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.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Confessions of a Crypto Millionaire

Confessions of a Crypto Millionaire: My Unlikely Escape from Corporate America, Dan Conway, Zealot Publishing, 2019

This is the story of Everyman. The author was slogging his way through corporate America, living with an addiction that he thought was behind him. He had to deal with insane bureaucracy, and the dark, cynical side of his personality that turns on at inconvenient moments. There had to be something better.

He did a lot of research about this thing called cryptocurrency. It seemed like an excellent way to exit the "rat race." He wanted to invest the family's life savings, a substantial amount of money. His wife's "price" for her agreement was the taking of several expensive trips with their two young children.

Like any other investment, losing it all was a distinct possibility. Conway watched as his investment went up, with no sign of stopping. For him, it was not about simply making a lot of money. It was all about a lifestyle change, about never having to return to corporate America. Others urged him to sell some of his investment, to pay bills and the mortgage.

As fast as the price went up, it also went down. Did Conway panic and get out? At the end of the book, did the family move to some exotic place, like Ireland, to live off their wealth, or did Conway return to corporate America?

This is an excellent introduction to the world of cryptocurrency. It is very easy to read and understand. It is the kind of book that could have been written by anyone.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Bosnian Phoenix

Bosnian Phoenix: How Bosnia Saved Europe and Made Possible the Modern Age, Miljan Peter Ilich, 2018, iUniverse

This is a history of Bosnia, in southeast Europe. It became well-known in the late 20th century, when Yugoslavia, of which it was a part, violently fell apart.

Bosnia has been inhabited for the past several thousand years. It provided many soldiers for the Roman Empire. Bosnia was right on the border between the western and eastern Roman Empires. When the western Empire collapsed, Bosnia became part of the eastern, or Byzantine, Empire.

A variant of Christianity called Bogomilism flourished in Bosnia. It began to spread into Europe, and is said to be the precursor for all of Protestantism. In the 1200's, there were several Vatican-approved Crusades into Bosnia, to try and wipe out Bogomilism, but they were unsuccessful.

Over the years, Bosnia has had really good leaders, and some who were not so good. There were many battles with neighboring groups, including the Serbians, and the Hungarians, who made no secret of their desire to add Bosnia to Hungary. Through it all, the territory of Bosnia has generally stayed together.

More recently, Bosnia was a bulwark against the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. Bosnia's influence in starting World War I is included, and so is Tito, and the breakup of Yugoslavia.

This is heavy history. Do not try to read this book in one sitting. It is most recommended for historians, and those whose ancestry is from that area. But, for the average reader. . . maybe not.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Red AI

Red AI: Victories and Warnings from China's Rise in Artificial Intelligence, Nina Xiang, Amazon Digital Services, 2019

Over the past few years, a person could be forgiven for thinking that China is about to, figuratively, take over the world in the area of artificial intelligence. According to this book, the reality is very different.

China does lead the world in the use of facial recognition software. That is because China has about one-third the number of police per capita that America has. It also helps that the average Chinese citizen is rather ambivalent or unconcerned about the possible loss of personal privacy. This is in great contrast to the huge backlash that happens in America at the mere mention of the words Facial Recognition Software.

When it comes to driverless cars, America is way ahead. There are a number of Chinese companies in this area, and China is actively building autonomous driving zones for driverless cars all over the country. Cars from Waymo (part of Google) can drive themselves over 130 times as far as cars from the Chinese company Baidu before needing human intervention. Also, at some point, those Chinese driverless cars will have to drive themselves on Chinese streets, where anything can happen. Chinese regulators have not yet given their approval.

Recently, a Chinese AI company had their system do simultaneous translation from Chinese to English at a major international conference. The results were horrible. China is able to build its own low-level computer chips, but the sophisticated, high-level chips all come from America. If that supply should ever stop, the entire Chinese AI industry would grind to a halt.

In the area of industrial robots, China has many companies involved, but they are starting from farther behind than the rest of the world. Until recently, China did not need robotics, but with an aging population, it is now a requirement.

This is a fascinating book. The author's biggest recommendation is that China must become much more self-reliant in AI. It is pretty easy to read, and is certainly up-to-the-minute. It is very much worth reading for everyone.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Tomcat Fury

Tomcat Fury: A Combat History of the F-14, Mike Guardia, Magnum Books, 2019

The F-14 Tomcat fighter plane, made famous by the movie "Top Gun", was a workhorse of the US military for 30 years. Here is its story.

Made by Grumman Aerospace in New York, it rolled off the assembly line in the mid-1970's. It was intended as a carrier-based bomber replacement for the F-4 Phantom, which had reached the end of its lifespan. It was involved in the tail end of the Vietnam War, mostly in a recon and support capacity.

The F-14 got its first taste of combat in 1981's Gulf of Sidra incident. Muammar Qaddafi declared the entire Gulf to be Libyan territorial waters. The problem was that the entire Gulf was many times bigger than what can be declared territorial waters, according to international law.

