Friday, May 1, 2020

Freeform Friday: A Mango Publishing Trio

Since all of these books came to us from the incredible Mango Publishing, 
We thought we'd give you a Mango Trio of books to chew on today!  
Below are Mindy & Ashley's reviews for:

The Story Behind: The Extraordinary History
 Behind Ordinary Objects by Emily Prokop

You're Going to Survive by Alexandra Franzen  

The Origins of Names, Words, and Everything in Between 
by Patrick Foote
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Summary: Learn the fascinating history and trivia you never knew about things we use daily from the host of The Story Behind podcast.

Everyday objects and major events in history: Every single thing that surrounds us has a story behind it. Many of us learn the history of humans and the major inventions that shaped our world. But what you may not have learned is the history of objects we surround ourselves with every day. You might not even know how the major events in history (World Wars, ancient civilizations, revolutions, etc.) influenced the inventions of things we use today.

The history and science behind the ordinary: From the creator of The Story Behind podcast comes this revelatory new book. The Story Behind will give insight into everyday objects we don’t think much about when we use them. Topics covered in the podcast will be examined in more detail along with many new fascinating topics. Learn how lollipops got started in Ancient Egypt, how podcasts were invented, and why Comic Sans was created. Learn the torture device origins of certain exercise equipment and the espionage beginnings of certain musical instruments. Ordinary things from science to art, food to sports, customs to fashion, and more are explored.

Readers will:
  • Understand the wonders behind everyday objects
  • Learn truly obscure history and fun facts that will change the way they see the world
  • Learn how major historic events still affect us today through seemingly mundane things
  • Become formidable trivia masters
  • Discover the fascinating story behind everything!

My Review: I feel like I’m in a safe space here and can say that I carry a book wherever I go. I know that there are some people who settle for Kindle books or maybe even prefer them (I have thoughts about this), but I prefer real books to hold in my hand. I almost always have one in my purse, and so obviously if I have one of my larger purses, the size of the book doesn’t matter. However, I do have a few smaller purses and so space is at a premium. I mean, I have to have room for a bajillion random receipts and suckers from the bank for bribes and all kinds of random weird stuff, so that means that I need to have a smaller book. The good news is that The Story Behind is just such a book. It is small and fairly light, so it can fit in even my smallest purses, which is quite delightful. Not bringing a book is just not an option. I don’t want to be caught with only my phone for company.

There were lots of cool things about this book, the least of which is its size. It’s a small size, but it packs quite a punch. First of all, the book is divided into different parts, which are named for different categories such as “At the Office,” “Food,” or “Technology.” Within these different sections there are short chapters that are just a couple pages long that tackle the story behind something, such as bubble wrap (one of my fave chapters—bubble wrap wallpaper, anyone?), the paper bag, lullabies, etc. It’s cool because it takes on normal every day things and gives the history behind them (and even what is happening with them currently) in just a few pages. At the end of the chapter there’s a “Did you know?” that has a fun little bit of trivia, and then to cap it off it has a “TL;DR” (too long, didn’t read) section that summarizes the whole thing. As the chapters are only a few pages long, I didn’t find that I would read those instead of the chapter, but it was a really nice to recap what I had just read.

I think I’ve mentioned that I read several books at a time. I like to have options when I’m reading. I’m not always in the mood for one kind of book, but that doesn’t mean I won’t read. This just means that I’ll pick another book from the several I’m reading and start reading. One thing I really appreciated about The Story Behind is that when I didn’t have a ton of time, or just really needed a palate cleanser or even wanted to think about something else briefly, I could just pick up this little book, read a chapter, and feel enlightened, educated, and not have to commit to anything big. This would be the perfect bathroom ‑book. Everyone can enjoy it—its small, its low commitment, it’s interesting.

Also, it’s well-researched and well-written. The writing is concise and precise, allowing for each section to be jam-packed with info, but Prokop does a great job of making the reading easy and companionable. I can tell she’s a podcaster—I enjoyed the conversational tone and the funny little tidbits she adds in. It doesn’t take away from the actual topic, but gives it context and depth and I really appreciated that.

If you are a listener of Prokop’s podcast, The Story Behind, I think you would really enjoy this. Some of the chapters she’s covered in her podcast, but there are some that she hasn’t. If you are a collector of info and random facts, I think you would really enjoy this book. Finally, if you are looking for a fun gift for readers of any type, or even something for yourself that is easy to read in quick bites, this book is definitely for you.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book is clean. 
_______________________________________________________

Summary: We've all been there...

