Categories
Christmas presents

#MerryChristmas and gift!

Dear readers:

It’s that time of the year again. I thought I’d point it out in case you had not noticed.

I considered doing something spectacular this year, but well, I’ve been a bit busy and I know you will be busy too, so here goes:

And I thought I’d give you a Christmas present. A little book I published last year, with advice and pictures, bilingual, that you might enjoy.

You can download it in MOBI format here:

MOBI

And here in Epub format:

EPUB

And if you know anybody else who might fancy it, please direct them to this page.

Enjoy the holiday season! And keep smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE FRAUD OR MIRACLE TRILOGY by Christoph Fischer (@CFFBooks) Great characters, mind-bending twists and turns, and a fantastic ending.

Hi all:

Today I bring you a particularly long review as I got a paperback copy of a trilogy by an author I’ve read before (and you must visit if you haven’t, as he’s not only talented but a great supporter and advocate of other writers and good causes, oh, and Eurovision) and I decided to review each book separately, but…

The Fraud or Miracle Trilogy by Christoph Fischer
The Fraud or Miracle Trilogy by Christoph Fischer

The Fraud or Miracle Trilogy by Christoph Fischer  Great characters, mind-bending twists and turns, and a fantastic ending.

“The Fraud or Miracle Trilogy” comprises three novels that explore – both, seriously and light-heartedly – the conflict between facts versus faith and trust versus doubt. In “The Healer” advertising executive Erica Whittaker, diagnosed with terminal cancer, seeks help from retired, controversial healer Arpan. He has retired for good reasons, casting more than the shadow of a doubt over his abilities. So begins a journey that will challenge them both as the past threatens to catch up with him as much as with her. On one level this is just the story of a young woman trying to survive, on the other it’s about power, greed and selfish agendas, even when life or death is at stake. Can Arpan really heal her? Can she trust him with her life? And will they both achieve what they set out to do before running out of time? In “The Gamblers” Ben, an insecure accountant obsessed with statistics, gambling and beating the odds, wins sixty-four million in the lottery and finds himself challenged by the possibilities that his new wealth brings. He soon falls under the influence of charismatic Russian gambler Mirco, whom he meets on a holiday in New York. He also falls in love with a stewardess, Wendy, but now that Ben’s rich he finds it hard to trust anyone. As both relationships become more dubious, Ben needs to make some difficult decisions and figure out who’s really his friend and who’s just in it for the money. In “The Sanctuary on Cayman Brac” the loose ends from both novels come to a head in a sizzling finale. Praise for “The Healer”: Lots of twists and a brilliant ending I like a book that has me second guessing all the way through. It grabs hold and takes you on a wonderful journey. This book is exactly like that. I changed my mind as to who is wrong and who is right, who could be trusted and who couldn’t, from the start through to the finish. Praise for “The Gamblers” This story is thrilling, fascinating, fast-paced, and it presents interesting physiological questions on human natural in general and Ben Andrews in particular. A wonderful story I highly recommend!

Paperback:

https://www.amazon.com/Fraud-Miracle-Trilogy-Christoph-Fischer/dp/1978395841/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fraud-Miracle-Trilogy-Christoph-Fischer/dp/1978395841/

E-book:

https://www.amazon.com/Fraud-Miracle-Trilogy-Christoph-Fischer-ebook/dp/B076N771K4/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fraud-Miracle-Trilogy-Christoph-Fischer-ebook/dp/B076N771K4/

Author Christoph Fischer
Author Christoph Fischer

About the author:

Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years, he moved on to the UK where he now lives in a small town in West Wales. He and his partner have three Labradoodles to complete their family.

Christoph worked for the British Film Institute, in Libraries, Museums, and for an airline. ‘
The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ was published in November 2012; ‘Sebastian’ in May 2013 and ‘The Black Eagle Inn’ in October 2013 – which completes his ‘Three Nations Trilogy’. “Time to Let Go”, his first contemporary work was published in May 2014, and “Conditions”, another contemporary novel, in October 2014. The sequel “Conditioned” was published in October 2015. His medical thriller “The Healer” was released in January 2015 and his second thriller “The Gamblers” in June 2015. He published two more historical novels “In Search of a Revolution” in March 2015 and “Ludwika” in December 2015.
His latest novel “The Body In The Snow” is his first cozy mystery.
He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.

https://www.amazon.com/Christoph-Fischer/e/B00CLO9VMQ/

My review:

I have decided to review each story separately. So here goes…

First:

The Healer (Fraud or Miracle? Book 1) by Christoph Fischer A psychologically astute book that will make you think about your own mortality. And what an ending!

