Thursday, 24 November 2016

BLOG TOUR: "Hound of the Sea: Wild Man. Wild Waves. Wild Wisdom" by Garrett McNamara, Karen Karbo

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

Hound of the Sea: Wild Man. Wild Waves. Wild Wisdom. 
by Garrett McNamara, Karen Karbo
Harper Wave
ISBN: 978-0062343598
Copyright November 2016
Hardcover, 304 Pages 

An invigorating autobiography penned by surfing legend Garrett McNamara. In line with the author’s daredevil disposition, the reader can expect a fast-paced narrative choked full of exciting adventures to the most bizarre and ridiculously hilarious escapades. 

This book is heartwarmingly inspirational; its human connection and meaningful depth elevates the book to near perfection. Whilst McNamara fans can expect to be smitten, serious surfers, earnest athletes and big dreamers on the other hand are well advised not to miss this gem of a book. 

McNamara’s magnificent achievement of making the Guinness Book of World Records for riding a 78 feet history-making wave at Nazare, Portugal is characterized, as a tremendous inspiration to all, as a “universal” manifestation of “how anything in life is possible.”

Even with personal recounts of winning the Jaws Tow-In World Cup—a big-wave contest—, receiving the coveted invitation to compete in the Eddie tournament, or successfully making the covers of countless prominent surfing magazines, a predominant focus remains spotlighted on universal themes relatable and galvanizing to people from all walks of life—McNamara’s resolute ambition and desire to succeed, his display of mental strength and fortitude, his awe-inspiring perseverance and tenacity, and his unbelievable positivity and fertile attitude toward life. 

It was beyond fascinating to devour firsthand recounts of McNamara’s electrifying surfing adventures—one such heart-stopping and perilous adventure of tow-in surfing amidst calving glaciers at Childs Glacier, Alaska, that left the author “glacierized;” his reflexive and candid assessment of Mavericks as a break “that had intent, and that intent was to kill you;” or his designation of Banzai Pipeline as “the most deadly break in the world” with reefs consisting of “a disorganized series of jagged flats.” 

McNamara of course, also dedicates considerable attention to his home breaks—Velzyland, one of his Six Feet and Under spot; Hale-’iwa, which he had religiously “memorized where the submerged rocks were;” and Wai-mea, the birthplace of big-wave surfing. 

The athletic reader, particularly one with professional athletic aspirations, who is or had been afflicted with varying severity of injuries, would potentially find tremendous comfort in this book. Especially in learning about McNamara’s personal history of injuries, and particularly one rather debilitating and immobilizing injury—involving a pair of severely herniated discs—that did not preclude him from eventually successfully ascending to the very zenith of his sport and attaining iconic status. 

A possible critique to this book would be the author’s utilization of a range of surfing terminology without accompanying explanations. The general interest reader might not have readily understood terms used such as barreling, but of course one could easily and quickly resolve the issue by conducting an internet search. And considering the book’s target audience to be possibly and primarily McNamara fans and surfing or sports enthusiasts, in addition to its autobiographical genre, one ought not to expect too exhaustive an approach and coverage by the book. 

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours for this review.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

BLOG TOUR: "Brave New Weed: Adventures into the Uncharted World of Cannabis" by Joe Dolce

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

Brave New Weed: Adventures into the Uncharted World of Cannabis
by Joe Dolce
Harper Wave
ISBN: 978-0062499912
Copyright October 2016
Hardcover, 288 Pages 

An absolutely entertaining and captivating book that keeps one glued to the pages from beginning to end. This book is a purposeful and solid blend of amazing storytelling, intriguing science, illuminating history, and dynamic personal recount, rendered in an articulately impassioned authorial voice and expressive writing. 

This book is perfect for the reader generally unacquainted with the world of cannabis; he or she will have much to discover and to be astounded by, as he or she follows the author along on his experiential, exciting, and progressive learning journey. 

Dolce’s enthusiasm for cannabis is unmistakable, and his advocacy for both the legalization and “normalization” of cannabis is contagious. Drug legalization proponents along with those harboring neutral stances would likely enjoy the book, but the same might not apply for those possessing strong sentiments against cannabis legalization, and it might be a somewhat uncomfortable reading experience for them. 

