Friendship Friday: How to get the biggest books from the best publishers–for free!

New segment! On Fridays, when I’m able, I would like to give back to the awesome book community. I’ll share any knowledge I’ve gained, or spotlight other fabulous book bloggers/social media users who are ROCKING it!

Today: How to get the biggest books from the best publishers–for free!

STEP 1: BECOME A PUBLICITY VEHICLE

There are a TON of books out there. Publicists these days are going crazy trying to get your interest. It’s tough. Between cute kitten videos and Friends marathons on Netflix, trying to get public interest in a particular book, let alone a stack of books, is enough to make anyone go bonkers.

They need YOUR help. Before the books come rolling in, you need to build a publicity vehicle. For me, I started getting books at the library (free!) and posting my reviews on Amazon (free!). Warning: that’s a humbling experience. Folks can vote your reviews up–and down! I suggest going with a free blog like wordpress, blogger, or tumblr.

Next, take your vehicle for a drive around social media: Twitter, Instagram, YouTube (you don’t want to see my face on YouTube). Most importantly: INTERACT. You’ll find people and they’ll find you. Make a game out of it; keep track of your social standings with Klout.

Another tip: if your goal is free books, make sure your vehicle is painted bumper-to-bumper in books. When publishers start looking at you, they want to see you talking about books. Cats and wine are totally acceptable, but make sure you let them know you love talking about and promoting books!

STEP 2: FIND THE BOOKS WORTH PROMOTING

Now that you’ve built a platform for yourself and have connected with some other bookish friends, find new books to review. Key word: NEW. Find what the publishers are promoting and help them promote it. I like to go to the “coming soon” sections on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Both have some neat sorting features. If you’re in with your librarian or local book sellers, they’ll have some great catalogs and newsletters as well.

Here’s the ultimate first stop for free books: Netgalley, Edelweiss, and Blogging for Books. The two former ones require that you have an e-reader or computer, the latter one sends out physical copies of books. Go there! Netgalley especially has tools to sort through publishers and books to see what is coming out and what types of people the publishers are interested in giving books.

STEP 3: KNOW THE PUBLISHER, KNOW WHERE THEY LIVE

Okay, so digital ARCs aren’t your thing? You want something in the mail? You want to hold the new books? You want to hug the new books? You want to SMELL the new books?

First, you have to know who publishes the new books. In the tools above, you’ll find the books and most often see who is publishing the new books. Goodreads is also a great source. Once you know the publisher, you’ll need to know where to contact them. It’s uncouth to ask in public forums like Facebook and Twitter.

Go to the publisher’s website and look for “contact us” or “publicity contact information”. If that fails, Google the publishers name along with the words “publicity contact”. I’m going to make it easy for you. Here are some of the biggest publishing houses in America and their publicity contact pages:

Hachette Book Group (Little, Brown, Grand Central, Center Street, etc.)
HarperCollins (Harper, Ecco, Dey Street, William Morrow, etc.)
Macmillan (St. Martin’s Press, Tor/Forge, Holt, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, etc.)
Penguin  (Dutton, Penguin Press, Riverhead, Viking, etc.)
Random House (Crown, Doubleday, Dutton, Knopf, etc.) This page has merged Pengiun contacts.
Simon & Schuster (Atria, Scribner, Simon & Schuster, etc.)

That should keep you busy.

STEP 4: WRITE THE REQUEST FOR A NEW BOOK!!

There are two types of books that you may see ahead of publishing date:

Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) that are bound copies sent out months in advance that may still be edited before the…

Final Copies, which are the finished deal. These are the books that the public will see and buy in droves.

You’ll want to write a nice note to the publisher telling them how awesome you are (publicity vehicle) and which book(s) you would like to receive. Generally plan to write your letter 3-4 months in advance for ARCs and about a month in advance for a finished copy. Each publisher is a bit different, but those are pretty good averages based on mine and other bloggers’ findings.

Make it easy for them! Connect the dots. Tell them who you are, why you want the book, and how you can promote the book. Include links to your sites and profiles. Perhaps give examples of how you’ve helped them in the past. And–very important–give them your address.

