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The Complete Guide to Building Affordable Earth-Sheltered Homes: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply

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The Green Movement is one of the hottest trends today and as it continues to gain popularity, so do many alternatives to our traditional lifestyles. One such alternative is the use of earth-sheltered homes. While built for any number of reasons, the earth-sheltered home is mostly renowned for its ability to save an astonishing amount of energy. Author and fan, Robert McConkey looks to educate his readers on these amazing homes with his recently released book, “The Complete Guide to Building Affordable Earth-Sheltered Homes: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply”. “The Complete Guide to Building Affordable Earth-Sheltered Homes: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply” is a comprehensive look at what exactly goes into the construction of an earth-sheltered home. From contemplating making the change to living closer to the earth to each of the pros and cons, McConkey lays it all out in an easy to understand format. He continues with a history of earth-shelters, discussing land considerations, types of building materials, waterproofing, lighting, energy saving practices, and much, much more. I was absolutely floored with the sheer amount of information he was able to cram in his book, all while keeping the subject light and interesting. For example, he walks you through the process of pouring concrete and framing the house step by step so even someone like me – with no experience beyond digging tunnels in a sandbox as a child – can comprehend and picture in my mind. Further, he has such passion about his subject that it easily sparked my own imagination on what it would be like to live in such a home. I’d never even considered an earth-sheltered house yet now I’m ready to get out there and build!The only negative aspect of the book that I saw was the quality of many of the pictures – they are blurry. Whether it was a picture of a historical earth-sheltered home or a new one under construction, the lack of clarity was frustrating. There were also a couple of pictures with words that were completely illegible. Page 139 shows a diagram but the words contained were unreadable. Page 188 introduces a picture by saying, “The following picture shows how grade stamps work” but the only legible portion of the picture is the large title at the top, ‘Reading a Grade Stamp’. Everything else contained in the picture is too blurry to read, making the inclusion of this diagram useless. “The Complete Guide to Building Affordable Earth-Sheltered Homes: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply” is THE how-to book on building your own earth-sheltered house. An absolute must read for the ‘green’ fan and those interested in an affordable, sustainable way of living. Reviewed by Vicki Landes, author of “Europe for the Senses – A Photographic Journal”
How to Open & Operate a Financially Successful Painting, Faux Painting, or Mural Business

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“How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Painting, Faux Painting, or Mural Business” is a step by step guide to turning a hobby or part time job into a booming money-making company. Author Melissa Kay Bishop presents this how to guide for the would-be business owner in hopes that it will ease their transition from ‘casual painter’ to ‘professional artist’. For the artist, most efforts are centered on the creative aspects of painting. However, Bishop ensures that the potentially mundane but important business aspects are not overlooked. Her advice could be effectively used by anyone looking to start a business but her recommendations are tailored specifically to the needs of a painting company. For example, she covers insurance but then gives the various considerations and options which would best serve painters. Bonding, permits, licenses, and ethics are only some of the many subjects included. She also includes a helpful companion CD which includes applicable business forms discussed in her book as well as a business plan model which can be adapted for a variety of needs. I was especially pleased that a color section was included in this book. The black and white pictures didn’t clearly show textures or paint techniques so the color pages really made a difference. Not all of the black and white pictures were replicated in color but that didn’t deter at all from the section’s effectiveness. I did find several editing errors; the most glaring was in the section on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Bishop refers to them as ‘spiders’ on page 162 but four pages later calls them ‘octopi’. Having read (and reviewed) several website building books, I’ve yet to see SEOs referred to as ‘octopi’. Further, this can cause confusion for those readers with no previous SEO knowledge. I also thought the basic painting techniques included towards the end of the book seemed almost like an afterthought and didn’t really belong in this book. Not only were the instructions vague, a person interested in setting up a painting business would already know the basics and not need this information. This section would be better served in a ‘faux finish 101’ how-to book. Reviewed by Vicki Landes, author of “Europe for the Senses – A Photographic Journal”
The Complete Guide to Organic Lawn Care: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply

