Welcome!


Welcome!! My name is Paul Lappen. I am in my early 50s, single, and live in Connecticut USA. This blog will consist of book reviews, written by me, on a wide variety of subjects. I specialize, as much as possible, in small press and self-published books, to give them whatever tiny bit of publicity help that I can. Other than that, I am willing to review nearly any genre, except poetry, romance, elementary-school children's books and (really bloody) horror.

I have another 800 reviews at my archive blog: http://www.deadtreesreviewarchive.blogspot.com (please visit).

I post my reviews to:

booklore.co.uk
midwestbookreview.com
2 yahoo groups
Amazon and B&N (of course)
Librarything.com
Goodreads.com
Bookwormr.com
Books-a-million.com
Reviewcentre.com
Pinterest.com
and on Twitter
(seriously)

I am always looking for more places to post my reviews.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Power of Vitamin D

Power of Vitamin D, Sarfraz Zaidi MD, Outskirts Press, 2010

This book is about a miracle chemical that most people lack. When a person's body has a reasonable supply of it, this chemical can help reduce the severity of many physical ailments. The miracle chemical is: Vitamin D.

Yes, that is the same Vitamin D that comes from being outside on a sunny day. Maybe parents should re-think covering their children with sunscreen anytime they go outside (for fear of skin cancer). Being outside or drinking milk with Vitamin D are certainly not bad ideas, but, by themselves, they will not provide all the Vitamin D that a person needs. The author also feels that the recommended amount of Vitamin D per day, 400 I.U., is much too low (Vitamin D is measured in International Units). The author also cites studies showing that a lack of Vitamin D can be linked to a variety of physical problems, ranging from high blood pressure to heart disease to multiple sclerosis to fibromyalgia to depression.

Does this require a trip to your local doctor? Yes, so that a blood test can be done that specifically measures the level of Vitamin D in your blood. It is helpful to know if your Vitamin D supply is a little low, or if you are. figuratively, empty. Then you should go to your local pharmacy, buy some Vitamin D, and start taking 2000-3000 I.U. per day.

Can it really be that simple? Can your illness be lessened, or even cured, with Vitamin D? There is little, or nothing, to lose. This is a very interesting book that is very easy to read. It is very much worth reading.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Give People Money

Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work and Remake the World, Annie Lowrey, Crown Publishing, 2018

What if the US Government started depositing $1000 every month in the bank account of everyone in America, with no strings attached? Sounds incredible, doesn't it? This book gives the details.

No doubt, some people will use the money to purchase items that are not healthy, like cigarettes, liquor or hard drugs. The vast majority of people will use the money to pay overdue bills, or stock up at the grocery store, or make a long-delayed trip to the dentist or doctor. The Universal Basic Income (or UBI) is meant to replace some, or all, of the current welfare system, which seems to be designed to be as confusing as possible.

Why should America consider a UBI now? It is not China, or immigration from Central America that will put millions of people out of work, it is automation (especially the rise of artificial intelligence). Not all of those newly unemployed will find new, 21st century jobs. Establishing a UBI will give these people a reliable amount of money each month, and it is easier, and cheaper, than pushing millions more people into an already overloaded welfare system.

How will America pay for it? The estimated cost of giving every American citizen $1000 per month, every month, is just under $4 trillion (the present size of the entire US economy). The closing of many tax loopholes, and the raising of many tax rates will have to happen to even come close to raising that amount.

This is a gem of a book. It is very thought-provoking, and very easy to understand. A UBI will help fill the "cracks" through which many low-income people fall. Here is an excellent place to start that discussion.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Undead

Undead, Ryan W Aslesen, BookBaby, 2018

Part 2 of a series, this book is about Max Ahlgren, CIA/black ops agent. In the previous novel, Max was part of an armed squad that traveled to Alaska to see why a mining operation had suddenly stopped. There, they faced people who had turned into hideous creatures, with extra arms and horns and a need to kill everything. The mining operation was vaporized, and Max was the only survivor of the squad.

In this novel, the North Koreans have gotten hold of the test data from the Alaskan mining operation, and plan to use it to, at minimum, give immortality to Kim Jong-Un. Max is seduced by a Korean woman named Juno to join a super-secret operation. The intention is to parachute into North Korea, find the (mostly underground) installation, get the test data, and destroy everything, with help from a backpack thermonuclear bomb.

The squad arrives at their target, but things start going wrong soon after. Juno, the leader of the mission, has a private set of objectives. The safe return of all members of the squad is not necessarily among them. After the squad survives attacks by North Korean soldiers, the practically indestructible monsters are unleashed. Perhaps they were political dissidents, or just "test subjects". The nuke is armed, and the test data is found. Can Max, and his rapidly dwindling number of squad mates, make it out alive? After that is the small problem of reaching the coast and activating the rescue beacon.

This is a pretty violent story (the body count gets pretty high by the end), but it is a really good story. Max learns, pretty quickly, just who he can, and cannot, trust. I look forward to more books in this series.

Escape from Hypatia 5

Escape from Hypatia 5: The 18th Shadow, Jon Lee Grafton, Amazon Digital Services, 2018

Part 4 of a series, this near-future novel takes place partly on the Moon. That is where the North American Union has built Hypatia 5, the ultimate in maximum-security prisons. Run by a person called The Architect, the only way to leave is in death.

It is also a place of gladiatorial games, involving humans, androids and cyborgs. Naturally, the battles are televised live on Earth. It is also a popular destination for the ultra-rich to watch the battles in person. A new cyborg is on the scene, a former person called The Prophet who remembers her former life. Is the "Escape from Hypatia 5" a success? Who wants to escape and why?

This is a very good, but very violent, novel. My only complaint is that it is fourth in the series (hardly the author's fault). I am one of those who Must read a series in order. For those who have read the other three books, this book is very much worth reading. It is less successful as a stand-alone novel.

The Seventh Guard

The Seventh Guard: Destiny Expires, Francis Halpin, Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2018

Robert is in his mid-twenties, and is abrasive and sarcastic. He has a part-time job in the computer repair department at Best Buy. He has been forbidden to have any contact with customers because of his near-total lack of social skills.

At home, in an attempt to give his life some meaning, Robert conducts strange experiments at the expense of customers and his few friends. One day, he becomes obsessed with a flickering fluorescent tube light in the Best Buy men's bathroom. He records several hours of it, and runs it through his home computers. He is able to turn the flickers into numbers, and turn the numbers into locations. Robert is convinced that he is going to meet some aliens.

Robert attracts the wrong sort of attention (not from a super-secret government agency). This person is able to influence people's minds, leading to Robert almost being murdered inside a Starbucks. As time goes on, Robert finds that he has acquired the same sort of mental abilities. The end of the book has the big confrontation with the Bad Guy. Who walks away at the end? Does the author leave room for a sequel?

