Archive for book review

Thank You, Judge 20!

Posted in Blog, education, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2010 by dustus

Through a letter from Jessica Strawser, Editor of Writer’s Digest, I was informed that I was not among the winners of the 17th Annual Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Awards.

However, attached with the rejection letter was the evaluation of my book, which I have decided to post…
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On a scale of 1 to 5,  with 1 meaning “poor” and 5 meaning “excellent,” please evaluate the following:

Plot: 5,  Grammer: 5,  Character development: 5,  Cover Design: 4

Judge’s Commentary:
What did you like best about this book?

High School Asylum is one of the best written and most original of all the novels I’ve read for this competition—emphasis on original.  I’ve read some good stories and some beautiful stories for this competition, but this is the most original.  Reality is always uncertain in this novel as it is in real life, and no more tenuous is reality than at a high school.  The narrative voice is marvelously engaging and likeable: “Even though I don’t have any real friends other than Jenny, I knew many personal details about other people that only a true friend could know.  So what if Teresa wanted to be Cinderella when we would play war. How could I forget that she always wanted Billy to save her from some fire-breathing Cyclops that sprung from her imagination?  The fantasy was always different, and so were the three of us back then.”  Wonderful dialogue.  Beautiful descriptive details.

How can the author improve this book?

I’m not sure what I want, but it seems the cover could be more attractive and evocative.  In a way, the cartoonish figure on the front of the novel is consistent with certain themes, but certainly all the characters have far more depth than any cartoon.  I’d maybe like to see the image of the “silver moon swelled like a glowing beach ball” on the cover.  In terms of an author fulfilling his intentions, this is just about the best book in the competition—not a book for conventional tastes but a book that should find and deserves to find an appreciative audience of intelligent, broad-minded readers.
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Thank You, Judge 20!

Twitterville (Book Review)

Posted in Blog, education, social media, Social Media Book Reviews (by A. Dustus), writing with tags , , , , , , , on February 13, 2010 by dustus

Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods

Twitter may be the most effective social media tool for promoting grassroots causes. Irrespective of whether one’s initiative qualifies as political, business, or artistic; this micro blogging platform integrates extremely well with blogging and other social media sites. In fact, Twitter continues to prove effective to the point where major corporations like Dell, Comcast, Jet Blue, Southwest Airlines, Proctor & Gamble, Virgin America, U-Haul, Geek Squad, Best Buy, Pepsi, Ford, Zappos, H&R Block, Rubbermaid, Molson, Tyson Foods, etc… all utilize Twitter in various ways. Shel Israel explains how these companies connect, promote, and run damage control in a 32 million member global community known as “Twitterville.”

To my surprise, after presenting the ways many businesses use Twitter to connect directly with customers (especially in handling customer service) Twitterville opened my eyes to “a large cult of generosity.” The book also considers our drastic societal change from the invention of the telephone to the phenomenon known as micro blogging.

I found reading Twitterville to be a refreshing experience because Shel Israel devotes the end of the book to how Twitter can be used to help people in need, as well as to promote world peace. The concluding messages in Twitterville place hope in an international community building ties through social media and technologically enhanced citizen communication.

Seldom do books inspire me to want to contribute to this world in whatever way I can. That being said, I never expected Shel Israel’s Twitterville to motivate me to search some of the sources he mentions. In particular, I was interested in blog widgets that allow bloggers to accept donations on behalf of a charity in a transparent manner. So if you’re a blogger and would like to collect for a worthy charity, check out the ChipIn site. You can customize blog widgets there (available for Facebook as well).

My recommendation = Twitterville is an insightful book—definitely worth reading
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Shel Israel is also the author of How Businesses can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods [Portfolio, Sept. 2009]; co-author, of Naked Conversations–how blogs are changing the way businesses talk with customers [Wiley, 2006], and The Conversational Corporation, a Dow Jones eBook [May 2009]. He’s contributed editorially to BusinessWeek and FastCompanyTV.

Googled by Ken Auletta

Posted in Blog, education, social media, Social Media Book Reviews (by A. Dustus), writing with tags , , , , , , , on February 2, 2010 by dustus

Googled: The End Of The World As We Know It… (and I feel fine). I spend a great deal of time each day conducting Google searches. In fact, I consider Google to be one of the most useful tools in my life. Something tells me I am not the only one who feels this way.

