Saturday, January 28, 2017

Point of Purchase

The Underground Culinary Tour: How the New Metrics of Today’s Top Restaurants Are Transforming How America Eats – Damian Mogavero and Joseph D’Agnese (Crown Business)

While I didn’t research the hard statistics, anecdotally we know that there is a fairly high failure rate for new businesses and a multitude of reasons at the heart of those failures. We also know that whatever the failure rate for business is, restaurant failure rates are even higher.

As someone who has toyed with the idea of a restaurant and quickly thought better of it, I have always wondered what magic it was that made some succeed where others failed. Damian Mogavero a restaurant point of purchase software developer tries to offer some insight into what separates the winners from the losers in the restaurant game in his new book, The Underground Culinary Tour: How the New Metrics of Today’s Top Restaurants Are Transforming How America Eats.

While the restaurant game was a late adopter when it came to business metrics, Magavero offers up some insight into the impact these kinds of statistics can offer to improve outcomes. While the title implies that there are some much deeper tips and tricks of the trade offered up, but keep in mind this is a business book, not a restaurant book, so don’t expect successful chefs to offer up trade secrets.

The Underground Culinary Tour, had the kernel of a good idea, unfortunately it falls short and ends up reading like a sales pitch for Magavero’s software.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Winter Fiction Wows!

It seems that for me, fiction tends to run hot and cold; I run through streaks where I can’t seem to find anything to catch my attention and then I will hit a spate of books that have me working my way through a whole pile of books all at the same time. The way this winter season is going right now, it seems I have a book I am working through in just about every room in the house!

The Dry: A Novel – Jane Harper (Flatiron Books)

Before launching her career as a fiction writer Jane Harper spent more than a decade as a print journalist in the UK and Australia and it is the land down under that is the setting for Harper’s debut novel The Dry. Set in a small, rural, farming, town, it is a story that like many of its characters comes chalk full of baggage and storylines that crisscross the present with the past.

Kiewarra finds itself in the grip of the worst dry spell in decades and for a town whose main occupations involve some form of farming, tensions are ratcheted up to new highs when three members of a local family turn up dead. Murder/suicide? Certainly has the look and feel of it, but there is so much more to the story than meets the eye.

As the drought taken its toll in the form of bodies or is it all part of an unsolved mystery from the town’s past? Harper does a masterful job of weaving together the storyline that will keep you guessing, searching for answers to the final pages. 

The Girl Before – J P Delaney (Ballantine Books)

What is it about books with the word girl in the title? Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, certainly captured the attention of a lot of readers and later movie goers. Now we can add The Girl Before, to that list and this on serves up a double dose of mystery; not only is a great read, but the author, J P Delaney is a pseudonym for “a bestselling author of fiction under other names.” Hmm, names?!

Whoever is behind this psychological thriller and the nom de plume, has done a fantastic job of weaving the “now” and “then” storylines of women seeking new digs in the face of tragic circumstances. These women are confronted by a far from standard landlord lease questionnaire. More psychological profile, than a list of references from prior landlords. And oh what a landlord! The architect/owner is a mysterious character with an equally mysterious past.

The central character in this story is One Folgate Street, a minimalist architectural masterpiece, living here is supposed to change your life and oh boy does it. This one moves at a blistering pace, so fasten your seatbelt and hang on for the ride. It’s easy to see why Ron Howard was in early on buying the rights for this one for the big screen.

The Dark Room – Jonathan Moore (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

It is somehow satisfying and fitting that the word dark is in the title of Jonathan Moore’s latest outing, The Dark Room. There is an almost noir-like quality to the storyline of blackmail and betrayal that is at the heart of this storyline.
Moore uses a craftsman’s eye to building the story that has a throwback quality interwoven with a thoroughly modern setting. I can easily see Gavin Cain, the homicide detective sporting a wide lapeled suit with a loud necktie straight out of a fifties detective novel.

Moore opens with a casket being exhumed and that quickly becomes a metaphor for someone digging around in the deepest and darkest of long buried secrets trying to get to the bottom of not only blackmail but of the mystery surrounding it.

This one will also have you working hard to avoid paper cuts as you breeze through the pages.

