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review 2017-02-06 05:38
No Two Persons Ever Read the Same Book: Quotes on Books, Reading and Writing
No Two Persons Ever Read the Same Book: Quotes on Books, Reading and Writing - Bart Van Aken

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this book was a gift.  An amazing gift made personal and unique by my bestie, so I was never going to rate this less than 5 stars.


Now that the bias has been disclosed, it is actually a beautiful book.  The cover is metallic gold cloth (not printed gold paper) and each page is set in it's own typeface, one that fits the spirit of the quote (as interpreted by the author and the typesetter, at least).


The best part:  each quote includes a small biography of its author and if the quote originated in another language, it's repeated in its native language.  This made it easy for me to curl up and read what is unarguably nothing more than a book of quotes as if it was a narrative, beginning to end, Saturday night.


If you are inclined towards collection books, I un-hesitatingly recommend this one.


"Book collecting is an obsession, an occupation, a disease, an addiction, a fascination, a fate.


It is not a hobby."


-Jeanette Winterson

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review 2017-01-30 06:12
i before e (except after c): Old School Ways to Remember Stuff
I Before E (Except After C): Old School Ways To Remember Stuff - Judy Parkinson

Who doesn't use:


Thirty days hath September, 

April, June and November,

all the rest have thirty-one...


to remind themselves which months have 30, 31 or 28 days?


This book is nothing but mnemonics like the above, for just about everything: spelling, grammar, mathematics, history, science, health and a few other odds and ends.


My mom used to teach me mnemonics as a little kid; mostly for spelling. (Geography and Mississippi.)  My dad taught me one for weather.  They were incredibly helpful for a kid trying to remember things that felt huge.  The geography and weather mnemonics, or variations of them, made it into the book, but am I the only one who learned how to spell Mississippi by saying:


M, I, crooked-letter, crooked-letter, I, crooked-letter, crooked-letter, I, hump-back, hump-back, I?


Anyway, this was a fun, quick read for a language lover and there were quite a few useful aides here for future Trivial Pursuit challenges. 

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review 2017-01-12 05:21
You're Saying It Wrong
You're Saying It Wrong: A Pronunciation Guide to the 150 Most Commonly Mispronounced Words--and Their Tangled Histories of Misuse - Kathryn Petras,Ross Petras

Subtitle: A pronunciation guide to the 150 most commonly mispronounced words and their tangled histories of misuse.


It's pretty straightforward: a word per page, with the correct usage, how it's mispronounced and this historical reasons for both the correct and incorrect usage, sometimes more speculative, sometimes more factual.


I was off to a rip-roaring start with the first word:  acai, which I've always pronounced (although always suspected in error) ah-KAI, when it is actually supposed to be ah-sigh-EE.  But I'm happy to say that I've been pronouncing most of the 150 correctly (although not always; I remember a few of these mispronunciations from my childhood).  There are a couple of words here that MT and I have debated over the years (as he's an Aussie, I'm a Yank) and it turns out that at least one of them he has been right about all this time.  Shhh... don't tell him.


The authors take care to mention in the introduction that as this is a pronunciation guide, (and they are Americans) they are focusing on the American pronunciations, although they do use the OED as a main source and occasionally point out where the UK differs.


The biggest surprise to me was "spitting image" (they throw in a few common phrases).  If you have ever used this phrase (or spittin' image if you're from the South), like I have, you've been saying it wrong.  The original, and correct phrase is spit and image.  Nobody knows why but it is clearly the historical usage winner.  I'm also rather appalled that I've been mispronouncing Van Gogh's name all these years and my BFF lives in the Netherlands and has not corrected me!  (It's van GOKH or van KOKH, roughly).  


Written in a laid back style that doesn't take itself seriously, but is still very well researched, with a notes section in the back, this is a handy little reference for those times when you're just not sure you're saying it right, or if you're in the midst of a lively debate with, say, your husband from another country.  Just make sure you look it up before he does.

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review 2017-01-09 04:30
Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life
Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life: A Former CIA Officer Reveals Safety and Survival Techniques to Keep You and Your Family Protected - Jason Hanson

I'll admit the cheese-factor of the title caught my eye, but it was this, from the summary, that made me put the book on my wishlist:

In addition to escaping handcuffs, picking locks, and spotting when someone is telling a lie, he can improvise a self-defense weapon, pack a perfect emergency kit, and disappear off the grid if necessary. 


Ooh, practical skills knowledge!  You know me, I'm always interested in learning new skills, even if I might never use them.


As a practical handbook the book is chock-full of useful knowledge, both of the common sense and not-so-common sense variety and I'd recommend it to anyone.  Some of it does come across sounding a tiny bit paranoid or back-woods survivalist, but that's really only because most of us live by the odds (as in, what are the odds of that happening?!).  But as anyone who has been in a disaster would say, it only needs to happen once.  Most of the best information in this book is about being aware of options and strategies.


Oh, and learning how to pick locks; and escape duct tape and zip ties.  You can never have too many skills, y'all.


A couple of things dimmed the appeal.  There's an ever so slight prevalence of self-promotion.  It's never blatant, but the few sources he supplies are, I think, his own websites (and to be fair, not to sell anything - videos and freebies).  He does tell you what brands of deadbolts are better than others (Kwikset = bad) as well as a few other recommendations of what to look for in security.  But there's a bit too much "I" for my personal tastes.


I don't know who is running the editing circus at Penguin, but Hanson should be pissed.  There are more than a few silly, embarrassing errors throughout the text that a primary school kid could catch.


As a last note, if the sub-title doesn't give it away, this book is primarily aimed at Americans, although some of the stats are international and all of the skills and strategies are applicable to everyone.  But Hanson loves his guns (he doesn't advocate owning them though).  Look past that though and you'll find a lot of everyday, practical advice for keeping yourself and your loved ones safer.

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review 2016-12-30 02:02
F*&king Apostrophes
Fucking Apostrophes - Simon Griffin

The Assistant Principle I share an office with showed me this book for its audacious title, and when I saw it at the bookshop, of course I had to buy it; both for its audacity and its content since I have become a grammar nerd.


Can I just tell you, it's a great little book!  Only about 50 pages or so, Griffin keeps things very concise and very easy to reference.  He keeps it simple: each chapter is an instance where apostrophes are used (omission, possession, etc.) and he shows examples of each in context, as well as examples and 'translations' of what wrong usage looks like.  If apostrophe usage is a grey area, he offers a short explanation of why.  


At the end, "in case you couldn't be bothered to read the last 50 pages" he includes a short reference listing the examples of what apostrophe to use and when, with more examples.  Those examples, by the way, make learning the grammar fun.  A couple of examples:


The men's team swapped samples.


Walter's teachers manual said nothing about cooking meth.


My only complaint is that he does abuse the humour of the title itself: after awhile the phrase "fucking apostrophe", used for every instance of apostrophe in a book about them, becomes a little tired and loses its humorous impact.  Humor aside, this is going to be a handy little reference book for those times we're stumped on whether or not something calls for an apostrophe.  



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