The Shah of Iran was a good friend of America. He needed modern weapons to counter Iraq, so he bought many F-14's, along with spare parts. After US-Iranian relations collapsed, and America backed Iraq in the Iran/Iraq war, America cut off all access to F-14 spare parts, forcing Iran to cannibalize their planes to keep some of them in the air.

The F-14 was not used very much during Operation Desert Storm, but it made up for it in Afghanistan and Iraq, flying thousands of sorties. It, too, reached the end of its lifespan, and, in 2006, the F-14 was retired. All surviving planes and spare parts were intentionally destroyed to prevent rogue nations, like Iran, from getting their hands on them.

This is a very specialized book. For those with any sort of military connection, whether historian, veteran or enthusiast, this book is a Must Read. The military jargon is kept to a reasonable level.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Divine Dots

The Divine Dots: A Transformational Novel, Ali Khan, The Author House, 2018

Set in present-day Bangladesh, this is the story of a boy named Bijoy. His father is determined that the generations-long cycle of extreme poverty in his family must end, so he walks Bijoy to the village school every day. After his father's sudden death, his mother does the best she can to keep him in school.

Circumstances force them to move to Dhaka, the capital, along with another more well-off family. Bijoy is put into an orphanage, which is acceptable for the extreme poor. He gets a decent education, while his mother is able to work as a cook/maid, and she visits him often. After several years in the orphanage, Bijoy goes on to college, where he meets someone. He takes the relationship much more seriously than she does, so things do not end well.

Bijoy takes up music to heal his broken heart. He gets pretty good at playing the bamboo flute, good enough to join a musical group that plays several concerts in Canada. While there, his mother begs him not to come home. He is on a political party's hit list. They think that he saw something that he shouldn't have seen, and they want to silence him, permanently.

He applies for refugee status in Canada, continues his music studies, and meets someone. He is afraid of getting burned again, so he takes things very slowly. Bijoy also applies for his mother, stepfather and younger sister to emigrate to Canada. Is he successful? Do they re-unite in Canada?

This one is surprisingly good. It is a heartwarming story about overcoming adversity and keeping your "eyes on the prize". It also works really well as a self-help book. It is very much worth checking out.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Heart of a Warrior Angel

Heart of a Warrior Angel: From Darkness to Light, Lali A Love, Tellwell Talent, 2019

This novel starts in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Dragan marries Mira, who is a teenager. She is pregnant soon afterwards. Dragan is very cruel and abusive toward Mira, and Lilac, their daughter. Mira's parents (he is part of the Russian mob) give Mira, Lilac and Jasmine, another daughter, a safe place to go. Abruptly, Dragan moves the family to Israel.

Mom and Dad are able to follow. Dragan does his compulsory military service, then is committed to a mental hospital, because of PTSD. Mira and the girls are actually able to have normal lives. Dragan escapes, and, in the middle of the night, moves the family to Toronto.

Among Dragan's many demands is that Mira produce a male heir, but she gives him two more daughters. If anything, the emotional and physical abuse gets even worse. Dragan opens a local restaurant, at which the whole family is expected to work, as slaves. Years later, in a fancy house on the outskirts of Toronto, the moment comes when Dragan is out of the picture, permanently.

The family then learns how to breathe again, and starts the process of healing (it is not always a straight line upwards). A nagging question for all is: Was Dragan's behavior learned from his father, was it because of his PTSD, or was it genetic, and will any of the family exhibit the same behavior?

This is not an easy novel to read, but it is a very good novel. Personally, the second half of the novel got a little too new age-ish, but, having endured that level of abuse, emotional help from anywhere will be appreciated. Yes, it is very much worth reading.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Revelation: Mature Look

Revelation: Mature Look, Maurice A Williams, Amazon Digital Services, 2017

A total rewrite of an earlier book, this book attempts to interpret parts of the Book Of Revelation from the Bible, both from a historical and a futurist perspective.

Lucifer was a senior angel who was cast out of Heaven, because he and God had a major difference of opinion. He took about one-third of the angels with him. Many of the events and descriptions in Revelation can be interpreted to apply to the Romans, who ruled the area. They also fought a number of battles with the Judeans, before they flattened Jerusalem in the 2nd century A.D.

Moving to the present, the author has very little good to say about present-day humanity, especially America. He talks about evolution, abortion and the general removal of God and religion from the public square. The sightings of Mary at places like Lourdes and Fatima are an attempt to encourage humanity to return to the right path, the path to God.

Those who consider religion an important part of daily life will enjoy this book. For history buffs, in general, this book might take a while to get going, but it reaches the point of being worth the reader's time. The author is in his 80's, but he doesn't lack for passion or strong opinions.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Dark Web Rising

Dark Web Rising, Eugene T Schurter, Amazon Digital Services, 2018

Part one of a series, this near-future novel is about Stewart, an expert computer hacker. Among the computers he hacks into is that of the ultra-secret Central Security Agency (not a good idea).

The CSA goes after him, but he manages to stay just out of reach. It all has to do with the Egg, a supposedly unhackable online chat room that Stewart has created.

