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Paranormality: Why we believe the impossible
Paranormality: Why we believe the impossible
by Richard Wiseman
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A light and insightful read on the science behind the supernatural!, 3 Feb. 2013
We experience the impossible, or so we believe. Oddly enough things don't seem all that impossible anymore when someone explains the mechanics behind them which is exactly what Professor Richard Wiseman does in his book Paranormality.
Broaching a variety of topics commonly attributed as being paranormal, be it fortune telling or out-of-body experiences, talking to the dead or prophecy, this turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging read that allows a close-up look into how and why we tend to be drawn to the supernatural. From the psychology of suggestion straight to finding patterns in coincidence this book is filled with scientific and psychological facts and spiced with a healthy dose of humor too. And the lessons in learning some "tricks of the trade" are definitely a nice touch.
Some of the presented phenomenon are a little easier to debunk than others, say, how fortune tellers carefully observe people - also referred to as "cold reading" - before throwing out some vague and/or double-headed statements that all predict the likely. Overall though I found myself intrigued by the explanations for some phenomenon, eg why we sometimes believe to have prophetic dreams.
Seeking answers to the inexplicable? Needing some fodder to annoy your paranormally inclined friends? Then I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to you. Trust me, after reading this you'll never look at the Quija board the same way again.
In short: A light yet insightful read on the science behind the supernatural!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Pan MacMillan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 23, 2013 11:38 AM GMT


Can We Travel Through Time?: The 20 Big Questions in Physics
Can We Travel Through Time?: The 20 Big Questions in Physics
by Michael Brooks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully comprehensible lesson in physics!, 3 Feb. 2013
It's not always easy to bridge the gap between being fascinated by a topic and actually understanding the matter. With Can We Travel Through Time? Michael Brooks does not only tackle some of physics biggest questions, he also manages to present the interested reader with explanations and answers in a succinct, fun and very accessible way.
Addressing various topics - from Schrödinger's cat to string theory, from gravity to the nature of reality - in essays which all get to the main point without ever being long-winded, this book is both conversationally written and educational too. Upon getting started on the book, and admittedly I am one of those who are unduly fascinated by physics despite the inability to grasp most of the details and technicalities associated with it, I was wondering whether the author would be able to convey the essentials without simplifying, but still in a way which makes the questions posed easy to understand to the average person. Brooks did so with flying colors.
What I particularly liked about the questions raised is how they also dip into topics such as time travel and parallel worlds. So if you like science fiction as much as I do, yet have not yet had the desire to read about the physics behind ideas fiction authors conceive, I promise this book will not disappoint even diehard non fiction opponents. Slowly easing into physics? This is the way to go.
In short: A wonderfully comprehensible lesson in physics!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Quercus. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties in Literature
A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties in Literature
by Suzette Field
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars A delightfully bookish party planner!, 27 Jan. 2013
Being instantly drawn to this book, which features such a quirky title in combination with one of the most gorgeous covers I've seen in a long time, this proved indeed to be quite a unique read. Suzette Field certainly picked an unusual topic in her book A Curious Invitation, presenting an eclectic collection of bookish parties - from Queen Alice's Feast to The Ball at Mansfield Park, straight to The Thomas Ewen High School Prom and Finnegan's Wake!
The focus on parties as literary device, and possible inspiration for your own fictional party, sounded fascinating and certainly did not disappoint. Not simply a reiteration of what other authors have written, everything from the location of each party to the dress code, food, and entertainment is being highlighted with refreshingly British humor.
Of course some might wonder what use such a book may have, apart from being wonderfully entertaining, and all I can say is, it's not just a marvelous introduction to the broad variety of novels included, even more so it opens a whole new viewpoint from which to dip into these, often classic, stories. Plus, if you should feel so inclined, it will certainly make for interesting party planning too. Of course, being one of London's top party organizers, Ms Field knows her way around parties that are, shall we say, a little different, so why not let her literar(ll)y inspire you to host your own?
In short: A delightfully bookish party planner!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Pan MacMillan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