I have read and reviewed a couple of the author’s books in the past and enjoyed them, and I was intrigued by this book when it came out, but due to my personal circumstances (my father suffered from cancer and died around the time of its publication) I didn’t feel I was in the best frame of mind for it. Now that it has been published as part of The Fraud and Miracle Trilogy, I was very pleased to receive a paperback copy and finally get to read it.

The story is deceptively simple. A woman suffering from terminal pancreatic cancer, desperate, follows the advice of her personal assistant and approaches a healer, Arpan. I am not sure if he would call himself a “faith” healer, but he insists that those he treats should be totally invested in the process, including transferring 50% of their assets to his account. Although he states all that money goes to charity, it caused suspicion and scandal years back, and he has been keeping a low profile ever since. After much insistence and a different deal, he agrees to treat Erica, who also has secrets of her own. There are strange conspiracies surrounding Arpan and his healing process but Erica’s life is changed forever. Things are not as they seem, of course.

The story is written in the third person from Erica’s point of view, and we get to share in her doubts, suspicions, paranoia, hope, and also to experience the healing with her. The book transmits a sense of claustrophobia, and although there are treks around the Welsh countryside and later we move to a different country, most of the story takes place within Arpan’s tent, and there are only a few main characters (mostly Erica (Maria), Arpan (Amesh), and Anuj) with some secondary characters that we don’t get to know very well (Hilda, Julia, Gunnar). There are no lengthy descriptions of settings or of the appearance of the characters, because we follow the point of view of a woman totally preoccupied with her health and her mortality, and that makes her not the most reliable of narrators. She describes the physical and mental effects that the illness and the healing process have on her, and we are also privy to her suspicions and doubts. The book offers fascinating psychological insights into how much our “rational” point of view can change when our life is at stake, and it is impossible to read it and not wonder what we would do in Erica’s place.

I kept thinking that the story, which relies heavily on dialogue (both between characters and also internal dialogue), would make a great play, and its intensity would be well suited to the stage. Although most of the characters are not sympathetic, to begin with, their humanity and the big questions they are forced to deal with make them intriguing and worthy subjects of our observations.

The ending brings a great twist to the story. Although I think most readers will have been suspicious and on alert due to the secrets, false information, continuous doubts, and different versions of the truth on offer, the actual ending will make them question everything and re-evaluate the story in a different light. And, considering the nature of the subject it deals with, that is a great achievement.

I recommend it to those who enjoy stories that make them think, to readers who are not searching for cheap thrills and prefer a psychologically astute book and especially to those who want to feel personally invested in the stories they read. I look forward to the rest of the books in the trilogy.

Second:

The Gamblers (Fraud or Miracle? Book 2)

My review:

This is the second book I read in the Fraud and Miracle trilogy, and its inclusion there is sure to put readers on their guard. But that is the beauty of it. You know something is going on, and you might even suspect what (although not, perhaps, in detail) but you can’t help but eagerly keep reading and follow the story, enmeshed in the same web of illusion and deceit that traps the main character, Ben.

The story is written in the third person and follows the point of view of Ben, the protagonist. He is a somewhat socially awkward young accountant who leads a modest life in London, who is not precisely streetwise, and who feels more at ease playing games in online communities than interacting socially in person. He is obsessed with numbers (in real life, I wondered if somebody with similar personality traits might fit into the very mild range of autistic spectrum disorder. He acknowledges that he is bad at reading people’s emotions and expressions, he is anxious in social situations and functions by imitating other people’s behaviour, he displays obsessive personality traits…) and does not believe in luck and chance. He is convinced that random events (like lottery or games of chance results) follow a pattern and he is determined to find it. He gets a bit lottery win (£64 million), and although he does not value money per se (at least at the beginning of the story), he decides to treat himself travelling to New York. Everything seems to change from that moment on, he makes a new friend (the glamorous and charming Mirco) and meets the girl of his dreams, Wendy.