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As spring begins to show signs that it’s right around the corner, stores ready themselves for the influx of customers looking to buy their lawn care essentials. But what do you do if the prospect of spreading poisons and dangerous chemicals on the same ground your barefoot children and pets run around on doesn’t exactly appeal to you? Then it’s time to start thinking about lawn care in terms of organic standards. And author Sandy Baker has exactly what you need to get started in her book, “The Complete Guide to Organic Lawn Care: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply”“The Complete Guide to Organic Lawn Care” is a comprehensive book, details a myriad of steps, organic options, and common problems inherent with transitioning a lawn from ‘traditional’ to ‘eco-friendly’. Baker begins with the various reasons why people may want to switch and then gets into the actual concept of what organic lawn care entails. Later, she explains how to get your soil tested so you know what nutrient deficiencies you are up against and how to overcome them. She gives helpful hints for getting rid of weeds, pesky insects, fungus, and other unwelcomed infestations. There is even a section on how to mow your lawn the correct way.Chock full of ideas and possibilities, the book is a map for the would-be beginner and a fantastic reference book for the experienced organic landscaper. Baker is thorough in her explanations, ensuring that her methods are understandable for any reader regardless of skill level. Well-organized, the book flowed from one section to another with ease. I only noticed one small issue with the editing: page 230 discusses weeds and some various ways to stop them. Baker notes, “Instead of digging the weeds up individually, use the vinegar and citrus oil method for that small area.” However, this ‘vinegar and citrus oil method’ had not been discussed prior nor is it addressed after this reference is made. It wasn’t until I got to the end of the book that I found an appendix. Appendix D (page 273) explains this method and details the recipe. Had I not browsed the appendices, I would not have found this recipe and the ‘vinegar and citrus oil method’ I’d read about on page 230 would have remained an irritating, unanswered question. This issue could be easily fixed with the addition of a short notation, like “(see Appendix D, page 273)” immediately following the first mention of this new method. “The Complete Guide to Organic Lawn Care” is a must-read for anyone looking to leave behind the traditional, unnatural way of caring for their yard. Sandy Baker’s safer, eco-friendly steps allow for a healthier – and eventually even easier – way to maintain everything underfoot! Reviewed by Vicki Landes, author of “Europe for the Senses – A Photographic Journal”
How to Open & Operate a Financially Successful Private Investigation Business

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Working as a private investigator has a mysterious and exciting allure for many. However, there’s much more to the business than simply following people around and collecting money from clients. Author Michael J. Cavallaro hopes to enlighten, encourage, and prepare the would-be investigator with his latest book, “How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Private Investigation Business”.“How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Private Investigation Business” is a step by step guide on exactly what the title reflects – making it in the private investigations field. Are you the type of person that would excel in doing this type of work? Cavallaro drills his readers with plenty of questions to help them find those answers. Then he goes on to describe the type of training and certifications needed, how to set up a business in general, how to investigate a case, the different types of case possibilities, and much more. A CD-ROM is included and contains a ready-to-use business plan and plenty of helpful resource material.Despite containing a few editing mistakes, the book definitely has a great deal to offer the future investigator and it can be used as a starting point for beginners and a resource for the experienced. Even if you don’t know anything about the occupation and what it entails, Cavallaro lays it all out for anyone to follow. After reading it in its entirety, you could confidently decide if the field is right for you. Further, its business startup sections are applicable to almost any business, not just the public investigator. I’ve read several ‘how to start a business’ type books published by Atlantic Publishing Group and this section seems to be a standard inclusion. Not that this is a negative point – it’s just an observation. The information is extremely valuable and should be included. Simply, that if you’ve read one of their business start-up books, you’ll recognize the gist when you get to these sections. I did find the organization a bit jumpy though. The book begins with tackling the basics of what an investigator does as well as recommended training and certification steps. Afterwards, it moves into standard business startup guidelines and then back to nuances of the occupation. Next, we jump back to standard business practices and then back to investigation specific items. This bouncing between general business information and niche-focused details continues on through to the end of the book and makes following one particular line of thought more difficult. I would have liked to read *all* of what was expected of an investigator up front, starting at the beginning with training and certifications and on through cases, investigation practices, etc. The second half of the book could then consist of all the necessary general start up steps, detailing the business license, business plan, financial considerations, and on through taxes, employees, insurance, and more. Although the jumpy organization was a tad distracting, the book as a whole is a fantastic resource and a must-read for anyone looking to get started in the field. Reviewed by Vicki Landes, author of “Europe for the Senses – A Photographic Journal”
How to Hide: A Practical Guide to Vanishing and Taking Your Assets With You