Along with a couple of friends, and Reyanna, a fellow computer geek, Stewart gets help, and a safe house, from a shadowy rich person called "Daddy Warbucks". Attention shifts to a colony starship being built in lunar orbit. Stewart attempts to hack into the double-ultra-secret CID system, to get them on the passenger list. The book ends with the ship on a one-way trip to the stars. Are Stewart and friends on board? Is the CSA waiting for them?

This novel is really good. It is nice and high tech, but it is also easy to understand. I look forward to the rest of the series.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

And Then I Met Margaret

And Then I Met Margaret: Stories of Personal Transformation, Rob White, Mind Adventure Press, 2013

It is normal, and reasonable, for a person to read, or listen to, self help gurus like Stephen Covey, Marianne Williamson or Tony Robbins. However, it would be a big mistake to ignore life lessons that happen every day, taught by average people.

The author grew up in small-town Massachusetts. In his tweens, one winter, he found a deer with its foot stuck in the ice. He did his best to reassure the deer that he was only there to help. He intentionally stood between the deer and a policeman who was about to shoot it. The deer eventually got free. Soon afterwards, his father wanted to introduce him to the tradition of deer hunting. After his encounter with the deer, White refused to take part.

Another tradition, right after high school, is to get a job in either of the two factories in town. White decided that he would rather go to college. He was caught cheating on an English Literature final exam. Did the teacher blow the whistle, or did White get a second chance? After a number of years as a teacher, a job that he enjoyed, he gave it up to enter the world of buying and selling real estate. Like anything else, there were days when he felt on top of the world, and days when he wondered how he ever thought he could be a success in real estate. Meantime, the life lessons continued, from the most unlikely sources.

This is an excellent book, almost reaching the level of being a wonderful book. The stories are very easy to understand, and they are only a few pages each. The life lessons here are applicable to anyone in any stage of life. It is very highly recommended.

Monday, September 2, 2019

As Wings Unfurl

As Wings Unfurl, Arthur Doweyko, Red Adept Publishing, 2016

Set in the mid-1970's, this story is about Apple (short for Applegate) Bogdanski, who has just returned from Vietnam, minus part of one leg. Working in a local used bookstore, he comes across a couple of blurry photographs, which other people want very much.

A woman named Angela suddenly appears. like a guardian angel, and gets Apple out of several tight spots. He finds himself in the middle of a war, with the survival of humanity hanging in the balance. Mankind was seeded on Earth several thousand, not several million, years ago. Some, led by an angel named Dane, want to terminate the "experiment" and give Earth back to its original inhabitants, represented by a yeti from Tibet named Yowl. Angela, another angel, has fallen for Apple, and wants to leave humanity on Earth. Who will prevail at the end?

This is a really good novel that will keep the reader interested. It almost, but not quite, reaches the level of being an excellent novel. It is still very much worth checking out.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Die to Live Again

Die to Live Again, David Crane, Foremost Press, 2013

Tanya is your average recent graduate of grad school on the day that the nuclear bombs fall, all over the world. After a confusing, and harrowing, couple of hours, she finds herself inside Crystal Palace, a large, military-run sanctuary. The outside door is sealed.

As the weeks and months go on, the perception among the thousand or so people inside Crystal Palace is that Colonel Pierce, the commander, is turning into a dictator. Meantime, other pockets of humanity around the world start to make themselves heard. Tanya, and Jack, her boyfriend, are involved in a plot to overthrow Pierce, and rejoin the lawful American government. Pierce finds out, and exiles Tanya and Jack to the radioactive surface.

The radiation sickness comes pretty quickly. When Tanya and Jack are almost dead, they are visited by an anonymous individual who says that radiation sickness can be cured. They come across some strange black trees. Tanya is grabbed by one of the trees, and cured. But, it involves a rather large physical transformation. Jack refuses; he would rather die as a human.

Tanya is introduced to other transformed people (they're called panthers) and other sanctuaries. She also learns of a religious fanatic who wants to kill all panthers, since they are spawns of Satan. On live TV, the American President confesses that others are to blame for starting the war, and names them. The "bad guys" sanctuary is surrounded by several thousand human, and panther, soldiers.

This novel is surprisingly good. It feels plausible (may we never find out for sure), it is very easy to read, and has plenty of action. This would make a really good movie, and is well worth reading.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sell to Excel

Sell to Excel: The Art and Science of Personal Selling, Asif Zaidi, iUniverse, 2019

These days, the art of selling involves a lot more than simply saying "Buy my widget". This book gives the details.

A customer is not buying a product or service, they are buying a solution to a problem. A salesman has to know a customer's company and industry as well as the customer knows it. A salesman has to show how their product or service will solve the problem better than anything else on the market. A salesman has to fill a customer's need that the customer doesn't even know that they have.

It is rare when a customer will sign on the dotted line with absolutely no problem; there is going to be some sort of objection. Usually, the stated reason will be something like "It's not in the budget" or "Try again next quarter." The salesman should ask open-ended questions to find out the real reason. Sometimes, the stated objection is not the real objection.