Smack dab in the middle of a stressful, discouraging day at work.

Your inbox is bursting with urgent demands.  Your presentation flops.  Your proposal gets rejected.  You launch a new project, but nobody seems interested.  Your ego is bruised.  Everything feels overwhelming.

On tough days when you could use a friendly, encouraging voice...open this book.

Inside, you'll find inspiring stories from writers, chefs, lawyers, actors, business leaders, and more, each describing one of the worst moments in their career, how they got through it, and what they learned in the process.

With each story, you'll see that rock-bottom moments can lead to breakthroughs...that not getting your dream job might be a blessing in disguise...that everyone goes through difficult times, and no matter what you're dealing with, you  are never alone.

(Summary from back of book - Image from  - This book was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review)

My Review:  According to the cover, the full title of this book is You're Going to Survive: True stories from people who've endured soul-crushing moments in their careers -- failure, rejection, disappointment, public humiliation -- and how they got through it, and how you will too.  
I've also seen it titled You're Going to Survive: True stories about adversity, rejection, defeat, terrible bosses, online trolls, 1-star Yelp reviews, and other soul-crushing experiences—and how to get through it.  Either way is a bit of a mouthful but both titles really get to the heart of what the book is about -- how to pick yourself up and move on after the world has crapped in your sandwich.

You're Going to Survive is a 297-page pep-talk, composed of personal stories, helpful survival tips, what-to-do-when lists, suggestions, and author commentary.  It's main goal is to help the reader overcome criticism, rejection, failures, and setbacks.  The bulk of the text focuses on how to to push past disappointment, discouragement, and fear, effectively analyze and respond to criticism (hint: keep it calm and classy), how to make the best of a bad situation, and above all and how to just keep giving it your all.  I enjoyed reading the different personal accounts and how each individual learned from their negative experiences. Their stories (even the 'cringey' ones) infused me with a new sense of solidarity optimism, and confidence. 

You're Going to Survive also served as powerful proof that criticism, rejection, and even outright failure can still help you move forward, onward, and upward. It can be the push you need -- the catalyst for the change that will change your life!  While most of the stories shared are about career setbacks, I think the lessons learned are applicable to everyone.  My favorite part of the whole book was in the final chapter -- a survival checklist with a variety of suggestions to help you make it through the tough times and several seriously appealing ideas for if/when your plan Z falls through (because we all need to have a Plan Z).

The author does acknowledge that certain kinds of feedback can be useful and valid, so with that in mind, I'd like to address my one criticism of the book, which is format-related and hopefully constructive.  The layout felt a little scattered from an organizational standpoint -- like a bunch of different inspiring posts sort-of squished together -- and I wasn't always able to discern whether I was reading words from the author or one of her contributors.  If I could offer a possible solution, I think it might have been clearer if there were more of visual contrast between the contributors and the author's text.  Of course, the somewhat confusing format didn't make the author's pep talk less true!

I'd like to leave on high note, so instead, here are some of my favorite encouragements/quotes from the book:
  • Our lives do not always flow along like silken tofu.  Sometimes, challenges arise.  Sometimes, things just seriously suck.          (Great visual and some honest truth.)
  • You can do hard things.             (Yaaaaaaaaasssss! This is my mantra!)
  • Today is not over yet.                 (So keep going!)
  • What I've learned is that when you think the Universe is being so cruel and unfair to you, maybe that's not actually true. Maybe the Universe is taking good care of you,or even protecting you from disaster, or setting you up for another opportunity that's one million times better, and you just don't know it yet.  But soon?  You'll see.
  • The worst experience of your life can become the spark, the fuel, the inspiration for the greatest thing you ever make.
  • No one can steal...joy from you unless you grant them that power.
  • No matter what's happening in your career right now, and no matter what happens next, you're going to make it through this day.  You were built to handle all of the challenges you're currently facing, and more.  You're made of carbon, just like the stars in the galaxy, and oxygen, hydrogen, and sodium, just like the oceans, and you're just as powerful.  You're going to survive.
I just love that last one.  It makes me feel invincible.  

You're Going to Survive is a great way to give your post-rejection perspective a much needed kick in the pants and give you the courage to be yourself.  If you're feeling unmotivated or ready to throw in the towel, like you don't matter or like every thing is falling apart, you might want to give You're Going to Survive a chance to change your mind.

