A Cultural Paradox: Fun in Mathematics by Jeffrey A Zilahy is a great book. It’s unique and it’s very well done. And the title turns out to be true – mathematics actually is fun. Well, at least in this author’s hands. He has an engaging style of writing and a great sense of humour. We have several pages of maths jokes, and a photo of Kurt Gödel, who contributed greatly to removing uncertainty from mathematics, is labelled as ‘Probably a photo of Kurt Gödel’. Even the publication date is given in binary code! Each chapter is a brief conversation on a certain topic, such as pi, probability, statistics, the birthday paradox, the New Kind of Science, various mathematicians, zero and binary numbers. We also look at the mathematics of spaghetti and meet undercover mathematicians such as Art Garfunkel and Brian May.

Many people are at worst scared and at best suspicious of advanced maths and maths theories. This books shows us in a very approachable style what they’re really about and how they’re not actually as awful as they sound. They’re put into a familiar context and explained in ways we can understand. The book is well laid out and the subject matter clearly presented. It makes for a fascinating and educational read. My only complaint, as a European, is that it’s very much slanted to the American market. A Cultural Paradox is quirky, entertaining, well explained and interesting. And it has an index, which is something very non-fiction book should. 11 cheers for the author (that’s three in binary!).

You can download it for free here http://www.free-ebooks.net/ebook/A-Cultural-Paradox-Fun-in-Mathematics

It’s not easy being an indie author. The writing part is fun, but the rest – the platform-building, promoting, marketing and especially the selling – is hard. Sometimes it seems impossible and it’s easy to get discouraged. But we soldier on because we love writing. Indie authors don’t do impossible.

So to celebrate that, I’m organising a blog hop on St Rita’s day, 22nd May. Why then? Well, St Rita is the patron saint of the impossible. She did things that her contemporaries thought were impossible. And so do we, right?

Here’s the graphic to with it. Since St Rita was associated with roses and figs, I went with figs for the background.

Photo by Petr Kratochvil

 

Here’s the deal:
The blog hop takes place on 22nd May 2012. Please offer something free that day with your post which ideally should be about your experiences as an indie author and/or a sample of one your creations. You can either offer something to everyone who visits your blog – a list of writing tips, a free ebook, a bookmark etc – or a bigger prize to just one visitor whose name you’ll pick at random. This freebie/prize must be sent out to the claimants/winner by 29th May. Lay out what your rules are in your post so that readers know what’s going on. Put up the full list of participants on your site so that visitors can hop off to those blogs too. I’ll send the list out on the 21st May.

And here’s the linky:

 

Please join in and spread the word. Blog hops are fun and bring lots of new readers to your blog.

Disclaimer: Each author/blogger is responsible for his/her own contest. I am not and will not be responsible if freebies/prizes are not distributed to the claimants/winner in a timely manner.

Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research and Engagement

by Peter Taylor and Jeremy Szteiter

Just another academic book on research and writing? Absolutely not. There is much this is innovative in this book. It’s also very well constructed, with an outline of the authors’ ten phases of research in the first part; a description of the various tools that will assist with the research in Part 2, and Part 3 presents practical illustrations of their use in a project involving theatre arts undertaken one of the authors. It’s about confidently finding your own voice, fully developing your own ideas and achieving your aspirations in the research that you formulate and write about. Other people’s ideas aren’t necessarily better than your own. They can provide a supporting framework for your own important thinking and investigation.

Another distinguishing feature is the ‘cycles and epicycles’ framework for research. This sounds a little daunting to non-academics like myself, but it really boils down to reflecting and rethinking the ideas you have. Give yourself time to visit and revisit your thoughts. You don’t have to put your head down and charge along. Reflect and develop.

The importance of dialogue is emphasised strongly. You must talk your ideas through and bounce them off other people. It’s also about understanding each other’s points of view. The wider you think around your idea, the more likely you are to identify and develop it clearly. Relationships with peers and instructors and their reactions to what you are doing are all-important too. You have to learn about learn, and think about thinking in order to successfully concentrate on the here and now of your research.

You need to develop creative habits so that you can find your voice and meet the challenge of carrying out and then writing up your research effectively.

It’s a book that you can both work methodically through and dip into and out of afterwards when looking for specific tools to help in your current work.

The authors are Peter Taylor, Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he directs the Graduate Program in Critical and Creative Thinking and the undergraduate Program on Science, Technology and Values, and Jeremy Szteiter is a 2009 graduate of the Critical and Creative Thinking program and now serves as the Program’s Assistant Coordinator.

