Saturday, December 20, 2014

In My TBR Stack:

Hard Drive: A Family's Fight Against Three Countries
by Mary Todd and Christina Villegas
Morgan James
Trade Paperback

From the publisher's website:

On June 24, 2012, Dr. Shane Truman Todd, a young American engineer, was found hanging in his Singapore apartment, just a week before his scheduled return to the United States. Although Shane had repeatedly expressed apprehension about his work with a Chinese company and fear his life was being threatened, authorities immediately ruled his death a suicide. His family initially didn’t know what to believe. However, upon arriving in Singapore, they realized the evidence suggested not suicide, but murder.

Shane’s family later discovered that what they thought was a computer speaker was actually an external hard drive with thousands of files from Shane’s computer. The information in those files transformed this story from a tragic suicide to an international saga of mystery, deceit, and cover-up, involving three countries. “Hard Drive: A Families Fight against Three Countries” is the captivating story of Shane’s mysterious death and his family’s grueling battle to reveal the truth against powerful forces that have sought to conceal, destroy, or discredit evidence indicating homicide. This story, which is told from the unique perspective of Shane’s mother, Mary, recounts the family’s painful, arduous, and unwavering endeavor to reveal the truth about what happened to Shane Todd in Singapore.

Friday, December 19, 2014

In My TBR Stack:

Who Was Dracula? Bram Stoker's Trail of Blood
by Jim Steinmeyer
Tarcher Penguin
Trade Paperback

From the publisher's website:

The acclaimed author of The Last Greatest Magician in the World sleuths out literature’s iconic vampire, uncovering the source material—from folklore and history, to personas including Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman—behind Bram Stoker’s lord of the undead.

Praise for Who Was Dracula?

“A fantastic, well-documented story.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“[A] well-researched and entertaining take on Dracula’s origin story.” —Publishers Weekly

Who Was Dracula? chronicles the misadventures of Bram Stoker and his numerous friends and colleagues, both famous and obscure, hoping to unearth the recipe for a truly iconic character.” —San Francisco Book Review

Who Was Dracula? is a book you’ll want to sink your teeth into.” —“The Bookworm Sez”

Thursday, December 18, 2014

In My TBR Stack:

Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion - The Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker
by Doug J. Swanson
Viking Books

From the publisher's website:

Benny Binion was many things: a cowboy, a pioneering casino owner, a gangster, a killer, and founder of the hugely successful World Series of Poker.

Blood Aces tells the story of Binion’s crucial role in shaping modern Las Vegas. From a Texas backwater, Binion rose to prominence on a combination of vision, determination, and brutal expediency. His formula was simple: run a good business, cultivate the big boys, kill your enemies, and own the cops.

Through a mix of cold-bloodedness, native intelligence, folksiness, and philanthropy, Binion became one of the most revered figures in the history of gambling, and his showmanship, shrewdness, and violence would come to dominate the Vegas scene.

Veteran journalist Doug J. Swanson uses once-secret government documents and dogged reporting to show how Binion destroyed his rivals and outsmarted his adversaries—including J. Edgar Hoover.

As fast paced as any thriller, Blood Aces tells a story that is unmatched in the annals of American criminal justice, a vital yet untold piece of this country’s history.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On My Radar:

The Write Crowd: Literary Citizenship and the Writing Life
by Lori A. May
Bloomsbury Academic
Trade Paperback

From the publisher's website:

Writing may be a solitary profession, but it is also one that relies on a strong sense of community. The Write Crowd offers practical tips and examples of how writers of all genres and experience levels contribute to the sustainability of the literary community, the success of others, and to their own well-rounded writing life. Through interviews and examples of established writers and community members, readers are encouraged to immerse themselves fully in the literary world and the community-at-large by engaging with literary journals, reading series and public workshops, advocacy and education programs, and more.