My Rating: 3.25 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Nothing that I can recall. You're all clear.

________________________________________________

Summary:  Have you every wondered if the word "word" named itself?  If you have, then this is the book for you! 

Everything has a name.  But why?  With The Origin of Names, Words, and Everything in Between you can learn the origins of some of the most obscure (and common) terms in the English dictionary.  From toys to animals to planets and more, you'll learn why we call things the way we do.

While author Patrick Foote, of the popular YouTube channel Name Explain, doesn't claim to know everything, he has garnered a wealth of knowledge about language and history over the years and is thrilled to now share it with you in his highly anticipated debut book.  With his uniquely British sense of humor, full of both rare and everyday words and packed with great information, Patrick presents a variety of topics that will intrigue and entertain anyone interested in the origins of the names, words, and everything in between!

The Origin of Names does exactly what it says it does -- it explains the source of names in a fun and easy-to-digest way.  After reading this book, you will:

  • Know exactly how Russia got its name
  • Be able to entertain yourself and your friends with interesting fun facts
  • Discover the origins of the names of planets, animals, countries and much more
(Summary from back of book - Image from amazon.com - This book was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review)

My Review:  Fork.  Fork. FOOOOORRRRRK.  It's a weird word.  Say it enough times and you start to wonder how this bizarre collection of sounds came to me that strange poky thing you use to pick up food.  I accepted The Origins of Names, Words, and Everything in Between for review because, like the author, I've always had a natural curiosity about the evolution of language and word origins.  If you won't be able to sleep tonight without knowing fork's origins, you are probably the kind of person who would enjoy this book.  I won't make you wait though. I'm not that mean. The answer can be found here.  I'll wait while you read it.  

The Origins of Names, Words, and Everything in Between is well-organized and attractive, with a casual, light-hearted voice, and an easy-to-read font. I can't tell you how many books I have received lately with blindingly small font, but it's enough that I heartily appreciate a normal-sized one.  The book is divided into several chapters covering topics that range from landmarks, animal names, historical titles, and abstract nouns, to food, brand names, countries, and more.  Each chapter contains multiple entries, usually only a few paragraphs long, dedicated to explaining the origins of certain words.  

Many of the author's etymological explanations were deeply fascinating and even, on occasion, quite humorous.  While some words simply evolve over time from a specific root word, others come about in delightfully unexpected ways and those entries were the ones I loved reading aloud to my family.  Here are just a few of the things I learned while reading:

  • That Big Ben is not, in fact, a clock tower in England
  • Mt. Everest's real name(s)
  • The surprisingly magical origins of the word bumblebee
  • How Google, Wikipedia, The Big Apple (NYC), the grandfather clock, the bald eagle, and the  sperm whale got their names (and. let's be honest, who hasn't been curious about that last one?)
  • How mayonnaise is connected to one of the greatest wars in Roman history
  • The difference between the Netherlands and Holland (I really needed that clarification)
  • That Nintendo was actually founded in 1889 (can you believe it?!)
  • That the word meme was born before high-speed internet
  • How the word clue links with greek mythology  (It makes perfect sense!)
  • The somewhat risque origins of the words avocado and guacamole (Bwahaha!)

Now lest you think I sing nothing but this book's praises, I do have a gripe (or two).  Sometimes it felt like the author was trying to meet a particular word-per-entry or entry-per-section count.  For example, if the word's origins were straightforward and could be explained in only a few sentences, he'd meander (re: stall) a bit before getting to the point, with the result that a good portion of the entry felt more like filler than essential information.  It didn't happen all the time, but it happened enough times that I noticed.   In addition, I felt a few of the word origins -- those that amounted to no-one-really-knows-but-here-is-my-best-guess conjecture and the-word-bird-derives-from-the-Old-English-word-bird -- were rather pointless and could have been left out of the book entirely to make space for words with more interesting and concrete origins. 

In the afterword, the author mentions that he wrote The Origin of Names, Words, and Everything in Between to help inform, encourage, and inspire curiosity.  I do feel that, with very few exceptions, he achieved that goal.  Personally, I would have preferred a higher amount of more concise entries but, overall, this book supplied me with a variety of interesting historical tidbits, unexpected word origins, and an entirely new (and somewhat life-changing) perspective on guacamole.

My Rating: 3.25 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  Not much to offend. The obvious jokes about Uranus. A few of the word meanings had their origins in human physiology (ahem, the male nether regions), but an adult reader shouldn't have any problems with it.  

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