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Don't Be Afraid of the Bullets: An Accidental War Correspondent in Yemen

Laura Kasinof. Skyhorse/Arcade (Perseus, dist.), $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-62872-445-5

This journalism memoir takes a personalized look at the Arab Spring in Yemen, where Kasinof arrived as a 25-year-old aspiring journalist hoping to improve her Arabic. She got far more than she bargained for when protests turned violent in March 2011, prompting her to volunteer her services to the New York Times as a war correspondent. Kasinof initially has an exaggerated sense of her own importance to the larger story, but gradually matures into a respectful witness to history. She captures the spirit of possibility in a conversation with a political activist who notes that the tumult of the Arab Spring "made our nations stronger and our rulers weaker." When the shooting escalates and civil war appears imminent, she decides to stay, pulling the reader into her heady, complicated mix of emotions. Never claiming to be a seasoned journalist, she notes at one point the charge she got from finding out "how reporting works" while chasing a lead. Nonetheless, Kasinof often manages a wryly knowing tone, as when she observes how integral the practice of chewing the narcotic herb qat is to Yemeni political discussions. By the book's end, she is sharper, savvier and a confirmed Yemenophile. Even if the reader doesn't fully grasp the appeal Yemen holds for Kasinof, her passion for the country still makes for a compelling tale. Agent: Markus Hoffman, Regal Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Conscience Economy: How a Mass Movement for Good Is Great for Business

Steven Overman. Bibliomotion, $26.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-6295-6012-0

Following the principle that each generation leaves its own unique stamp on the world, media expert Overman examines the challenges and opportunities which today's young people pose for business. As he explains, this generation believes it can and must make the world better, and expects business and government to do the same. The result, in his opinion, could be a society-wide shift in the direction of authenticity, empowerment, and fairness. Overman looks at the pressing concerns of this historical moment, including threats to privacy and the environment, and the potential for rapid development in genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. He also explores emerging core values, such as transparency and global citizenship. In the new world this book depicts, brands and the feelings they trigger are the best means of securing product loyalty. Overman's definition of an effective brand is perhaps his most valuable contribution. Using this as a benchmark, he explains how to capitalize on essential brand qualities and discover new brand management objectives. This lucid business guide persuasively argues that businesses, like it or not, will have to make fundamental changes in how they operate in the decades to come. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The ReFashion Handbook: Refit, Redesign, Remake for Every Body: Secondhand Style from the Renegade Seamstress

Beth Huntington. C&T/Stash, $24.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-60705-923-3

The author’s blog is devoted to refashioning her lumpy thrift-store finds into more attractive (although by no means trendy) outfits, so it makes sense that her first book showcases 19 of the concepts she’s used in her sewing for herself. A frumpy three-quarter-sleeve T-shirt turns into a cute fitted top, while the Emerald Petals Dress takes a frequently found style (the sleeveless, bulky dress) and reworks it into a stylish cap-sleeve dress. The book uses written instructions and color photographs to show the techniques Huntington uses, which should be helpful for readers who clearly can’t count on finding the exact same clothes that she did. A basic techniques chapter is adequate, covering a few trickier skills such as hemming a pleated skirt. There are gaps—Huntington more than once suggests using a purchased pattern for a portion of the sewing without explaining how to do so—and it’s a little odd that Huntington models all of the projects, but this book is a great inspiration for those who like to make one-of-a-kind garments for women. Full-color photos. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: Thirteen Essential Plants for Human Survival

Katrina Blair. Chelsea Green, $29.95 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-1-60358-516-3

This passionate, quirkily informative book draws alternately on science and deep-ecology spirituality to weigh in with confident practicality on the “it’s-all-good” side of the invasive-plant controversy roiling the botanic community. Blair, who teaches about wild plants internationally, offers detailed advice on the gathering, preparation, and culinary, medicinal, and cosmetic uses of 13 pervasive plants that most gardeners and landscapers love to hate. Be it chickweed, plantain, or dock, Blair seduces readers with thorough descriptions of the harvest, preparation, and nutritive and medicinal value of each plant, together with recipes like knotweed banana crepes, lambsquarter shampoo, and thistle mallow dandelion cooler. A manifesto as well as a how-to guide, the book favors raw and sprouted concoctions and will appeal to vegans and live-food and foraging enthusiasts, as well as permaculturalists and foodies who relate to Blair’s enthusiastic optimism. But the author’s nonchalance about some serious issues, such as harvesting from potentially contaminated soils—eat just a little, judge by taste, use intuition, chlorophyll is protective—seems naïve if not alarming, and may undermine the credibility of this otherwise intriguing and useful book. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Down Size: 12 Truths for Turning Pants-Splitting Frustration into Pants-Fitting Success

Ted Spiker. Penguin/Hudson Street, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-59463-191-7

Spiker’s intimate, hilarious, and sometimes poignant guide to weight loss offers practical advice to anyone who has ever struggled with weight and body image. What makes this book work, where so many diet guides do not, is Spiker’s painfully honest disclosures, from his long list of “top [food] temptations” to his record of weight gain and his “maximum waist size.” Spiker, coauthor of the You series with Michael Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz, doesn’t just describe his own struggles with weight, but offers stories from other people who have struggled with food and have figured out a healthy response. Spiker also calls on professional input from a number of experts, including colleague and friend (and TV celebrity) Oz. Readers looking for the standard diet book fare—recipes, lists of dos and don’ts—won’t find that here. Instead, they’ll find a refreshing and inspiring book with a wide range of suggestions for reframing their lives, including sustaining motivation and concentrating on process instead of goals. Most importantly, Spiker advocates personalized diets over a one-size-fits-all approach. Throughout the book, he gently nudges and encourages readers, winning their trust by sharing personal moments from his own weight-loss story. Agent: David Black, David Black Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Will My Kid Grow Out of It? A Child Psychologist’s Guide to Understanding Worrisome Behavior