The book spends a lot of time looking at the personal relationship between the salesman and the client (sometimes the decider is a committee, not one person). Qualities like honesty, credibility and trustworthiness are required in the salesman. Once those qualities are gone, they are not coming back. A salesman should never over-promise and under-deliver; it should be the other way around. Look at things from the client's perspective. Always keep in contact with the client, with a handwritten note on the client's birthday, or tickets to a football game. Your consideration and generosity will be remembered.

For some people, the information in this book may be common knowledge, but it bears repeating. This breaks the art of selling into smaller, more manageable pieces. It is easy to understand and is very much worth checking out.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Understand Women

Understand Women: Win The Heart Of One, Mike Curtis, Amazon Digital Services, 2017

This is a step-by-step book on understanding what women want (and don't want) to hear from a man when it comes to dating and relationships. The author emphasizes that this is not a book on picking up women. His advice is: Be patient, and don't act like a jerk.

It starts with approaching a woman for the first time, when to ask for her phone number, the first date and those days when she is angry, but says that everything is fine.

A five-star rating is not enough for this book. It is excellent, and extremely recommended.

Monday, August 5, 2019

East

East, Kirk Kjeldsen, Grenzland Press, 2019

America is no more. It has collapsed, politically and economically. Job, a teenager living in the Pacific Northwest with his older brother, has just learned that his mother is not dead. She abandoned her sons several years previously, and went to look for work in China, untouched by the collapse.

He gets on a train to the Free State of San Francisco. Job, and a bunch of other refugees, gets on a fishing boat for a very illegal trip across the Pacific. It is a harrowing trip, stuck in the dark, stinking hold of the boat. When they reach China, Job is handed over to a man who takes him to a factory near the city of Chongqing. It is the sort of place surrounded by a chain link fence with barbed wire on top. The hours are long and dangerous, the food is meager and the pay is mostly non-existent.

After a year, Job escapes the factory and moves from job to job. He spends every spare moment showing an old picture (the only one he has) at every factory he can find in Chongqing. He eventually gets a job as a motorbike delivery driver. The food and pay are decent, and it lets him spread out to more factories. He learns that he ought to start looking for his mother in the city's brothels and whorehouses. After several more months, he sees a woman who looks a lot like his mother. He runs after her.

This is an excellent Young Adult novel. The author does a very good job from start to finish. I wonder if this is the sort of thing experienced by Latin American refugees coming to America (before the recent refugee flood). It is very much recommended.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Tetrastatum

Tetrastatum: An Introduction to Psychothotonix, The Discovery of Unknown Universes, Dr Richard and Tim Smith, Epigraph Books, 2019

This novel is about Tim Smith, a researcher at DARPA. He is working on a quantum teleportation system (instant travel to nearly anywhere), but things are not going so well. He is also having a very hard time dealing with the death of his wife and young daughter in a fiery car accident several years previously.

An early morning suicide attempt gets him a one-way trip to a mental hospital. Under electroshock therapy. Tim does his teleporting, but only in his mind. Among the places he visits is Universal Depot, the biggest store in the galaxy. Tim is not there to do grocery shopping. Another place he visits is the planet Atlantis. It is a modern civilization, with nuclear missiles and a 24-hour news channel. It is also in the middle of a rebellion against the tyrannical government.

As things go on, Tim's grip on reality gets more and more flexible. Perhaps he can find a different universe where his family did not get in the car on that fateful day.

This is a very strange story, so it will give the reader quite a mental workout. There is also a lot of very high-level quantum mechanics, so physicists will love this book. The average reader can skip the physics, and stick with the story, which is nice and mind-blowing.

Friday, July 26, 2019

We Run Bad

We Run Bad, John Curry, The Okie Doke Book Publishing Corporation, 2018

Set during the Great Recession, Tim is a failed house flipper. He heads to Atlantic City to attempt to regain his luck at the gaming tables. That doesn't last very long. Having hit rock bottom, Tim is given a chance to run an underground (and very illegal) poker game in New York City.

For Tim, it looks like a no-lose proposition. He gets a free place to stay, and a piece of the action. Life is pretty good. That is, until the police use their battering ram and break down the reinforced steel door. Tim spends the night in jail.

After being released, Tim figures that his underground poker days are over. Brian, his "boss", is incredulous. Dealing with the police is simply part of the cost of doing business. He needs to be up and running today.

Every week, Tim moves between a couple of different locations. Heading to one of the locations to get ready for "work", Tim sees several vans parked in front of the building. They are full of people whose jackets say "FBI".

This is an excellent stream-of-consciousness novel that is a very quick read. It certainly feels like the author has first-hand experience with the world of underground poker games. It does a really good job at showing the seamy underbelly of present-day America, and is very much worth reading.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Biblical Clock

The Biblical Clock: The Untold Secrets Linking the Universe and Humanity With God's Plan, Daniel Friedmann, Amazon Digital Services, 2019

For may years, it has seemed like science and religion see the world in totally different ways. This book attempts to reconcile those differences.

