Monday, September 29, 2014

I Stand Corrected by Eden Collinsworth

This is another review done as a member of Amazon Vine, so I'm posting a description of the book with a direct link to my review on Amazon.

book cover
I Stand Corrected
by Eden Collinsworth

ISBN-13: 9780385538695
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Released: October 7, 2014

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
A fascinating fusion of memoir, manners, and cultural history from a successful businesswoman well versed in the unique challenges of working in contemporary China.

During the course of a career that has, quite literarily, moved her around the world, no country has fascinated Eden Collinsworth more than China, where she has borne witness to its profound transformation. In I Stand Corrected, Collinsworth tells the entertaining and insightful story of the year she spent living among the Chinese while writing a book featuring advice on such topics as personal hygiene, the rules of the handshake, and making sense of foreigners. Scrutinizing etiquette, she explains Chinese practices and reveals much about our own Western culture. At the same time, I Stand Corrected is a wry reflection on the peripatetic career she led while single-handedly raising her son.

My Review: Link to my review on Amazon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bend Your Brain by Marbles Brain Store

book cover
Bend Your Brain
by Marbles Brain Store

ISBN-13: 9780804140096
Trade Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Released: August 19, 2014

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Blogging for Books.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
This first book from the team behind Marbles: The Brain Store offers puzzles and brain teasers to help enhance memory, build problem-solving skills, and reduce stress. They've designed these puzzles to keep your mind flexible and fit.

Arranged in five key brain categories—visual perception, word skills, critical thinking, coordination, and memory—Bend Your Brain offers a variety of puzzles ranging from mind-warming (easy) to mind-blowing (hard!):

· Connecting the dots? More like working your spatial-orientation skills.
· Identifying famous smiles? Flexing your visual memory.
· Taking a closer look at your keyboard? Coding, storing, and retrieving.
· Word-doku? Summoning cognitive abilities like appraisal, inference, impulse control, and evaluation.
· Word scrambles? Tapping your brain’s association areas.

My Review:
Bend Your Brain is a puzzle book containing 151 puzzles to give your brain a workout. The puzzles were divided into 5 sections, and each section was focused on exercising a certain part of the brain. The first page briefly described what was going to be exercised in that section, and there was some brain trivia mixed throughout the book. One part had you physically doing things, like standing in front of a mirror and using your body to make letters. Some puzzles were intended to be cut out of the book and folded. There were word finds, mazes, crosswords, connect the dots, and variations on many other puzzle types.

It's intended for people familiar with puzzle books. The instructions were often too vague if you'd never encountered the puzzle type before. For example, the instructions said that you should do their Word-doku puzzle like a Sudoku puzzle. I've never done a Sudoku puzzle so had no idea of what to do.

The book seemed aimed at the older set. Some logos that they assume you're familiar with were not recognized by four people about 40 years old but were recognized by a couple that was in their late 60s. You'll do best at these puzzles if you watch a lot of television and know a lot of trivia. Incidentally, they also use a lot of "common phrases" that someone who didn't grow up in America wouldn't know.

I don't normally do puzzle books, but a book I recently read was pushing "exercising your brain" so I gave this puzzle book a try. It didn't make me a fan of puzzle books, but I don't think I was the intended target audience. I found some of the puzzle very easy--even ones that were supposed to be hard. I found some easy puzzles difficult simply because I didn't know the required trivia or because I found the instructions too vague. Some puzzle were "just right" and very fun. People who love puzzle books might enjoy the variety of different puzzles found in this one.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner

book cover
Fluent Forever
by Gabriel Wyner

ISBN-13: 9780385348119
Trade Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harmony
Released: August 5, 2014

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
For those who’ve despaired of ever learning a foreign language, here, finally, is a book that will make the words stick.

The greatest challenge to learning a foreign language is the challenge of memory; there are just too many words and too many rules. For every new word we learn, we seem to forget two old ones, and as a result, fluency can seem out of reach. Fluent Forever tackles this challenge head-on. With empathy for the language-challenged and abundant humor, Wyner deconstructs the learning process, revealing how to build a foreign language in your mind from the ground up.

Starting with pronunciation, you’ll learn how to rewire your ears and turn foreign sounds into familiar sounds. You'll retrain your tongue to produce those sounds accurately, using tricks from opera singers and actors. Next, you'll begin to tackle words, and connect sounds and spellings to imagery, rather than translations, which will enable you to think in a foreign language. And with the help of sophisticated spaced-repetition techniques, you'll be able to memorize hundreds of words a month in minutes every day. Soon, you'll gain the ability to learn grammar and more difficult abstract words--without the tedious drills and exercises of language classes and grammar books.

My Review:
Fluent Forever is a book on how people make lasting memories and how to use that information to quickly learn (and remember) the language of your choice. Don't throw out those grammar books and pronunciation guides, but put them to better work by using the latest research into how we make memories and how to make them endure. The research information can be used to remember anything more easily.

The rest of the book discussed how to apply the research to learning languages quickly: remembering new words and even grammar rules without getting bored or confused, how to learn words with a local (rather than American) accent, and how to become fluent in that language.

The author has a nice sense of humor and such an enthusiasm for the subject that reading the book was a lot of fun as well as interesting. Also, he pointed out free online tools (or alternative offline methods) to help you learn your chosen language effectively and then teaches you how to use those tools. It was very easy for me to understand and follow his instructions.

I learned Spanish back in high school and periodically try to re-learn it. It's probably been a good refresher exercise, but I usually get bored with it and so leave off when I get busy with other things. I've started following his system to (re)learn Spanish, and it's a lot more fun than other methods I've tried. It's designed to be fun. I'm also remembering things a lot better, which encourages me to stick with it. If you're serious about wanting to learn a new language, I'd highly recommend this excellent resource.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.