This however certainly does not preclude the possibility of cannabis opponents with an open mind devouring the book and thereafter coming away with a greater empathy for the antithetical viewpoint, or to feel somewhat persuaded by, or concede to, certain points or arguments made by the author. This category of readers at the very least could grow and mature intellectually from assimilating the alternative perspective. 

The author covers certain cannabis basics, with details mind-bogglingly profound. The reader will be introduced to the constituents of cannabis, for example THC, CBD, and terpenes—smell molecules such as myrcene, pinene and caryophyllene—, and their respective roles and mutual interplay; the notion of dabs— “a dab is a mind-stinging 70 to 90 precent THC”—and significance of dose control and microdosing; and even the baffling numerical estimate of compounds contained in the cannabis plant. 

Scientific material covered in the book are particularly enjoyable and distinctly intellectually-satisfying for me. Discussion of the endocannabinoid system—the “supercomputer,” or “largest signaling system” in the human body—is one such example of fascinating coverage. Scientific evidence furnished that elucidate the ways cannabinoids protect the brain from injury in the instances of for example, sports and war, is another utterly engrossing angle offered in the book, and of course, no less riveting are further medical discussions of cannabinoids, endocannabinoids, and anandamide in relation to cannabis. Even rather brief considerations of the failure of the drug rimonabant is astoundingly eye-opening. 

The compelling coverage of relevant historical details are another key strength of the book. Information provided on the American War on Drugs, the tireless generation of anticannabis propaganda and fearmongering in the country, the enactment of the Marijuana Tax Act and the passage of anti-marijuana prohibitions in specific US states, and the presidential disavowal of “the most comprehensive government study of cannabis in American history” are but a sampling of particulars meaningful and compelling to the curious and educated citizen. 

The book also notably includes discussion of the very country ascribed as “the nucleus of cannabis research”—Israel—along with the Israeli scientist credited for discovering THC; the history of, and implications thereafter of—for example in terms of access to the plant, and ease, or lack thereof, for research—, cannabis’s classification, alongside substances such as heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy, as a schedule I narcotic; certain intriguing details about indoor cannabis grows, such as lighting strength and brightness; and astonishing stories presented by the author as testament to the “miraculous” cannabis—its extraordinary healing effects, and its seemingly expansive scope of cure. 

It is no accident that the book incorporates humor at certain junctures; it appears to be an innate trait of the author. A particular stand-out was when Dolce followed a paragraph indicating the harsh reality of cannabis businesses being potentially responsible for paying a federal income tax upwards of 70 percent with the one-liner, “It’s a good thing they sell a product that quells anxiety.” 

As for the author’s admirably evocative writing, his exquisite use of metaphor in the following sentence speaks for itself, “the other common effect of cannabis is time slowdown, that pleasantly languorous experience of the hands of the clock pushing through honey.”

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours for this review.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

REVIEW: "Sociology of Education: A Critical Reader" by Ryan W. Coughlan, Alan R. Sadovnik

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

Sociology of Education: A Critical Reader
by Ryan W. Coughlan, Alan R. Sadovnik
Copyright March 2007
Paperback, 552 Pages

The book contains an excellent sequential compilation of articles featuring critical sociological research and studies. The book’s strength lies in the assemblage of the great diversity of pundit voices and inputs, bestowing indeed an elite learning experience for the reader.

The consistently amazing and eye-opening research in the book, along with mind-blowing syntheses and profound evaluations, makes the book an imperative read for sociology students, education practitioners, and aspiring educators. Noting the prominent fixture of the institution of education in our society, and its intimate intertwining with and tremendous impact on our lives, this book certainly merits a read by students of other disciplines.

The exceptional elucidation of research approaches, methodologies and related details in the book would prove exceptionally valuable for the aspiring student researcher and academic. Of course, the superior academic writing styles, the sophisticated use of language, and exquisite rendering of complex concepts and ideas qualify the book as a great reference and inspiration for the aspirant academic writer. Any other demographic striving to hone critical thinking skills will also benefit substantially from studying the arguments in the book. 

Themes of stratification and inequality in the educational context are among the most profoundly and fascinatingly examined in the book. Inserted into the multi-angled discussion are issues such as the school choice provisions in No Child Left Behind; practices such as the encouragement of the “college-for-all” norm—that implicate drastically varying outcomes for students of different socioeconomic backgrounds—; and the implementation of tracking that potentially compounds the problem of inequality due to disparities in quality and quantity of instruction, variance in the degree to which lessons and teaching materials are engaging, and difference in teacher expectations and standards for student performance. Other no less interesting angles to which inequality is addressed include the examination of marketization, the inequity of students’ family and socioeconomic backgrounds, and the notion of self-fulfilling prophecies. 