The third person point of view suits the story perfectly. On the one hand, we follow Ben’s point of view and his thought processes. We are aware of his misgivings and doubts. He does not believe in luck, after all, and he cannot accept that all these good things are happening to him, especially as they seem to coincide with his lottery win. At the same time, the third person gives us enough distance to observe and judge Ben’s own behaviour (that does not always fit his self-proclaimed intentions and opinions) and also that of those around him. There are things that seem too good to be true, there are warnings offered by random people, there are strange behaviours (both, Mirco and Wendy, blow hot and cold at times), and there are the suspiciousness and rivalry between his new friends. We warm up to his naiveté and to his child-like wonder and enjoyment at the fabulous new life that falls on his lap, but we cannot help but chide him at times for being so easy to manipulate.

The author reflects perfectly the process Ben goes through in his reading. Mirco keeps telling him that he should forget about methods and just “feel” the game, and despite his attachment to his theories, there is something in him that desperately wants to believe in miracles, in good luck, and, most of all, wants to believe that he deserves everything he gets: the money, the friendship, and the love. This is a book about con artists and the book implements their technique to perfection. Con-games are a big favourite of mine, and I love how well the book is designed, and how it treats its readers to a peep behind the scenes of the big players, while at the same time making them play the part of the victim. Yes, we might be shouting at Ben and telling him not to be so gullible, but what would we do in his place? Wouldn’t we just want it to be true too?

The story takes place in glamorous locations and it revolves around the world of high-stakes gambling, night-clubs, and big spenders. It might be particularly interesting to those who love casinos and betting, but that is only one aspect of the book. It can be read independently from the first book in the series, and although there are tense and emotionally difficult moments, there are no violence or extreme behaviours. And the ending… You might be more or less surprised by the big reveal, but the actual ending is likely to leave you with a smile on your face.

A book that will make you question yourself and that will keep you guessing until the end. A fun read for lovers of con-games and those who always wondered what they would do if their luck suddenly changed. I’m looking forward to the third book in the trilogy.

And third:

The Sanctuary on Cayman Brac: Key to the Truth (Fraud or Miracle? Book 3) 

My review:

This is book three in the Fraud and Miracle Trilogy, and after reading it, I confess I’ll miss the characters and the twists and turns.

The series deals in subjects that seem more relevant now than ever. In a world dominated by fake news, where elections are doctored, and the future of a nation might be in the hands of people who manipulate data to benefit the highest bidder, the status of the information we take for granted, who deserves our trust and how far we would be prepared to go to learn the truth have become pressing matters we all must seriously think about.

Author Christoph Fischer brings together the cast of the two previous novels, delighting the many readers who felt, like Erica, that things were not settled and they wanted to know what would happen next. Had she really discovered the truth, and was she going to let it go at that? Like we did in The Healer, we follow Erica, who has managed to locate Arpan in Cayman Brac, and has decided to confront him, gun in hand. But, no matter how determined she is, she cannot resist the connection she felt to Arpan, and she accepts his version of the truth. Of course, that might be “his” truth, but is it what really happened? Erica once again cycles from belief to doubt and back again, and although her feelings for Arpan intensify, she needs to know if she was ever “healed” or not. Thanks to her insistence we get to meet Hilda, but like many other characters in the story, appearances can be deceptive.

Readers of the series will recognise some of the characters from The Gamblers and that will make them keep a close eye on what they do. But even with the advantage we have over Erica (we follow her and share in her clues, but have good reason to doubt some of the events, as we know who some of the students at Arpan school really are), the author once more keeps adding twists to the story, and the final reveal scene (worthy of an Agatha Christie novel) is as tense as any of the poker games in The Gamblers. I will not reveal the many bluffs, but if I had to summarise it I’d say… Wow.

I particularly enjoyed meeting Erica again. Although the nature of her healing might not be what she had initially expected, she is much more open and human, able to recognise her own limitations and weaknesses, and prepared to experiment and enjoy life. While some of the other characters might not have changed much (and continue to play for high stakes), others, like Ben, have learned their lessons and now focus on what really matters. Beyond the twists and turns of the plot, there are solid characters that grow and change throughout the series and we root for them and care for their well-being.

The island and the retreat, which we enjoy both as visitors and as participants thanks to Erica, are beautiful and inspiring and although most of us would find it difficult to cope with some of the rules and restrictions of the sanctuary, we’d all love to visit it and spend some time recovering and reenergizing. Personally, I would love to experience the inner workings of such a place and perhaps even to bear witness to some of the mind games.