It is not easy to make an unlikable person like Robert into a likable person, but the author does it. It's a very good story, with moments of humor, and is a gem of a book. I look forward to a sequel.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Zombie Queen

Zombie Queen, Carol Burgess Hobbs, CreateSpace, 2016

David is a Special Forces veteran who is living off-the-grid in very rural Arkansas. His wife, Carol, is about to give birth, and David is over the moon about it. While she is in labor, she is bitten by a zombie who has managed to enter their compound. Carol does not survive childbirth. Is this one of those inexplicable things, or is Something Going On?

His daughter, Queen, grows into a normal, healthy young woman, who becomes an expert in self-defense. The only strange part is that she, physically, needs to consume fresh blood every day. As she grows up, David calls veterans around the country, recalling them to duty. It becomes known that a very secret government program is being tested in the nearest town to David and Queen. People are quietly kidnapped off the street and taken to a barn outside of town. They are injected with a virus that destroys their immune system, and they end up craving red blood cells. Basically, they are turned into zombies (no, the dead don't rise). They are then released to infect more people. David and Queen do their best to kill them before that can happen. The local police have been specifically ordered to back off.

The official story is that the virus is purely defensive, but the opposite is the real story. The US President is a liberal idealist who refuses to believe that there is a target on his back, which was put there by senior members of his administration. Can the veterans get the President to safety?

This is much better than the average zombie story. It is more like a suspense story about zombies. It is pretty bloody, but it is very much worth the reader's time. I look forward to a sequel.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Pinochet Plot

The Pinochet Plot, David Myles Robinson, Terra Nova Books, 2018

Will Munoz is a successful attorney in San Francisco. He is also the son of Ricardo Munoz, a well-known Chilean writer, who died when Will was a child. His mother's suicide note asserts that his father was murdered on the orders of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile for more than 15 years in the late 20th century.

Will learns that his father wrote a novel, as yet unpublished, that would have been very unfriendly to Pinochet. A million-dollar reward was established, by Pinochet, for the return of the original manuscript and all published copies. As Will starts to ask questions about his father's death, focus turns to the CIA's famous, or infamous, MKULTRA mind control program. Chuck Evans was a part of MKULTRA, along with Milton Fisher, his CIA handler. After the program was "officially" cancelled, could Milton have kept Chuck supplied with drugs, and turned him into some sort of assassin-for-hire? As an extra complication, Chuck is also Will's step father. Could he have killed Will's father, and married his mother, to find the novel and get that million dollar reward?

This is a very "quiet" novel, in that there are no car chases or hair-raising escapes from the bad guys, But it is a very well-done novel. It explores a pair of unpleasant bits of recent American history, and it is very much worth reading.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Voices of the 21st Century

Voices of the 21st Century: Women who Influence, Inspire and Make a Difference, Gail Watson, WSA Publishing, 2018

This book consists of a group of short essays that are designed to help women of any age as they make their way through the twists and turns that constitute daily life.

Whatever your emotional challenge is, someone in this book has been there. It could be dealing with the death of a spouse, attempting to survive, let alone thrive, in a male-dominated field like construction, being in an emotional rut, or the aftermath of being shot by an AK-47. They show how they came out the other side, with the help of spirituality, a new mindset, or simply not giving up.

Anger and fear are normal human emotions. How a person deals with those emotions separates the adults from the children. It is not possible to change the circumstances of what happened to you; it is possible to change your reaction to those circumstances. Consider forgiving the person who has wronged you. It is not intended to let them off the hook. Instead, it is to let you off the hook by letting go of that anger that is keeping you from moving on. If you wish, consider yoga. meditation or a vision board. Set a goal for yourself, whether personal or professional, then break that goal into smaller, more manageable pieces.

These essays are short; just a couple of pages each. This book can easily be read while waiting at the doctor's office, or at the grocery store. This book can be picked up and read starting on any page. It is also very much recommended.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

First Amendment for Beginners

First Amendment for Beginners, Michael J Lamonica, For Beginners LLC, 2018

The forty-five words that make up the First Amendment to the US Constitution embody some of America's most basic rights. Among them are the right to follow the religion of your choice, and the right to express their opinions in public without fear of government interference. This book looks at the court cases that have turned those rights into reality.

The concept of a "wall" between church and state was never in the US Constitution. It comes from letters between President Thomas Jefferson and a group of Connecticut Baptists in the early 1800's. They were complaining because Connecticut had established Congregationalism as the official religion and did not guarantee religious freedom for other faiths.

When it comes to religion in public schools, in 1948, the Supreme Court struck down an Illinois law that set aside class time in public schools for religious instruction. Several years later, in 1952, the Court upheld a New York program that let students out of school to attend private religious instruction.

The Supreme Court has said that the First Amendment protects only speech, not conduct. What about "symbolic speech" like burning the American flag? The book also explores the question of whether money equals speech, like in the Citizens United case.

This is an excellent book. It is easy to understand for the average reader. It is also recommended for law students who need a First Amendment review. This is very much worth reading.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Culture Man: An Adventure

Culture Man: An Adventure, Guy Cook, 2017, Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Rob is a resident of present-day England, specifically, the town of Winchester. He runs a blog where he commits to do one culture thing per week, like visiting a local museum or art gallery, and then writes about it. Marianne, his ex-girlfriend, is a biochemist for a major food company.

One day, Rob makes himself a peanut butter and jam sandwich. It's not jam, it's one of Marianne's biochem creations. Combined with a painful, but non-fatal, bite from a lizard during a previous trip to Greece, Rob suddenly gains super-hero powers.

No, he does not turn into the Incredible Hulk. He does gain the ability to run 100 meters in six seconds, and he can fly. The first thing Rob wants to do is to win a local tennis tournament. Because of his culture blog, Rob starts to call himself Culture Man.

Every super-hero needs a super-villain. Someone called the Velvet Vandal has evidently been reading Rob's blog. That is because items from the places mentioned in the blog are stolen. The two eventually agree to meet at the top of Winchester Cathedral for the Final Confrontation. Who is the Velvet Vandal? Does someone fall dramatically to their death from the top of the cathedral? Are Rob's abilities permanent or do they have an expiration date? Does an ambitious Oxford Professor of Biochemistry have any involvement?

This is a very "quiet" superhero tale, but a very good one. It shows what can happen when an average person becomes a super-hero. Yes, it is well worth the reader's time.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Reign of the Vedic Gods

The Reign of the Vedic Gods: The Galaxy of Hindu Gods Book 1, Swami Achuthananda, 2018, Relianz Communications Pty Ltd.

This book attempts to introduce the reader to the world of Hindu gods. There are a million of them (gods, that is).

Ganesha is the one with the head of an elephant. He was created, according to one folk tale, because Shiva (his father) had been intruding too often on Parvati's (his mother) bath. Using the dead skin and dandruff from her body, she created a son and gatekeeper. After Shiva is driven away by Ganesha, Shiva gets furious and chops off his head, not realizing that it was his own son. Parvati is very upset, but Shiva tries to console her by putting the head of an elephant on Ganesha's body. Shiva is known as the god of destruction; he does not do so well at creation.

