don’t have a stepbrother to seduce me. I need to get me a step brother!"

On top of that, the ending was rather abrupt and it left us with a ton of unanswered questions. Kaitlin is facing this HUGE real life issue throughout the entirety of the book, but the aftermath of it is totally glossed over in the epilogue like that author couldn't be bothered to write about it anymore. The title is also misleading because they are not step-anything. Katelin's mom and Bryan's, Ethan's and Jason's dad are just in a relationship, NOT married. In fact we NEVER find out if they actually ever get married (see unanswered questions comment)

In summary WAY too much real life issues that overshadowed what could have been a really good menage romance.
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review 2016-07-07 06:38
A Strong Finish
The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future - Kevin Kelly
Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends - Martin Lindstrom,Chip Heath
Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade - Robert Cialdini

I have to admit, this is a great group of books for my last review of 2016 in Global Business and Organizational Excellence. I have been driving my husband crazy while I've read these, spewing out all kinds of facts whether he wanted to hear them or not. There is some truly remarkable information here, and honestly, each title deserves a look since they are all very different in subject and scope. I promise, you will feel smarter when you finish, and, at the very least,  you will have plenty of interesting stories for your next cocktail party.

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review 2016-05-22 00:00
Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends
Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends - Martin Lindstrom,Chip Heath An entirely interesting and readable book on behaviouristic developments.

Though I had some issues with how the author perceives Russia. It's like he went to a country entirely different from the one I reside in.

Take this extract:
Russia’s biggest downside, for me at least, is its lack of color. Being in Russia is like breathing different oxygen, and I can feel a gray shade pulling down over me the moment I board a plane to fly there. No one is animated. No one smiles, or laughs. Ask most Russians what they like most about visiting other countries and they’ll say it’s the sight of other people having fun.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Russian women weren’t “allowed” to wear cosmetics. It wasn’t a law, but more an unspoken protocol. This all changed in the late 1980s when the Berlin Wall fell, and cosmetics companies like Mary Kay and Maybelline entered Russia for the first time alongside nightclubs, discos, restaurants, gaming companies, car dealerships and high-end stores like Versace. Russia was awash with cash. From the airport all the way into Moscow, the billboards and flashing neon plastering the highway made it look like a colorized Russian version of Pottersville in It’s a Wonderful Life.
It ended abruptly in 2006. Announcing that gambling was no different from alcohol and drug addiction, as well as a magnet for organized crime, Vladimir Putin exiled casinos and slot machine parlors to distant regions, including Armenia, Belarus, Georgia and Crimea. Overnight, Moscow’s color went away, as if the capital had woken up from a short, garish dream. Nothing was left but new hues of the old gray. In short order, Russia was more or less back to its old self.
Like, really? Gambling has never been an important entertainment in Russia, anyway. It was more of a money-laundering instrument here. And getting gambling business out was a pretty bright move against the organised crime.
As for the cosmetics forbidden in 1970s, that's BS. And trust me, the BS here doesn't stand for the Balance Sheet, either. Yes, it was considered unnecessary and therefore was costly, but it was there. I know my mom and aunt started using cosmetics in their 20s. And everyone did it, though it wasn't considered obligatory for young women to be using 'war paint'.
Like it is now, when many Russian women would be feeling 'naked' without some advanced make-up on. Which even happens to be a very commonly criticised throughout Europe feature common to many of the female expats from Russia.
Colours? Frankly speaking, my recent trip to a small NJ town showed me there were less colours where I lived there than in the Moscow suburbs. So probably, apples should be compared to apples, i.e. there is no need to compare Tver suburbs to Paris casinos. If one does compare stuff like it should be, slums to slums, business centers to business centers, skyscrapers to scyscrapers, clubs to clubs, only then the results would be meaningful.
And speaking that Russia lost colour because casinos have been dismantled, now, that's called extremely stretching the truth to the point of unbelievable. One has to understand that there is NO and has never been ANY Las-Vegas in Russia.

Another crazy tidbit I learned from this book is that obviously, there are no mirrors in my home.
... Russian homes have no mirrors, ...
Uh-huh, I'll have to remeber that the next time I look in a mirror :)
Actually, there is a Slavic countries tradition rooting in religion based belief that in a home where someone recently died, all mirrors should be hidden or covered. This is supposed to prevent the soul of the dearly departed from looking into any of the mirrors and getting stuck between this world and its reflection in the mirror. This would bring bad luck to living and suffering to this lost soul. So for up to 9 or 40 days the mirrors have to be out of the way so the dead would be able to say goodbye without any hindrance. That's it. There is no other predesposition towards using or not using mirrors in Russia.