A great ending to the trilogy, entertaining, satisfying, and surprising, that will leave readers feeling hopeful and confident. Sometimes the teachers are the ones who need to learn the lessons and letting go of control is the way to progress and evolve. My congratulations to the author.

Thanks to the author, to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, REVIEW and keep smiling!

[amazon_link asins=’1481130331,1499130597,B00FSBW2L6,1519539118,B00CLL1UY6,B00TYG1WGM,B076J3YKXZ,B01LVYRI9L’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’89012751-3fb3-11e8-8a05-f586ec67cfb0′]

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Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog A MONK’S GUIDE TO A CLEAN HOUSE AND MIND by Shoukei Matsumoto (@PenguinUKBooks). A guide to dusting your heart and clearing out your soul. Simple and beautiful #Bookreview #Zen

Hi all:
This one is a peculiar choice for me but, here it is.

A Monk's Guide to a Clean House and Mind by Shoukei Matsumoto
A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind by Shoukei Matsumoto

A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind by Shoukei Matsumoto

Cleanliness is next to enlightenment. In this Japanese bestseller, a Buddhist monk explains the traditional cleaning techniques that will help cleanse not only your house – but your soul.

‘We remove dust to sweep away our worldly desires. We scrub dirt to free ourselves of attachments. We live simply and take time to contemplate the self, mindfully living each moment. It’s not just monks that need to live this way. Everyone in today’s busy world today needs it.

The Zen sect of Buddhism is renowned for the cleanliness of its monks, but cleaning is greatly valued in Japanese Buddhism in general as a way to cultivate the mind. In this book, I introduce everyday cleaning methods typically employed in temples, while sharing what it’s like to be a monk in training.

This book will improve the condition not just of your own mind, but also the people around you. I hope readers will discover that cleanliness is an opportunity to contemplate oneself.’

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Monks-Guide-Clean-House-Mind-ebook/dp/B073W2K7HT/

https://www.amazon.com/Monks-Guide-Clean-House-Mind-ebook/dp/B073W2K7HT/

Press Review

The most unusual self-help book of 2018 … There is something surprisingly calming about just reading the book, hearing Matsumoto’s simple instructions and admiring the clean pen drawings of Japanese sandals and brooms (Jane Fryer Daily Mail)

Shoukei Matsumoto
Shoukei Matsumoto

About the Author

Shoukei Matsumoto is a Buddhist monk at the Komyoji Temple in Tokyo, Japan. Since entering the Temple in 2003, his days begin with cleaning. Cleaning is greatly valued in Japanese Buddhism as a way to cultivate the mind. In this book, a bestseller in Japan and Europe, Shoukei Matsumoto offers up the cleaning practices of Buddhist monks, to help us all live simply and mindfully in each moment.

Here an article on Shoukei Matsumoto that you might find interesting:

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2016/06/29/lifestyle/armed-mba-buddhist-monk-sets-transform-future-temple/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Sometimes I read the title and the description of a book in one of my favourite genres and it is intriguing enough or it has something that makes me want to read it. But sometimes I see a book that is completely different to what I normally read but still, it seems to call me and this is one of those books.

As I am about to move (houses and countries), I thought a book about cleaning (not only our houses but also our minds) might be an asset. And, oh boy, was I right!

This book does what it says on the tin. I can’t guarantee you that you’ll end up cleaning more if you read it, but I’d be surprised if it doesn’t make you think about the process.

Photo by Jennifer Burk on Unsplash
Photo by Jennifer Burk on Unsplash

I don’t know how accurate a translation of the original this is, but I loved the simple style of writing. Although the sentences are not elaborate or complex, and the ideas it contains seem extremely simple, they are beautiful in their simplicity and unassuming. This is not a book of advice that will quote analytics, statistics, and numbers of followers. It just explains what life for Zen monks living at a temple is like, and explains their philosophy.

I am not very house-proud and I can’t claim to spend a lot of time cleaning (and even less thinking about cleaning), but there are some chores that I do enjoy, and some whose mechanics can free my mind and make me forget the things around me. Although this is not what the book is about (it is a way of life and it is very specific and ordered), I think most of us will identify with some of the thoughts behind it.

The book highlights the importance of respecting nature, our bodies, our possessions (and we don’t need many), all life, and each other. It is a short book and it is also a relaxing read that will make you look at things differently and give you some pause. And, as I said, you don’t need to be big on cleaning to enjoy it.

