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Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

Charles Duhigg. Random House, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9339-4

Journalist Duhigg (The Power of Habit) shares his conversations with productive people in this manual for increasing productivity. From this fieldwork he draws eight commonalities, treated in individual chapters. He places particular emphasis on the importance of individual agency and engagement: according to him, success comes from proactive transformation, as opposed to passive acceptance. The book's major source consists of the interviewees' stories, so it makes sense that the discussion is more narrative than data-driven. Many examples are recent, relevant, and fresh—such as the story of creative triumph that was the development of the hit film Frozen. The narrative can feel like one under-analyzed anecdote after another, but Duhigg's accessible prose comes across as appropriate for the subject matter, since it ensures that his points about behaving proactively can be absorbed quickly and easily. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/12/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Future of Men: Masculinity in the Twenty-First Century

Jack Myers. Inkshares (Ingram, dist.), $25 (344p) ISBN 978-1941758656

Myers (Hooked Up) examines culture, sex, politics, business, and gender in this provocative, well-researched book. He believes "we are in the midst of the greatest societal transformation in the history of humanity: the transformation from male to female dominance." The book traces much current cultural strife to the efforts of men to maintain power in the face of women's advancement. One solution to this impasse? Men need to accept roles that have previously been considered feminine. It will take another generation or two for this shift to be realized, but when it does, Myers writes, both men and women will be the better for it. He predicts that "men won't be the dominant sex in the future, but they won't be subservient either." Myers also reinterprets some familiar statistics, such as the small percentage of female top executives and politicians, in a newly positive light, as showing a trend towards the inevitable female assumption of power. His views will stimulate controversy and conversation. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/12/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Clarity: Ten Proven Strategies to Transform Your Life

Diane Altomare. SelectBooks, $16.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-59079-358-9

Altomare, a life coach, provides a 10-week timetable for a system of self-empowerment centered around processing repressed emotions or traumas. She explains the importance of psychological transference, emotional triggers, and "unconditional love and acceptance" for one's inner child. She encourages forgiving past wrongs in order to get over resentment and abandoning false or outdated beliefs that limit growth and potential. Meditation exercises guide readers to deeply explore their emotions by listening to these feelings' distinct "voices" and taking action to "honor" and "acknowledge" them. This section culminates with instructions on using "positive transference" to harness valuable inner resources. Many lessons are presented through retellings of Altomare's cases, which have included a mother directing misplaced frustrations on her child, a woman plagued by abandonment issues from an absentee father, and another feeling trapped in a toxic marriage to a cheating husband. Altomare also shares her own experience of growing up with an alcoholic family member and being consumed by feelings of inadequacy, fear, and hyper-vigilance, and later of developing a new, positive view of the world. The mission may seem simple—learn to appropriately feel your feelings—but as Altomare shows in her many examples, doing so could be critical for those who feel road-blocked by the past. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/12/2016 | Details & Permalink

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American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers

Nancy Jo Sales. Knopf, $26.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-385-35392-2

This intelligent, history-grounded investigation by journalist Sales (The Bling Ring) finds dismaying evidence that social media has fostered a culture "very hostile" to girls in which sexism, harassment, and cyberbullying have become the "new normal," along with the "constant chore" of tailoring one's image for public consumption and approval. With self-awareness and candor, her interview subjects, ages 13 to 19, clearly articulate the ways in which "social media is a nightmare," a strange "half-reality" that produces self-consciousness, narcissism, image obsession, anxiety, depression, loneliness, drama, and "the overwhelming pressure to be perfect" or at least "to be considered ‘hot.' " Teens value social media as a revolutionary tool for collective action, but Sales finds that across race, class, and region, social media reinforces a sexual double standard; its use reduces communication skills, and its users exhibit continual disrespect for women hand-in-hand with "an almost total erosion of privacy." She deftly analyzes the causes of this phenomenon of self-objectification—among them the "pornification of American life," the hypersexualization of teens, and broader trends towards impulse gratification—as well as its consequences, including rising rates of STDs, self-harm, exploitation, and a deterioration in girls' ability to cultivate relationships, intimacy, and a rich interior life. Solutions will be difficult, but Sales's research demonstrates that parental involvement is key to inoculating girls against the "insidious" effects of online life. Parents, educators, administrators, and the purveyors of social media platforms should all take note of this thoughtful, probing, and urgent work. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 02/12/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Deadbeat Club

Dietrich Kalteis. ECW Press (PGW/Legato, U.S. dist.; Jaguar Book Group, Canadian dist.), $14.95 trade paper (312p) ISBN 978-1-77041-152-4

The alpine town of Whistler, B.C., is famous for its skiing, but British Columbia is also renowned for another kind of dangerous activity: the pot trade. Kalteis (Ride the Lightning) drops readers into the beginnings of a drug war. Four young members of the Indo Army are on their way to take out one of Bumpy Rosco's meth labs when they're killed on a Vancouver street. Up in Whistler, Grey Stevens's life is removed from that world. He inherited his uncle's business, growing high-grade pot, but his dream of the easy life—snowboarding in the winter, biking in the summer, and retiring by his mid-30s—is interrupted by threats from Rosco's gang, who want to control the trade in Whistler. When his friends start getting hurt, Grey has to decide whether to stand down or to fight back and accept the consequences. Kalteis skillfully writes authentic-sounding dialogue. Grey and his love interest, Dara, are likable characters, and Kalteis makes it difficult not to root for the little guys up against ruthless gangs in this fast-paced thrill ride. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 02/12/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Cafe Babanussa