The book brims with intriguing assessments and explorations of a range of other multitudinous issues. In expounding the oppositional modalities of pedagogic practices, there was a distinctly mind-boggling, transformative, and unique use of metaphor; a pedagogic practice paralleled as a “cultural relay” along with associated lexicon of “transmitters” and “acquirers” as players in the pedagogic relation, and who are engaged in the “reproduction” of culture.

On the other hand, the distinguishing between and explication of visible versus invisible pedagogies is also strikingly illuminating. The clear elucidation of characteristics of the individual pedagogic practices—for example, the comparatively “relaxed rhythm” and “less specialized acquisitions” of invisible pedagogy, and the divergent autonomous, or knowledge, and market-oriented, or dependent, forms of visible pedagogies—gets exciting especially when the reader have the prized opportunity to insert oneself into the discourse, by associating the information furnished to prior personal classroom learning experiences. 

A further sampling of intellectually-stimulating concepts explored include the opposing notions of neoliberalism versus neoconservatism—the neoconservatism ideological position for example, supports “mandatory national and statewide curricula, national and statewide testing, a ‘return’ to higher standards, a revivification of the ‘Western tradition,’ patriotism, and conservative variants of character education”—; theoretical perspectives of functionalism, conflict theory, and more in the sociology of education; and abstractions such as Basil Bernstein’s code theory. 

Educational reformation is another salient matter covered in the text. Especially profound is the discussion of the significance and implications of poverty—“the unexamined 600-pound gorilla that most affects American education today”—on the effectuality of the institution of reform. Yet again, when it came to evaluation of America’s mathematics and science curricula reform, the data furnished in the book comparing the breadth and depth of various countries’ mathematics curricula is indeed eye opening and compelling. 

Linked to the idea of the educational reform as a national strategy meant to counter challenges to national power, the book further plunges into elucidating more fascinating realms, namely the genealogy of the state system of mass schooling from its European roots, the associated social movement—rise of individualism—, political motivations and more that aided the rise of the institution. 

Other fundamental educational issues the reader would have the opportunity to discover within the pages of the book comprise for example research evidence authoritatively distinguishing the relative effectiveness of single-sex schools versus coeducational schools in alleviating the achievement gap; the significance of the loose-coupling model and the nested layers approach in exploring the role of schools on student learning; the supposed phenomenon of teacher shortage in America through examination of factors such as teacher turnover rates; and labeling theory and the poignant particularities that define the secondary deviant. 

The prospective reader ought to anticipate select articles in the book to be considerably more challenging to acquire and assimilate; one however should not be deterred by the heightened intellectual challenge and instead will have much to benefit from by persevering through the readings. Also and especially with the rather extensive references embedded in the book to established and existing literature in the discipline, the reader will be sure to receive a rather holistic exposure to the range of ideas and pertinent literature in the field. 

Certain articles in the book however could have been more comprehensive, particularly when pertaining to the introduction of more specialized concepts. Offering the author of chapter 7 “Social Class and Pedagogic Practice” the benefit of the doubt, it could have been assumed that the reader is equipped with a decent background knowledge, understanding, or even an inkling of “behaviorist or neobehaviorist theories of instruction.” Such an assumption though in a critical reader of the sociology of education seems unwarranted, and the reader is left feeling rather perplexed especially in encountering such an abstraction embedded amongst already demanding ideas. 

On the other hand, it appeared to be carelessness when certain acronyms were not explicitly elucidated, especially when the same entity was spelled out in the final chapter of the book but was not in a much earlier chapter. In chapter 14 “Nation versus Nation,” PISA was cited without much explanatory elucidation but in chapter 26, PISA was actually explicitly mentioned for what it stands for—the Program for International Student Assessment. 

When it came to the acronym TIMSS in chapter 14 as well, the reader seemed to be expected to possess prior knowledge. Whilst the paragraph attributes the TIMSS and PISA as being “international tests,” the thoroughness of the book could have been improved should TIMSS be explicitly noted as being the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, and further accompanied with certain fundamental details relevant to aiding assimilation of the subsequent discussion. 

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated to the publisher nor the author of the book. This book review is the result of my personal reading and honest opinion.