Photo by Pawel Nolbert on Unsplash
Photo by Pawel Nolbert on Unsplash

I thought I’d share some examples of passages I highlighted from the book, so you can get an idea of what to expect:

I hope you enjoy applying the cleaning techniques introduced here in your home. There’s nothing complicated about them. All you need is a will to sweep the dust off our heart.

‘Zengosaidan’ is a Zen expression meaning that we must put all our efforts into each day so we have no regrets, and that we must not grieve for the past or worry about the future.

It goes without saying that dust will accumulate in a home that is never cleaned. Just as you have finished raking the leaves, more are sure to fall. It is the same with your mind. Right when you think you have cleaned out all the cobwebs, more begin to form. Adherence to the past and misgivings about the future will fill your head, wresting your mind from the present. This is why we monks pour ourselves heart and soul into polishing floors. Cleaning is training for staying in the now. Therein lies the reason for being particular about cleanliness.

I hate ironing. I must say that after reading this I know what I’ll think about when I have to iron something from now on:

How to Iron. When ironing, visualize yourself ironing out the wrinkles in your heart.

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash
Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

By letting go of everything, you can open up a universe of unlimited possibilities.

A lovely book, a deep book, and a simple book. I kept thinking of friends and relatives who might enjoy/benefit from it (and I don’ t mean because of the state their houses are in!). And I am sure many of you would enjoy it too. Just try it and see.

Thanks to the author and translator, to NetGalley, and to Penguin UK for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW! 

[amazon_link asins=’0943015537,1590308492,B00KK0PICK,0767903323,0767903692,1856753697,B074ZKHG4K,B0117QI7RS’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’05639075-febb-11e7-9a49-638a440dbdd7′]

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Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team Rosie's Book Team Review

#TuesdayBookBlog SILHOUETTES by E. L. Tenenbaum (@ELTenenbaum) A Young Adult novel for all ages about family, friends, and life with a positive and inspiring message. #RBRT #YA

Hi all:

Today I bring you another review I’ve written for Rosie’s Book Review Team. This is a very special book and I hope it gets the attention it deserves.

Silhouettes by E. L. Tenenbaum
Silhouettes by E. L. Tenenbaum

Silhouettes by E. L. Tenenbaum  

Brooke was just killed in an accident, but a part of her is still here. Seeking answers, she sets out to retrace her life and soon meets others like her, among them, Tyler. Tyler remembers Brooke from before, and so she hesitantly gives him the one thing she never bothered to when they were alive; a chance. Together, they visit the people and places in their small beach town that once held meaning to them, developing a mutual, grudging respect as they learn to view life in different and unexpected ways.

Tyler soon decides that they must let go of their pasts if anything is to change, but Brooke can’t bring herself to say goodbye just yet. As she watches the impact of her death on her loved ones, Brooke questions her desperate need to hold onto a life that’s no longer hers. But can she move on from a life she’s barely begun to live?

A bittersweet story about family, friendship and the impact one life can have on others, no matter how young it is.

https://www.amazon.com/Silhouettes-L-Tenenbaum-ebook/dp/B075RPZTT8/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Silhouettes-L-Tenenbaum-ebook/dp/B075RPZTT8/

About the author:

Hi! I am writer who thinks a bookstore (real or online) is the happiest place on earth!
I’m also partial to other things, like baking (cookies), musicals (though I can’t really sing) and superhero graphic novels (though I can’t really fly).
Above those, I love to write in different mediums, especially novels.
Read, share, talk about them.
Enjoy.

https://www.amazon.com/E.-L.-Tenenbaum/e/B01EXPUFWK/

http://www.eltenenbaum.com/

My review:

I write this review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Thanks to Rosie Amber from Rosie’s Book Review Team (if you are an author and want your book reviewed, check here) and to the author for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Brooke is an 18 year-old-girl who is popular (although not as popular as cheerleaders are), the captain of the dance group, a volunteer at her local hospital (in the children’s ward), a good student, a beloved daughter and sister (to her 14 year-old brother, Aaron), who has very clear plans for the future and a lot of life ahead of her, until she is killed in a car crash. She discovers then that although she is now dead, she is still hanging around, and can follow her friends and family, visit the familiar places where she used to spend her time, but she cannot interact with anybody or make herself known to the living. She meets other silhouettes (as they look like somewhat less solid and more transparent versions of themselves), but they don’t seem to have much in common with her until she meets a young boy her age, Tyler, who used to go to the same school but didn’t cross paths with her. While he knew who she was, she had never noticed him. As there is little to do other than wander around, and neither has any idea of why they are still there, they spend time together and discover things about each other, and also about themselves.