Dying for Christmas – Tammy Cohen (Pegasus Books)

I admit it…I have always had a soft spot for Christmas based fiction. I thought Grisham’s Skipping Christmas was fun and Mary Higgins Clark’s shelf full of Christmas based mysteries were mostly entertaining. So I was predisposed to liking Tammy Cohen’s Dying for Christmas.

But I can’t say that I got exactly what I was looking for in this stocking full of twistedness. This one has more nuts than the proverbial Christmas fruitcake! Jessica Gold is a woman who has an oversized sack full of her own issues. Out to finish up Christmas shopping, Jessica falls prey to a charming stranger while stopping for a coffee break. From there it’s off to the full blown bacchanalia of the twelve days of twisted Christmas.

Cohen slips you a steady, heady dose of discomfort and no joy. There is something about great fiction that makes the reader feel just a little bit uncomfortable and in that Dying for Christmas does its job well. It’s got enough twists and turns that you won’t see it coming until it’s too late.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Encyclopedia Bowie

The Complete David Bowie (Revised and Updated 2016) – Nicholas Pegg (Titan Books)

When you are a die-hard fan, you know the type, the ones with the desire to know everything there is to know about an artist, there is a completest need to know every single detail no matter how minute. If you have ever spent hours combing through liner notes or CD jackets looking for the odd stray fact, then you can probably relate.

If you are that kind of a fan of David Bowie, then can I recommend that you pick up a copy of Nicholas Pegg’s exhaustive, The Complete David Bowie. This revised and updated edition offers an encyclopedic history of everything Bowie. Pegg runs down not only the discography, albums, songs, etc, but also tackles Bowie’s live shows with a set-list from every Bowie show and goes so far as to detail the Thin White Duke’s acting career, his videos, his art and his internet presence.

One of my favorite stories from the book is Bowie’s interactions with Mott the Hoople, a band poised for destruction that Bowie offered a song which they passed on. Facing termination of their record deal, Bowie revisited Mott, got them signed with his manager and offered up All the Young Dudes, and the rest as they say is history.

Topping out at 800 pages(!)The Complete David Bowie, is information overload for any true Bowie fan. This doorstop of a book resists the urge to load up on graphics for such a visual artist, instead relying on detail after detail to tell the Bowie story.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Revelation: Men and Women Are Different!

Own It: The Power of Women at Work – Sallie Krawcheck (Crown Business)

Sallie Krawcheck, the current co-founder and CEO of Ellevest, a self-described “innovative digital investment platform” to help women reach their financial goals, draws on her years of Wall Street experience in high level, high profile positions with the likes of Smith Barney, Merill Lynch Wealth Management and Citigroup to detail a career playbook that helps women to shift the paradigm and changes the rules for workplace success.

In, Own It: The Power of Women at Work, Krawcheck posits the stunning revelation…wait for it…wait for it…that men and women are different! Shocking right? Krawcheck delves a little deeper into this thought process when she gives women permission to be different. Now that may seem a bit silly, but think about it; more often than not for women to advance and move forward in the corporate world they get sold on the idea that in order to succeed women basically have to become men!

Krawcheck makes her case be clearly defining exactly how men and women are different and why that is definitely not a bad thing! She outlines the strengths that women bring to the workplace and how by playing on those strengths and not co-opting themselves, both women and the companies they work for will benefit and grow in the long run.

This might be viewed by some as radically different thinking, but it actually makes perfect sense. Have you ever been in a work environment where cookie cutter thinking is the order of the day? A place where they seem to punch folks out of the same mold, with the same skillsets and the same thinking process? Not much in the way of creativity and innovative thinking going on there.

While Own It is supposed to be directed at women, there are probably more than a handful of men who would benefit from this mold breaking thought process.

Gosnell: Blood on So Many Hands

Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer – Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer (Regnery Publishing)

Abortion is one of those subjects that no matter where you stand, you will NEVER change someone’s point of view. That being said, after reading Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer’s new book, Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer; I don’t care where you stand on the issue, if you don’t comprehend the disgusting, evil actions taken by the psychopath, because you feel the need to always defend abortion at all costs, then you are as sick, vile and disgusting as convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell.