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It’s not often that a book truly grabs me and begs to be read. I find plenty of books that are fascinating but when I came across, “How to Hide: A Practical Guide to Vanishing and Taking Your Assets with You”, my curiosity got the best of me and I just had to read it. While I’d never considered disappearing, I found the premise absolutely intriguing. Even if you are perfectly happy with your life the way it is, I guarantee you’ll take a second glance at this book.“How to Hide” is essentially a how-to guide for completely leaving your current life behind and going somewhere else to start all over. Author David Wilkening gives plenty of potential reasons some may feel this is their only course of action – divorce, abuse, witnessing a crime and feeling unsafe or vulnerable, etc. From the very beginning, Wilkening takes the responsible route with a number of disclaimers. He notes several times that the steps in the book are not for those looking to commit illegal acts or trying to get out of paying their bills. He further discusses the negative effects a disappearance might have on those left behind. In fact, the first 34 pages are dedicated to these disclaimers, possible repercussions with jilted loved ones, and the overall seriousness of disappearing. He makes it crystal clear that hiding is not a subject to be taken lightly. After reading “How to Hide” I realized it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be, specifically with regard to ‘assets’. I define ‘assets’ as anything of value – cars, boats, homes, investment accounts, etc. So ‘taking your assets with you’ by this definition would mean a way to maintain ownership of these items when disappearing. However, the advice given in the book said to sell everything and take only what you can fit in your car or on your person – hardly feasible if you have a large amount of ‘assets’. Upon finishing, I concluded that ‘assets’ for the purpose of this book meant ‘cash’. Wilkening does give a thorough amount of information on off-shore bank accounts but this is hardly practical for a majority of readers that aren’t looking to hide, much less those that are. While it’s definitely an option, his focused audience – the bankrupt, the divorced, and the abused – most likely cannot use this information in their respective realities. “How to Hide: A Practical Guide to Vanishing and Taking Your Assets with You” is still an interesting read, written in a clear and concise style for those truly needing to disappear and start over. While there are enough editing errors to warrant mention, they did not deter from the book’s overall impact. The book is otherwise well organized and researched and David Wilkening does a fine job presenting the information at a level all readers can understand and apply. Reviewed by Vicki Landes, author of “Europe for the Senses – A Photographic Journal”
How to Open & Operate a Financially Successful Wedding Consultant & Planning Business

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Think you have what it takes to help people as a personal or executive coach? Want to make a living at it but don’t know what steps to take to get there? Authors Kristie Lorette and Jon Peragine have the answers. In their book, “How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Personal and Executive Coaching Business”, they take the would-be coach through all of the daunting twists and turns on their way to ‘business owner’. Atlantic Publishing Group’s self-help/how-to catalog is a top-notch, user friendly fountain of knowledge and “How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Personal and Executive Coaching Business” fits well within this collection. Lorette and Peragine begin by posing questions to the reader such as ‘Is coaching right for you?’, ‘Is there a need you can fill?’, and ‘Why coaching and not some other way of helping people?’ These questions and the information to follow help guide the reader in some thought-provoking, soul-searching contemplation. Once answers are determined, the authors outline the business of coaching and describe various subjects such as: business plans, fee schedules, marketing, finding new customers and getting repeat business out of current customers, and much, much more. In addition to providing a plethora of advice, a CD-ROM is included which contains all the forms found in the book as well as a sample, adaptable business plan. The book is essentially a one-stop-shop for becoming a successful entrepreneur in this fascinating and multifaceted field. “How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Personal and Executive Coaching Business” is written with the beginner in mind – someone who has had absolutely zero exposure to professional coaching. Further it is written for someone that may have what it takes to become a coach but doesn’t know what exactly the process of ‘coaching’ entails. With vividly clear descriptions and ‘down and dirty’ specifics, Lorette and Peragine literally and-hold you through everything you need to know. Motivating but realistic, they empower you to think about what you could be capable of as a coach but also responsibly prepare you for the realities of being a business owner. The book is a valuable coach for the future coach!Reviewed Vicki Landes, author of “Europe for the Senses – A Photographic Journal”
A Complete Guide for Single Moms: Everything You Need to Know about Raising Healthy, Happy Children on Your Own