The story is narrated in the first-person from Brooke’s point of view. Although she is angry and devastated, to begin with, she is also very concerned about her family and friends and tries to help but does not know how. Her memories of those around her are heart-warming and feel real. What she remembers are the little moments, not the big occasions, and she talks about her friends and family in a loving way. Although she is shocked by some of the things she discovers about others, she also gains an understanding of what is really important. She realises that she was living in a bubble and there were aspects of the town and of its people’s lives she’d never noticed. The language is beautiful and lyrical at times, without being overly complex. Tyler played the guitar and composed songs with his friend Dylan, and the lyrics of these songs are like poems, that give us a moment of pause and sometimes encapsulate and sometimes enhance the rest of the text. Although the interaction between the two characters feels true, and they remain psychologically consistent, they are both fully aware that what they are experiencing is not the same as they did when they were alive, and there is a new sense of detachment and perspective that they have been granted by their situation. Being granted time and distance to think without the pressure of trying to conform to other’s expectations is illuminating.

The relationship between Brooke and Tyler develops slowly and it is clear that they are there to help each other, even if the details are only revealed at the end. Like with some of the other secrets we discover throughout the book, I was not surprised by the revelation, but what is really important is the characters’ reaction to the revelation and that is both understandable and perfect. Although it might seem strange to talk about happy endings in a novel that centres on dead characters, I think most readers enjoy the ending and feel inspired by it.

I highlighted many sentences and paragraphs, as the novel manages to capture many of the questions we all wonder about and provides insights and inspiration without ever becoming preachy or adhering to a particular faith or religion. But here come a few to give you an idea:

Diamonds hide in a lump of coal.

Here Brooke is talking to Tyler, trying to convince him they should go to school.

“What else are you gonna do?” I asked. “No one will see you anyway. You’re safe. They’ll walk right through you.”

“Great. Just like when I was alive.”

Brooke observes: Words like that should never have reason to be said at all.

“You don’t need to do some momentous thing that changes the world or say things that everyone puts on wooden signs to have made a difference. It’s doing things in your way, the way you laughed, and cried, and hung out, and lived, and just were, that’s what your mark is, even if you can only find it in ten people instead of ten thousand.”

A YA novel that can be read by people of any age (there is no use of swear words, violence or sex), that makes us think (yes, and tear up too) about family, friendship, memories, and life. A positive and inspiring read I’d recommend everybody. I know many readers are wary of reading books about children’s deaths, especially those who have been touched personally by it. Although I cannot offer my personal perspective on the matter, I’d suggest trying a sample of the book before making a decision. The novel put me in mind of The Lovely Bones and I would recommend it to readers who loved Sebold’s novel but were perturbed by the most gruesome aspects of the plot. (Here you can check my post for Rosie’s Twin Books features where I talk about both books). E. L. Tenenbaum is an author I didn’t know but I’ll be watching closely from now on.

Thanks to Rosie and to the author for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview SMARTER FASTER BETTER: The Secrets of Being Productive by Charles Duhigg (@cduhigg) An inspiring and enlightening book on the topic, not a fast read or a practical manual.

Hi all:

This one isn’t a thriller or fiction. It is a fascinating book. But more, below.

Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg
Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg

Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive by Charles Duhigg

In his international bestseller The Power of Habit, Pulitzer Prize-winner Charles Duhigg explained why we do what we do. Now he applies the same relentless curiosity and masterful analysis to the question: how can each of us achieve more?

Drawing on the very latest findings in neuroscience, psychology and behavioural economics, he demonstrates the eight simple principles that govern productivity. He demonstrates how the most dynamic and effective people – from CEOs to film-makers to software entrepreneurs – deploy them. And he shows how you can, too.

