Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Rickles’ Letters: A Memoir by Don Rickles

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Rickles' LettersVery good memoir by one of the favorite comedians from back in the 50’s thru 80’s. I never realized how many movies that Don Rickles was in during his career. Also tons of television shows (he even had his own show for several years).

Suppose it was easy for him to get work after he got started because he became friends with all of the top names in the entertainment industry during those days. Some folks were not always happy with him because his type of humor usually picked on or made fun of someone in the audience. But I suppose if you realized it was all being done in good fun it was alright.

Although Don’s mother, Etta, always believed in him and would tell everyone that he was going to be a great entertainer some day, he had a very slow start and wasn’t accepted very quickly.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Reviewed by Allen Hott

UnbrokenThis is quite a story about an Olympic runner from the U.S. team In the Berlin Olympics of 1936. Although he didn’t win the race (he finished 8th) but he ran the fastest final lap not only in the race but of anyone in distance running in the Olympics. His time of 56 seconds was so astounding that Adolf Hitler made a point to meet and congratulate him at the race’s end.

The runner was Louis Silvie Zamperini, son of Italian parents who moved the family to California where they basically lived in severe poverty in the late 20s and early 30s. Louie led a slightly tough young life as he was basically a wild young man. At an early age he was drinking, smoking, and actually living like a bandit in that he would steal food especially as he was always hungry. He always felt that he could fend for himself in all areas. He was lucky in that his older brother, Pete, who was almost a direct opposite type of boy, took very good care of Louie. There were also two younger sisters in the family who helped to somewhat control Louie.

Bound by My Choices: How a Death Nearly Broke Me But the Navy Saved Me by Keshawn A. Spence

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Bound by My ChoicesThis illustrated memoir is a modern fairy tale of how a troubled young boy managed to overcome the many obstacles thrown his way and how he continues to do so as an adult. Keshawn A. Spence claims that he is bound by his choices, but as his story unfolds, the opposite message seems to emerge, one of freedom and possibilities.

Bound by My Choices is mostly rooted in the childhood of the author, focusing on the influence of the external factors over his life. The book debuts with a series of photos immortalizing some of the most important events throughout his life, but also some that are precious precisely because they mirror the nakedness of real life. So, ever since the beginning, the intention of the author to create an intimate bond with the reader on his journey of self-discovery is quite clear.

The Journey from Poor Procrastinator to Invested Millennial by Jeremy Kho

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

The Journey From Poor Procrastinator to Invested MillenIf you are looking to learn how to achieve financial independence, Jeremy Kho has prepared a book just for you. The Journey from Poor Procrastinator to Invested Millennial will teach you the basics regarding how you should manage your finances and make you curious to learn more. However, the book is not limited to this topic, it can also just help motivate you to overcome your general state of procrastination.

Don’t be scared that the information presented will be too technical for you, it is far from that. With a friendly tone, Jeremy Kho takes you on a journey of self-discovery. He uses a lot of colorful examples to make the economics part more accessible. There are plenty of stories with realistic characters throughout the book containing noteworthy morals. You might even recognize yourself in one or more of these.

The Other Path: Illuminating the Path toward Reduced Volatility while Achieving Equity-Type Returns by Robert J. Klosterman CFP

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

The Other PathIn The Other Path, Robert J. Klosterman’s follow-up to The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the author once again offers his astute financial and investment advice. The book’s subtitle, “Illuminating the Path Toward Volatility While Achieving Equity-Type Returns,” is apt, as that is just what Klosterman advocates that investors do to achieve optimal monetary gains with their investment portfolios. Klosterman gets his title from Robert Frost’s famous poem, “The Road Not Taken,” which he quotes at the beginning of The Other Path, a highly interesting book that offers investors insights into a different sort of investment approach than they might be used to, though a very effective one that is designed to aid investors to earn equity-type returns while reducing the volatility that many other investors experience who only try more traditional approaches when it comes to planning their portfolios.

Klosterman’s book, The Other Path, is relatively short, coming in at just 60 pages, not counting the Appendices at the conclusion of it, but his approach to investing which he details in it is one which is very informative. The book is sure to interest and be beneficial to anyone who would like to lower his/her investment risks while maximizing his/her potential monetary returns.