One of four things will happen: they’ll respond and tell you they are sending the book!; they won’t respond and still send the book; they’ll say “no”; or, instead of saying “no” they’ll usually opt to ignore you. Remember: they are super busy. It’s nothing personal. Don’t feel bad if they ignore you.

If you send your request far enough in advance, and you haven’t heard anything in a couple of weeks, don’t be afraid to send a follow-up request (or two). I like to tell them that I already sent a request and I’m following up with another request. I know they’re busy. Again: make it easy for them.

The more you drive your vehicle, the more books you’ll get.

STEP 5: KEEP YOUR PROMISES, LET THEM KNOW ABOUT IT

Another crucial point. If you say you’ll post a review, make sure you post a review. If you say you’ll take a picture of their book with a pack of elephants, make sure you have the elephants ready. Whatever it is that got their attention, follow through.

This is golden: send them a follow-up email. Give them the links to your coverage. They may not respond, but they’ll definitely appreciate the email. It makes a world of difference for them. And, chances are, they’ll remember you next time!

There are some other great articles about getting free books. You’ll definitely want to check out this from ReadWriteLove. She includes a TON of helpful links with plenty of her own helpful advice. Be sure to follow her blog, too!

Do you have any tips or personal advice for getting books?
What has your experience been?

Indie Thursday: Three book reviews–from cancer to moon colonies

I usually read books from major publishing houses because I feel safe and cozy, but let’s not forget that THE MARTIAN was a self-published book first. Matt Damon says, “hi”:

There’s a ton of authors that work hard to make great books. There’s lots of smaller publishing houses that work equally as hard to make these books known. Every now and then, I’d like to do my part to support them. It’s not much, but it’s a start. So, let’s get the show on the road:

The healthcare system in the United States sucks

MY HEALTHCARE IS KILLING ME by Julie Klein

Every day people in America die waiting to get access to affordable, quality healthcare. In her book MY HEALTHCARE IS KILLING ME, Julie Klein sets out to show the horrific struggles faced by people tangled within the healthcare system. Reading this makes you want to throw something; experiencing it makes you want to punch someone in the face.

“Why on earth would doctors think it’s better to send their patients blindly into a cancer facility rather than just telling them over the phone?” Yeah, I’ve experienced this, too. You get a test done: wait. The doctor’s office calls you and tells you to come in. More waiting. Thus: Xanax and wine.

Klein tells it like it is with humor and sorrow. Let’s face it: the healthcare system in the United States sucks. In journal entry segments throughout the book, she talks about the “caustic demeanor” of doctors’ offices, not having an appointment because the insurance company won’t pay, the lack of plain language, and having to do most of your fighting–paperwork and otherwise–by yourself. “I feel like I am being thrown away because I am no longer effective.”

If you are a healthcare professional, read this book. Let’s make the system better.

This ain’t Stieg Larrson

THE GIRL WITH THE TURTLE TATTOO by Daniel Basil Lyle

When Dr. Lyle reached out to me about his book, I was amused by the title. That dragon tattoo girl is everywhere. I thought he was pitching me a satire. Even the book’s cover amused me. And then I started reading…

We’re a long way from Kansas, Toto. This book isn’t satire and it sure ain’t Steig Larrson. Dr. Lyle has some writing chops! The story–wow!–the story is a far departure from dragon tattoo. Here’s the gist: boy meets girl, boy’s equipment goes nuclear, boy and girl find themselves 125 million years in the future. Think moon colonies and all that.

For being self-published, I’m really impressed at the quality of writing. We’re not talking literary or Pulitzer level, but Lyle can carry a story. For those that like series, there’s plenty more of the turtle tattoo.

Let’s start with the book spine

THE NOTICER’S GUIDE TO LIVING AND LAUGHING by Margery Leveen Sher

Last year I read a book called THE POWER OF NOTICING. The author promised I would gain this power to be able to see things that others could not. It would make me rich and powerful and I could rule the world. Or, something like that. It didn’t happen.