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Now more than ever in our present society, it’s completely normal to see single parents taking on the task of raising children on their own. Whether by choice through adoption or surrogacy or by surprise via an unplanned pregnancy, divorce, or death of a partner, the goal remains to successfully nurture the child to adulthood. For those single moms out there that feel alone in their situation and unsure in how to do it all on their own, author Janis Adams has many of those answers in her new book.“A Complete Guide for Single Moms: Everything You Need to Know About Raising Healthy, Happy Children on Your Own” is an all-inclusive collection of solutions, advice, and support for women finding themselves in the position of ‘mom’, no matter how they got there in the first place. Information is presented from all sides – adoption, divorce, death, etc – and gently guides the parent through a myriad of age groups, issues, gender specific considerations (ie. raising a son vs. a daughter), and much, much more. Most of the suggestions given are not only good common sense practices but applicable to any parent – male or female, single or couple. The book makes me think of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” but with language and various nuances focused on the single mom specifically and gives you much more than just the pregnancy aspects of motherhood.“A Complete Guide for Single Moms” is a wonderful read for any single mother – or any parent for that matter – struggling to balance life with their newfound role of ‘primary caregiver’. Adams never strays from a consistently high level of empathy and encouragement as she offers one good piece of advice after another. The book starts at a very basic level in order to encompass any and all potential questions so even those new moms that know absolutely nothing about being a parent will find answers and strength within the pages. More experienced moms may find some of the subject matter a little on the rudimentary side but there is still plenty of information that they may have previously not considered and will find to be rather thought provoking. I especially liked Adams’ insistence on mothers maintaining their own health and wellbeing; moms too often forget about themselves in an effort to be a ‘super mom’. This often-ignored advice ensures that you are at your best so you have your best to give. Well done! Reviewed by Vicki Landes, author of “Europe for the Senses – A Photographic Journal”
How to Solar Power Your Home: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply

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Whether you’re a ‘green’ supporter or concerned about the rising costs of energy, solar power has a certain allure. More and more families are turning to alternative power sources as a means of reducing their carbon footprint and saving money. However, if you think that it’s as easy as sticking a couple solar panels on your roof (like I did!), you’re in for a startling reality check. Author Martha Maeda takes the mystery – and myths – out of adapting a house to accommodate solar energy in her book, “How to Solar Power Your Home: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply”. “How to Solar Power Your Home” is an exceptionally well put together and eye-opening read into the pros, cons, and overall how-to’s of capturing the sun’s rays and converting them into a usable energy source. Once far too expensive for the typical homeowner, the necessary equipment has developed in strides and with various governmental rebates and tax incentives can soon provide a household with the same amount of power it previously expected from the local utility company. It’s not a transition to take lightly and Maeda explains a myriad of considerations to take into account before making the plunge. She teaches not only the fundamentals of electricity so the reader can assess their own situation and needs, but gives many options on everything from different types of equipment to whether to hire a contractor or going the DIY route. I especially liked the chapter, ‘Making Your Home Energy Efficient’ because it gives the reader some real-world actions to take even if they can’t afford to solar power a home right away. So many of the recommendations in this section are easy, inexpensive, and can make a big difference in their energy consumption immediately.I love a book that can keep me thinking long after the last page is finished and “How to Solar Power Your Home” does just that. While it has really given me a more realistic look into the subject of solar power, it also educates on the energy crisis in general. I was a little daunted by the sheer amount of required factors that go into equipping a home but at the same time, motivated to take the small steps towards a more efficient lifestyle. Further, Maeda’s organized approach gives the book a polished, professional feel so I felt confident that the information I was reading had been carefully put together. Whether you are ready to go solar now or perhaps down the road, “How to Solar Power Your Home” is a must read!Reviewed by Vicki Landes, author of “Europe for the Senses – A Photographic Journal”
The Complete Guide to Alternative Home Building Materials & Methods: Including Sod, Compressed Earth, Plaster, Straw, Beer Cans, Bottles, Cordwood, and Many Other Low Cost Materials