The very title of Klosterman’s book, The Other Path, alludes to an investment strategy, or road, that most people have traditionally followed, which is investing their money entirely in stocks, bonds and cash. Such an approach is a tried-and-true one that has proven beneficial to many investors, but it has also proven to be a sometimes volatile path for others. Investing in stocks, bonds and cash, Klosterman argues, is an important part of an overall investment strategy, though there are other opportunities for diversifying one’s investments and reducing the volatility many portfolios unfortunately undergo, a volatility which can cause the monetary value of one’s portfolio to experience a disastrous nosedive.

Still, the main leg of the milk stool, that is, investing in stocks, bonds and cash, is a vital component in a wise investment strategy, according to Klosterman’s assessment in The Other Path. He calls it the core leg of a metaphorical three-legged milk stool, with each leg in the metaphor referring to a different but complimentary strategy when it comes to investing. If an investor diversifies his/her portfolio and does not solely focus on the main leg of stocks, bonds and cash, but also invests his/her money in nontraditional ways, Klosterman argues, using a series of useful and informative charts and graphs, that one’s portfolio is much less liable to experience a disastrous financial loss and the volatility of one’s portfolio will be reduced.

The second of the three legs of the milk stool is “Diversifiers,” and the third leg is “Absolute Returns.” Klosterman argues that “Diversifiers,” or alternative or nontraditional Investments, help reduce the volatility of an overall investment portfolio. Some examples that the author gives of nontraditional investments include real estate, private equity, “developed and emerging international equities,” distressed debt, and managed futures. These sorts of nontraditional investments can reduce volatility by either having a “very low correlation with traditional markets,” as Klosterman writes, or by delivering “consistent returns year after year, with little or no volatility.”

The third leg of the milk stool, “Absolute Returns,” is also the name of Chapter Four of The Other Path. Absolute returns are investments, according to Klosterman, which “demonstrate the same qualities of a bond with the assurance of return of principle and consistent payment of interest.” The author writes that they are similar to ten-year treasury bonds but “they are not backed by the full faith and credit of the United States.” Despite this, Klosterman states that aspect of absolute return vehicles can be considered to be an advantage. That is because strategies involving absolute return vehicles, as the author writes, “can invest in sound ideas and not have to fit restrictions that other institutions have.”

One example is investing in companies that lend money to small businesses and house flippers. These companies can work fast and close loans faster than banks. These companies have the ability to provide quick access to loans for money to people like real estate developers or house flippers, in comparison to banks.

In The Other Path, author Robert J. Klosterman writes about a no-nonsense approach to nontraditional investing and how it can benefit one’s investment portfolio and help reduce volatility. The book also examines and identifies “trouble signs” besides volatility when planning one’s portfolio, like groupthink, market disruptions and inflation. While Klosterman recommends that investors follow the advice of professionals who are experts in planning investment portfolios and have proven track records over at least a decade, The Other Path is an interesting and insightful look at adding nontraditional investments to an individual’s portfolio. Whether investors want and like to plan their investment strategies on their own, or with the advice of professionals, The Other Path is an eye-opening Must Read designed to inform investors of types of alternative investments that can balance out their portfolios and reduce the negative effects of market volatility. It is a book I would highly recommend to anyone who has ever considered expanding their investment portfolios and adding nontraditional investments to them.

The Dot on the Left: Life Lessons on Moving from Below Average to Ahead of the Curve by Dave Swanson

Reviewed by Ray Palen

The Dot on the LeftWhen readers turn to a self-help book they are looking for something new and different. There have been thousands of books written about overcoming adversity, striving to improve yourself, finding strength from within, etc… The question when promoting these self-help books is not only how to market them but finding something unique that no one else has written previously.

Dave Swanson’s self-help/inspirational book entitled THE DOT ON THE LEFT: Life Lessons on Moving from Below Average to Ahead of the Curve is not as much another primer or how-to book. Rather, Swanson simply tells his own story and how he overcame adversity, negativity and labels others wished to place upon him and instead listened only to his inner feelings as he pushed himself to succeed at every goal he set for himself.

This is a great start, but to really grab readers and keep them engaged you also need to have some credibility beyond just a good story. Swanson has that in droves. In addition to being a published author he is also a motivational speaker and former U.S. Army infantry platoon leader. He knows about real adversity as he survived over 100 firefights while deployed to Sadr City, Iraq. There’s an old adage that states ‘there are no atheists in fox-holes’! Well, to survive the type of warfare this man was faced with required much more than faith alone. Dave Swanson sounds like the type of person I want to listen to when he has something to say.