Indra, the greatest of the Vedic gods, was hidden as a baby for a long time. Prithvi, his mother, did it to keep him away from a jealous Dyaus Pita, his father. At the time of his birth, humans were in the midst of a major famine, because the demon Vritra had stolen the clouds. There was a major battle between Indra and Vritra, which was won by Indra, and the rains returned. Indra also defends people and animals from other demons, leading to his becoming ruler of the universe.

Most Hindu and Aryan holy books talk about there being thirty-three gods (a reasonable number). So where did the number of 330 million gods come from? The book also talks about India's caste system, still entrenched in Indian society, despite attempts to change it.

First of a series, this book does a very good job at painlessly introducing the reader to Hindu gods. As a suggestion, for anyone who wants to learn more than the basics, read about one god at a time, instead of trying to understand all of them. This book is the place to start.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Fate and the Twilight of the Gods

Fate and the Twilight of the Gods: The Norns and an Exegesis of Voluspa, Gwendolyn Taunton, Manticore Press, 2018

This is a short book on Northern European (specifically Norse) mythology.

Fate is a force that is outside of human control. In Northern Europe, fate is usually shown as a Goddess with three aspects, known as the Norns or Nornir. They are not separate and distinct figures, which leads to the possibility that they were imported from somewhere else, and merged with the existing belief system via Roman incursions into Europe.

There is a problem in trying to study the surviving textual references to the Nornir. Christians destroyed a lot of indigenous literature during their aggressive converting of Europeans. Therefore, the concept of the Nornir could have been part of something much bigger.

Many different traditions have their own apocalypse story; for the Norwegians, it is called Ragnarok. It is similar to other traditions in that there is a cycle of decline in the quality of life until the end comes. Then the world is purified through destruction and things begin again.

Loki is the antagonist behind the coming of Ragnarok. He is never fully accepted into the community of Asgard. He is eventually imprisoned and tortured. Ragnarok can not be prevented, only postponed, because of a mistake in Odin's (Loki's father) past.

This is a very specialized book. It is recommended for mythology scholars, or those who otherwise know their way around Norse mythology. For the average reader, this book can be skipped.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Finding Sarah

Finding Sarah, Paul Walker, Michael Terence Publishing, 2018

This novel is about one man's attempt to fill in a large hole in his family history -- the sudden disappearance of his grandmother more than thirty years ago.

In 1980's England, Jack runs a home-based business selling software to catering companies. Things are not going well. He had to let go his sales manager, who then jumped to the competition. An important client did not renew their contract. A lucky bet on a horse race keeps the company afloat, for a while. A new sales manager was hired, who seemed to be the answer to Jack's prayers. That is, until large discrepancies were found in his resume.

What is worse is that Jack's behavior is getting increasingly erratic. With no warning, Jack suddenly gets angry, and lets loose with lots of profanity (even in front of friends). Jack pleads business stress, but his wife, Sarah, is sick of it. On the way to a patch-things-up vacation in the country (Sarah is an unwilling passenger in the car), Jack stops at a highway rest stop, and has a nap in the car. Sarah goes inside, and vanishes. When Jack goes in to get her, she is gone. The police are called.

Fast forward to the present. Jack is in a nursing home, suffering from advanced dementia. Matt, his grandson, is inspired to look into Sarah's disappearance. Slowly, he begins to put it all together. Focus shifts to an abandoned well at the cottage where Jack and Sarah were supposed to have their vacation. Are there human remains at the bottom of the well?

This is a very good story, but a very "quiet" story. There are no car chases, or hair-raising escapes from the bad guys (there are no bad guys). There is just lots of good writing, and an ending that will keep the reader guessing.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Dark Energy

Dark Energy, Robison Wells, Scholastic Inc., 2016

Contact with an alien race has finally happened. A mile-long spaceship has crashed, putting a 300-mile-long gouge in the American Midwest, killing thousands of people. Alice has been put into a local boarding school, because her father, who works for NASA, has to be at the crash site.

After several days, a hole is cut in the side of the ship, and the aliens start coming out, by the thousands. They call themselves the Guides, and they sure do look human. A bit of secret genetic testing shows that they really are human. They also speak a version of an old Native American language from the American Southwest. The humans get a look inside the ship, and see large rooms with lots of spilled blood. Perhaps the ship crashed because of a major battle or mutiny on board.

The Guides are not the only inhabitants of the ship. These other aliens are gray-skinned, much taller than the Guides, with lots of horns and claws and a nasty disposition. It seems that the Guides were practically slaves, and that a mutiny did cause the crash, and that the "bad guys" are not going to let the Guides go that easily.

Alice and a couple of friends have been taking care of a couple of the Guides. They suddenly find themselves racing across America, to a supposed sanctuary, knowing that, at any moment, they could be blasted into atoms.

This is a really good Young Adult novel. The author does a first-rate job from start to finish. It has plenty of action, and is very much worth reading.

Meeting Nihena

Meeting Nihena, Ervin Agayan, 2018, Amazon Digital Services

First of a series, this novel is about Arsy and Zens, a pair of traveling thieves. They enter the city of Mozakon, the shining city on a hill (literally). They are there because a local sensei  is said to be the only person who can teach Arsy the martial art of cathastu.

Arsy has plenty of motivation to learn. Several years previously, he was an ally to a well-known outlaw named Erathos. Now they are on opposite sides. Maybe sooner, maybe later, the two will meet again. Without cathastu, Arsy is a dead man (again, literally).

Arsy is in love with Princess Parelia. She despises him, because of his past association with Erathos, and has made it clear that she never wants to see him again. While in Mozakon, Arsy and Zens run into Nihena, daughter of the city's Lord, and chief mercenary. Think of the human equivalent of a Tasmanian Devil. She is loud, brash, arrogant and with the fighting skills to back it up (which she is not afraid to use). She agrees to teach cathastu to Arsy, after the Lord withdraws official permission. Reports surface that Erathos is only a couple of days away from Mozakon.

There is a lot of dialogue, and not much sword or sorcery in this novel. The author almost, but not quite, reaches the level of writing an excellent story. I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

Nevermore!

Nevermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre, Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles (ed.), Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2015

Here is a group of contemporary stories inspired by the writing of Edgar Allan Poe. They could be thought of as modern retellings of some of his most famous tales. Poe was a pioneer in several different literary genres, including detective stories, science fiction and, of course, horror.

The stories are mostly short (only a few pages each), and they are very easy to read. They are spooky/macabre stories, as opposed to actual horror stories. As with any Poe story, these stories will keep the reader awake, so don't read this book in bed.

Horror fans will love this anthology, and Poe fans will especially love it. All of these tales are really good.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Armada

Armada, Ernest Cline, Crown Publishing, 2015

Zack Lightman is an average teen-age resident of Oregon. His passion is video games, especially an Alien invasion game called Armada, at which he is one of the top players in the world.

Zack's father, Xavier, died when he was a baby (or did he?), but left behind some unique theories. He strongly believed that pop culture, from the Twilight Zone TV show to the Star Wars films all the way to present-day video games has a specific purpose. It is to indoctrinate mankind to the possibility of alien existence, because Contact has already happened.