Did God create the world in one week or do biblical "days" last for thousands of years? Are the End Times coming in the foreseeable future? Those are the sort of questions explored by this book.

This is a lot different from (and much better than) the average science/religion book because it profiles those who thought about such questions throughout history. In 11th century France, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki would sit in the back of the room at the Torah Seminary. If a concept wasn't understood by the students, like the phrase "it was good" from Genesis, he would think about it, and consult his own books. Writing up a clearer explanation of the not-understood concept on parchment, he would secretly insert it in the teacher's book. The next day, when the piece of parchment was found, Rabbi Yitzchaki made sure that he was in the room, but acted like he wasn't listening. Included in this book is a possible near-future scenario for the coming of the End Times.

This is a very interesting book. Those who are not religious might have a hard time with it. For everyone else, any book that can bring science and religion closer together, if not totally reconciled, is a good thing. It will take some effort on the part of the reader, but it is a first-rate piece of writing. It easily gets four stars, if not four-and-a-half stars.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

How To Live To 100

How To Live To 100: Secrets From the World's Happiest Centenarians, Elizabeth Lopez, 2019, Leaders Press

Who doesn't want to live to be 100 years old? This book gives some details.

It focuses on an isolated part of present-day Costa Rica, which seems to have a higher-than-normal number of centenarians. There is no magic formula for longevity, but several things will certainly help. A positive or optimistic attitude toward life in general is a must. Their diet may not be very diverse, but it is certainly healthy. It consists of a lot of beans and corn and rice, all grown locally, along with some meat.

Another must is daily exercise, whether it is working in the fields, all day and every day, or running the local equivalent of a convenience store. Their grown children, and their families, usually live in the same village, so there is lots of human contact. Also included is a lot of socializing with friends and neighbors, and a lot of dancing. Last, but not least, there is a strong belief in God. They attend church frequently, and have what might be thought of as a fatalistic attitude (it's all up to God).

Sounds simple, doesn't it? It all comes down to adopting a "simple" lifestyle, not easy in this 24/7 online world. Even if a person can't totally change their lifestyle to reflect this book, just a small change can only help. This book is short, easy to read, it has pictures and short profiles of several centenarians, and is very much worth reading.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Dragon Grammar Book

The Dragon Grammar Book: Grammar for Kids, Dragons and the Whole Kingdom, Diane Mae Robinson, 2017, self-published

Intended for middle grade children, here is a very accessible book about English grammar, that most hated of school subjects.

The author clearly explains things like the difference between and adjective and an adverb, or the correct time to use 'who' or 'whom'. There are quizzes at the end of each chapter to build on a student's knowledge. All of the sentence examples deal with kings and castles and dragons (who doesn't love dragons?).

This is an excellent supplement to the usual dry school textbook. It is also recommended as a homeschool textbook. Older readers, who barely survived English grammar class, should also read this book. It will help a great deal.

Friday, July 5, 2019

The Marketing Book 2019

The Marketing Book 2019, Jason McDonald, JM Internet Group, 2019

Marketing is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small. This book attempts to take the reader through the whole process.

What are you selling, a product or a service? Who is your customer?(Please be more specific than "everybody".) A Business Value Proposition defines what you sell that they want. Why should a person buy from you? Come up with an elevator pitch; describe your business in one or two sentences. Do some market research, and see if there really is a market for what you are selling.

Are you selling Business to Business (B2B), or Business to Consumer (B2C)? The marketing will be different for each. Find your niche; the high-end or the low-end, value part of the market.

Your business reputation is extremely important. Keep an eye on review sites like Google or Yelp. A single upset customer online can do great damage to an otherwise healthy company. Consider advertising on sites like Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, but don't do it because "everybody" is doing it. Are your potential customers going to be there?

All this time and effort spent on finding the best places to advertise will be worthless without some amazing content in those ads. The book looks at topics like keywords and search engine optimization, or SEO.

This book is very much worth reading for any marketing person, regardless of the size of the business. Don't try to understand the whole book in just one read. It has good information for all types of businesses. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Literature

Literature, Guillermo Stitch, Nineveh Editions, 2018

Set in an undefined present-day/near-future world, this is the story of Billy Stringer, newspaper reporter at the last newspaper in the city. He has messed up his first big assignment not on the sports desk, he is going to be late for work, his girlfriend is spending more time working for her PhD than with him and his only available clothes are from his high school prom.

Just to make things worse, he is convinced that people are trying to kill him, because he is a terrorist. In Billy's world, new fiction powers the highways. Old-style fiction is banned. Merely possessing a book will get a person thrown in prison, if not get them a date with the gallows. Billy has become addicted to books. He suddenly fears for the safety of his girlfriend and his mother.

This is a dystopian noir thriller about the power of words. It is a world where asking questions can be very hazardous to your health. There is not much explanation of how things got to this point, but it is still a first-rate story that will keep the reader interested.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Relapse: A Love Story

Relapse: A Love Story, Robert Hunter, Beaver's Pond Press, 2018

This is the first-person story of Rob Wildhide, would-be writer. He is absolutely convinced that he will write the next Great American Novel. There is just the small obstacle of writer's block.