‘Charles has some wonderful advice for increasing productivity . . . the tips he highlights have most definitely played a huge part in helping me to build the Virgin brand.’ Richard Branson

‘In Smarter Faster Better Duhigg finds provocative answers to a riddle of our age: how to become more productive (by two times, or even ten times) and less busy.’ Jim Collins

‘There are valuable lessons in Smarter Faster Better . . . I never felt like putting it down.’ Financial Times

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A pleasure to read . . . [Charles] Duhigg’s skill as a storyteller makes his book so engaging to read.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“Not only will Smarter Faster Better make you more efficient if you heed its tips, it will also save you the effort of reading many productivity books dedicated to the ideas inside.”Bloomberg Businessweek
 
“Duhigg pairs relatable anecdotes with the research behind why some people and businesses are not as efficient as others. . . . He takes readers from inside the cockpit of a crashing plane to the writing room of Disney’s Frozen.”Chicago Tribune
 
“The book covers a lot of ground through meticulous reporting and deft analysis, presenting a wide range of case studies . . . with insights that apply to the rest of us.”The Wall Street Journal

“[Duhigg] looks at the numerous ways that people can become more effective, whether in improving motivation, setting goals, making decisions or thinking creatively . . . [He’s] an effective storyteller with a knack for combining social science, fastidious reporting and entertaining anecdotes.”The Economist
 
“Engagingly written, solidly reported, thought-provoking and worth a read.”—Associated Press
 
“Charles Duhigg is the master of the life hack.”GQ
 
“A gifted storyteller, Duhigg . . . combines his reporting skills with cutting-edge research in psychology and behavioural economics to explain why some companies and people get so much done, while some fail. Almost all books written in this genre are full of case studies and stories, but Duhigg’s storytelling skills make this book memorable and persuasive. Duhigg succeeds in challenging our mindsets and existing thought processes. It is not just another productivity book. It is about making sense of overwhelming data we live with.”The Financial Express
 
“There are valuable lessons in Smarter, Faster, Better. . . . Duhigg is a terrific storyteller, and a master of the cliffhanger.”Financial Times

“As he did in The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg melds cutting-edge science, deep reporting, and wide-ranging stories to give us a fuller, more human way of thinking about how productivity actually happens. He manages to reframe an entire cultural conversation: Being productive isn’t only about the day-to-day and to-do lists. It’s about seeing our lives as a series of choices, and learning that we have power over how we think about the world.”—Susan Cain, author of Quiet
 
“A brilliant distillation of the personal and organizational behaviors that produce extraordinary results. Duhigg uses engaging storytelling to highlight fascinating research and core principles that we can all learn and use in our daily lives. A masterful must-read for anyone who wants to get more (and more creative) stuff done.”—David Allen, author of Getting Things Done
 
“Charles Duhigg has a gift for asking just the right question, and then igniting the same curiosity in the rest of us. In Smarter Faster Better he finds provocative answers to a riddle of our age: how to become more productive (by two times, or even ten times) and less busy, how to be more effective in the world and more in control of our lives. Duhigg has rendered, yet again, a great service with his sharp, lucid prose.”—Jim Collins, author of Good to Great

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Smarter-Faster-Better-Secrets-Productive-ebook/dp/B018RQDNIO/

Audible:

https://www.amazon.com/Smarter-Faster-Better-Secrets-Productive-ebook/dp/B018RQDNIO/

About the author:

Author Charles Duhigg
Author Charles Duhigg

I could not resist but he’s looking a bit more grown-up in Twitter…

My name is Charles Duhigg, and I’m a reporter for The New York Times. I’m also the author of The Power of Habit, about the science of habit formation, as well as Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Productivity in Life and Business (which is available for sale on Amazon on March 8, 2016!)

I’ve worked at the Times since 2006. In 2013, I was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for a series about Apple named “The iEconomy”. Before that, I contributed to NYT series about the 2008 financial crisis, how companies take advantage of the elderly and national violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. (For those series, I won the National Journalism Award, the Investigative Reporters and Editors’ Medal, the National Academies’ reporting award and other recognitions.)

But let’s be honest, you aren’t visiting this page so I can brag about series and awards. (Unless you’re my mom. Hi mom!)

I’m also a native of New Mexico. I studied history at Yale and received an MBA from Harvard Business School. I now live in Brooklyn with my wife and two children and, before becoming a journalist, was a bike messenger in San Francisco for one terrifying day.

I would love to hear from you. I’m at charles@charlesduhigg.com.

https://www.amazon.com/Charles-Duhigg/e/B006X0XPLM/

 

 

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK/Cornerstone for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily choose to review.

I don’t read many self-help or how-to books although recently I’ve been reading some that intrigued me and this was one of them. After all, who doesn’t want to be smarter, go faster and do things better? We all want to be productive, so the title was a big hook for me, and I imagine I’m not alone.