At school one day, everyone rushes outside when a shuttle from the Earth Defense Alliance, exactly like the video game, lands on the athletic field. The people inside are looking for Zack. The invasion is real and imminent. Taken to a secret underground base, Zack and the other new recruits, all top players of the game, learn that swarms of drones are coming from Jupiter's moon, Europa. The intention is to wipe out humanity. All of Earth prepares for war.

While engaging the invaders, questions arise about their tactics. If they really want to destroy mankind, why are they using an inefficient method like a drone invasion? Pointing an asteroid at Earth, or releasing a worldwide plague would be much easier.

Anyone with any video game passion will love this novel. It is very easy to read, and understand, and would make a great movie. This is very much worth reading.

Quista - Book One: Danay

Quista - Book One: Danay, Aviva Bel'Harold, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2016

Quista is a very strange star system. It has three suns, a dozen planets and over fifty moons. The Emperor holds it all together with magic.

Danay is an outcast on the mostly water planet of Uma'Three. It is literally a piece of a larger planet, along with Uma'One, Two and Four. She is too tall, too thin and she doesn't have a second set of lungs, like everyone else.

Danay wears a Coming of Age bracelet, which, in the local language, says "Precious One". In another language, it says something totally different. Phillip, a boy that Danay secretly likes, suddenly returns after being away for a long time. He now won't leave her side.

The Emperor's troops arrive to perform loyalty tests. Phillip tells Danay that she has to leave now, but can't answer her questions. Eventually, Danay learns the other translation of her bracelet, and she learns the real identity of her mother, who she never knew. Danay finds herself in the middle of a growing rebellion.

The author does and excellent with this Young Adult novel, from the characters to the story to the society-building. Young people will love this story; adults will, too.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Amped

Amped, Daniel H Wilson, Doubleday, 2012

Owen is your average high school teacher, with a neurological implant in his head to control his epilepsy. Thousands of people have such implants in their heads to eradicate learning disabilities and reduce the severity of neurological problems.

In a landmark court case, the Supreme Court declares that "amps" are not entitled to the same legal protections as everyone else. This unleashes a national wave of harassment, beatings, martial law and being forced into resettlement camps (think Nazi Germany) for all amps.

Just before he is killed by an anti-amp mob, Owen's father, who implanted him, tells him to find a man named Lyle, who is living in a trailer park in middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma. Lyle was part of an amped military unit, which was disbanded when things got out of hand. The trailer park has become an amp sanctuary, even though it is surrounded by anti-amp zealots, who seem to enjoy harassing the amps, fueled by large amounts of beer.

Lyle tells Owen that he does not have the average implant in his head. He is carrying some high-class, military grade software in his head. Owen learns how to turn it on and off, and has several chances to use it against the anti-amps. It sure looks like America is headed for a second Civil War. Is there anything that Owen, or anyone else, can do to stop it?

This is an excellent near-future thriller. It is very plausible, and it is very easy to read and understand. It is also nice and high-tech, and it is very much recommended.

Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom

Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, David Neilsen, Yearling, 2016

The children who live on Hardscrabble Street are upset to learn that an abandoned house, their favorite playground, is no longer abandoned. It has been purchased by Dr. Fell, a man of indeterminate, but advanced. age. Attired in a long, black coat and a purple top hat, he is accompanied by many crates and large boxes.

The next morning, the children see the ultimate in playgrounds in his front yard. It has everything a child could possibly want in a playground. The children spend every spare minute at the playground. All of the elementary schools in town establish regular school bus routes to Dr. Fell's playground.

With any group of children playing, there are going to be bruises, skinned knees and other minor injuries. Dr. Fell takes them into his house to get fixed up, and they emerge brainwashed. Even more serious injuries are fixed by Dr. Fell like they are nothing.

As time goes on, the popularity of Dr. Fell's playground grows to the point where every elementary school within twenty miles sends their children to him. The brainwashing includes the parents, who want Dr. Fell to do their children's yearly physical (even if they have just had their yearly physical).

Jerry, Gail and Nancy are the only ones not under Dr. Fell's spell. Can they discover his evil plan before it is too late? Does Dr. Fell plan to take over the world, starting with the children?

Intended for children 8 - 12 years old, this is a gem of a book. It works really well as a mystery, and it will certainly keep the reader's interest. 

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Blue Girl

The Blue Girl, Charles De Lint, Viking, 2004

Imogene is new to Redding High, in the town of Newford. Having left her previous school because of fighting and gang activity, she resolves to work harder in school, and otherwise re-invent herself. But she refuses to give up her punk/thrift store wardrobe.

Imogene's first friend is Maxine, who everyone thinks of as a loser. It's because Maxine's mother is extremely domineering. Oddly enough, the friendship works.

Trouble is brewing. Imogene is noticed by the school bully, who is also captain of the football team. She makes the acquaintance of Adrian, the school's ghost. He is a former student who fell off the multi-story roof. He has also developed a crush on Imogene. She gets on the wrong side of a group of trouble-making fairies (no, they don't have wings and carry magic wands). As if that wasn't enough, Pelly, Imogene's imaginary playmate from when she was a child, is now real.

Adrian, inadvertently, makes Imogene known to the Soul Snatchers, beings who are best avoided at all costs. Pelly finds a Soul Snatcher "repellent", which temporarily turns Imogene's skin blue. Halloween is coming, when the barrier between worlds is at its thinnest. Is it possible to convince the Soul Snatchers to leave Imogene permanently alone? Does someone else get snatched in her place?

This is a very enjoyable young adult novel. The author is said to be the founder of the urban fantasy genre, and it certainly shows. The depiction of high school is very realistic, and it is just weird enough, without being too weird. Teens will love this story; so will adults.

Agent to the Stars

Agent To The Stars, John Scalzi, Subterranean Press, 2005

How can a spaceship full of friendly aliens introduce themselves to the people of Earth without causing a worldwide panic? Enter Tom Stein, hotshot Hollywood agent.,

Carl, Tom's boss, has given him the full-time job of representing Joshua, who looks a lot like a pile of green slime. Carl was "involved" in Joshua's birth (it's complicated) so Joshua speaks fluent contemporary American English. Joshua also has the ability to enter, and take over, another being, like a neighbor's dog.

Tom needs to hand off his present clients to other agents, which raises some eyebrows in Hollywood. Among his clients is Michelle Beck, your stereotypical twenty-something blond bimbo actress. Michelle is good for low-budget sci-fi pictures or beach pictures, but not for an ultra-serious film about the life of a Holocaust survivor. Michelle really wants the lead role, but the audition does not go well. On the set of another low-budget sci-fi film, Michelle suffers a freak accident, which puts her in a deep coma.

Can Joshua and his alien friends do anything about it? Is there enough of Michelle left to save? Do the aliens come up with a way to say Greetings to mankind without causing a planet-wide freak out?

I totally enjoyed this book. It's an excellent mashup of Hollywood and a really intelligent first sontact story. It's also very easy to read, and is very much recommended.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Chicken Hero

Chicken Hero: Fascinating Stories Based on Life Experiences, Uyi Osifo, Amazon Digital Services, 2018

This is a group of very short stories about growing up in present-day Nigeria, and eventually moving to America.