 

 

 

Published by The Pumping Station

http://thepumpingstation.org

 

Where to buy the book:

http://thepumpingstation.org/books or regular online retailers

It takes an excellent author to maintain a series successfully over four books but this is what R Peter Ubtrent does in this next novel in the absorbing and complex Dark Pilgrim series. And if anything, the quality goes up. The excitement continues with the Restoration now thrown into the broiling mix, working to bring down the Church of the Blessed Prophets which it sees as an “infection”. Lord Comte Mishi continues his rebellion against the tatters of the Imperium. The virus is still having a fiercely negative impact on humanity, as are the Drek and the Ynos. And Ailanthus is still fighting his fate, with an ever dwindling band of loyal supporters. He feels wholly inadequate for the responsibilities he will face as Emperor. All of the main characters reflect on what their status will be within the new order, if and when it finally comes.

This intricately constructed book has at its heart pain and relationships, and often the pain of relationships. There’s torture, both physical and emotional on a shocking scale. Trust too is an issue. It’s described as being nothing but exploitation at one point and this seems true. Alliances are brittle and self-interest is served. The galaxy seems to be wading forward into darker times. The truth concerning the history of the Dark Ages of Human Bondage emerges but as Ailanthus declares sarcastically, “Now that we’ve been enlightened, we all know better.” There seems to be no end to the darkness in sight. There is still a lot more to come in this astounding series.

Visit Peter’s website at ubtrentbooks.com.

Buy the book from Lulu.com here.

This is a fabulous book. It’s fun and a delight to read, yet packed full with sound, healthy advice and some delicious recipes. You couldn’t get a more qualified author. Beth Aldrich is a Certified Health Counsellor, Healthy Lifestyle and Nutrition Expert. She delivers health, nutrition and balanced living fundamentals through keynote addresses, presentations, lectures and as a media spokesperson – and now this wonderful book. She shares her wisdom, experience and knowledge about health and nutrition topics in an entertaining and engaging way. From food coaching, and living a balanced life to, the energetics of food and finding your passion, Beth delivers her message with charm and inspiration. She talks directly to her readers calling us ‘ladies’, ‘girls’, and ‘girlfriends’. It’s like having a conversation with a best friend who also has a wicked sense of humour.

The book offers a systematic and appealing approach to improving your diet. Beth suggests 5 steps to take each week towards improving your diet, and explains why they’re important. There are ten weeks’ worth of such tips and advice. For example, week three is all about cutting down on salt, fat and sugar. Beth does this, not by banning these products completely, which would be an unrealistic and totally impractical demand, but by suggesting healthier types of salt to use and alternative sweeteners. And you’re even encouraged to eat chocolate – a square of dark chocolate a day is positively good for you. Thank heavens for that!

Subsections within the book on food nostalgia, food the author is loving right now and interesting facts crop up about food items. There’s always a conversational tone and we can feel ourselves being gently won over by all this common sense persuasion. Once the advice is all given, we move on to putting the plan into practice.

Occasionally there are a few non-attainable ideals. For example, the author says how she may be tempted to eat a bagel for a quick energy boost, but knows that a plateful of quinoa and vegetables will set her up much better. That isn’t always something that’s feasible, or even desirable. The book is aimed at the American market and there are mentions of ingredients and snacks that Europeans haven’t heard of (granola, Raisinets) and also equipment. I’m still not entirely sure what a Vitamix is other than that it’s a robust bit of machinery!

There are lots of tempting recipes throughout the book but the majority are in the last section. There are still quick explanations, asides such as advice on sitting straight, so it never becomes a dusty recipe collection. There are day plans listing the meals for the day so you don’t even have to think. Personally I find this just a little too much, although in a very nice way, but such meal plans would be ideal for many people and you know you’re getting 24 hours of the best nutrition possible.

By the end of this book you have all the knowledge you need to create the diet that you love and which your body will thank you for. You will certainly be drinking more water, starting the day with a smoothie (I mean, how can resist the thought of a peanut butter chocolate green smoothie for breakfsast!) and avoiding the foods that don’t suit you.

And of course, you don’t have to be a mother to benefit from this book. Beth has target moms since they are the ones most likely to neglect their own diet and health when they are so busy looking after everyone else in the family, and generally have the most work on their plate. That doesn’t always leave space for healthy food there too.

