Monday, April 24, 2017

Head Strong by Dave Asprey, 2017

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From the creator of Bulletproof Coffee and author of the bestselling The Bulletproof Diet comes a revolutionary plan to upgrade your brainpower—in two weeks or less.

For the last decade, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Asprey has worked with world-renowned doctors and scientists to uncover the latest, most innovative methods for making humans perform better—a process known as "biohacking." In his first book, The Bulletproof Diet, he shared his biohacking tips for taking control of your own biology. Now, in Head Strong, Asprey shows readers how to biohack their way to a sharper, smarter, faster, more resilient brain.
(256 pages)

Oh, gosh.

I thought this was going to be a book with actual, science-proven methods for improving your brain function. There would be, like, brainteaser puzzles and healthy recipes and tips for staying focused and productive during the work-day.

As soon as I read a few pages in, though, I realized that this is pretty much the opposite of that. First, Asprey spends like half the book blathering on about how great this program is, how long it took him to put together and about how you, too, can soon be smart like me! I was annoyed, sure, but I flipped forward (it's definitely a flip-through sort of book) and read some of his actual advice. Basically, his entire strategy boils down to the mitochondria. Asprey argues that mitochondria control our brain function, and that we just have to boost our mitochondria to boost our brain function. His mitochondria-helping tips range from healthy food recipes to some sort of custom coffee (that his company sells, of course) to meditation.

Um, yeah. I smelled something stinky, so I set the book down and asked my father about it. He's a microbiologist, the kind of scientist it might have been helpful for Asprey to consult when he was coming up with his plan. Dad says that mitochondria are like the battery pack of life, that they power all parts of our body including our brain. But all of the stuff Asprey does literally has zero effect on the mitochondria. The only thing we can do to help our mitochondria out is to eat. And not just healthy food: mitochondria can use literally any food substance, except fiber, to make energy.

Suffice it to say that I will not be finishing Head Strong, nor will I recommend it to anyone. I suppose this is a good lesson to me in being careful, though: next time I agree to review a book that has to do with science, I'll be sure to look up its author first!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book in order to participate in a TLC tour.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Cody and the Rules of Life by Tricia Springstubb, 2017

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Doing the right thing can be hard! When prized possessions start going missing, Cody gets a crash course in the most important rules of all — the rules of life.

In Cody’s life, many things are hard to predict. Like why her older brother, Wyatt, is obsessed with his new bicycle called the Cobra, or why her best friend Pearl suddenly wants to trade favorite toys. Pearl says she will trust Cody with Arctic Fox because Cody is a trusty person. But Cody doesn’t want to give up her beloved Gremlin, and she regrets it as soon as she hands him over. When the Cobra goes missing, Cody has to decide for herself who is trusty and who is not. If only she had Gremlin to talk to! Surely Pearl wouldn’t mind if she secretly traded back . . . it’s not stealing if it belonged to you in the first place, right?

(176 pages)

I don't usually review books this short, but I was offered a copy of Cody and the Rules of Life and it looked intriguing enough that I couldn't say no.

And really, it was a good book. It has much more depth to it than I went in expecting, and a variety of storylines that weave together to make the story. My favorite scenes were probably actually with Cody's teacher, Mr. Daniels. Cody writes in her class journal about the search for her brother's missing bike, which is a model Cobra, and Mr. Daniels thinks her brother lost an actual snake! It's funnier than you'd think watching him ask Cody concerned questions about her family's lifestyle, and her confusing him even more (while thinking they're on the same page!).

I didn't care much about the storyline with the swapped toys, largely because Cody should never have traded Gremlin away. I have a hard time relating with a girl who would do that–there's no way I would ever have given my treasured baby blanket away to anyone when I was her age, no matter how nice they were to me. In fact, now that I think about it, I still wouldn't give it away for anything.

But what really appealed to me about the book was the way Cody grapples with issues bigger than herself. She's grown up in a home with strict "rules of life," not just against hitting and saying mean things and stealing and all the other things that aren't nice but also against just generally being mean or unkind to anyone, and she largely views the world as black and white through the lenses of those rules. As the book goes by, she has to face that fact that someone did a very mean thing–and that her brother is terribly angry at whoever that person is. For her, this combines with other moral issues (some of them connected to the loss of Gremlin) to result in her learning several valuable lessons over the course of the book.

All in all, I enjoyed reading Cody and the Rules of Life. It was a pleasant read, far more complex and mature than I expected it to be, and just the sort of book I would be happy to hand over to elementary and middle schoolers looking for an interesting read.



Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Double Cross: Deception Techniques in War by Paul B. Janeczko, 2017

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How does deception factor into fighting wars, and is it effective? In an intriguing companion to The Dark Game, Paul B. Janeczko reveals the truth about the strategic lies of war. The biblical account of Gideon. The ancient story of the Trojan horse. Deceptive techniques have been used in war through the ages. But while the principles have changed very little, the technology behind fooling the enemy has evolved dramatically. Paul B. Janeczko s fascinating chronology focuses on the American Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf Wars to reveal evolving attitudes toward the use and effectiveness of deceptive operations. Find out the secret plan behind the invasion of Normandy and the details of General Schwarzkopf s "Hail Mary play" during the Gulf War, among many other strategies and maneuvers designed to pull the wool over enemies' eyes. Back matter includes source notes, a bibliography, and an index."
(256 pages)

It's funny how things work out sometimes. I agreed to review Double Cross months ago, but didn't get around to it until now–which just so happens to be the exact same time that we're covering WWII and the Cold War era in my APUSH class. Deception techniques from WWII, the Korean war, and the Vietnam war make up the bulk of the content, so it works out perfectly for me: I get to study and work on my blog at the same time!

Because Double Cross is definitely educational. It talks a lot about military maneuvers on the Allied side during WWII, and on the American/UN side in the more recent wars. It also touches on the Trojan Horse story, but I already knew about that. What I really enjoyed reading about was the new stuff. Did you know that Britain invented a whole new army that was going to invade Europe at Pas-de-Calais (rather than Normandy), and that they had a group of people driving around Scotland to send out telegraph messages simulating conversations between the different parts of the army? Not only that, but they also built props on the ground to look like trucks. And they put little articles in the newspaper about how, say, the presence of thousands of soldiers was demoralizing the young Scottish women. The attention to detail that went into the operation was incredible–and it worked beautifully. Hitler actually kept a large amount of his troops near Pas-de-Calais even after the invasion of Normandy because he thought a second attack would still be coming from there!

There are way more stories in here than just the one about Scotland's notional (fake) army, though. I don't want to go into all of them too much, because Janeczko does a better job explaining all of them than I ever could, but suffice it to say that there have been some very fascinating deception operations over the years. I don't love reading about war as a rule, just because it's too horrible to think of all that death, but I really enjoyed learning about all the stranger-than-fiction ideas people had that actually worked and fooled the enemy. It's also cool to see how, in some instances, these deception tactics saved many thousands of lives. I'm all for cutting down on the casualties!

Anyway, this is a very interesting book that I actually enjoyed more than I thought I would. If you're interested at all in trickery, or war-time strategy, or a combination of both, then I definitely recommend you give Double Cross a try. It's also a great bouncing-off book for a variety of other war-time topics, because it has inserts with information about cool spy stuff and technology scattered throughout its pages as well.



Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.