As a young child, after an afternoon of playing soccer with his brothers and cousins, the author drank from a bottle of clear liquid, thinking that it was water. It was actually gin. In the beginning, he went to church mostly because his friends also attended. In Nigeria, begging on the street is normal. When he moved to America, he wondered where the beggars were hiding.

Poisonous snakes are a fact of life in Nigeria. Every village seems to have one or two snake whisperers, people who are not afraid of them. Nomads bring cattle from the north of the country. A cow was so focused on grazing that it didn't notice that the rest of the herd was gone. The cow then got mad and started chasing anything that moved. The author had malaria several times as a child. The usual treatment is a drug called chloroquine. Serious itching is a common side effect.

The author was successful in the annual lottery to get an American Green Card. This was around the time of 9/11. He eventually moved in with his sister and her husband, who were living near Chicago. There is a difference between seeing snow on TV, and seeing it in person. Driving home from work one night, he was not sure if he missed his highway exit. He kept driving, and thought it would be a good idea to pull over and call 911 for directions when he passed a sign that said Welcome to Iowa.

This is an interesting book. The stories are very short, and the whole book is a very fast read. This will keep the reader interested.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Precious Silver Chopsticks

Precious Silver Chopsticks: A True Story of a Korean Noble Family, Mae Adams, CreateSpace, 2017

This memoir is an attempt to tell the author's American-born husband what her life was like before they met.

Born in North Korea, her mother did not want a second daughter, so she tried to abort the pregnancy. When she was born, Mom gave her to her parents to raise. Grandma gave Adams lots of love, and allowed her to explore her Korean heritage. She received a Japanese-style education, and her most prized possession, a pair of silver chopsticks. It was a time when class structure was very important, along with religion and astrology.

World War II came, and the family was forced to flee south, while Grandma stayed behind. A few years later, the Korean War forced the family to again become refugees. The author was now old enough to get a job with the US military, and to begin thinking about marriage. Later in life, the relationship with her mother was still "difficult".

This is a really good book. The author does a fine job at showing one family's journey through the mid-20th Century, in a different part of the world. Yes, it is well worth reading.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Result

The Result: The Practical, Proven Formula For Getting What You Want, Dave Crenshaw, Amazon Digital Services, 2018

Many books have been written purporting to show how a person can get what they want from life, personally or professionally. This book attempts to do it in less than 100 pages.

What result do you want that you are not getting right now? It's tempting to write a long list. Focus on just one thing at a time. It also needs to be specific. Saying that, for example, you want to lose ten pounds in the next two months is better than simply saying you want to get healthy. How will you know when you have reached your goal? What will you (or others) feel when you have reached your goal? Give your self a reasonable amount of time to reach your goal.

How are you going to do it? Start with the formula Systems + Accountability + Motivation = Goal. All three elements are required. The book looks at what happens when each of these elements are missing.

Accountability to a third party is essential. Someone else is needed to encourage (or push) you when your willpower is lacking. Follow-up is the way to gauge, and maintain, your accountability. What is your motivation? Set a specific period of time each week to think about your goal. Are you still on the right track? Resolve to do just one goal-oriented thing every day.

This is a gem of a book. It is made for busy people who want to get right to the action steps. It is very easy to understand, and is time and money very well spent.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Born To Be An Entrepreneur

Born To Be An Entrepreneur, Kristyna Zapletal, 2018, independently published

Many books on entrepreneurship concentrate on the "hot" industries that will attract everyone. This book looks at the inner, psychological aspects.

There will never be a "perfect" time to become an entrepreneur. What if I don't have enough money to get started? What if I am not smart enough? What if I fail? There is only you, and there is only now. Do you have the willpower to stick with it, through good times and bad?

Find a product or service that will bring value to others. Fill a need that people don't even know that they have. Do that, and the profits will come. If things don't work out, and you do fail, it is not the end of the world. You will have a much better idea of what not to do next time.

Every day, you will have to deal with negative thoughts and emotions, sometimes caused by other people. Just let those thoughts pass right by you, without letting them inside. You won't be able to help others until you first help yourself. The world is changing every day, so it's a good idea to stay a few steps ahead of everyone else. That can be done by, for example, learning a new language or becoming better at time management. We can't control negative events in our lives, but we can control our responses to them.

Other chapters look at regaining your self-esteem, being an innovator no matter where you live, getting rid of the victim mindset and the reason that numbers don't always tell the right story.

After the decision has been made about the product or service to be sold, reading this book is a very good idea. The chapters are very short, and they will help a ,lot on those days when your willpower is lacking.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The MECE Muse

The MECE Muse: 100+ Selected Practices, Unwritten Rules and Habits of Great Consultants, Christie Lindor, 2018, SDP Publishing

In this world, there are two types of business consultants. Some will do the minimum amount of work to not get fired by the client. They will answer only the question or problem that they have been given. Others will go out of their way to learn a client's business, and answer questions that the client has not even asked. Which do you want to be?

Never underestimate the power of common courtesy. Network, network, network (then network some more). While you are on the road, flying from city to city, set aside some time for yourself. You will be no good to anyone, especially the client, if your health suddenly collapses due to stress and unhealthy eating. Metaphorically speaking, "force" the client's CEO to put you in his or her rolodex, because of the wonderful job you did. You should be the first person they call with any future problems.

The first day of a new consulting assignment is not the time to start researching the client. Spend a couple of weeks ahead of time learning the client's business and industry. That way, you can hit the ground running, while everyone else is just getting started.

If you are part of a large group of consultants, you will come into contact with all sorts of personalities, some of them less-than-pleasant. If you are done for the day, and a colleague is still working, Always ask if you can help. The final product is the important part, not what individual consultants did, or how quickly they did it.

If there is such a thing as "one stop shopping" in the consulting world, this is it. It is most recommended for new MBA's who think that they have all the answers. Experienced consultants will also learn something from this book. It is well worth reading.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Royal Bengal Horror

Royal Bengal Horror, Nafee Muhammad Anam, 2017

This is a group of spooky/macabre stories set in South Asia.

A newspaper editor visits his top writer, who seems to have fallen off the face of the Earth. He has not been into work in a long time. The writer has physically changed a lot, and not for the better. He says that he was forced to let go his driver, his cook and his housekeeper. The editor is drawn to the basement, where he finds four coffins, three of which are occupied. The door to the main level suddenly closes.

A new family moves in next door. The only child, named Christina, has not been outside at all for several days. Urmi, a young woman of the same age, goes next door to say Hi. In the sitting room are hundreds of drawings of snakes, all done by Christina. Urmi reluctantly enters Christina's room, which is filled with glass showcases holding thousands of snakes. Urmi turns around to get out, and Christina is gone, along with the door to the room. As if on cue, all the glass cages open, and all the snakes head straight for a panicked Urmi.

On the positive side, this is a very good group of stories from a different part of the world. They will certainly keep the reader entertained. On the negative side, this book needs a trip, or another trip, to a proofreader whose first language is English.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Appointed Hour

The Appointed Hour, Susanne Davis, Cornerstone Press, 2017

This group of connected stories shines a spotlight on rural America.