Here’s an interesting non-fiction book. Like the last book I reviewed on this site, it’s aimed principally at the American market but is an extremely interesting read for people in other parts of the world. Every country seems to have had its financial crises lately, so finding out how this author proposes we can cope with such national financial mismanagement is enlightening.

The author is Nicholas L Maze. Born in Flint, Michigan, Nicholas got a  degree in Business Administration at Baker College with a focus in Accounting and Marketing. Since he had a knack for advertising and excelled in maths, it looked like Nicholas would pursue a career in business. Howeve, he had another gift.

A stint with a security organisaion in the summer of 1999 led to a rebirth of his passion for writing. As a child, he had written many stories. During  composition courses at college, Nicholas realized that his gift was still intact and was praised by colleagues and instructors. Soon he was writing more and more. He started by writing poetry and composing songs. It was at this same time that Nicholas began managing a small rap group, which allowed him to hone his writing skills even more. He wrote songs for his rap group and for himself.

In 2004, Nicholas began to write his first published work. To be successful, Nicholas made himself the reader. He put himself in the passenger seat and let his imagination go to work.

As Nicholas was completing his book, he rediscovered his religious faith and also got a second job. Two jobs and attending college full-time forced him to put his writing on hold until he’d obtained his first degree in Marketing. At last he was able to focus on his unfinished work and he completed his book in 2007. He was unable to place it with a publisher and placed his book on the shelf and returned to school. In 2009, a prophecy about his writing gift prompted him tobegin pushing his again. “I instantly thought of my finished work and began sending out query letters. Within two months, I received a publishing deal.” Now, Nicholas is fine-tuning himself for a long, successful career as an author – his first love.

Exit: How to Leave Debt Forever

What 12+ years of schooling never provided is located within this amazing literature. From basic instructions on saving to the reason for America’s current financial dilemma, we receive great advice in the world of finance. People across the globe are crying for relief that will never come. In Exit, we learn that financial strain is planned and orchestrated. The more America suffers financially, the more successful certain individuals become. How do we eliminate a problem that has been in place for almost 100 years? We first learn how to exit, escape.

Excerpt:

Introduction: Mental Restraint

As I was driving down the street one day, I became conscious of the world’s condition. Contrary to what you would think, it wasn’t the abandon houses I drove by; it wasn’t the cracked pavement, or homeless people that seem to be in unison. It was the children. God gave me the understanding that a child is nothing but an adult that is trapped.  In their minds, they live in an orchestrated fantasy world. Their world is orchestrated by other children that have aged over time and learned to be adults. The older children (adults) determine what the younger children wear, eat, and drink. And for the most part, a child is okay with the control. For most children, it is all they know. They live in a mental fantasy world, because their knowledge is limited. Limited knowledge brings forth the purpose of school. A school should strengthen a child’s mind, because one day that child will have control of other children and he/she should be mentally prepared and able to take on that task. This is what separates a child from an adult, knowledge. And, this is also what hinders are society…knowledge.

Knowledge is the key ingredient in this book. My main goal is to educate many and erase the “get rich quick” mentality. The term get rich quick was created for those that lacked knowledge, because they knew that without intelligence, an individual would fall for anything. Getting rich quick is a scheme. And, if I sell you a book that is nothing but a scheme, I have not only cheated you out your money, but I have also helped you go deeper in debt.

 

Where to find Nicholas:
Website
.

Email.

Where to buy Exit:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

iTunes

LuLu

This book is aimed at the American market, which came as a disappointment to me, here in Europe. It’s very much aimed at getting your teen a place at college. I had misinterpreted the inclusion of www.securityfirstassociates.com on the cover, assuming it would be more personal safety related while online. Security is touched on, and well, but the main emphasis is on building a desirable and easily marketable profile on the various social media platforms – on successful social networking and media strategies.

To remove kids from social media culture would do more harm than good, the author says, so it’s all about learning to handle them. You need to have a specific goal in mind – people with goals achieve far more than people without. And also, knowing what you want to achieve from your platform will help you get there quicker.

There are five chapters in the book.

1. Do you have a marketing and sales mindset: Getting into college these days requires this, at least in the States. Colleges use social marketing to reach out to students, so it makes sense that they use them to create good profiles that the colleges can look up.