I thought I would have better luck with THE NOTICER’S GUDE. Nope. For starters: the spine of the book is backwards. This is not good for my bookshelf OCD. It’s also not good for a book about…noticing.

The book itself is filled with the author’s quirky ramblings or stories, usually a page-long each. Each story features a picture (sometimes unrelated) with an idea to spark conversation.

If you’re trapped in a room with someone and run out of things to talk about, this book may have some good ideas. Otherwise, I can think of many better uses of your time than this.

How about YOU? What’s the last small-pub or indie book that you’ve read and enjoyed?

Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood

In a Dark, Dark Wood
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Leonora is a writer who is used to living alone. She’s got some issues with a dude named James who supposedly did something terrible ten years ago. This was so terrible that most of her friends went by the wayside. Fast-forward to today: a hen party invite arrives. (For my fellow American readers, a hen party is a bachelorette party—this one requiring an overnight stay.) So, lots of questions for the reader: who is this “James” and why is Leonora being invited to a hen party?

Enter the dark, dark woods. This environment is creepy as [choose your own adjective/explicative]. The hen party’s arranger has an aunt with a glass house in the middle of woods, located in an extremely remote environment. Let’s paint that picture a little better: dark woods, see-through house. Folks on the outside can see you; you can’t see potential people/creatures/bigfoot/murderers on the outside.

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IN A DARK, DARK WOOD by Ruth Ware is an expertly crafted thriller in the likes of GONE GIRL and GIRL ON THE TRAIN, with one caveat: there are not alternating perspectives. Time flips from present to past, slowly unwinding the clues to what the heck are these folks doing in the middle of the woods, and—MURDER!!

The book is quickly paced, really winding things tight toward the end. By the time Leonora discovers footprints in the snow, you won’t be able to stop reading. The conclusion is, well, conclusive. Much better than that story about the girl that Ben Affleck went looking to find. I would even say the pacing is better than that story about the drunken girl solving crimes from her window seat. In other words, IN A DARK, DARK WOOD stands alone as a must-read title.

Being a debut book, I do have some nitpicks. First, the “big secret”. Don’t worry, no spoilers. Leonora’s secret with James is kind of hard to hide. We don’t find out about it until near the end, but I’m thinking most of her friends, not just one, would have known about it. Second, drinking tea with the murderer. Huh? Read the book and then we’ll talk about it.

Here’s the kicker: I purchased this book to take with me on a trip into the deep, deep woods (somewhere along the border of New Hampshire, Maine, and Canada). Needless to say, I had to keep the fire burning bright. And, yes, I’m a bit crazy.

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P.S. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!! The link is in the above paragraph about the trip into the deep, deep woods.

And, if you are looking for more reviews of IN A DARK, DARK WOOD, Cleopatra Loves Books really liked this one! She said, “it raised a few hairs on my neck means that this book fully deserves all the accolades it has received”.

UPDATE: Tea talk with author Ruth Ware

Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons to be glad that I’m back from vacation (GIVEAWAY announcement)

I recently returned from a trip in the deep, deep, dark, dark woods. I literally went over the mountains–several of them–and kept going. I was sitting somewhere near the border of Maine and Canada, measurable by latitude and longitude, versus the nearest street corner. Needless to say, I didn’t have cell phone coverage.

What could have looked like this:

Thankfully turned out more like this:

I had a great time connecting with family and nature. I’m also glad to be back!

Here are ten reasons that I’m glad to be back:

1. Announcing the winner of the ARMADA giveaway!

Nearly three weeks ago I posted a contest celebrating 300 blog followers. In that time, I’ve gained nearly 50 more followers!!! THANK YOU, everyone!!

The winner of the book ARMADA is Msbiblioglasses. I’ve reached out to her, asking for an address to send the book.

2. Announcing ANOTHER contest!!

I just posted my review of UNDERMAJORDOMO MINOR by Patrick DeWitt. It just so happens that Ecco Books gave me an extra copy to give to one of YOU!!

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Thanks to Tamara Welch for helping me work out some kinks in my last contest. (You should follow her rockin’ bookish Twitter account at @rockstar1023.)