Decades before Julian Assange and Edward Snowden made headlines, Russians knew their phone lines were being tapped.
Now, that's weirdly formulated. 1. Around the world, long before Mr. Snowden, the phones were being tapped. It is not a prerogative of Russia. It's a worldwide practice. If people elsewhere didn't know that, then it would only show how poorly educated in the ways of the world they were. And 2. In Russia we really like our privacy.

Ok, now I am downgrading this book to 4 stars. I do realise the culture would seem foreign and the language troubles would be there but still a marketeer could better research a country where he supposedly works A LOT.

There’s an iconic film in Russia wherein the protagonist comes home after work only to find he’s in the wrong apartment, and the wrong building, and the wrong city, but since everything in Russia looks the same, he doesn’t realize it, and now he has no idea how to get back home.
Ok, that's a very good point. Kudos for that one. The film is named 'The Irony of Destiny' (Ирония судьбы). The reason for the twist is that most of the cities in USSR were built, locks, furniture created, etc... after the same-type state-wide planning. So no matter where you go, you are still at home (almost a direct quote from the aforementioned film).

If Russian apartment dwellers took the time to make their buildings’ exteriors neat, or beautiful, they might be seen as vulnerable. Better to appear not to care.
Or be seen as a better choice for career robbers or other criminals. Imagine you want to steal something. Which would be your target? One of the 10 beautifuly, recently renovated houses or the rest 1108 houses in the town, all in various stages of needing a repair? The Paretto princible might be applicable even here.
The same might apply to slums in Latin America, US, Canada, China, etc... The most obvious exclusion to this rule would be Japan, where it's not particularly socially acceptable to show off your wealth.

The clocks in practically every home, as well as most of the watches on women’s wrists, were five minutes ahead of time. In Arabic culture, there is no “good luck” number, but there are five pillars of Islam, suggesting to me that Saudi natives were compensating for some as-yet-undefined terror by creating a halo effect in their homes—a way of warding off bad luck or misfortune.
An interesting tidbit! Overall interesting analysis of the thinking process behind building a supermall in Saudi Arabia.

Russia had Vladimir Putin and the KGB’s current incarnation, the FSB. Saudi Arabia had Islam and Sharia law.
LMAO, seriously, is that propaganda or something?

Alcohol in Russia is an escape. Cannabis in Holland is an escape. Prescription pills in the United States are an escape.
(c) +1

One man I spoke with told me that since the Russian government had limited any and all personal initiative, or entrepreneurship, “freedom” had no choice but to find its way online. It was the only place Russian citizens could express themselves without the fear of reprisal.
Now, that IS propaganda of the worst sort. Myself, I started a business without any kind of harassment. A lot of people I know did the same and fared even better. Russia is a country of opportunities. It's a Klondike. And the bunches of expats from around the world who I routinely work with are illustrative to that.
Yes, in Russia people love to decry all and any authorities we have. Even Saint Terese couldn't have been popular here. This happens because everyone in Russia knows everything political so much better than anyone else. The sheer number of closet politians in Russia is staggering. And all of them are sure that had they been presidents, they would have done so much better than what is being done. But somehow little of them actually do anything to participate in politics, start businesses, be active socially, etc. Of course, complaining is so much more easy than actually doing stuff.
BTW, had the author not had his eyes closed by preconceptions about Russia, he could have stumbled upon the incredible topic of WHY Russians have so many issues with authority. Authority of all kind. Bosses at work, policemen, presidents, investors... It could have been a discussion of how the prolonged slavery rights (dismantled only in 1861), Revolution, 'raskulachivaniya', NEP, political witch hunts and Сivil War, 2 World Wars and the following regime - how it all has lead to the Russian mentality we can see now. It could have been a discussion of what it had to have been like to rebuid the country from ashes, not once but TWICE in the course of half a century. The Civil War left everything in shambles. Then the 2nd World War, 20 to 50 mln dead, depending on how you count civilian losses, death tolls under borbadments and from deseases and malnourishment and the like. And each time the country was rebuilt.
And instead of actually doing the research the author says 'One man I spoke with told me that since the Russian government had limited any and all personal initiative... ' How the hell did they manage to do just that? Was there some law passed on 'limiting all personal initiative' that locals know nothing of?

Alexey Navalny, the anticorruption foe...
Yep, the guy is definitely the foe of anticorruption, considering his personal offshore experience. And who finances the guy, anyway? Does anyone audit his accounts?

A longtime proponent of freedom of expression, Durov made it clear that VK had been taken over by the Russian government.
Another ill-advised plain lie. Durov sold his share in VK. Sold to Mail.ru Group. And the last time I checked, Mail.ru Group is not the 'Russian government'. It's a public company with lots of shareholders, main of which are Naspers, Mr. Usmanov and Tencent.

Up until the point Mamagazin ran up against 2015’s sanctions on imports, and was temporarily “frozen,” the website—as well as our Mamafest projects—was the fastest-growing, most user-friendly e-commerce site aimed at parents in all of Russia
Yeah, right, it was so wildly growing and outrageouly popular that the first time I hear about its existense is from this misguided book.

