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by Valerio Boni
Edition: Hardcover
31 used & new from $7.81

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Captures the Romanticism of the Vespa Scooter, May 4, 2014
This review is from: Vespa (Hardcover)
A beautiful photo book that captures the romanticism and history of the Vespa scooter. Filled with historic photographs, illustrations and posters and a clear, personal narrative about the evolution of Vespa as an iconic brand that has out-lasted many others over the years.

Fault in Our Stars
Fault in Our Stars

5.0 out of 5 stars A Heart-warming, Irreverant and Unique Human Story, April 4, 2014
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There's a passage in "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green, that's taken from Shakespeare. Whereupon Cassius says, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves." And that is about as serious as it gets, as far as literature goes.

The cancerous condition of teenage characters force them to confront the big questions about life and death much sooner than other mere mortals who have expectations of living a full term. The bigger universe is a mess of bouncing molecules, a kind of organized chaos, and at a human level, we have to make the best of what we're given in this chaotic life. Or to take a phrase, oft repeated, "What a slut time is. She screws everybody."

Narrated by the heroine, Hazel Lancaster is an angry teenager, biding her time with thyroid cancer, with over-attentive parents frightened she might take her last breath at any moment. She also has an inseparable bond with a portable oxygen tank on wheels and tubes stuck in her nose because her lungs won't cooperate, most of the time.

She puts up with this to spare her parents the agony of her inevitable departure, and so she can make it to the Cancer Kids Support Group meetings, which served no purpose until she meets a charming, blue-eyed boy named Augustus, otherwise known as 'Gus.'

The effects of cancer has crippled them both, but in different ways. Yet they share the same perspective and philosophy of life. They both have this delightful irreverent sense of humor. Especially Hazel, who's very quick with the wit.

Gus is kind of a dreamer, wanting to believe that he's special, like most teens, anxious to leave a mark in the world. To somehow be remembered. Hazel, on the other hand, is a realist, often reminding those around her that they're living with the grim reality that her time, and their time, will ultimately be up.

In spite of the melancholy aspect of the characters fates, the book is mostly laugh-out-loud funny. The two teenagers are easily the ones you want to add as Facebook friends. Yet it is poignantly sad in parts, but thankfully, not over-dramatic.

John Green has done a remarkable job of making the sobering subject matter of cancer in young people's lives a very real and human story. Despite being faced with the realities of the pain, anger and shame these young adults faced every day, we're compelled to keep reading because it's funnily told; enlightening because of its philosophical bent and heart-warming because of its romance.

"The Fault in Our Stars' is a memorable book of fiction with inspiring life lessons for us all.

The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch

3.0 out of 5 stars Stand Back to Truly Understand the Painting and its Meaning, March 28, 2014
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This review is from: The Goldfinch (Kindle Edition)
A promising plot, with some interesting characters, and a remarkable painting by a Dutch artist whose life was taken in a tragic bomb explosion back in 1654; all these things are the ingredients of a truly captivating story, if only it was told less tediously, at a slightly faster pace, and with words dispersed more economically.

Starting off well, we get to know the protagonist, a young boy named Theo, and his beloved mother, who like the famous Dutch artist of yore, meets the same unfortunate fate while visiting an art museum on Fifth Avenue.

Fate seems to play a big role in this novel. Or twists of fate, rather. It's almost Dickensian. A modern-day take on poverty-stricken Victorian England. Except it's not about a lack of food and shelter, but of a young boy starving for his lost mother, trying to find his way, and himself after that fateful day at the museum.

There are some glorious passages in this novel, like when Theo spent time with a furniture restorer, the eccentric, elder Hobie, learning his trade. He "restored furniture for Sotheby's, for Christie's, for Tepper, for Doyle." A genteel soul who welcomed the boy to stay at his home. The lessons he taught about furniture restoration were interesting. And the prose used to uplift our imagination makes this book shine, like a freshly polished Chippendale bureau.

Perhaps there's some connection with the practice of restoring furniture and re-building people's lives. Putting together broken furniture legs, like mending lost souls.