Click below to submit an entry to the contest (U.S. Mailing addresses only; an international contest is coming soon–I promise!). You can get a free entry just by clicking and answering a simple question, or more entries for following me on Twitter and Tweeting a message about the giveaway. Anyhow:

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE

If I set it up correctly, you can get an extra entry for sending a Tweet. Try the button in the link above and see. The contest runs through 9/23–good luck!!

3. I read lots of books in the woods. Now to do the reviews.

Here’s one of the reviews I posted (did three yesterday): IDYLL THREATS

4. Catching up on Twitter.

Wow! A lot can happen on Twitter while you are away. Today is no exception: with the release of FATES AND FURIES and a slew of other books, along with Agatha Christie’s birthday, and the Man Booker Short List announced. Wow!!

Feel free to follow me or send me a Tweet: @ryan_reads

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!

5. Catching up on Instagram!

My bookstagram account is now up to over 500 followers–thank you!!! But let me pause and direct your attention to an awesome account to follow: @books_with_taylor. Taylor is an up-and-coming publishing industry rock star. She was with Algonquin and is now with Scribner. And, yes, those are authors she’s standing with in all those photos. For example, you can go there and see her with Liz Egan from A WINDOW OPENS.

6. Did I mention I read lots of books while away? Yeah, lots of them.

Here’s my review of the self-help, change your habits book TRIGGERS.

7. Yes, a LOT of books.

@books_with_taylor above introduced me to David Cronenberg’s CONSUMED. You may know him from movies like THE FLY or HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. Expect more of the same in the book. (In case you didn’t click the link, my review says: it’s really good!). Not for everyone. Here’s the NSFW–VERY NSFW–trailer for the book. Yes, you can see read typical Cronenberg stuff like this:

8. I mean like, a TON of books.

Here’s one that game out today: SUPERBETTER. Whether you play video games or not, you can get–not just better–but SuperBetter at life. Jane McGonigal is the “first person in the world to earn a Ph.D. studying the psychological strengths of gamers and how those strengths can translate to real-world problem solving.” She takes her TED talks and puts it to great use in her second book. Go for it!

9. So many books.

I linked it above, but I finished up UNDERMAJORDOMO MINOR while in the woods. It was quirky and very good. It’s a lesson on life, but mainly about love. Make sure you click the entry above!

I also read IN A DARK, DARK WOOD, which I hope to review tomorrow.

10. Back to you and this blog.

A lot happened in the short period I was away. I think I would like to start a new segment on Friday called FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY. This Friday I will be talking about planning for upcoming books and writing to the publishers to request those books! If you have any tips, please let me know in the comments below. I’ll be sure to point back here and perhaps to your blog.

So, while I had fun, it’s good to be back!

Review: SUPERBETTER by Jane McGonigal

SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient--Powered by the Science of Games
SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient–Powered by the Science of Games by Jane McGonigal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gamer or not, SUPERBETTER will improve your life; it is this year’s POWER OF HABIT. The fact is: Jane McGonigal outlines a surefire way to gain mental, emotional, physical, and social resilience. The fact is: “game play supercharges self-efficacy, work ethic, and determination.”

McGonigal is the “first person in the world to earn a Ph.D. studying the psychological strengths of gamers and how those strengths can translate to real-world problem solving.” She brings TONS of research and scientific findings into practical, playful—gameful—approaches to our everyday stresses and problems. It’s a fun way to make major improvements in life. “You’re going to get SuperBetter at something, not SuperBetter from something.”


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After applying her studies to herself, in creating “Jane the Concussion Slayer”, and seeing how it worked, McGonigal opened the “game” to over 400,000 people. Most of them saw improvements within 2 weeks, many seeing even more noticeable improvements 4-6 weeks into the program. The program went on to be controlled trial at University of Pennsylvania and a clinical trail at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. SuperBetter is now a website with accompanying apps on iTunes and the Play Store.

Here’s the gist, in 7 rules of the game:

1) Challenge yourself.
2) Collect and activate power-ups.
3) Find and battle the bad guys.
4) Seek out and complete quests.
5) Recruit your allies.
6) Adopt a secret identity.
7) Go for an epic win.