Charles Duhigg is the author of a very popular, well-liked and positively reviewed book, the bestseller The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change. Although I noticed that many of the reviewers mentioned his previous book and drew comparisons, I haven’t read it and I won’t be able to add to that debate. (In short, a few of the reviewers felt that this book wasn’t as good or as useful, from a practical point of view, as the previous one). After reading the comments, now I’m curious about his previous book.

But, as for Smarter Faster Better, it is a book where the author explains how he started wondering about the different levels of productivity people obtain. We all know individuals whose days seem to last more than 24 hours if we’re to judge by the amount of activities and achievements they manage to pack in. In an attempt at trying to find out how they do it, Duhigg collected studies, reviewed theories, interviewed people, checked stories… The book, which is divided into a series of chapters (Motivation, Team, Focus, Goal Setting, Managing Others, Decision Making, Innovation, Absorbing Data, Appendix and Notes), consists of the discussions of some cases that Duhigg then uses to illustrate a point or theory about the particular item and its importance. On talking about motivation, Duhigg uses the case of a young man who didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life and eventually decided to join the Marines. He explains how their training focuses on making them attach a meaning to their chores, ask questions that remind each other of what their goal is and what they are trying to achieve, and also the importance of feeling one has a choice. In the chapter about goal setting, he asserts the importance of having two types of goals, SMART goals (we’ve all read about those) but also stretch goals, overarching goals that look at something bigger, as, otherwise, we might end up with a list of tiny little achievable goals that don’t build up to anything. I enjoyed the examples used (that include, among other: the Toyota way of running a factory, focused on making people feel free to report mistakes and also share their ideas for innovations, teachers’ creative use of data about their students to transform a failing school into a successful one, and also include the use of mental images by airline pilots that help them make the right decisions when things go wrong), and the hypotheses and advice make sense to me. The book is well written, and although some examples and cases will feel more relevant to some people than others, there is a big variety and I personally thought they all made interesting points and some were fascinating, to say the least.

Some of the reviewers complained about the fact that the book is not very practical. The author includes, in the appendix ‘A Reader’s Guide to Using These Ideas’ (I wonder if this is in response to comments or it had always been there) that summarises the concepts in the book, and applies them to the author’s difficulties finishing this book. This summary sets up some of the points as more relevant to individuals, and some to companies or teams. I’ve noticed that there’s a summary of the book available for sale separately (here), and I wonder if it might consist mostly of this part of the book (as it says: ‘in less than 30 minutes’). Although I guess the advice can be found there, what makes the book memorable, at least for me, are the stories and that ties in with one of the points in the book about absorbing data. The absorption and understanding of data can be increased by creating disfluency, by having to work with it and making it less accessible. That obliges us to engage with the data and to make it ours, to make it matter to us and to find ways of using it that might not be evident or interesting to others. Therefore, if you have to read the book and go through the case studies, you might appreciate other points of the stories and remember the cases as they are relevant to you, rather than trying to remember a point as a headline with no context. So yes, if you can and are interested in the topic, I would advise reading the whole book (and it isn’t quite as long as it looks like, as there are detailed notes about the studies at the end that take up the last 33% of the book). If you have doubts, you can always check a sample of the book. But if you just want a taster, I share a quote:

Productivity is about recognizing choices that other people often overlook. It’s about making certain decisions in certain ways. The way we choose to see our own lives; the stories we tell ourselves, and the goals we push ourselves to spell out in detail; the culture we establish among teammates; the ways we frame our choices and manage the information in our lives. Productive people and companies force themselves to make choices most other people are content to ignore. Productivity emerges when people push themselves to think differently.

I’m not sure if this book will make a massive difference to my productivity, but it has made me reflect on a number of things and I’m sure I’ll keep thinking about it for a long time. If I had to choose a point in particular, I’d say  it has made me think about team and group dynamics, and I particularly liked the concept of ‘psychological safety’ (a “shared belief, held by members of a team, that the group is a safe place for taking risks”). If only…

In summary, an inspiring book, full of cases and stories that deserve to be read in their own right and concepts and suggestions that will mean different things to different people. It’s not a quick read or a ‘follow these few steps and you’ll be more productive’ kind of book, but it’s a well-written, researched and thought-out book that might help us understand better what makes us tick.

Thanks to NetGalley and to the publishers for the book, thanks to all of you for reading and don’t forget to like, share, comment and CLICK!

 

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