McElhinney and McAleer take on the challenge to convey the details of the filthy conditions at Gosnell’s Lancaster Avenue clinic and the deplorable and clearly illegal conditions of the equipment and treatment rooms that he subjected his patients to in his pursuit of butchering, maiming and murdering these women.

Plenty of Blood to Go Around

There is plenty of blood and blame to go around when it comes to the sickening case of Gosnell and his multitude of victims. There is an almost blind allegiance to abortion that is laced throughout this sickening story. Pro-abortion types provided a protection racket that allowed Gosnell to continue to butcher women and babies for decades after he should have been put to a stop.

As someone who earns a living in healthcare, I have seen firsthand the regulatory nightmare that facilities are subjected to on a regular basis to ensure patient safety is front and center. I am ASTOUNDED at the negligence and outright criminality that McElhinney and McAleer detail in the book where those charged with oversight of these clinics allowed to continue not by error, but clearly by choice! While a minor handful of folks lost their jobs or were forced into early retirement, for the most part they escaped with no consequences.

Pro-abortion types have successfully and speciously labeled abortion as “women’s healthcare” but their silence, their unwillingness to step up and put a stop to Gosnell amounts to the exact opposite of healthcare. From then Governor Tom Ridge, to countless Pennsylvania Department of Health regulators, fellow physicians, and healthcare providers ignored unmistakable violations and malpractice committed by Gosnell and his staff, but chose to look the other way for the sake of the sacrament of abortion.

The book details documented cases where Gosnell’s victims died from sepsis; a horrific, painful way to die highlighted by symptoms that include; high temperature and heart rate, abdominal pain, gasping for breath, organ failure, altered metal state and finally death unless it is treated quickly. Many of Gosnell’s victims were uneducated and poor and wouldn’t seek the quick healthcare needed to prevent this painful death.

Ignored by the Media

Gosnell’s horrific story was largely ignored by the mainstream media because they are complicit in running interference for the pro-abortion crowd; not wanting to tarnish the stellar image they have created out of whole cloth for the likes of the ghouls at Planned Parenthood.

My greatest fear is that Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer, will not get the attention it deserves; even those on the pro-abortion side of this argument should be outraged and demand the all states exert suitable oversight on all abortions providers and that they be held to the letter of the law so we can never again be confronted by the gruesome, horrific details of a butcher the likes of Kermit Gosnell.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Dinner and a Movie

Turner Classic Movies: Movie Night Menus: dinner and Drink Recipes Inspired by the Films We Love – Tenaya Darlington and Andre Darlington (Running Press)

Take thirty classic movies from a variety of genres and pair them with food and drink combos that fit well with the movie’s story lines and you end up with the winning combo that is at the heart of Turner Classic Movies: Movie Night Menus: dinner and Drink Recipes Inspired by the Films We Love, from brother and sister writing duo, Tenaya Darlington and Andre Darlington.

The idea here is not to take food and drinks that were served in the movie per see, but to take inspiration from the film’s time period, setting or theme and create unique dishes and drinks that make a perfect match.

This makes for some interesting gastric concoctions and I think it will make for some equally interesting dinner/screening parties. Take the James Bond classic, Dr. No, with its exotic locales in Jamaica, curvy Bond girl Ursula Andress and the always cool British spy then it only makes sense that the menu features martinis and spicy jerk seasoned shrimp. Now you get the idea.

The movies are as carefully curated as the menus they are paired with including; Casablanca, Giant, Some Like It Hot, Moonstruck, the Big Chill among many classics. This one is a perfect slice of fun and will be a great reference for die hard film fans or those seeking to expand there horizons.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Steve Jones: Life Lived at 11

Lonely Boy: Tales of a Sex Pistol – Steve Jones (DaCapo Press)

The memory is vivid. Cracking the shrink wrap on the bright album cover and the sense that I was somehow doing something illicit as I place the record on the turntable and drop the needle into the grooves and I am met with a sheer, raw, sonic intensity that has seldom been matched. The album was the one and only studio outing by the Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols.