A woman walks into a tattoo shop, wanting a large tattoo across her chest for a less-than-intelligent reason. The male tattoo artist reluctantly fulfills her wish. A few years later, when the artist has his own shop, the same woman wants another tattoo. This time he says no; the art outweighs the money.

A local handyman, who has acquired the nickname Useless John, goes to a woman's house to install a hardwood floor in her kitchen. She just happens to look exactly his wife who died several years previously. He was driving when there was a bad auto accident.

A descendant of the Mayflower attempts to deal with a monument to an ancestor. A woman with post-traumatic stress disorder finds a group of other women to help her regain her voice. There is a story about dealing with HIV. An actress in the 1950's who got to kiss Elvis Presley on screen decided, in later years, to become a nun. She is now known as Mother Agnes.

These stories take place in Connecticut, but they could take place anywhere. Individually, these stories are excellent. Put them together, and this collection nears the level of Amazing. It is extremely highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

My Twin Sister and Me

My Twin Sister and Me, Emiliya Ahmadova, Women's Voice Publishing House, 2018

This Young Adult novel is about Julieta and Rafaela, twin sisters living in Venezuela. They have a typical home life. There is some sibling rivalry, mostly with Kara, their older sister. Montano, a male friend, is the subject of constant bullying at school. He is kind of overweight, and has a severe intestinal gas problem. A beloved uncle, who lives in America, is dealing with Stage 4 Cancer.

The girls have joined the local Girl Scouts, and they have a chanced to go to a Jamboree in Russia. The only problem is that the Scouts have to pay part of the cost of the trip. Their parents are skeptical, but the girls' Inner Entrepreneur has been unleashed. The money is raised, and the girls, and Montano, are going to Russia.

The living conditions at the campground where the Jamboree is being held are basic, but livable. There is plenty of opportunity to meet Scouts from other countries. A bus trip is planned to a museum in Moscow, but Montano has to go to the bathroom, now. Julieta gets off the bus with him, without telling anyone. The bus leaves without them. Everyone is under strict orders to not leave the campground. Just outside the campground is a Russian Orthodox church. Along with Lena, a Scout from Russia, Julieta and Montano visit the church. They also meet an elderly woman who has been reduced to begging. Are there any other eye-opening moments while they are in Russia?

This is a very interesting story, the sort of story that could take place anywhere. For any young girl between nine and thirteen years old (the age range for this book) who is having trouble dealing with adolescence, or thinks that no one can understand what they are experiencing, reading this book is a very good idea.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tantric Traditions

Tantric Traditions: Gods, Rituals and Esoteric Teachings in the Kali Yuga, Gwendolyn Taunton, Manticore Press, 2018

In the West, the word "tantra" is usually followed by the word "sex". Part of mainstream Hinduism, there is much more to tantra than just sex.

Tantra is actually loosely defined, consisting of multiple schools that worship various deities and practice different techniques. Tantra cannot be "nailed down" to a specific tradition.

The God Siva is a very important part of the social and religious life of India. Among the aspects, or portrayals, of Siva is that of Nataraja, King of the Dance. Another aspect of Siva is Sankara the Beneficent. Nataraja uses constant dancing, and Sankara uses yoga, as a route to a higher level of consciousness. Such different facets of Siva lead to the description as a God that transcends opposites and the limitations of humanity.

Devi is a Goddess with many aspects which are shown under numerous names and forms. In Hindu law, menstrual blood and menstruating women have all sorts of taboos. Touching a menstruating woman is akin to touching an outcast or a corpse. A woman who wears her hair unbound is a sign that she is menstruating.

The holy city of Kasi is not just a place of pilgrimage. The God Siva is said to be always present there. It is said that merely to die in Kasi is enough to release a person from Hinduism's cycle of death and rebirth.

This book is not Hinduism For Beginners. It is recommended for religious scholars, university students or people who otherwise know their way around the Hindu religion. For everyone else, this book can be skipped.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Art of Invisibility

The Art of Invisibility, Kevin Mitnick, Little, Brown and Co., 2017

In this age of government and corporate online surveillance, being anonymous while online is becoming more and more important. This book, from "the most famous computer hacker in the world" (according to Publishers Weekly) gives some pointers.

In this day and age, anyone who still uses "password" or "12345" for their computer password should be ashamed of themselves. Change that password to a long and random string of letters and numbers, like twenty or twenty-five characters long. Write it down, or use a password management program, and frequently change it.

If you are on a public wifi connection, like at the local library or coffee shop, do not do any online banking or e-commerce. It is very easy for a hacker to get your information, or send you to a site that looks legitimate but is not legitimate. If you are using anyone's computer, other than your own, it is a very good idea to delete the browser history, and reboot or shut off the computer before you leave it.

Did you know that many printers, including work printers, have a hard drive that records everything that was printed? Save the printing of personal items, like medical test results or your credit report, until you get home. You can be sure that your boss is keeping a close eye on your internet usage, even during your lunch hour.

For anyone traveling to the US, even American citizens returning from overseas, border authorities have the right to seize your laptop or cellphone, and keep it for as long as they want, searching through files. It is possible to use "strong" encryption on any personal files, store those files securely in the cloud, then wipe, not just delete (there is a difference) those files from your computer, and re-download them later.

Parts of this book may be too technical for the average reader. The rest of the book may be considered common knowledge, but it certainly bears repeating. It is very much recommended.   

Astrophysics For People In A Hurry

Astrophysics For People In A Hurry, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, W.W. Norton and Co., 2017

What is the nature of time and space? What is our place in the universe? Those are the sort of questions that this book attempts to answer.

Scientists don't know just what dark matter or dark energy is all about. It could be some new particle or new phenomenon, as yet undiscovered. Whatever it is, it accounts for the vast majority of the weight of the known universe. Scientists have been able to recreate conditions the tiniest fraction of a second after the Big Bang. They just can't get back to the actual moment of, or just before, the Big Bang.

Several thousand exoplanets have been discovered orbiting other stars. At interstellar distances, it is usually not possible to see the actual planet. Therefore, scientists have to focus their attention on a specific star, and look for a slight dimming of its brightness as a planet passes in front of it. It would be wrong to think that the space between galaxies, like the Milky Way, is just empty space. All sorts of things have been found, like runaway stars, gas clouds, x-ray emitting gas clouds, high-energy charged particles, dark matter and dwarf galaxies. Visible light occupies only a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Mankind has started to look at the stars using detectors that focus on everything from ultraviolet rays to infrared to radio waves.

This is a gem of a book. It is very easy to read and understand, even for non-scientists. This book was made to be read on the commuter bus, or while waiting at the doctor's office. It is very much worth the reader's time. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Nomadland: Surviving America In The Twenty-First Century

Nomadland: Surviving America In The Twenty-First Century, Jessica Bruder, W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2017

This book looks at a growing number of people, usually retirees. Not always by choice, they have abandoned their homes, and are living in a van or trailer or RV as they travel around America.