Understanding the Patterns of Your Life: Take Charge of Your Destiny by George Pan Kouloukis

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Understanding the Patterns of Your LifeDo the events in your daily life follow patterns? It is usually easy to find math patterns. What about nature? Is there a pattern in examining pine cone? The mathematician Fibonacci certainly saw that pattern. Are there other patterns?

Are there good years and bad ones or is that just a balance of life? Obviously, not every second of each day is good or bad, but what about the overall year? Of course, every day is not typically all good or bad.

Think about the major shifts you have experienced. Examine your health issues, your money situations, your career ups and downs, and your love life. Do any patterns appear? When you analyze your results in chronological order, surprisingly you are likely to see a pattern. Could this help each of us begin to predict our own futures? Would it help each of us with our family, relationships, career, or life issues in general?

George Kouloukis analyzed the lives of twenty-two well-known people who lived in the last five-hundred years, a few still living today. He quickly found the not many ordinary people chronicle and publish their lives. Due to this, he chose famous people in various parts of the world with different careers who experience their own good and bad years. He studied the lives of Ludwig van Beethoven, Giusepppe Verdi, Pablo Picasso, Mikhail Gorbachev, The Dalai Lama, Margaret Thatcher, Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Christopher Columbus, Queen Elizabeth I, Napoleon, Victor Hugo, Winston Churchill, Aristotle Onassis, Nelson Mandela, Maria Callas, Sarah Bernhardt, Napoleon’s wife – Josephine, King Henry VIII, Jimmy Carter, and John Glenn.

Surprisingly, the author, George Kouloukis discovered a pattern in their lives, a sixteen-seventeen year cycle. The short biographies of these famous people help every reader to properly assess the good and bad seasons for each individual. Naturally, not everything is good in the good season and bad in the bad, but the major overall events are the focus. The author examined the health, wealth, their positions or careers and love.

Kouloukis researched other findings of patterns identified by other researchers. The Universe by Time-Life Books explained how the magnetic poles of the sun alternate every eleven years. Strangely, this pattern seemed to have little to no relevance to human behavior. Another consideration was The Seasons of a Man’s Life by Daniel J. Levison explained the four seasons of every life with each lasting round twenty to twenty-two years. Again, George Kouloukis found no normal correlation with his life or those he studied. These resources appealed to Kouloukis but seemed slightly flawed.

Lacking few biographies of ordinary people or regular people, he began to study these famous people throughout the world, varying the time periods, the gender, the situations, and delving into their personal lives focusing on their wealth, health, love, and successful or failed careers.

He discovered the patterns through these people and allows you to examine your own life to discover the season you are now experiencing so that the author’s realizations can assist you with your life in the future.

Reading the book, Understanding the Patterns of Your Life allows you to learn to examine your own life to allow you to make choices for yourself. George Pan Kouloukis has opened his wisdom to read your own personal crystal ball.

A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic by Peter Wadhams

Reviewed by Teri Davis

A Farewelll to IceHow would you explain climate change to someone who does not believe it is a reality? How could you prove to anyone of the rising temperatures of the ocean or the melting of the Arctic?
Would they believe someone who has been a polar researcher for forty-seven years and is considered an expert scientist?

Peter Wadhams, who wrote this readable scientific data-driven report for the non-scientist, A Farewell to Ice, is one person no one could disagree with the disappearance of the polar ice.
Wadhams is one of the few people who truly understands the changes since 1970, he has documented the tremendous changes of the Arctic region as a polar researcher. His descriptions, evidence, pictures, and graphs tell a story of their own that is and should be frightening to every creature on this planet.

The Day Momma Made Me Dance by Patrice Brown

Reviewed by Veronica Alvarado

The Day Momma Made Me DanceAs any parent will attest, deciding how best to properly discipline a child is far from easy. It is truly a daily struggle and requires a careful mix of patience, sternness, and most importantly, love. In her new picture book, entitled The Day Momma Made Me Dance, author Patrice Shavone Brown offers her own perspective on the correct way to discipline one’s children.

Brown comes to this book with years of perspective and first-hand insight. A self-described visionary, motivational speaker, and go getter, Brown is also the single mother of two children. Immediately from the dedication, she positions her underlying viewpoint for the project: “A mother is strong when her children are weak, a mother stands when everyone else sits, and a mother loves unconditionally from the beginning of birth to the end.” This philosophy of tough love resounds throughout the book.