Rob, and Annie, his girlfriend, decide on a spur-of-the-moment trip to rural Maine to visit some of her friends. They are a very "unique" group of people. Rob and Annie are married by a shaman, after a brief courtship. There is also lots and lots of alcohol, mostly home-made. Rob has had problems with alcohol in the past.

After several days of weirdness, and hangovers, Rob and Annie decide to leave. They make a break for it in a stolen limousine. A passenger for part of their trip is a female Romanian gypsy with many strange prophecies.

Soon after they get home, to Pennsylvania, Annie is diagnosed with cancer. While she is in the operating room, and Rob is in the waiting room, the law catches up with him. He is arrested and thrown in the local jail. Does Annie survive the operation? Do Annie and Rob get back together?

This book is easy to read and understand, and is full of good writing. It is the sort of story that can be set anywhere and happen to anyone. This easily gets four stars, maybe more.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Price of Life

Price of Life, David Crane, Foremost Press, 2015

For the past several thousand years, immortals have been living among the rest of humanity. Some are "good guys", more than willing to heal someone injured in a hit and run accident, or shot in a robbery. Some immortals are bad guys", convinced that they are superior to humans, and they should be Earth's absolute rulers.

It all began over 10,000 years ago, when Ru, a prehistoric human, handled a glowing meteor that had just landed on Earth. Today, he is Richard Rune, billionaire philanthropist. The rest of the immortals come from all walks of life. Laura is a singer/songwriter, Diego is a senior official in the Vatican and Alex is an FBI agent.

The American government, led by President Thunder, gets wind of a plot by a secret group of powerful right-wingers. It involves committing a major atrocity on US soil, which, of course, will be blamed on radical Islam. It will lead to the imposition of martial law. Can the authorities stop the plot in time?

Meantime, the "bad" immortals put into motion a much bigger plot, that will kill everyone on Earth. It involves mass death from space, so no country, or group of countries, can stop it. This is a job for Richard Rune, the first immortal. Who is still alive, human and immortal, at the end?

This is an excellent thriller/suspense story, with a little bit of science fiction included. It is very easy to read and understand. There is plenty of action, and it will certainly keep the reader entertained. This is very much worth reading.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Aro Marro's Face The Wind

Aro Marro's Face the Wind: Contemporary Philosophy for Personal Peace and Wisdom, Aro Marro, DRH Publishing, 2018

Many books on personal philosophy concentrate on things like mindfulness or meditation. This book is different.

The author looks at different personality traits and emotions. Some examples are extroversion vs introversion or confidence and calm vs neuroticism. Emotions like hypocrisy, trust/suspicion, careless blame or jealously are part of daily life, though they are not helpful. If that sounds familiar, resolve to do something about it (one emotion at a time, not all at once).

The book also explores ways to navigate today's world of propaganda. Consider the source; is there a political agenda? Numbers can be used to mean practically anything. Does the news organization consistently favor one political party over the other? Do news stories contain exaggerated qualifiers, like "tremendous" or "disastrous"? With science articles in particular, consider the credentials of the author.

The book ends with short bits of wisdom. Be reserved in your responses. Be willing to change your mind. Group consensus is often wrong. Persevere.

This book is very much worth reading. It is short and easy to understand. It is applicable to people from all walks of life, right now.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Google Ads (AdWords) Workbook

Google Ads (AdWords) Workbook: Advertising on Google Ads, YouTube and the Display Network, James McDonald, JM Internet Group, 2019

These days, it seems like everyone wants their ads to show up on Google's search results pages. This book goes through the whole process, step by step.

First of all, when starting the process of setting up your ads, you will be encouraged to advertise on Google's Search Network and Display Network. Stay away from the Display Network; they are two very different things. The Search Network ads will show up on Google's search results pages. Display Network ads will appear on YouTube, Gmail and on questionable sites whose only reason for being is to get clicks.

You, the business owner, pay Google every time someone clicks on one of your ads (that is how they make their money). You are interested in high quality clicks, that turn into a sale from your website. Keywords are very important. Be as specific as you can about the kind of customer you are seeking. Come up with, say, half a dozen "perfect" keywords, and set up a separate ad campaign for each. There are ways to measure, and analyze, just how well each keyword is doing. Don't be afraid to change, or delete, any ad campaign that is not working. Keeping it is only costing you money.

Along with positive keywords, there are negative keywords, like "cheap" or "free", that you will not pay for. Every so often, get online and make sure that your ads are running (don't just take Google's word for it). It is also possible to make sure that your ads will appear within the first four or five results on the results page. People who are searching using their smartphone will not go through pages and pages of results.