2. Have a presence on the Big 3. These areFacebook, YouTube and Twitter. Others are Buzznet, LinkedIn, MySpace, Bebo, Delicious, Flickr, StumbleUpon. Your teens should have as clean a profile as possible. Get them to tidy up their account so colleges don’t see silly stuff. These seems rather severe but I guess it’s common sense. There are companies that can help you or your teen do this.

3. Character counts: this is all about how to show a good character on these sites. Your son or daughter needs to create an impressive personality online. How realistic, though, is a profile with inspiring quotes, family photos and career interest chats for a teen?

4. Don’t wait until senior year: The message of this chapter is on how to build up a profile in plenty of time. Scholarships are very important and must be applied for well in advance. There are hints on how to increase your chances of getting one.

5. Novice’s social networking cheat sheet: this includes such things as list of a keywords your teen should use on the sites, and what accounts to open where. There are also 8 tips regarding things like passwords, privacy settings, friending, groups inc list of hastags to use on Twitter, videos, keywords, sharing, content and conversation.

I have to confess that it all seemed a little over the top on the first read through. I’m not in the American system so I don’t know what it’s like. If it really is as competitive as this book would suggest then I’m glad I’m in France! However, on rereading the book, and especially as my daughter is currently trying to find holiday work, I could see the benefit of her creating, say, a LinkedIn page that she could direct prospective employees to. I know she wouldn’t go as far as a video message, but for outgoing teens, then I suppose that would be a good idea.

So, all in all, a book with sound ideas for a very particular population segment. It seems a shame that teens are having to market themselves from such a young age, but if needs must, well, they might at least do it well and this book will help them achieve that goal.

So … no Kindle Fire in France yet, the rumours were false, but we do now have the Kindle Touch at €129 and the Kindle Touch 3G at €189. Until yesterday, we just had the Kindle 4 at €99.

Amazon has always been tight-lipped about how many Kindles it’s sold in any country, but I can only imagine that sales have been good enough in France to justify introducing the new models.

There are now 54,000 Kindle books in French. We lucky expats also have access to the zillions in English that are out there, although we may have to pay slightly more than on Amazon.com or .co.uk, which as you may recall, I have often grumbled about.

From the Amazon website

The French Kindle store is shaping up nicely. There’s a good range of étuis (cases) and housses (covers). Gelaskins have made an appearance too. I think these are fabulous and make a Kindle look very cool. However, I think they’re a bit cheeky shoving lampes à lecture in the Kindle shop, especially as they’re of a rather clunky design. They go better with ordinary books. The covers with built-in lights would be the best thing for Kindles, although they tend to be pricy.

Anyway, the signs are good that France is embracing the Kindle so with any luck there’ll be even more models to choose from soon, and more books to read on them.

 

pic from Amazon.com

There are rumours going around that the Kindle Fire will be on sale in France from this Tuesday, 27th March. Amazon has apparently been sending out invitations to various publishers about a mystery event on that day. Presently only the Kindle 4 is on sale in France, so it’s about time we had more choice! Kindle Fire has been doing very well abroad, with sales of 4.7 million since its launch on 14 November 2011. It’s a good little machine for $199 for those people who are looking for a colour ereader along the lines of an iPad.

However, sceptics say that the necessary French infrastructure isn’t there yet in the form of adequate MP3 and video content, and a thriving market in apps. They also point out that the Kindle Fire sells at a loss with Amazon recouping its costs through the content sales – which aren’t there at the moment.

Who’s right? Well, we don’t have long to wait. But one thing’s sure – Amazon will be announcing something important in France on Tuesday. I’ll be listening!

I’m delighted to be featuring the very enjoyable Helens of Troy by Janine McCaw today as part of the author’s virtual book tour (with Virtual Book Tour Café).

First up, a quick synopsis. Helens of Troy is a quirky, well written and very original paranormal novel. There are three Helens – daughter Ellie, mum Helen and grandmother Helena. Goth teenager Ellie has a busy first day when she moves to the small town of Troy. She has a row with Helen, meets a hunky boy and then finds a corpse on Helena’s porch.

Helen is also having a tough time. She knows that her daughter is having vision-like dreams, since she’s had them too. But she’s not telling anyone. And also, like her daughter, she’s been attracted to dangerous men.

And there’s Gaspar Bonvillaine to deal with too. He’s a teen vampire and catches Ellie. Should he kill her or keep her with him forever?

To overcome the threats around them, Helen must recognise and use the gifts she has. Helena must learn to be there for her family. And Ellie must make a choice. Is she ready to grow up and become another in the line of the Helens of Troy?