So much had been written and said about these four scraggly British punks that I didn’t know quite what to expect and yet they somehow managed to deliver a sledgehammer musical blow in these short, chainsaw styled songs. Much of the force behind those songs came from the slashing guitar of Steve Jones as he propelled the music forward that matched the vitriol spewed forth by frontman Johnny Rotten (Lydon).

Never before, and not since, had the world of rock ‘n’ roll been so influenced by such a flash in the pan group. The roots, the formation and the ultimate destruction of the Sex Pistols is front and center in Jones’ new biography Lonely Boy: Tales of a Sex Pistol.

Lonely Boy, is everything you’d expect; a rocket propelled journey through Jones’ checkered past from his hardscrabble childhood, his obsessive and varied sexual exploits, his criminal past and the fireball existence of the band that made him famous. To say the Jones has not lead a “normal” life is a radical understatement, his approach to life has an X-Games quality, extreme to the max.

Lonely Boy, is a times confessional, at others profane, it is often laugh out loud funny and on more than one downright sad. There is an unexpected level of emotion and honesty I can’t say I was expecting from Jones. While at times it reads like a jumbled mess, Lonely Boy actually has a relatively coherent and steady chronology as it progresses. While it features everything you’d expect from a rock star bio, it avoids the pitfall of becoming a cliché.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

An Influential Life

Traveling Soul: The Life of Curtis Mayfield – Todd Mayfield and Travis Atria (Chicago Review Press)

Like clockwork, every year the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame announces their list of nominees for a place in their allegedly prestigious confines and each year fans try to make the case why their favorites are deserving of a place in the Cleveland based edifice, with some going away broken-hearted and downright mad.

It is with equal fervency that I argue that there are too many bands and many completely undeserving of a place in the Hall of Fame and that before more can be added, some must be removed. Those that deserve a place should have influence beyond just other bands, but should have a very real impact on society through their music.

The example I use as a yardstick by which all others should be measured is artist, producer, band member, record executive, and social conscience Curtis Mayfield. Mayfield’s son, Todd, details his father’s life story, from a hardscrabble beginning in Chicago’s notorious Cabrini Green housing projects to touring musician, member of the Impressions, songwriter, producer and later artistic voice of the Civil Rights movement in the new bio, Traveling Soul: The Life of Curtis Mayfield.

Traveling Soul, paints an intimate portrait of a multi-talented, yet seemingly introverted man who almost reluctantly embraced his role as a mover and shaker not only in the music community, but in society as a whole. Mayfield was a monster of a talent, influencing artists ranging from Rod Stewart and Steve Winwood to Bruce Springsteen and so many more.

If your world view of Mayfield extents only as far as Superfly and Freddie’s Dead do yourself a favor and dig a little deeper into the wide ranging discography that made up his career. Todd Mayfield offer unique insight and perspective into the life of this very private man, that will surely prove to have Traveling Soul, rank among the best music bios of all time.

Your Wake Up Calls

Wake Up to the Joy of You: 52 Meditations and Practices for a Calmer, Happier Life – Agapi Stassinopoulos (Harmony Books)

If you wander into most decent sized book stores, online bookseller or library you’re likely to be confronted by at least a large shelf, if not an entire section of books that fall into the general category of self-help. At the end of the day that heading is a bit of a misnomer since it is the book you select that walks you through the process of helping you through whatever difficulty it is that you seek to address.

People spend an outsized amount of time, energy and money seeking out answers to their issues. Agapi Stassinopoulos, sister of Arianna Huffington, is one of the more prolific authors in this category and her latest effort is; Wake Up to the Joy of You: 52 Meditations and Practices for a Calmer, Happier Life.

Most of the issues people are confronted with fall into a couple of basic categories; relationships, money childhood, self esteem and self-doubt. We all have a tendency to carry around an immense amount of weight; the stuff we have collected over time that we just quite seem to let go of. Stassinopolous offers some helpful guidance on how to drop some of that baggage and move forward with your life.

Set up in the form of a year’s worth of weekly, specific, meditations that are designed to help you over the hump. Some of these things may not fit what you are looking for help with, but you can generally move through the process at your own pace.