Perhaps their savings disappeared during the Great Recession, or they are officially "underwater" on their mortgage (owing more than the house is worth). Regardless of the reason, they are living on Social Security as they travel around the country. There are several websites dedicated to the subject. It's possible to make friends with other such "vanampers."

It is also possible to get temporary employment while living in your vehicle. A person, or couple, could, for instance, spend the summer as Camp Hosts at a campsite. Then they could spend a couple of months flipping burgers for a professional baseball team during spring training. More important than the modest pay is the chance to get a safe place to park the vehicle for a time. Then there is working for Amazon; they call the vanampers their "camperforce." Not all Amazon warehouses accept them; who wants to live in a van up north during the Christmas rush? It's normal to walk the equivalent of ten or twelve miles a day at an Amazon warehouse.

There are many things to consider when living in a vehicle. The first night in your vehicle, parked in a parking lot, will be nerve-racking. You fear that any footsteps you hear will be vandals, or the police. A growing number of cities and states have taken to criminalize homelessness. If your vehicle is not set up for it, how do you go to the bathroom, or take a shower?

This is a fascinating, and eye-opening, book. Many Americans are just one layoff, or hospital stay, away from joining the "vanampers." If such a thing is in your near future, start your preparations by reading this book. It is very much worth the time. 

The Truth Matters

The Truth Matters, Bruce Bartlett, Ten Speed Press, 2017

In an era of "fake news" and "alternative facts," this short book attempts to show how the average person can distinguish between real news and propaganda.

If a news story is being covered by only one news source, the story is probably fake. Get in the habit of frequently visiting a fact check website. Does a source have a bias in a news story? Are they less than non-partisan?

Frequently, a story will cite "according to a government study" as its source. What study? What agency did the study? When was the study done? Conveniently, it's now not possible to look up the study to see just what it says. It's much better to cite a specific, and researchable, study?

Primary sources, people who were actually at the event, are much more reliable than secondary sources, people who weren't there, but heard about the event later. Journalism terms. like "on the record" or "off the record" have different meanings and can be used by sources to mislead reporters. Visit your local library; they have search engines of most major newspapers, and free online access to valuable news databases. A better job needs to be done at putting numbers, like the federal budget, in proper context. Opinion polls are easily manipulated. It's best to look at trends by several different pollsters, instead of just one poll.

This book also includes a list of websites to visit to get real and reliable information, instead of nonsense. It is short, very easy to read and highly recommended for all Americans.   

Thursday, March 15, 2018

There's No Such Thing as "Business" Ethics

There's No Such Thing As "Business" Ethics, John C. Maxwell, Warner Business Books, 2003

This book was published in the time of the collapse of Enron. A person could be forgiven for thinking that there is one standard of ethics in big business (Don't Get Caught) and another standard of ethics for the rest of humanity (The Golden Rule). The author does not agree.

How would I like to be treated in this situation? This way of thinking is easy to understand and is accepted by most people. Companies that operate this way are consistently more profitable than those that don't. It also works really well as a personal compass.

Before a person can change their business, they need to adopt the Golden Rule as their personal integrity guideline. Make your decisions, personal and business, accordingly. Some people blame their choices on circumstances. Other people make good choices regardless of circumstances. Which are you? Doing nothing is also a decision. Consider asking others to hold you accountable for your decisions.

There are many things that keep a person from adopting the Golden Rule. Most corporate ethics violations come from "cooking the books," so there can be lots of pressure to not say anything. Those in power sometimes feel that the assets of the company are their personal checking account, to be spent any way they want (who cares about ethics, I want it now). Having pride in yourself is a good thing. An excessive amount of pride, focusing only on yourself and your interests, is a bad thing.

After the Great Recession, it sure seems like there are a whole new generation of business leaders who need to read this book. It's short, very easy to understand, and each chapter has in-depth discussion questions. It is very much worth the reader's time.

Hypercapitalism

Hypercapitalism, Larry Gonick and Tim Kasser, The New Press, 2018

In graphic novel form, this book attempts nothing less than an accessible explanation of capitalism. It also shows how present-day worship of markets harms a person's well-being and the planet's health.

The five commandments of hypercapitalism are: Thou Shalt Consume, Thou Shalt Operate Globally, Thou Shalt Not Regulate, Thou Shalt Spend Less on Labor and Thou Shalt Privatize. How can the average person afford all this consumption when wages have generally stagnated over the past couple of decades? The answer is: credit cards, the overall debt of which is about $700 billion. That does not include student loan debt, which is another trillion dollars. Are obsessed consumers really happier than the average person, or do they get a momentary "high" from their purchase?

Is there anything the average person can do about it? Before buying, here are some questions to ask yourself. Can I afford it? Do I need it, or do I want it? Will it improve my life? What company makes it? There are tool banks and seed banks and time banks, where such items can be shared. If your town or neighborhood does not have one, consider starting it. Get to know your local library. It is possible for a business, like an employee-owned business or a non-profit, to be more socially responsible than average. For some people, more direct methods are the way to go. These include boycott/buycott, advocating for a better deal for workers and publicly funded political campaigns or taking to the streets and protesting.

This book deserves six stars. It is very easy to read, and does a wonderful job at explaining capitalism, even for those who "hate" capitalism. It also gives a number of alternatives that anyone can adopt. This is extremely highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Star Mate -- Cosmopolis: City of the Universe

Star Mate -- Cosmopolis: City of the Universe, A.T. Nager, Clocktower Books, 2016

This far-future science fiction novel is about Jared, a brilliant and handsome starfleet officer. He is not off fighting the growing rebellion at the edge of the empire because his career has been hijacked. Princess Lyxa, the last princess of a failing dynasty, is keeping Jared nearby as her "boy toy." She has long since moved on to other such male companions, but she refuses to give Jared his freedom.

The war comes to Mercury Free Port City, capital of the empire, forcing everyone to flee. Jared and Lyxa flee to a planet orbiting Arcturus. Along with them is Stella, Jared's most loyal companion. She is a djia, or diaphanous (see-through) being. She was made from Lyxa's nervous system, so she is a sort-of copy of Lyxa.

Jared finds himself in a very laid-back beach town. It's the sort of place where a person can spend the day on the beach, or sit in a local bar sipping the sort of drink that has a little umbrella sticking out of it. Jared falls for, and marries, a local woman named Mala. Life is good.

The war comes to Arcturus. Lyxa's plots and agents force Mala and Jared to split up. Mala heads for the other side of the planet to hide. Jared heads for Lethe, a sparsely populated farming planet that he visited several years previously. Do Mala and Jared get back together, and live happily ever after?

This book is pretty good. Personally, the society building is a little better than the actual story. Yes, it's worth reading.

Cigars, Whiskey and Winning: Leadership Lessons From General Ulysses S. Grant

Cigars, Whiskey and Winning: Leadership Lessons From General Ulysses S. Grant, Al Kaltman, Prentice Hall Press, 1998

A person might think that the life of General (later President) Ulysses S. Grant is an unlikely place to find leadership lessons applicable to the modern age. That is what this book attempts to do.