100 Places You Will Never Visit: The World's Most Secret Locations
100 Places You Will Never Visit: The World's Most Secret Locations
by Daniel Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile trip to secret and not-so-secret places!, 27 Jan. 2013
How about a walk through restricted areas or risking a glance towards places whose existence is unacknowledged? If there is one thing that 100 Places You Will Never Visit is not, then it's being your average travel guide. Indeed it's a bit of a shame that Daniel Smith teases those fond of traveling with plenty of locations which spark the imagination yet are off-limits to people like you and me.
Succinct, spruced up with plenty of maps and photos, the selection made is not always surprising, yet fascinating nonetheless. The book features everything from military bases, to money vaults, from sacred sites to places of scientific interest. Some of them are more obvious than others, just take Area 51, while others were delightfully unexpected, such as The Skywalker Ranch. Some of them you probably don't feel like visiting anyway, say Snake Island, while other's aren't all that off-limits after all, think taking a guided tour through the Pentagon.
One thing that became obvious pretty fast was the heavy emphasis on the USA, which compose a full third of all featured locations, and I couldn't help but wonder if this selection is being purposefully aimed at an American audience as it's hard to believe that the rest of the world has only a handful of "secret places" to show off. Other than that this book proved to be quite a pleasurable excursion from the safety of my home.
In short: A worthwhile trip to secret and not-so-secret places!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Quercus. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


The Wisdom of Psychopaths
The Wisdom of Psychopaths
by Kevin Dutton
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing and captivating work!, 20 Jan. 2013
It was the title, and the somewhat scary cover, which first caught my attention. What promised to be a leap into the world of Hannibal Lecter is actually much more than that. In The Wisdom of Psychopaths psychologist Kevin Dutton introduces the reader to what exactly psychopaths are made of and, surprisingly, they have got quite a few good things going for them as this insightful and wonderfully entertaining tract proves.
Connecting psychopaths to violent behavior, to associate them with vicious crimes, is easy, and some will doubtlessly live up to this expectation. Still, your doctor may be one too, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The point is that there is a fine line that separates a great surgeon from a serial killer.
This book isn't so much about what psychopathic character traits we could adopt to implement them in our own lives, after all how do you learn to be charismatic or fearless, but it beautifully depicts why psychopaths are the way they are on both a neurological and psychological level. Ultimately it's about understanding them and Dutton does an amazing job illustrating their inner workings.
I don't think I have ever read a book that so skilfully blends a serious topic with an adventurous streak, especially when he undergoes a "psychopath make-over". Fast-paced, fun and smart, this is for everyone who wants to know more about what makes psychopaths tick!
In short: An intriguing and captivating work about the psychopath's mind!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Random House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


moranthology
moranthology
by Caitlin Moran
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.94

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mildly entertaining anthology!, 20 Jan. 2013
This review is from: moranthology (Hardcover)
After her tremendously successful book How To Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran is back with a collection of columns she's written for The Times Magazine in her appropriately named anthology Moranthology.
Wading through a mishmash of different topics, mostly in the realms of popular culture, she also broaches more serious topics, such as living on benefits, or, my personal favorites, allows up-close-and-personal insights into her life, including how she got her trademark grey hair strand. Topics may vary, some columns being more poignant than others, ranging from grave to funny, and always with a tendency of bordering on the vulgar, Moran's witty and eloquent writing style is definitely the red thread in this book.
Little did I know this is a collection of older work and the only new additions are the short introductions to each column. Of course this presented the perfect opportunity to simply get to know her work better. Unfortunately though this book shares the fate of many anthologies - the likelihood that you will end up loving a handful of articles while the rest is just average padding between the covers, a padding that, in my case, consisted of an abundance of pieces about British TV series.
Seeing how my expectations were high after her previous book, this collection was admittedly a bit of a let-down for me. However, this is simply a matter of personal preferences and should not discourage anyone giving this book a try.
In short: A mildly entertaining anthology in typical Moran-style!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Random House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life
How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life
by Robert Skidelsky
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How much money do you need to lead a good life?, 26 Aug. 2012
How much money do you need to lead a good life? What is the good life anyway? In their book How Much Is Enough? Robert and Edward Skidelsky try to get to the bottom of these and related questions.
In 1930 the great economist Keynes said that by 2030 most people would work only 15 hours a week, devoting the rest of their time to leisure. Obviously he was mistaken in his assumption, and the authors show why and how he went wrong with his idea.
There are many books dealing with economy and money, our desires and needs. Some grant a rather cursory glance at our needs and wants while others present an intricate picture of the mechanisms involved. This book is most definitely one of the latter, so don't expect a light and entertaining read on how we spend too much on stuff we don't really need. This one's deep, needs to sink in, get thoroughly digested!
This concise study literally has it all - from economic history to philosophy the reader can indulge in a many-layered work which ultimately makes one rethink our own perceptions of work, time and money. Might Keynes be proven right after all one day? Are the structural solutions offered feasible? Could society establish a basis for the good life we strive for? There are no ultimate answers to be found here, yet plenty of food for thought.
In short: A thought-provoking analysis showcasing the economic insatiability of our society!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Penguin. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