While the Internet makes information available to everyone, Google provides users with lightening quick results to search queries. However, as Googled author Ken Auletta points out, that is certainly not all Google does. More than threatening traditional media outlets with targeted advertising and the organization of Web content, Google’s ambitions with book scanning; in addition to their acquisitions of smaller organizations, stirred tensions with companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, the publishing industry, etc… Auletta provides a long list.

Throughout Googled, Auletta also questions the supposed struggle of an engineering ethos claiming “Don’t be evil” in the face of corporate demands for continual growth. I get the sense from reading this book that despite all their accomplishments, Google may operate as a rather “unfocused” business entity. In providing a corporate conceptual framework for his assertion, Auletta draws from interviews he conducted with Google officers to make the case that Google could be generating unprecedented income even beyond what they have already amassed and redistributed.

Ken Auletta also explains how and why Google has earned the reputation for being one of the best brands in the world. In addition, he presents future challenges Google faces through foreseeable competitive struggles, including those that involve legal proceedings. Questions of disorganization and hubris are raised—perhaps unfairly. Judge for yourself.

While I am not a fan of reading about corporate structures and business histories, for the most part I did like this book. What I enjoyed most was reading about the respective backgrounds of Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the inspiration they found in Richard Feynman and Nikola Tesla, their intellectual upbringings, and their advanced studies at Stanford. I wish Googled was more about the founders and their intellectual pursuits rather than business deals. Still it was an eye-opening read.
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Ken Auletta has written Annals of Communication columns and profiles for The New Yorker magazine since 1992. He is the author of eleven books, including five national bestsellers… (read more)

First Review of High School Asylum

Posted in Blog, education, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2010 by dustus

Hey Everyone.  I have some news to share…

Well, the waiting is over.  This first review of High School Asylum was posted this morning.


Click here to read the review…

Say Everything: How Blogging Began… (Book Review)

Posted in Blog, education, Social Media Book Reviews (by A. Dustus), writing with tags , , , , , , on January 13, 2010 by dustus

Since beginning “The Dustus Blog,” I’ve become obsessed with learning everything I can about blogging and it’s history (see Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging, Bloggers on the Bus, Problogger, etc…). My studies emerge from an initial curiosity and deep respect for what I consider a technological gift (my free WordPress blog). Without a doubt, blogs have changed many lives—including my own.

That being said, I’d like to share with you some thoughts about the new book Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, And Why It Matters by Scott Rosenberg. In my opinion, this detailed work paints a comprehensive portrait of what blogging was, is, and how user-generated content and frequent posting transforms our world. Say Everything also explains current tensions between bloggers and other writers.

Say Everything recounts how the Web’s first inventors welcomed creative contributions from all over the world. Scott Rosenberg defines the technological evolution of blogs, including early precursors of Web interaction and cursory reporting of 911, as well as political reporting that led news-seekers to flock online. Rosenberg then focuses on many notable blogging personalities that emerged from this social movement. For instance, the exhibitionist blogs of Justin Hall, the written and technological contributions of Dave Winer, stories about Evan Williams and the rise of Blogger and Twitter, political blogging, etc… (The scope of topics covered is “mindblogglingly” extensive.

After reading Say Everything, I remain fascinated by how bloggers are perceived by the traditional media and esteemed literary circles. Aside from Noble Prize winning author Dorris Lessing’s outright dissing of blogging (which can be read online), Rosenberg discusses the “journalistic beef” bloggers have inherited. In sparking debate over literary quality of posts, journalistic jeering points fingers (perhaps the middle ones) at bloggers’ lack of reporting acumen and experience. Prominent bloggers, quick to respond, have questioned the authenticity of an “unbiased” press, major coverage errors, and instances of uninspired writing.

Rosenberg considers the motivations of both sides in the Blogger/Journalist arguments, presenting an overall clash between the verities of tradition and an expanding open source world. In Rosenberg’s promotion of blogging over its criticisms, he concludes (quite eloquently I might add), “Links beat walls and gates… the wisdom of experience, might actually represent the resentment of a dying order. Finally I concluded that it did.”

My recommendation = Say Everything… It is in the best interest of every new and serious blogger to read this.
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Scott Rosenberg
is an American journalist, editor, blogger and non-fiction author. He was a co-founder of Salon Media Group and Salon.com and a relatively early participant in The WELL. Rosenberg’s first book, Dreaming in Code appeared in 2007.