Did you know that Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant? The Congressman who appointed him for West Point filled out the application for Ulysses S. Grant. When he tried to correct the error, the clerk at West Point said that the application could not be changed. Rule number one: try to keep bureaucrats out of your organization.

People need meaningful work. Interviews reveal more than resumes. You have to earn your stripes. Turn mistakes into training opportunities. It's not important who gets the credit. See for yourself what's happening. Committees study good ideas to death.

Know when to listen to your subordinates. Know when to disobey orders. There isn't only one right way. Know when not to hold a staff meeting. Ask the right questions. Sooner or later, everyone gets sick. Take responsibility for your actions. You can't succeed if they don't. How to pick the right person for the job. Know when something smells fishy. Never act in anger, regardless of the provocation. Unfortunately, President Grant was not able to put into practice the leadership lessons of General Grant.

This is a really good history/management book. Each leadership lesson is illustrated by an example from Grant's own memoirs. It is very much worth reading.

Plan B: Separate Yourself From the Herd

Plan B: Separate Yourself From the Herd, Gene King, Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2012

It is getting increasingly hard to get a good job that is above entry level. Many people are applying for the same job, with equal, or superior qualifications (on paper). What can a person do to stand out, to separate themselves from the herd?

The answer is: a video resume. Don't just sit at a table, and read your paper resume to your smartphone camera. Put some thought and style (and some money) into it. If possible, get previous employers on camera, talking about how much money you (the job seeker) saved them while you worked there. The job seeker should appear on camera very little, or not at all, during this mini-documentary. For those who are new to the job market, forget about a video resume. A potential employer is more interested in what you have done than in what you think you think you can do.

Which is more effective: putting your video resume on YouTube, or on a DVD, and blanketing every company within 50 miles, or concentrating on just a couple of companies whose needs mesh with your abilities? It's called "research." A website dedicated to your job search can be very effective. If you go the "couple of companies" route, don't spread your website all over social media. You want only those couple of companies to see it.

If possible, target the hiring manager or CEO, bypassing HR (no insult is intended to the HR department). The book also talks about how to approach the job interview, and evaluating the job offer.

This is an excellent job search guide. It is very easy to read and understand for job search novices and veterans. Everyone should be able to find at least one good job search tip here.

AFOQT Study Guide

AFOQT Study Guide: 2017-2018 AFOQT Test Prep and Practice Test Questions for the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test, Trivium Test Prep, 2017

The AFOQT (a requirement for anyone who wants to be a US Air Force Officer) consists of multiple sections, and it is a timed test. The test taker gets a certain number of minutes per section.

The test covers areas like: word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, situational judgement, physical science and how to read a table. There is lots of math (everything from adding decimals to quadratic equations). It includes more specialized areas, such as aviation information and how to read instruments. The book also contains 2 complete sample tests.

This book feels complete and easy to understand. For anyone wanting to take the AFOQT, here is a very good place to start.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Doing This ONE Thing Will Change Your Life Forever

Doing This ONE Thing Will Change Your Life Forever, Jacqui Olliver, Educate Publishing, 2017

The author had a difficult, or tumultuous, time growing up in New Zealand. Her father was emotionally distant, perhaps because he honestly didn't know how to be a father. He killed himself when she was 20 years old. In school, she was very insecure, and did not fit in anywhere. She got the idea that other people will help her to be fulfilled as a person, which led to accusations of being emotionally clingy to other people. There was a year of sexual abuse. She was in a multi-year relationship with a gambling addict. It ended, one night, when he died in his sleep. Over time, the author started to get her brain, and her life, in gear, and is now a well-known therapist.

Negative emotions, like anger or depression, are part of daily life; the important part is how a person deals with those emotions. Most times, people will relive the cause of the negative emotions, letting things get worse and worse inside. Some people will fight the emotions, not letting them inside at all. Have you ever tried to suppress a sneeze? A person needs to let the emotions in, let them remain for a while, and then let them go. A hidden cause of bullying is not knowing how to deal with those emotions. A major cause of stress and anxiety is sex. If a person was never taught, or shown, how sex is supposed to feel, they are going to think that they are doing it wrong, or that their partner is not satisfied. This leads to "performance anxiety" or other more physical problems, and the stress spreads outside the bedroom.

This is a very interesting book. The author has experienced a lot of negativity in her life, so she knows what she is talking about. What is this one thing that a person has to do to change their life? Read this book; you'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Revolutionist

The Revolutionist, Robert Tucker, Tell-Tale Publishing Group LLC, 2017

Set in the early 20th century, this is a story of loss, love and redemption that is based on true stories.

The Josephson family, recent immigrants from Sweden, have a dairy farm in Minnesota. The parents, Olaf and Ingrid, were part of the social democratic, or socialist, movement in Europe. The right-wing Prussian government would like to wipe socialism off the map, which is why the Josephson's are in America. The parents are visited by Luther, a bounty hunter sent by Prussia. He really wants a list of social democrat members that the Josephson's supposedly have. The parents are killed by Luther's shotgun, forcing their teenage children. Julie and Newt, to flee to a lumber camp up north.

Along with a couple of friends who got involved, Julie and Newt survive for almost a year in the lumber camp (Julie does her best to impersonate a boy). The make the acquaintance of Matias Bauman, who knew the Josephson parents, and was forced to leave Europe for similar reasons. He takes the group to his mansion in Chicago. The labor and socialism unrest in Chicago is growing, along with the horrible treatment of workers by the employers.

Julie's "job" is to hand out socialist pamphlets on the street, while Newt is something of a rising star in Bauman Enterprises. Luther has not forgotten about the Josephson children. He is nearby, just waiting for a chance to kill everyone involved. Does he succeed? Who is still alive at the end?

This is an excellent novel. The author does a wonderful job with the historical research (industrialist J.P. Morgan is one of the characters). The story itself is also well-done. It is very much worth reading. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Set You Free

Set You Free: Love, Lies and The Secrets That Bind, Elmer Seward, 2015, Bay Rivers Publishing

It's a rainy night in the Chesapeake Bay area of Maryland. Blake is driving along, and he nearly hits Deena, and her young daughter, Kat, who are walking on the side of the road. It takes some convincing, but Blake drives them to Mama Jo, an older woman who is happy to put them up for the night.

Deena reluctantly agrees to stick around for a while, instead of heading to the bus station in Baltimore. Blake volunteers to help fix up the old cottage that Deena has rented. Deena reveals nothing about herself. A person would need a jackhammer to break through the emotional wall that Deena has built between herself and the rest of the world.

A man named Fry, and a couple of his "goons" are in the area, looking for Deena. He is the sort of person who does not take "no" for an answer. He also has no problem in killing anyone who gets in his way. Blake does not tell Deena, but sleeps in his car for a couple of days, outside Deena's cottage, watching for Fry.

Does Fry find Deena? Is he a vindictive ex-husband? Is Deena able to loosen up around Blake, even a little bit?

This is a really good story of emotional chains (not just on Deena's part), which can be just as strong as physical chains. There is also a bit of romance included. Read it; you'll be glad you did.