Karen Hill. HarperCollins Canada, $18.99 trade paper (168p) ISBN 978-1-44343-892-6

In Hill's debut novel, to live with a mental illness is to eat ravenously, love deeply, and dress beautifully, all while tiptoeing on the edge of a canyon that can swallow the sufferer at any moment. Ruby Edwards surprises her family by announcing that she is leaving their Toronto home to start a life in Berlin. There she learns more about her identity as a black woman, falls in love with a local named Werner, and assembles a group of close friends. But her new life is disrupted, first when her physical health begins to fail, and then when voices and delusions begin to haunt her. Her mental health deteriorates quickly and she is institutionalized. This pattern—build up a life, fall in love, fall apart, find healing—becomes the framework for Ruby's life. Hill's posthumously published novel is bookended by a foreword by her brother, author Lawrence Hill, and her own essay about her lifelong battle with mental illness. These artifacts tell a tale of a life well lived in the moments between bouts. There are flaws in the writing, but Hill's book will speak deeply to anyone who has lived with a similar mental illness or loved someone who has. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 02/12/2016 | Details & Permalink

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London's Glory: The Lost Cases of Bryant & May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit

Christopher Fowler. PRH/Alibi, $7.99 ebook (238p) ISBN 978-1-101-96887-1

Fans of Fowler's 12 Bryant and May novels (Full Dark House, etc.) will welcome this highly entertaining collection of short stories featuring senior detectives Arthur Bryant and John May of London's Peculiar Crimes Unit. Fowler is a fan of golden-age crime fiction, and it shows. Readers will find homicides occurring in locked rooms, bizarre murder weapons, and even stranger villains. The duo is unabashedly old, but that only means that in addition to creaking knees they have a wealth of knowledge and experience. Many of the selections are set at or around Christmas. In "Bryant and May and the Secret Santa," readers get a sly (and very funny) view of a department store Santa-land. "Bryant and May and the Bells of Westminster" is set in swinging 1969 London, with models in minis and politicians with roving hands. "Bryant & May and the Seven Points" takes readers inside a traveling freak show for some very creepy doings. This is a book for lovers of London, wit, and crimes that stretch the imagination. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/12/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Quarry's Cut

Max Allan Collins. Hard Case Crime, $9.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-78329-889-1

The familiar trope of a killer picking off the inhabitants of a snowbound house gets new life in this reissue of Collins's fourth novel featuring hit man Quarry (after Quarry's Deal). Quarry returns from Vietnam to find his wife in bed with another man. After dropping a car on her lover, he finds himself unemployable. His proficiency at killing interests a middleman known as the Broker, who runs a murder-for-hire operation. After the Broker himself is killed, Quarry uses his list of targets to reimagine the business: Quarry will alert the intended victims of their situation and offer to guard them. That new venture leads him to the Wisconsin home of Jerry Castile, a prominent director of pornographic films who's hoping to shift to more legitimate work, and who's rumored to have directed snuff films. Castile accepts Quarry's offer of protection, but with the crew of his current movie trapped inside by a snowstorm, bodies begin to pile up. Collins maintains knife-edge suspense throughout and tosses in some surprising twists, while again making his stone-cold killer of a protagonist sympathetic. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 02/12/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Other Child

Lucy Atkins. Quercus, $24.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-62365-908-0

Suspicions cloud a new marriage in Atkins's gripping sophomore effort. Tess, an accomplished London photographer and the single mother of a nine-year-old son, Joe, meets Greg Gallo, a pediatric heart surgeon. After a whirlwind romance, they marry and relocate to Boston. When Tess becomes pregnant, she's thrilled, but Greg, who had made it clear that he didn't want children, is perturbed and uninterested in impending fatherhood. Tess begins to be troubled by Joe's difficulty in adjusting to his new locale and by an unfriendly neighbor who's obsessed with Greg. Signs suggest something is amiss, including ominous letters left on her doorstep, which Greg can't explain. Tess fears that Greg is withholding information about his past. Her concerns are amplified when another man, Alex Kingman, claims to know Greg, which he denies with visible discomfort. As Tess's suspicions and fear of Greg grow, she finds it necessary to investigate and discover whether Greg is really who he says he is. Atkins (The Missing One) keeps the suspense high to the startling conclusion. Agent: Judith Murray, Greene & Heaton (U.K.). (Feb.)

Reviewed on 02/12/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Future Is Ours

Ed Hoch, edited by Steve Steinbock. Wildside, $14.95 trade paper (238p) ISBN 978-1-4794-0730-9

Billed as 29 tales of the fantastic, this eclectic collection will surprise readers who know Hoch (1930–2008) only from his hundreds of short mysteries. Hoch holds the record of appearing in every issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine for an astonishing span of 34 years. Steinbock, with the cooperation of Hoch's widow, pored through Hoch's personal archive to ferret out stories from such often overlooked sources as Fantastic Universe, Weird Worlds, Original Science Fiction Stories, The Magazine of Horror, and even Real Western Stories. The selections range in tone from the playful "Zoo" to the dark and suspenseful "Dracula 1944." The latter story examines the work of a vampire in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII. Not every story is a winner, but the percentage is high, and any fan or collector of Hoch material will find a treasure trove in this welcome compilation. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 02/12/2016 | Details & Permalink

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