In another, short-lived passage, like finding a nugget in a gold field; Theo's mother explains how the Dutch invented the microscope and how even the tiniest things meant something, particularly in paintings, where small insects and a wilted petal in a still life is the "painter giving you a secret message," - that living things don't last, or what's called natures mortes. It's passages like these that are rare in this book and there's a yearning for more like it.

The recurring theme in this book is the element of chance. It's not the painting, 'The Goldfinch' that's so important, but how the fate of its painter, Carel Fabritius, converges with the protagonists mother. How two unforeseen, and unfortunate events took away two living treasures. One from the art world, the other from Theo, a young son.

Carel Fabritius, who happened to be one of Rembrandt's most gifted pupils, was killed in the Delft gunpowder factory explosion, which also destroyed his studio. 'The Goldfinch' painting was one of just a few of his works that survived. Theo's mother, who also died in an explosion, left behind her only son. Perhaps her only artwork and legacy, albeit a living being.

In the years after what Theo's father called 'the big bang,' when Theo was in a drugged-out stupor, or racked with indecision, the story meanders way too long. You just want to skip those parts and move on with the plot. And near the end, the story becomes incredulous as Theo's boyhood Ukrainian-born friend, Boris, manages to extract him from an engagement party to travel across the ocean to another continent without much clue as to why. So, we have to ask, why would Theo just go like that?

The hurried final chapters felt like the author was urgently trying to meet deadline. It just seemed forced and inconsistent with the pace of most of the book.

Throughout the book, there are some surprising gems, like when describing an absent-minded friend as "a planet without an atmosphere," or how the dark pouches under a characters eyes gave him "a genial panda-bear aspect." Metaphors worth highlighting.

If only this book wasn't so long, and at times, meandering. If it's brushstrokes were more refined and meaningful. If this book was as light as 'The Goldfinch' painting itself.

The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World
The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $8.31

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simply Dispelling Misconceptions and Understanding Introversion, December 19, 2013
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Most people will be surprised to learn that introverts are not a minority, that 50 percent of the population are considered introverts - individuals who prefer solitude to large parties; who'd rather read a book than engage in small talk.

'The Introvert's Way' by Sophia Dembling, identifies and explains some characteristics of introverts with personality traits that were once considered disorders requiring psychiatric treatment. Sigmund Freud once declared that introversion was pathological and a form of neurosis. It's these kind of misconceptions that have plagued quiet people for centuries, even today.

With light-hearted prose, and short chapters sprinkled with some humor, the author effectively describes the 'symptoms', like how introverts aren't too interested in socializing or small talk; are deep thinkers with a low threshold for pain and noise and, that "nine out of ten introverts agree: the telephone is the tool of the devil."

An aversion to telephones and answering voice calls, out of the blue, is one trait that many introverts might relate to. Dembling does a good job of explaining why that is, and how she's learned to cope. And thank gosh for the development of text messaging, social media and e-mails, modern-day cures for the flood of dopamine that makes introverts feel overwhelmed and anxious whenever a phone rings.

The book also includes quotes from real introverts and extroverts bemoaning their respective issues and real-world challenges. How is it possible that both an introvert and extrovert could get along, even get married? Dembling explains that it's possible to make compromises, and important to respect each other's space.

The author explains that the theme of her book is to accept that introversion is simply another way of being, that it's up to us to recognize and accept it. To learn to live the way we feel most comfortable and complete.

The book also dispels some common misconceptions. That having a quiet disposition, a tendency to sit in a corner and observe at parties is perfectly fine. And to accept that noisy extroverts are just the way they are, and that some of us can have a mix of both personality traits.

Whether or not you are an introvert, and even if you're concerned about the quiet behavior of your children, 'The Introvert's Way' is an enlightening read.

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All
Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

5.0 out of 5 stars The Power of Creativity is in All of Us, November 28, 2013
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David Kelley, who co-wrote 'Creative Confidence' with his brother Tom, had worked with, and was a close friend of the late Steve Jobs. In the book, we learn that, "Steve had a deep sense of creative confidence. He believed -- he knew -- that you can achieve audacious goals if you have the courage and perseverance to pursue them."