 

I interviewed Janine to find out more about her and her writing.

 1.            What inspired you to write Helens of Troy?

The title came to me first. The original Helen of Troy we all know popped into my head, and I thought…what if there are more of them…and what if they have supernatural powers. Three Helens, living in a town called Troy.

2.            Which character from the book are you most like – Helena, Helen or Ellie? Or Gaspar the vampire?

(Laughing) … I think at some point in my life I have been Helen and Ellie and I’m working my way towards Helena…never a Gaspar. At least not in this life.

3.            Helens of Troy has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?

I had their house in my head, and luckily a friend mentioned that another acquaintance lived in a house that fit what I was looking for. A few emails later and I got the go-ahead to shoot his home, so I grabbed my camera and shot it on a snowy day. My brother Tom Photoshop’ed the third floor and did some artificial landscaping, and voila, the LaRose home came to life. We played with some fonts for the title, and I found the talent on Shutterstock. It was a godsend to find a Goth-Chic with a bear in her arms.

4.            Deep down, would you like to have supernatural powers?

Wadda ya mean would I like? (smile). Yes, of course. But it’s probably just as well that I don’t. From time to time I do have premonitions, and I do believe that I have seen ghosts. But I have no control over any of this. I wouldn’t want to be able to read people’s minds, that would just be too disturbing, but I wouldn’t mind a little super-human physical strength from time to time.

5.            How many more books will there be in the series?

There are at least two more books in the series. Helena thinks she’s having a quiet Thanksgiving dinner alone with her girls, but we know that’s not going to happen. And they’re headed off to England for Christmas to meet Helena’s mother, Elaine.

6.            I love hearing from the characters themselves on the website  http://www.helens-of-troy.com/! Do they get many emails from fans?

Yes. Teenagers chat with Ellie and the rest of the world chats with Helena. Helen is a bit pissed-off about this, but she’s busy looking for a job anyway and doesn’t have a whole lot of time to respond. However, there was one mom who wanted some advice about dealing with a daughter who was going through a Goth phase…

7.            Another book you’ve written is Olivia’s Mine. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Olivia’s Mine is based on a true story. In the early 1920’s, there were a series of disasters in the tiny mining community of Britannia Beach, BC. There were fires, and floods and the flu epidemic, but one night, the side of the mountain came down, killing hundreds as the town washed out into the sea. I spun a story around those events, and I’m quite pleased that the BC Museum of Mining carries the book in its gift shop.

8.            Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?

I have to confess that I am a big fan of Janet Evanovitch’s Stephanie Plum series. I also recently read Liisa Ladoucer’s “Encyclopedia Gothica”, partly as research for the next instalment of the Helens. I also like biographies.

9.            How has your background in film and television influenced your writing?

I write the dialogue first. That part of my writing comes from writing scripts. The narrative is harder for me, because of course, in scripts, it’s rather simple. Helena’s bedroom. Day. In my opinion, the dialogue in “Supernatural” is some of the best on TV, and I strived for that type of talk back and forth between the characters.

10.          When did you first realise you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?

When I was ten and reading Nancy Drew. I started my own mystery series with a little dime-store notebook. It lasted one book. I wasn’t big on follow-through when I was ten.

 11.         What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Someone said to me, “What makes you think you can write a book?” And I said “What makes you think I can’t?” If you want to do it, do it. The sense of accomplishment is amazing.

12.          What’s the best thing and the worst thing about self-publishing, in your experience?

The best thing is you get the job done. It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg like it used to. The worst part is getting the word out. Not that I think authors that go the traditional route have any easier of a time with publicity. There is no right or wrong way to do it anymore. The work will stand on its own feet. Know your audience and target them. Give them a good story and hope they come back for more.

13.        Enough of the serious questions. What are your three favourite foods?

1. Spaghetti. I can wolf down a bucket of it in one sitting. 2. Fresh Florida cantaloupe. I can smell it a mile away.  3. Celery. Go figure.

14.          What do you like to do for fun?

I like to grab my camera and head out and see where the day takes me. Luckily my husband is a big planner, and I get to just go along for the ride. I have a permanently packed get-away bag, so we can be spontaneous. A couple of years ago we rented an RV and drove to Alaska. It was the trip of a lifetime.

 

Thanks Janine! Do treat  yourself to this fabulous book. You can get it from Smashwords here and from Amazon here. It’s very reasonably priced at $2.99 and you’ll definitely enjoy it.