In contemporary publishing, the writer is expected to contribute outside of her own writing projects. Editors and publishers hope to see their writers active in the community, and the public benefits from a more personal interaction with authors. Yet the writer must balance time and resources between deadlines, day jobs, and other commitments. The Write Crowd demonstrates how writers may engage with peers and readers, and have a positive effect on the greater community, without sacrificing writing time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

On My Radar:

Fighting Back the Right: Reclaiming America from the Attack on Reason
by David Niose
Palgrave Macmillan

From the publisher's website:

he political scene is changing rapidly in America. The religious right is on the defensive, acceptance of gay rights is at an all-time high, social conservatives are struggling for relevance, and more Americans than ever identify as nonreligious. What does this mean for the country and the future? With these demographic shifts, can truly progressive, reason-based public policy finally gain traction? Or will America continue to carry a reputation as anti-intellectual and plutocratic, eager to cater to large corporate interests but reluctant to provide universal health care to all its citizens? Fighting Back the Right reveals a new alliance in the making, a progressive coalition committed to fighting for rational public policy in America and reversing the damage inflicted by decades of conservative dominance. David Niose, Legal Director of the American Humanist Association (AHA), examines this exciting new dynamic, covering not only the rapidly evolving culture wars but also the twists and turns of American history and politics that led to this point, and why this new alliance could potentially move the country in a direction of sanity, fairness, and human-centered public policy.

Monday, December 15, 2014

On My Radar:

I Hated to Do It: Stories of a Life
by Donald C. Farber
Rosetta Books

From the book publicity:

For over 40 years, Donald C. Farber was Kurt Vonnegut's attorney, literary agent, and close friend. In this deeply felt memoir, Farber offers a rare portrait of Vonnegut that is both candid and entertaining. A renowned entertainment lawyer with a largely famous clientele and a highly acclaimed author in his own right, Farber provides colorful anecdotes that detail the daily realities of working with Vonnegut from the perspective of the person who knew him best. The millions of fans around the world who mourned Vonnegut's passing will treasure this new and intimate portrait of him, not just as an acclaimed author, but also as a witty, eclectic, and brave personality that contributed greatly to our culture.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

In My TBR Stack:

Recovering Agency: Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control
Luna Lindsey
Trade Paperback

From the book website:

Recovering Agency was released on July 22nd, 2014. As the title suggests, this book explains the concepts of mind control from a scientific perspective, and offers evidence of how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints employs these methods to baptize and retain faithful members. For many of these members, this creates lasting detrimental psychological and emotional effects that don’t just go away on their own, even when the member leaves the Church’s sphere of influence.

Luna Lindsey left the LDS Church in 2001 at the age of 26. She then spent years studying many different cults and how thought reform works. She found many parallels between those other high-demand groups and the religion she had been born into. She discovered many myths about brainwashing and that the realities are simultaneously much less dramatic, and yet much more insidious and potentially dangerous in their effects. The presence of mind control is always, by nature, invisible, but no less powerful.

The terms “mind control” and “brainwashing” conjure images from the visual gimmicks and cheap plot devices of movies. Truth serums, hypnotic spirals, and torture techniques  transform an unwilling victim into a mindless zombie? These are entirely fabricated for your entertainment.
In real life, a manipulated subject has to be completely unaware that it is happening. She must be in full cooperation with the process, which goes something like this:

An influencer gains your trust through friendship and promises, perhaps comforting you during a difficult time, and perhaps appealing to your existing ideals. Once you trust him, you’re ready to believe him. You are convinced that everything he says is true and for your own good and for the good of others. Then he has the power to influence all aspects of your life.
That’s when he teaches you a series of beliefs that will keep you from ever wanting to doubt those teachings or leave his group – even if later those promises are broken or the people turn unfriendly or you end up going against your original ideals.

Mind control is a type of persuasion that bypasses mental defenses against new beliefs, followed by:
  • establishment of beliefs to deflect all skepticism and criticism of the doctrine and leaders
  • suppression of critical thinking skills (while maintaining the illusion of logic)
  • isolation of  members from doubt-inducing information
  • the creation of dependency on the group for social and psychological fulfillment
  • the instillment of emotions like fear and guilt to keep members from leaving.
It is key that all the while, members maintain perfect trust in the person or group doing the manipulating.

No one knows when they’re being controlled in this way – that’s entirely the point.

Like “mind control,” the word “cult” is loaded with lots of false notions. Many researchers, myself included, prefer the term, “high-demand group,” because it is more descriptive, even if it is more of a mouthful.

A high-demand group, or cult, instills complete trust in its members and demands an inordinate amount of time, energy, and money, using a totalist and inflexible ideology that permeates most or all aspects of the members’ lives. Such groups are known for isolating members either physically or culturally, suppressing serious questions and flexibility in thought, leaving little room for doubts or dissent, and never allowing criticism of leadership. The goal is for ideological purity and unanimity among all members.

The LDS Church fits this definition. These claims are backed up with research and examples within the pages of Recovering Agency.