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review 2018-02-22 22:10
A great read, full of fascinating, curious, sad, and even horrifying stories.
A Secret History of Brands: The Dark and Twisted Beginnings of the Brand Names We Know and Love - Matt MacNabb

Thanks to Alex and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me with a review paperback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I would not class myself as particularly “brand-aware”. Although when I was younger I wanted to have the latest of everything, especially if all my friends had it (oh, the wonders of peer-pressure, even then), with time I’ve become quite skeptical about it, and I tend to avoid them if I can. (I understand the status thing, but I can’t see why I should have to pay and then, on top of that, be happy to advertise the product by making sure everybody knows what it is). Give me local craft any day! So, of course, I could not resist a book that promised to share with its readers ‘The Dark and Twisted Beginnings of the Brand Names We Know and Love’. And it delivers, for sure. I suspect if you are big authorities on the subject, you might already know a lot of the information contained in this book but if like me, you are just curious, this is a gem.

I’d never read anything by this author before, but his style is engaging and he pitches this volume at the right level for the subject: he includes the adequate amount of historical information about each one of the brands and characters (inventors, creators, public figures…) to make sure that the readers understand the context of each brand and its products, and then focuses on the more intriguing and less publicized aspects of their evolution. Some of them might be more familiar than others (I suspect a lot of readers will know about Coca-Cola and its early cocaine content), but even then, MacNabb manages to unearth elements of the story that are bizarre and less well-known (so Coca-Cola still contains extracts of coca leaves [no actual cocaine though, don’t worry!] supplied by the only lab in the US with a permit to import coca leaves).

While some of the chapters are curious and amusing (like the Coca-Cola one or the chapter on the Kellogg’s ‘war on sex’), some can be quite disturbing. There are many connections to Nazi Germany I was not aware of, like Hugo Boss’s manufacture of Nazi uniforms, Adidas & Puma’s Nazi connections (I had no idea the creators of these two brands were brothers, either), Chanel’s spying for the Germans (and the fact that the information was kept under wraps by the French government). For me, the most shocking were the chapters on Bayer (not so much the Heroin production, even if they seem to have become aware of its addicting properties quite early on, but its direct connection to slave labour and the production of Zyklon B, used in the gas chambers in the concentration camps), and Henry Ford and his anti-Semitic beliefs and writings (that seem to have inspired Hitler). The chapters on Winchester and Bakelite were intriguing (as I didn’t know anything at all about the history of the objects, other than some vague notion of the importance of the rifle) but sad, due to the personal tragedies behind the stories.

This book is a great read, a page-turner, and I suspect most readers will move on to read full accounts on some of the selected topics. Although the brands are chosen for their interesting stories, the author gives credit where credit is due and always tries to offer as balanced an account as possible of the people and the companies, making sure to emphasise how things have changed for most of them. It is a sobering thought to reflect upon the past of some of these household names, and it is important we don’t forget the lessons learned.

I recommend this book to anybody interested in brands, pop culture, history, and it will be a resource of interest to writers and researchers. (The notes contain bibliographical information for those interested in further reading). Another great addition to the publisher’s varied catalogue.


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review 2018-01-14 02:45
Book Review: A Dark and Twisted Heart
A Dark And Twisted Heart (The Dark Heart... A Dark And Twisted Heart (The Dark Heart Chronicles Book 1) - Merrie Destefano
*I offered to read this book for an honest review.

William is a young man that loves yet struggles with more. He's done something he shouldn't have done. And having that ghost with him may push him to do something again.

Wow, this is one quick read. An hour at tops. (Really, I'm a slow reader and it didn't take me that long.)

Katrina is a ghost, and she's haunting her love. William. The story is from William's mind as he's the one alive and doing things he shouldn't.

We get to see an evening with William. We meet Katrina, his love, as he's walking through the woods. Katrina is a constant reminder of his love for her and what he did to her. But he's been spending time with Adelle too.

Merrie has created a story in one moment of a person's life. This moment is one that will change his life forever. The details of the forest aren't given as you know what it is from what the forest is named and believed to be. It's called Dead Man's Wood. Just the name alone lets you know people don't normally visit this part and what they believe, it is a ghost story. The story is in what William lives through this evening...

William gets what he deserves in the end. And Katrina and her friend seem to enjoy it. You can tell from Katrina's actions she is up to more than what she's saying. The girls have left me a bit curious as to the world they live in and what they are thinking.

A quick story with ghosts and a warped love for the Halloween season. This is the first in a series of short stories, and I'm looking forward to where they go.
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review 2016-08-15 19:36
13 Dark Tales
Dark Tales: 13 New Authors, One Twisted Anthology - Vincent V. Cava,J. L. Rach,Nthato Morakabi,Jessica T. Hopkins,Danatblair,Emilio Alterman,Ryan Winters,Dillon Murphy,Willow Dempsey,Creepy Pasta

An interesting, entertaining and enjoyable collection of short stories that can be classified as horror/ urban fantasy and just plain weird.

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review 2016-04-29 00:00
A Dark and Twisted Tide: Lacey Flint Series, Book 4
A Dark and Twisted Tide: Lacey Flint Series, Book 4 - Sharon Bolton Lacey is content with her new job in the Marine Unit, though the swimming in the river might be a bit dangerous, living on the river suits her and it's not a bad deal. Then she finds a body and it looks like it was prepared specially, she knows in her heart of hearts that it's a murder and she's going to get sucked into the investigation.

I was sucked in too, to the detriment of my sleep. Lacey does need to deal with her angst a bit better.
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review 2016-04-09 08:00
A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton
A Dark and Twisted Tide - Sharon Bolton

Lacey Flint is now working with the Marine Police so that she can have a more peaceful life. She now lives alone on a houseboat, trying to get over the man she is in love with, Mark Joesbury. But, then Mark  goes missing during an undercover assignment and there are rumours that he may be a dirty cop. Lacey can't believe that, but why has he gone AWOL? And, if that's not enough, she discovers a carefully wrapped body when she is swimming in the Themes... 

A Dark and Twisted Tide is the fourth (and last? I hope not) book in the Lacey Flint series and just like the other three is it a very thrilling book with a great story. There are a lot of things going on in the book; Mark's missing, Lacey finding a dead body and then someone is leaving small gifts on her boat and Dana Tulloch is trying to solve the dead body case and also planning on have a child. It's a well-written, interesting and suspenseful thriller, a real page-turner. 

Lacey Flint is such a great character, with her mysterious past and her tendency to find trouble wherever she is. The case in this book was interesting, and there are turns and twists in the story that I definitely didn't see coming.  Bolton really knows how to write a story that keeps you captivated from the beginning until the end. I have grown very fond of Lacey, Mark, and Dana during the readings of the books. 

The ending is great. I love the kind of ending that you really can't see coming and you are lost to the world around you and when you have turned the last page is it with a bit of sadness, but also with satisfaction. A Dark and Twisted Tide is a book like that.

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