Consider Russia, or China, where online media is controlled and monitored. The Russians and Chinese have no concept of a “perfect marriage,” nor can they easily access the films and television shows responsible for creating impossible expectations of happiness.
More BS. I don't know about China, but in Russia there are no such restrictions. Even if some site is considered a host of pirate stuff or terrorist information and as such blocked for some locales, there are anonimisers you can use to access even that stuff.

From what I could tell, most Americans were so accustomed to their regulated, rule-bound status they barely noticed the restrictions to their freedom. Whenever I fly into New York, I stay in the same Midtown hotel. One of the amenities provided by the management is a package containing four cotton ear swabs. The instructions on the side seem to be addressed to a not-very-bright three-year-old: Place the cotton squab in your ear. Do not insert completely. These instructions are for your own safety. When I showed the package to an American visitor, he gazed at me without comprehension. “What’s so interesting about this?” he said. As a native, he couldn’t see what I saw as an outsider—that most people who know what a cotton swab is can also be counted on to know how to use one, and what’s more, in no other country in the world would you ever see instructions printed out for its correct use.
No idea on which Earth the author lives, but crazily detailed instructions have permeated the whole world, not just US. Probably thanks to crazy litigations by some geniuses, like 'I washed my cat in the washing mashine and it died, oh poor me' or 'I dryed my dog in a microwave and got a fried dog, how was I supposed to know it would happen?'.

Across India, the mummyji I met shared a similar, even classic appearance. Most were physically small, in their 50s and 60s, though they looked much older.
I'm not sure how true-to-life this piece is. Indian women are often rather on the large side. Yes, they wear it extremely well, often with utmost grace and beauty but still... Either the selection wasn't representative or I have a misconception about India :)

The Twin Self has two elements, both of which are linked to desire: what we had once, but lost, and what we once dreamed about having but never possessed. Males across the world not only have a younger person inside them, they also have a third party, which any number of superheroes and action stars reflect. What is the fundamental appeal of books and films such as The Godfather and the Bourne and Matrix franchises? What explains the popularity of Batman, or Superman, or Spider-Man, or the X-Men films, or the success of the American television series Breaking Bad? The answer: they all feature as their protagonist a normal, everyday, even somewhat mild male who evolves into an animal or, at the very least, a powerful, menacing, occasionally cold-blooded killer who plays by his own rules. It was this aspect—the driver with a Twin Self, who is also in possession of a masterful, powerful alter ego—that I recommended we incorporate into the overall design of our “Made in China” car.
Another element we incorporated into the car’s design was a transformation zone. Alongside a team of designers, we created a special internal ambience akin to the change in acoustics you hear when entering a sound studio. We used ambient light that snapped on when the doors opened and snapped off when the doors shut. The result: amplified masculine symbols, including a deep resonance to the sounds the doors made when slamming shut. We also made it a point to elevate the car seat, to give the driver a sense of omniscience and control. Knowing that Chinese children had a say about car buying, and were equally stimulated by power and mastery (and cuteness), we created a dashboard that resembled a flight deck. From watching ESPN, I’d learned about the power of information bombardment. ESPN strafes its viewers with an almost hysterical amount of data and details. Scrolling boxes. Panels. Bars. Graphics. Multi-angle camera perspectives. When exposed to a surfeit of data, men tend to feel more masculine and in command. Do most men bother to decipher these boxes, panels, bars and graphics? No—but that’s not really the point. My mission was for Chinese drivers to perceive their cars as fast, powerful and male, even if they weren’t. More to the point, the doors opened and closed quickly, in a fast, straight line, and the same went for the electronic windows. My mission was to appeal to the child inside the driver, the driver himself, and his children.

In 1981, a collection of elderly New England men disembarked from a van and made their way inside a former New Hampshire monastery that had been retrofitted for the experiment that was about to take place—what its creator, Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer, called the “Counterclockwise Test.” All of them were males in their 70s and early 80s, with many suffering from the physical indignities endemic to that age. But once they passed through the doors, a radically different scene, and even year, greeted them. It was 1959 all over again. Nat King Cole and Perry Como serenaded them from a vintage radio. A black-and-white TV screened variety shows and even commercials from 1959. There were no mirrors. The men had been given explicit instructions: They were not only encouraged to exchange reminiscences about this era, but as much as possible, to become the same age they were nearly two decades earlier. They were urged to refer to events that took place in 1959 in the present tense.
A week later, a second group of males the same age were asked to duplicate this same experiment. This second group was asked only to think and speak nostalgically about the experience, as opposed to literally impersonating their younger selves. Before entering the monastery, both sample groups agreed to have their vital signs, including vision, hearing, memory and flexibility, assessed by a medical team.
This “psychological intervention,” as the New York Times called it,9 was conjured by Langer who, over the course of a brilliant academic career, believed that in order to improve their health, older people needed a jolt, or a trigger, that would fool their own minds and bodies into healing themselves.
Five days later, both groups of men had their vital signs retested. In every case, their posture and gaits showed signs of improvement. Their eyesight and hearing were both better. Physically, both groups were more agile and flexible. They even scored higher on IQ tests. But the men who had been asked to pretend they were the same age they’d been in 1959 showed markedly more improvement than the group who’d been asked to simply swap reminiscences. As Langer told the New York Times, the men had “‘put their mind in an earlier time,’ and their bodies went along for the ride.”
WOW! Actually, there are some really sophisticated psychologists who use this effect to great results.