Tubes: Behind the Scenes at the Internet
Tubes: Behind the Scenes at the Internet
by Andrew Blum
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars What makes the virtual of the internet tangible, 12 Aug. 2012
Who has never wondered what the internet is actually made of? We know it's there, somewhere, but is there an actual place the internet can be found? This question answers Andrew Blum in his book Tubes and the title (almost) reveals it all.
If you're anything like me, namely pretty clueless as to why technical things in general work, yet willing get a better understanding about why it's even possible to surf the net by the click of a mouse, you will certainly find this book as appealing as I did. It was easy for me to empathize with Blum, following his journey to map the place called the internet. Conversationally written, the author knows how to set the mood for the rather technical topic, embedding his personal perceptions into the information he gathers along the way. Despite the fetching narrative the exploration of miles of fibre-optic cables and vast data-warehouses was admittedly a bit on the dry side. Then again, I should have realized this would be the case earlier on, so I can hardly blame the author for that. Overall I found this trip into the world of the tactile side of the internet, well written and interesting enough to keep my attention almost all the way through, and I bet that those more amenable to this topic will definitely find it to be an enjoyable and informative read.
In short: A tech-heavy look behind the scenes of what makes the virtual of the internet tangible!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Penguin. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change
by Charles Duhigg
Edition: Paperback

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting yet repetitive, 5 Aug. 2012
We all have our little habits, some of them most likely of the bad kind, and those are the ones we strive to overcome. If only it would be that simple. In his book The Power Of Habit Charles Duhigg approaches the subject of what habits are and how we can ultimately change them.
Written in an engaging style, with just the right balance of scientific fact and actual examples, you can tell straight away that the author has a journalistic background. This certainly pays off and pulled me right into this fascinating field of social sciences, or more precisely, human behavior.
As much as I enjoyed the first few chapters, it soon became clear that despite the different case studies of individuals, organizations, as well as societies, the core of each chapter was repeating itself over and over again, ultimately becoming redundant. The underlying message that habits cannot be eradicated, but must instead be replaced, and the connection between "cue", "routine" and "reward" haven't just been presented once or twice, but countless times, culminating in a guide to using the ideas presented in the book. You could practically skip the actual book and still get the gist by reading the appendix alone. As much as the narrative swept me along and the deliberations proved to be insightful, I felt that the book in its entirety has been unnecessarily blown up by its length.
In short: Interesting yet repetitive study on habits and how to change them!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Random House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


Twilight Robbery
Twilight Robbery
by Frances Hardinge
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars What a marvelous wordsmith, 30 Jun. 2012
This review is from: Twilight Robbery (Paperback)
Finding themselves in a town where everything is divided into day and night, and the wrong name can put you right into the dangerous nocturnal realms, orphan Mosca Mye and her friend Eponymous Clent once again find trouble ahead and trouble on their heels too. Little did I know that Twilight Robbery by Frances Hardinge is actually the second novel about the girl Mosca Mye, but rest assured it can easily be read as a stand alone novel.
Once again I need to put on my comparison hat and point out how much Hardinge's writing style reminds me of Terry Pratchett. Let's add the fact that the whole book has this subtle Discworld-esque feel to it. Not in a copycat kind of way, but the whole vibe of the city and its characters will certainly indulge fans of the former, me definitely being one of them.
The plot as such is an engrossing adventure full of twists and slightly foreseeable turns, but this fact didn't dull the enjoyment for me in the least. And oh the wonderfully quirky cast, including Saracen, the goose with an attitude! Is there such a thing as four-dimensional characters? If so, this is the place to find them.
While many adults hesitate to try out books aimed at a younger readership, the age of the main protagonist shouldn't keep you from giving it a try. I promise, you will not be disappointed.
In short: Yet another amazing novel by a marvelous wordsmith!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Pan MacMillan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


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