The book is broken into three parts: one to tell us why games make us better; two to teach us how to be gameful; three to build adventures in love, body transformation, and time enrichment. If you want to geek out (who doesn’t?) there are 12 pages covering the science of SuperBetter and 20 pages of footnote references. I particularly liked the end-of-chapter “Mission Complete” sections with the specific bulleted “Skills Unlocked”.

McGonigal waited five years to write the book to know that it works—and it does! Not only does she include the references to the studies, but she includes many, many stories of actual people and their triumphs. The successes are to be found everywhere. Even when I posted a picture of getting SUPERBETTER in the mail, I ran into Denisse on Twitter (@dtakes23) and found that she used SuperBetter’s game rules to save her life. (You can review her progress via #TakesKidney.)

The idea stems from people always wishing ill or hurting people to “get better soon”. It’s not enough to get better, but to get—SUPERBETTER. The ideas apply not only to post-traumatic growth as well as post-ecstatic growth. Through proven tools, we are taught how to activate the parasympathetic system instead of allowing the sympathetic system (fight or flight). We’re shown how to turn anxiety into excitement and threats into challenges. As McGonigal writes,“The actual stressful circumstance you face does not determine whether you view it as a challenge or a threat.”

The whole point is to “play purposefully”. As it is pointed out: “A skillful, purposeful activity that gives you direct control over your thoughts and feelings.” McGonigal tackles “All ways that we commonly think and act when we play games.” This can be anything from Candy Crush Saga to Call of Duty. There is a purpose behind games! It can be anything from finding reciprocity in feeding friends’ chickens in Farmville to working with leading a team in World of Warcraft.

The author is also sure to point out the drawbacks, as well as the benefits of certain types of games. Such as Call of Duty, where there is improved cognitive function and better performance in high-stress situations, yet Increase hostility or decreases empathy when someone plays against strangers. The question is asked: “Do you play to escape real life, or do you play to make your real life better?”

“Work ethic is not a moral virtue that can be cultivated simply by wanting to be a better person. It’s actually a biochemical condition that can be fostered, purposefully, through activity that increases dopamine levels in the brain.”

Everything is covered, from building SMART quests (specific, meaningful, adaptive, realistic, and time-framed) to Active Constructive Responding, or ACR: 1. Show enthusiasm, 2. Ask questions, 3. Congratulate and express happiness for them, and 4. Relive the experience with them. Oh, and I LOVE loving the gratitude: 1. Find the benefit, 2. Acknowledge the effort, and 3. Spot the strength. And these are just small samplings of many “quests” that are offered throughout the 480 pages of the book.

No matter your current successes or ailments, SUPERBETTER is ready to help you recruit allies, activate your secret identity, battle the bad guys, and activate power-ups. It’s fun; it works.

Review: Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt – You may get squeamish, but what the hell—it’s worth it!

Undermajordomo Minor
Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If Tim Burton and Wes Anderson collaborated to write a novel in the writing style of Ronald Dahl, it would turn out a lot like Patrick DeWitt’s UNDERMAJORDOMO MINOR.

The story is about Lucien (Lucy) Minor, an inconsequential young man from the town of Bury. Seeking to escape the undesirable and uninteresting, Lucy finds his way to Castle Von Aux. “…a decision which led to many things including but not limited to true love, bitterest heartbreak, bright-white terror of the spirit, and an acute homicidal impulse.” As he notices, “Lucy couldn’t shake the notion that there was some malicious anathema about in the castle.”

“…we’ll die here.”
“That’s not how we see it…”
“How do you see it?”
“We’ll live here.”

Through quirky verse and fanatical happenings, DeWitt tells the tale of life and love. I REALLY enjoyed it all. As he writes: “Undemonstrative manner of reportage; and yet he was moved by the tale as well.” This is more than a story; it is a pondering of a quick life boiled down to a summary that can be bound up within an epitaph. At times the events may not make sense, but then it strikes your heart.

“I have no regard for a man so willing to give his life for an idea…”
“Yes, and what is the idea?”
“Precisely.”