Overall, the marketing and behavioristic analytic processes described here are incredible. Worthy of 10 stars.
But (and it's a very strong BUT) I don't like my books to come in peppered through with propaganda, subtle or not. My strong belief is that you can't parrot everything you might hear or read. There has to be some professional scepticism. And the author is not exercising a shred of it here. Instead he's repeating enormous volumes of propagandistic stuff. And this makes this, an otherwise compulsively readable book, worthy of 1 star.
So overall I'll give it 4 stars. Gosh! If I want propaganda, I can find it elsewhere.
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-02-09 01:36
The Terror, by Dan Simmons
The Terror - Dan Simmons

I love feeling like I've been taken on a journey when I read, and this book spans years, multiple character perspectives, and the wasteland that is the arctic. I wouldn't call it a "saga," but by the end I couldn't believe where I ended up given where I started.


The Terror is based on the lost Franklin expedition to find the Northwest Passage in the 1840s. Given evidence later found at the sites where the expedition was known to have been, all the crew likely died, from scurvy, starvation, and lead poisoning, in addition to ailments like tuberculosis (not known to be contagious at the time) and pneumonia. Yet most remains were never found, while others were amazingly well preserved in the ice.


This means that going into the novel, you know most or all of the characters will die. But you can't help but get attached to particular characters, to hope for their survival, and to lament their deaths. I had to pause my reading a few times because I was so upset at the course of events.


Simmons invents around the known facts, his chief invention being a monster that hunts and kills many of the crew, on the ice and even on their ships. You don't know exactly what this monster is; the characters mostly assume it's a polar bear, but it's too clever and malicious. The monster has a mysterious connection to an Inuit (Esquimaux) girl who's been taken in (or imprisoned) by the crew. By the end of the novel, all is made clear, and the most surprising thing is that the monster is less an invention of the author's than it would seem.


In addition to the "heroes" of the story, there are definite villains. In particular, one caulker's mate who is referred to as a "sea lawyer." He sows discord, is manipulative...and fucks other men. For a time it concerned me that those traits were associated with one another, given a history in pop culture of gay characters being villains. But later two other queer characters' perspectives are explored, a younger and older man who were in love, had a relationship on shore, and are now good friends who rarely get to see one another during the voyage. For me this mostly counteracts the idea of queerness as associated with villainy.


My only other concern with the storytelling was Captain Crozier's "second sight," which felt like it came out of nowhere. I know we're supposed to assume that his alcoholism for much of the story has blocked it, but some sort of foreshadowing would have been appreciated (though I wouldn't rule out the possibility that I missed some).


This book was suspenseful, funny, sad, violent, and thrilling. Above all, I thought about the actual human beings who made the voyage and died on the ice looking for something they only accidentally may have found.

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review 2015-05-05 23:15
If You Could See Me Now Review
If You Could See Me Now - Peter Straub

I'm so goddamned confused. I've reread the last ten pages three times now and I still have no clue what the fuck happened there at the end. I'm pretty sure this book's ending is a disaster. Several things make absolutely zero sense, but ONLYbecause of the last few pages.

I have no idea how they beat Alison Greening. I have no idea why fire was able to... what? Put her ghost back to sleep? What the fuck did all Miles's olfactory hallucinations have to do with anything? If Alison needed to wait until a certain time and date to kill Duane and Polar Bears, then how in the butt-fucking Christ did she kill the other girls? And why was she killing girls that looked like her? SHouldn't she have been entirely focused on the two men who raped and killed her? I'm. So. Confused.

(spoiler show)

The problem is, I enjoyed the hell out of If You Could See Me Now. I really, truthfully, honestly (convinced yet?) loved this little book. I just don't know what to think of the ending. If someone can cogently explain the problems I mentioned in the spoiler section above, cool beans. I'll raise my rating. But it seems like Straub simply gave up. Like he said "YOLO!" and fucked off to the Territories.

In summation: I want to love this goddamn book in its entirety, but right now I'm kinda peeved.

Final Judgment: If you could explain the ending to me now, that'd be great.

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