This book is not exactly a page-turner, but it is very much worth reading. The author does a very good job at making the whole process as painless as possible, helped by lots of screenshots. Any business, small or large, that wants to advertise online would do very well to start right here.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Suicide Tree

The Suicide Tree, Shayla Raquel, Curiouser Editing LLC, 2018

Set a few years from now, Knox Kevel is a young man who is on his way to prison for computer hacking. His parents, both famous scientists, were given the task of finding a cure for the deadly Raven Virus. They were successful, but refused to give the cure to anyone. It led to protests worldwide, rampant conspiracy theories and their deaths in a mysterious explosion that destroyed their lab.

Knox is saved from prison by a mysterious man named Arlo. He gets the charges dropped in exchange for Knox's computer expertise. When Arlo was a child, he was the subject of a brain experiment, with the reluctant consent of his parents. It caused the creation of several alternate personalities, not all of them nice people. Arlo does not remember the name of the experimenter, but he wants Knox's help to find that person.

The focus shifts to southern Italy. Maybe one of Arlo's "alters" (other personalities) remembers the name of the experimenter. The "bad guy" is eventually found; does the person agree to give up quietly? Does Arlo get the effect reversed? Does Knox find out exactly how his parents died?

This is a really good present-day thriller, with a little bit of science fiction included. It has everything a reader needs, including good storytelling, good characters, a little romance and a plot that will keep the reader guessing until the end. This is well worth checking out.

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Trump Diary Reported by Mookie Goldwater

The Trump Diary Reported by Mookie Goldwater, Chris Murphy, 2019, self-published

In June 2017, around the time of the firing of James Comey as FBI Director, Donald Trump decided to write a daily diary. He kept it in his sock drawer. This lasted until the end of 2018, when it suddenly disappeared. After a late night phone call, Goldwater (a pseudonym) got hold of the diary, and is now living on the run.

Women are not treated well in his diary, despite his often-professed love for them. The few mentions Melania gets are not complimentary. There is much talk of the White House's revolving door. No matter how good a person may be at their job (or not), being part of Team Trump is a requirement.

There is considerable blame toward the Obama Administration, for practically everything. He makes himself look like the best President in American history (No administration is more transparent than mine; no President has done more for minorities, or women, than I have, etc.). Everyone has a nickname, from Kim Jong Un to Hillary to Charles Schumer.

This is an interesting look inside the brain of Donald Trump. Whether you are a supporter or opponent, it is important to get at least an idea as to where he is coming from. It helps that this book is not written by a Washington insider, intending to make Trump look like the worst thing, or the best thing, to ever happen to America. This book easily gets at least four stars.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Out-of-Work to Making Money

Out-of-Work to Making Money: 21 Comeback Stories Every Job Hunter Should Hear, Anne Emerick, Aboon Books, 2019

Being unemployed, for a short or long period, is part of life in the present day. This book presents short contributions from people who have been there, and successfully come out the other side.

You might receive an offer for your "dream job." Several weeks, or months, later, the offer disappears. In the meantime, other job offers are declined, waiting for this dream job. You might be a nanny, and about to get married, whose employer suddenly stops returning your phone calls. You might be close to retirement age, and one day, you suddenly find yourself without a job. You have received a severance check from a previous employer. Do you do something you have always wanted to do, like open a bakery (for instance), or do you stay home and binge-watch Netflix? What if a major medical condition (including pregnancy) causes the phone to stop ringing?

You are out of work; now what do you do? Take some time to grieve the loss of your job, but don't make it a habit (chocolate ice cream helps). Read a recent job search book. If the goal is a white collar, corporate job, set up an account on LinkedIn. Advertise your skills on a gig site like Fiverr. It is a good way to keep some money coming in, while you are job searching. If your resume needs more than just updating, visit Fiverr to find someone to do it. Network, network, network; you never know where a job opening will arise. Don't be afraid of new situations. Consider starting your own business.

This is an excellent book. The individual contributions are short, only a couple of pages each. Whatever your tale of unemployment, someone in this book (or the companion website) has been there. Included is a section on good, and bad, advice given to the unemployed. Here is a gem of a book. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Effective Leaders and Leadership

Effective Leaders and Leadership, Mildred Stallworth, Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2017

Leadership involves much more than simply calling yourself a leader. This book gives some easy-to-follow guidelines to becoming a real leader.

Effective leaders make it a habit to help others, and put others first. Effective communicators equal successful leaders. They help create an atmosphere where people feel rewarded and appreciated. A leader needs to show that they have the confidence in their leadership to stay the course, even through thick and thin.

The book looks at basic leadership skills, including integrity, etiquette, listening abilities, accountability and compassion. It also explores topics like leadership in politics, the workplace and religious/spiritual leadership at home. Leadership also means mentoring and coaching, which is also included in this book.

There is lots of good information here, and this book is worth reading. However, it loses at least one ratings star (perhaps one-and-a-half stars) because it really needs a trip, or another trip, to a professional editor. Also, there are many inspirational quotes about leadership included, which is totally acceptable. Personal opinion only, they should be clustered at the start and/or end of the chapter, not spread throughout the chapter, with no attempt made at a different font or different indentation (could this have been an earlier, less-edited version of the book?).