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Ever consider building your own home? If you have, did it automatically include the use of timber or brick? Author Jon Hunan begins the information on the back cover of his book with this unsettling statement: “The construction of more than one million new homes each year causes a very substantial drain on natural resources.” In his book, “The Complete Guide to Alternative Home Building Materials and Methods: Including Sod, Compressed Earth, Plaster, Straw, Beer Cans, Bottles, Cordwood, and Many Other Low Cost Materials”, he shows his readers how to avoid contributing to that substantial drain and even help the environment by utilizing other more unconventional materials.“The Complete Guide to Alternative Home Building” is a fun look at the myriad possibilities to consider when planning the construction of an alternative materials home. Nunan covers everything from sod and compressed earth to cordwood and even tires and beer cans! He begins by noting that his book is not the only resource his readers should use then goes on to impart a wealth of information on permits and planning, site considerations, roof choices, insulation, and much more. And while he’s correct in saying that no one book can truly be a ‘one stop shop’, he gives so many helpful pointers that I kept thinking, ‘what else is there for me to research?’ He continues by addressing the various alternative materials, the pros and cons for each, what works best in which climates, etc, etc, etc. Coupled with Nunan’s witty style, the text was both informative and full of personality. I especially enjoyed the color section included in the middle of the book – it really brought the information to life. For readers with little to no exposure to these types of structures, it helped bring a sense of clarity to what Nunan was describing in his chapters. The black and white photographs throughout the book were wonderful as well but it’s fantastic to see these amazing projects in full color!Every green builder – whether novice or professional - needs to consider alternative materials when undertaking a construction project and “The Complete Guide to Alternative Home Building Materials and Methods: Including Sod, Compressed Earth, Plaster, Straw, Beer Cans, Bottles, Cordwood, and Many Other Low Cost Materials” is the best place to start! Reviewed by Vicki Landes, author of “Europe for the Senses – A Photographic Journal”
101 Recipes for Making Cheese: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply

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I admit - cheese makes my world go round. So when I had the opportunity to review a book about making cheese, I jumped at the chance. “101 Recipes for Making Cheese: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply” was an enticing idea. While I was a little worried about the thought of actually having to create some of my favorites from scratch (what if I completely mess it up and get sick or what complicated steps would I have to attempt to follow?), author and cheese expert Cynthia M. Martin quickly put my fears to rest.“101 Recipes for Making Cheese: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply” begins with an introduction of the many types of cheeses as well as a history of its accidental discovery. Both fascinating and fun, the book continues with what ingredients work best (and which don’t), a basic lesson in chemistry and how chemicals, cultures, and molds are a must, and what equipment you can expect to need and use. Martin spends some time on each subject, covering the important information but not weighing you down with every possible tidbit related to cheese. She begins her recipe section a mere 57 pages into her book so after only a short fundamental background, you are already on your way to making your first batch! She presents straightforward, crystal clear instructions on a myriad of cheeses. I absolutely love how she starts with super easy recipes for the beginner and builds onto the more involved while always maintaining that uncomplicated feel. Further, she divides her recipes into sections such as Semi-Firm, Ripened, Brine-Washed, Firm, and Blue Cheeses, giving a well-organized and professional impression of the book. She completes her work with sections on what wines and beer best compliment your creations, fondue, and how to start your own cheese making business. The book is simply a one stop shop of all things cheese!“101 Recipes for Making Cheese: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply” is a fun read for anyone interested in cooking but especially those concerned with what exactly goes into their food. What better way to feel confident that your cheese is made from the freshest ingredients, that there are no unexpected fillers, artificial flavors or colors, and are prepared with the highest standards than to do it yourself? Simple to follow recipes make the process especially enjoyable for children with adult supervision. Lactose sensitive or intolerant? Believe it or not, there are even ways to make your cheeses easier on your system! Author Cynthia M. Martin makes sure you will never look at mac and cheese the same way again! Reviewed by Vicki Landes, author of “Europe for the Senses – A Photographic Journal”
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