Corn, Cotton and Chocolate: How the Maya Changed the World by James O’Kon PE

Reviewed by Ray Palen

Corn, Cotton and ChocolateNo civilization in the history of our planet existed longer than the ancient Mayans. The historic period that they were at the forefront of lasted for 3500 years. This is an unheard of figure and, arguably, one which will never be beat. This civilization reigned from roughly 2500 B.C. to 900 A.D. However, most of what they achieved went all but unnoticed. There was no written or oral news to traverse the globe to describe their exploits and the impact they had on the planet and the rest of mankind. In essence, they were the ‘phantoms of history’.

CORN, COTTON AND CHOCOLATE: HOW THE MAYA CHANGED THE WORLD looks like a textbook, something you might have to purchase for your Social Studies class. It could also be a highly quoted text to aid in your term paper or thesis research. Sounds like some pretty dry stuff, huh? I am happy to say that in the hands of author James O’Kon, this eye-opening work was never short on surprises and could gladly hold the interest of any intelligent person seeking to learn more about perhaps the most influential civilization of all-time.

Rather than a straight chapter by chapter review I thought I would make things more interesting.

10 Things The World Can Thank The Mayans For

1. The Mayans were Cosmic Philosophers. They always considered themselves sky watchers and this need to understand the universe above and around us made them the earliest known astronomers. They were able to gain an uncanny knowledge of the harmonious composition of the cosmos. Yes, well before Carl Sagan!

2. They were the greatest agronomists in word history. They made famous the term cultivar. Not just an assemblage of plants or flowers but a natural process honed through careful cultivation. They can thank Columbus for spreading the word around his global journeys about the original ‘flower power’ people.

3. The invention of the number zero. This is nothing to laugh at (no pun intended). Mathematicians have proclaimed that one of the singular accomplishments of the human era, and the greatest intellectual feat of the Maya, was the number zero. This was a culture that was so introspective and intelligent that they were actually able to grasp the concept of something having no value — but still making it the starting point for numerical sequences!

4. Maize. Long thought to be a Native American find, Maize or as we more commonly refer to it — corn — was brought about due to sophisticated cultivation of high yielding grain. Some have called it the Maya’s greatest invention. They were eons ahead of the trend of genetic manipulation in creating food products — particularly, one in which people today cannot go to the movies without enjoying the ‘hot air-popped’ version of Maize.

5. The avocado. The fruit botanically known as Persea americana has grown in popularity in recent years due to its’ health benefits. This tropical delight is the central ingredient in the beloved Guacamole Dip. The Mayans cultivated Avocado trees whose origins may stretch back to the Cenozoic Era.

6. The Cassava and how it changed the way the world is fed. Cassava root was also mass cultivated by the Mayans and the ‘bread of the tropics’ took off in many different cultures throughout the world. This great source of carbohydrates stands behind only sugarcane and sugar beets in that category.

7. Bubble Gum. O’Kon talks about the mass-produced sticks of hard gum that used to accompany every package of baseball cards (long before collectors scoffed at the practice as lowering their value). We can thank the Mayans who took Chicle or the sap of the sapodilla tree and turned it into a substance to be chewed and enjoyed. Not sure if they actually blew bubbles with it or not…

8. Chocolate/Cocoa. Many of us, particularly the ladies, have a very personal relationship with chocolate. Can you imagine Valentine’s Day or Easter without it? It was the Mayans love affair with chocolate and cocoa in general, four millennia ago, that made this the treat of choice. Yes, they even made a warm, frothy beverage from it!

9. Cotton. This has long been attributed to the great cotton plantations of the southern United States. However, it was once again the expert cultivation of the wild cotton plant that turned this into the world’s most valuable and productive vegetable fiber. It also makes for some really smooth and breathable fabric for clothing.

10. Tobacco. Cigarette and cigar smoking, along with the second-hand smoke they produce, may be taboo in recent years due to the adverse health conditions they can cause. That being said, it is impossible to not recognize how every civilization has been touched by tobacco — from Native American peace pipes to the Marlboro Man. Again, the Mayans cultivation of Nicotiana paved the way for a vice that has been enjoyed by every civilization that followed them.

This just scratches the surface on all the terrific research James O’Kon applied to this text. A fun and interesting read. More importantly, you can feel O’Kon’s enthusiasm for the subject in every paragraph and that also elevates it far above your average textbook.