The intention of the book is to dispel the notion that only some of us were born with creativity in our genes, when in fact, we all have the ability to be creative, despite what we might have been told and taught over the years. We can all achieve "audacious goals," just like Steve did, or at least to believe in our own ability to change our world in some way.

It's explained that we came into the world with creativity and fearlessness, but as time passes we encounter others who shake our confidence by saying we're not creative, including schools where we learn to think too constructively -- that there can only be one right answer. So, we unlearn creativity and lose our confidence, fearful of what others might think.

Sir Ken Robinson's TED Talk, "Do Schools Kill Creativity" is mentioned as a must-see and as an example of how traditional education has, well, killed creativity.

The book inspires us with examples of people who were overly analytical: accountants, scientists and lawyers who didn't have a bias toward action. Even companies that suffered from inertia; bogged down with data and decisions by committee. But by unleashing their creativity, they have learned to conjure up and consider a myriad of solutions to problems, no matter how absurd, and to learn by doing.

There's also an emphasis on empathy and human-centered design. How important it is to observe customers and end-users when designing solutions and products instead of burying heads into spreadsheets and dreaming up things we think will work.

The authors share the experiences of many students who've attended their at Stanford University. It's a fast-paced, team-based learning environment where students, young and old, and from diverse backgrounds, are asked to find human-centered solutions. A popular project is figuring out how the experience of a daily train commute from San Francisco to Palo Alto can be improved for passengers, from waiting on the platform to disembarking at their destination.

The book not only focuses on inspiring individuals to build their creative confidence, but also delves into the importance of working in teams and provides case studies where entire companies have embraced creative confidence to improve the experience of workers and customers.

Written in a friendly conversational tone and filled with real human stories and experiences, 'Creative Confidence' was a pleasure to read, and having finished it, I've realized I've highlighted so many passages to read again.

How to Be Social: A Social Media Manifesto
How to Be Social: A Social Media Manifesto
Price: $2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Social Media Etiquette in Short, Witty Chapters, November 22, 2013
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Short, and humorous, 'How to be Social' is a nice intro to social media etiquette.

Although much of it is common sense, like how it's important to have conversations with your followers -- not preach, or to talk in corporate-speak; the messages are conveyed with memorable wit to make points.

In this book with short chapters, the most important takeaway is to be authentic. Tell it like it is, and share things on your social media network things that are meaningful.

The Year Without Pants: and the Future of Work
The Year Without Pants: and the Future of Work
Price: $14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Insight into the New World of Work, November 6, 2013
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Automattic, the company behind, is unconventional in the traditional work sense, particularly since it embraces distributed work, where it's more than 130 employees are located around the globe using Skype and IRC as a means to communicate. Telephones and e-mails, not so much.

The company headquarters in San Francisco is rarely used. You'll be hard 'pressed' to find the company founder, Matt Mullenweg, there. He's often out of town, somewhere around the globe, working from his laptop. And it's this distributed work environment that is largely the focus of the book by former Automattician, Scott Berkun.

During his short tenure at, Mr Berkun led a team of programmers small enough to fit in a car. Together, they created and developed new WordPress tools and features that affected over 50 million websites and blogs.

The 'Year Without Pants' not only covers the pros and cons of remote global working, but also some smart insights into team leadership, project management and productivity.

Scott takes us inside the company, exposing some of it's not-so-secret secrets on how, with just a fraction of the workforce of other internet titans like Facebook, Google and Amazon, it has captured more than 20 percent of the world's web users with its WordPress software.

Despite WordPress' success and impact on the internet, it does have its failings, some of which are addressed in the book. But still, Berkun enlightens us on what could truly be the future of work with some reasoned arguments and great examples.

He questions the tradition of work, explaining that "the responsibility of people in power is to continually eliminate useless traditions and introduce valuable ones." Explaining, in one example, that "Mullenweg went to great lengths to keep support roles, like legal, human resources and even IT, from infringing on the autonomy of creative roles like engineering and design… management is seen as a support role."