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“May I ask who it is they’re fighting?”
“What are they fighting about, do you know?”
“Well now, what does anyone fight about, boy?”

There are two wars taking place in this book: a war between men with an unknown cause, and a war of love. “What a violent thing love is, he thought. Violent was the word that had come to him.” Not only does Lucy battle, figuratively and literally, with the concept of love, but so do the others around him—in all manners and forms. “For if love had so degraded a personage of the Baron’s powers, what might it do to him?”

The person Lucy goes to work for is twisted within his own heart’s constraints. Lucy also battles to become significant in within his own life. “Lucy recognized his taking solace in giving up; he was familiar with the comfort which existed in the acceptance of failure.”

“All that I’ll say is that there is an unwellness rampant in the castle.”
“A pervasive unpleasantness…”

A word of warning. This paragraph has minor spoilers about animal cruelty and sexual pervasiveness. Twice you may think harm befalls a puppy—take comfort, it does not! However, a rat is devoured by a crazed man (the things love will cause!). And, yes, there is a tart-induced orgy in the castle. As for violence with humans, heads are blown off via cannon balls and fingers are chopped off via envy. End of spoilers.

This book was a fabulously fun ride with quite a bit of meaning. Its story is simple, its effects complex. DeWitt is a magical author with tons of character. You may get squeamish, but what the hell—it’s worth it!

OH!! Stay tuned for a giveaway announcement with this book….

And…here’s the trailer for the book:

UPDATE: be sure to check out Reading in Bed’s review of this book. She’s struggling to give it a rating, even deciding on if she “likes” it, but it left her with a smile and some reading enjoyment!

Review: Triggers, one of the most important books of 2015 for both business and personal betterment

Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts--Becoming the Person You Want to Be
Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be by Marshall Goldsmith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

TRIGGERS is one of the most important books of 2015 for both business and personal betterment, namely in enacting adult behavioral change. As author Marshall Goldsmith writes, “Fate is the hand of cards we’ve been dealt. Choice is how we play the hand.” This book helps us to overcome many of the obstacles we may already know about and then lets us triumph with lasting change by making effective choices.

“I’d go so far as to say that adult behavioral change is the most difficult thing for sentient human beings to accomplish.” Many readers may look at books like this as common sense, but there’s “plenty here that you don’t already do”. Goldsmith has a chapter on the everyday excuses we give ourselves, whether we mean to or not. More importantly, he helps us realize that “Our environment is a magnificent willpower-reduction machine.” “We think we are in sync with our environment, but actually it’s at war with us.” Goldsmith elaborates into tools within the environment that can help us “trigger” the positive change we are looking to achieve.

There aren’t many graphs or bullets, like many of the business books of this type, but instead are personal stories of how Goldsmith has come to an understanding of change and how it has helped many of his high-profile clients. There are certainly Covey-like graphs with four quadrants, as well as acronym takeaways. However, the biggest help (to me, at least) are the key questions, both daily and hourly.

There is a definite, yet subtle difference in passive versus active questioning. The former asks questions like “Do you have clear goals?”. The latter asks, “Did you do your best to set clear goals?” For the curious, here are the six questions toward the end of the book:

1. Did I do my best to set clear goals?
2. Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals?
3. Did I do my best to find meaning?
4. Did I do my best to be happy?
5. Did I do my best to build positive relationships?
6. Did I do my best to be fully engaged?

The questions don’t stop here: they pertain to anything from helping your spouse to losing weight to being on time to events. There’s plenty for us to seek out and improve. The key is: “Structure not only increases our chance of success, it makes us more efficient at it.” Through the tools that Goldsmith offers, we are given the energy and power to combat resource depletion and procrastination.

One other key takeaway for me is the question Goldsmith created by combining ancient Buddist wisdom with that of business great Peter Drucker: AIWATT, “Am I willing at this time to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic?”

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Through questioning and structure and by choosing what to create, preserve, eliminate, or accept, we can change for the permanent good. Always getting better, with sustainable improvement.

Thank you to Blogging for Books for sending this book for my review. It’s a life changer.