Bonny J. Forrest. Chicago Review, $18.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-61374-762-9

Neuropsychologist Forrest draws on her expertise as a clinician in this detailed but awkwardly structured guide aimed at enabling parents to identify issues with their children—whether social, cognitive, or developmental—that require professional help. Part one covers early intervention, providing direction for parents who aren’t sure whether their kids’ “differences” amount to more than just a phase. Part two, which makes up the bulk of the book, addresses common concerns, possible diagnoses, and treatment options. Individual chapters are devoted to such topics as infant mental health, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, OCD, and suicide. In part three, parents will find advice for navigating the often-confusing options available for help. Throughout, Forrest provides numerous case studies drawn from her own practice. Though she also places important data in three appendices—e.g., a year-by-year guide to brain development, with a checklist—this information might have been more accessible if it were integrated into the book. Despite Forrest’s laudable intentions, this combination clinical overview/parenting book does not make a significant addition to an already-crowded market. Agent: Jill Marsal, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency LLC. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Teenagers 101: What a Top Teacher Wishes You Knew About Helping Your Kid Succeed

Rebecca Deurlein. Amacom, $16 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-8144-3465-9

This manual for parents of high school students provides a no-nonsense guide for preparing teens for independence, whether at college or in the workforce. Deurlein is a longtime teacher with two grown children and a doctorate in educational leadership, so she has dealt with this issue from all sides. The breadth of topics covered is impressive, ranging from the basics, like motivation and self-esteem, to concepts that rarely appear in other parenting works, like getting the most from parent-teacher conferences and the importance of dress and manners. Deurlein tackles both ends of the academic spectrum, suggesting that many teens benefit from the “positive peer pressure” and the challenge of an AP course in one chapter and then, in the next, saying straight out that “college isn’t for everyone.” Throughout, she reminds readers that even members of the “everyone-gets-a-trophy” generation must be allowed to stumble, “deal with the consequences,” and learn that, “as much as we want something, we don’t always get it.” Armed with Deurlein’s tips, any parent should be able to give his or her teen something much better than another trophy: the self-reliance and work ethic necessary to take the first few steps into adulthood. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Parenting with a Story: Real-Life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share

Paul Smith. Amacom, $16 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-8144-3357-7

Smith extends the didactic model for corporate motivation that he introduced in Lead with a Story into the realm of parenting, giving doting fathers a collection of over 100 true-life stories to help them give advice to their kids. In general, the anecdotes illustrate such traditional moral values as courage, self-discipline, kindness, and humility. In general, the perspective is middle-class, middle-aged, and, perhaps, unrelatable for today’s children and teens. Current key topics like social media and sexuality, with which older parents may need the most help, are skipped. A few celebrity stories appear, such as one about Larry Bird choosing an agent, but for the most part, these everyday success stories and life lessons blend together blandly when presented in such rapid sequence. The author recommends that parents retell favorite selections in their own words; he even provides a chart at the conclusion to help match the right tales to the right situations. Smith creates a model for parents seeking to steer their kids toward good choices by traditional examples, but for those practicing more modern parenting styles, there’s less of value here. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Mama Gone Geek: Calling on My Inner Science Nerd to Help Navigate the Ups and Downs of Parenthood

Lynn Brunelle. Roost Books/Shambhala, $16.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-61180-151-4

An Emmy Award–winning writer for Bill Nye the Science Guy, Brunelle interweaves stories of raising her two young sons and suggestions for uncomplicated family science projects in this quirky and often hilarious compendium. The book takes readers on an exuberant journey that combines maternal highs and lows with the joys of being a born science “nerd.” The author begins by describing her move with her sons and husband from Seattle to Bainbridge Island where she fruitlessly tried to combat house pests while still remaining “green.” Calamities like lice (giving rise to visions of “medieval paupers”), power outages, and broken arms, and childhood rites like campouts and baseball games, are handled with equal deftness by this science-cum-humor writer, who can convey the awe and wonder of motherhood without sounding corny. Each essay includes a teachable moment (or two) and an activity, such as making a straw oboe, conjuring up homemade “quicksand,” or constructing a lemon-battery-powered clock. A closing piece about jumping on the trampoline with her kids summarizes the author’s bittersweet feelings about watching her boys grow up. Brunelle recreates the magic of everyday family life with a scientist’s keen eye for detail and a parent’s faultless ear for mother-son dialogue. Agent: Joy Tutela, David Black Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Beautiful Eyes: A Father Transformed

Paul Austin. Norton, $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-33779-2

Austin follows up Something for the Pain, his memoir of becoming an ER doctor, with an eloquent account of his experiences raising a child with Down syndrome. It begins in 1987 when he, a third-year resident, and his wife, Sally, a labor and delivery room nurse, receive the news that their newborn daughter, Sarah, has the congenital condition. As Austin watches his wife breast-feed Sarah, and later slips a flower behind his daughter’s ear as she sleeps in his arms, his love for her is unmistakable. He segues seamlessly between scenes of family life and disquisitions on the history and science of Down syndrome, arguing that we are defined by more than our genes. Though Austin doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges he faced, he also shows Sarah as an engaging, sociable child who loved movies, dancing, and drawing. While following her development from birth to age 22, readers also witness Austin’s transformation from a father who once had to “pretend” to be proud, to a man in genuine awe of Sarah’s many gifts. Parents of special-needs kids will find this story particularly inspiring, and its universal message of love and acceptance should speak to a much wider audience. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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