It's little gems like this that make the 'Year Without Pants' a worthwhile read, not only for those in technology, but in most other industries as well.

Alex (Verhoeven Trilogy 1)
Alex (Verhoeven Trilogy 1)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Unpredictable, Breathless Thriller, October 14, 2013
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'Alex' is a remarkable, breathless thriller that's surprisingly unpredictable. You're captivated by the story as if you were the kidnap victim; you can't escape being drawn to the well-crafted characters and plot turns.

In the beginning, what looks to be a kidnap-ransom caper, soon becomes something completely different and totally unexpected.

An unlikely commandant, or detective, Camille Verhoeven, is drawn out of self-imposed exile after losing his wife, and into a case not unlike the one that nearly destroyed him. He not only has to unravel the mystery of the kidnapped victim, but also overcome his past failings. In the midst of this drama, we learn about his complicated relationship with his late mother.

The kidnap victim, Alex Prévost, is, like Camille, dealing with an unpleasant past, at the same time trying to stay ahead of her tormentors who not only include the kidnapper, but also menacing, tactical rats, threatening her while curled up in a cage suspended from a ceiling by ropes.

But Alex is not just a kidnap victim. She's more than that, and commandant Camille's job is to find her to untangle a web she's weaved. The detectives job is made a little harder by an ambitious, arrogant investigating magistrate.

'Alex' is the first novel by French author, Pierre Lemaitre, that's been translated into English, and considered one of the best crime novels of the year, and for good reason.

Writing Online: Write Your Dreams to Reality
Writing Online: Write Your Dreams to Reality
Price: $4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Positive, Friendly Guide to Writing Online, October 2, 2013
'Writing Online' serves as a worthwhile guide, not only for people thinking about writing for a living, but also those who have already made it their livelihood.

It's written in a conversational style and friendly tone, true to the authors objective of helping others learn from mistakes Sean has made since starting his writing career.

Chapters are dedicated to tips on using social media, SEO, blogging and also on developing effective work habits.

Sean encourages writers to work on writing faster, and how this is best achieved by writing in your own voice, as if you're talking to a close friend.

While much of what is written is common sense, it bears worth repeating, as Sean does on some key points. He emphasizes the need to be authentic and consistent.

If anyone has any doubts about whether they could ever be a good, or even great writer, those plagued with uncertainty will find 'Writing Online' a good source of positive reinforcement - that anyone can be a writer, and this book is a good starting point for making your way.

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike Book 1)
The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike Book 1)

4.0 out of 5 stars A Captivating, Character-Rich, Whodunit, September 10, 2013
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Ever wondered what it might be like to wear a prosthetic leg? In 'Cuckoo's Calling', you get a real sense of the frustration and the pain of it while the down and out detective, Cormoran Strike, struggles to find the truth behind an apparent super model suicide.

A war veteran, drowning in debt, and facing the real prospect of having to close his sole detective agency is 'saved' by a newly appointed, super-efficient, affable office temp, Robin, whose secret ambition is to become a gumshoe herself, rather than just a coffee and muffin runner.

By sheer luck, the pair get busy after being visited upon by the brother of a troubled model who apparently jumped from her swanky Mayfair apartment to her death. Or so it seems. Maybe she was pushed over the balustrade. The new client wants to discover the real truth which evolves into a captivating whodunit.

What could have been a predictable crime novel, turns out to be complex, sometimes slow, but with an unlikely ending.

'Cuckoo's Calling' is rich with characters who usually get their tans under paparazzi flashes, like models, a fashion designer, rapper and a limo driver-wannabe actor. There's the late super models well-to-do family, and of course a despicable movie producer. All their flaws are laid to bare.

So we know our detective has flaws too, we are a few times reminded of his prosthetic leg. He's not completely put together, this supposed hero. He has weaknesses, just like the rest of us, which makes him relatable. He's not some big swinging dick, or insufferable like some lead characters can be.

Memorable metaphors and figurative language is generously dispensed throughout the book. Some worth re-reading, and they make the story more entertaining. Clearly the work of an experienced writer...

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