Thursday, April 18, 2019

We All Die Once

We All Die Once, Larry Kessler, 2012, Amazon Digital Services LLC

Many books about present-day healthcare have been written from the perspective of how to make it more efficient, while reducing the very high cost. This book looks at the rest of the medical field.

A doctor, especially an Emergency Room doctor, will run into many different ways to "handle"death. Having a loved one die at home is not always the best solution. It is understandable for a patient to expect zero errors from a doctor; it is also impossible. Doctors are only human; mistakes will be made. Also, everyone is going to die, whether sooner or later (hence the book's title). In the final analysis, the doctor will have a zero success rate.

A dirty word in the medical field is "rationing", but it happens every day. Penicillin was discovered in the late 1920's, but it wasn't until after World War II that it became available to the general public. Closer to the present, when there is more demand for a flu vaccine than supply, who decides who should get the shot? When an organ becomes available for transplant, who decides who is most needy?

Malpractice suits are a fact of life in the medical field. ER doctors and OB/GYN's can plan on being involved in at least one such suit during their career. It has become increasingly common for patients to walk into a doctor's office wanting a prescription for a pill that was advertised on TV. It doesn't matter if the doctor doesn't think they need it, or it will react badly with some other medication the patient is taking. Patients also want health insurance to be less expensive than at present, and to cover Everything, including cosmetic surgery (the author does not agree).

Written by someone who has been "in the trenches", this is a very interesting and eye-opening book. It should be required reading for anyone who wants to be a doctor; at least the student will enter medical school with their eyes wide open. This is very much worth reading.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Cyber Smart

Cyber Smart: Five Habits to Protect Your Family, Money and Identity from Cyber Criminals, Bart R McDonough, John Wiley & Sons, 2019

Every week seems to bring news of another data security breach, affecting millions of people. By now, it seems like everyone in America has been victim of at least one such security breach. What can be done to slow down, or stop, the cyber criminals?

Get a copy of your credit report from all three credit agencies. Get a copy of your child's report, too (a popular target for criminals). Put a credit freeze on these reports; that way, no one can open a new credit card account. Get a copy of your medical records, and make sure that, for instance, no one has given you AIDS when you don't actually have it, or deleted your allergy to penicillin.

Use a password management program, or write down your passwords and keep that list somewhere safe, like in a locked safe. It is tempting to recycle a strong password among several sites. It is also a really bad idea; once that strong password is cracked, several sites have just been opened. To create a password, put together a couple of words like "willow" and "september". Add in a couple of numbers and special characters. Delete and/or capitalize a couple of letters.

Use nonsense answers to security questions. (What is you mother's maiden name? Chocolate bunny.) Use two-factor authentication; the book explains just what it is. If your bank or the IRS has a legitimate problem with you, they will send a letter. They will not send an email that says Please Click Here. They will also not call you with an attitude of "Pay up now, or you're going to jail!"

For some people, this book is nothing more than common knowledge. For everyone else, the tips in this book cannot be repeated often enough. This book is very easy to read, and is very much recommended.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Distance Travelled

The Distance Travelled, Brett Alexander Savory, Necro Publications, 2006

Stu is a resident of Hell. A group of obnoxious young people in a dune buggy drive by, one day, and throw a live pig through Stu's kitchen window. Stu captures one of them, and calls him Pigboy. He has found a portal to Hell from Upside, and has come to rescue his kidnapped sister. This starts Stu on an epic quest.

Along for the ride are Gus, a walking skeleton who runs the local gas station. Tom is a ten-foot-tall HellRat who fixes cars for Gus. Tom is head-over-heels in love with the beautiful Miss Appleton (the feeling is very mutual). They attempt to answer a set of riddles written years before by a clairvoyant child. To do so, they travel all over the territory of Hell.

It is also a place where the torture sessions are scheduled. We are talking extreme torture, accompanied by fountains of blood everywhere. Give the person a day or two to recover, and they are physically good as new. When Stu misses a torture session because of his quest, Salinger, the Chief Torturer, sets off after him. Does everyone survive until the end? Is the sister ever found?

This is a very bloody and violent story, so it is not for the faint of heart. For everyone else, be prepared for a wild rice, accompanied by a soundtrack of 80's pop music. Think Clive Barker meets Jim Thompson. For those with a strong stomach, this is a gem of a book.

Outside

Outside, Gustavo Bodoni, Guardbridge Books, 2017

A ship from the human civilization on Tau Ceti II heads for Earth, intending to re-establish contact after a treaty-mandated gap of 500 years. Earth is deserted. There are no signs of an apocalypse, or mass graves. Where is everybody?

For the past 500 years, everyone on Earth has been permanently living in a virtual reality world. Free from disease and pain, their bodies are supposedly being taken care of in vast underground chambers. In VR-land, big problems are happening. A huge wall suddenly cuts Denver in half. Monsters are ravaging cities all over the world.

An interface is created, so that the visitors can communicate with the people of Earth, who are less than thrilled to see them. Rome, from the visitors, falls in love with Emily, from VR-land. She is involved in attempts to get the bottom of the computer problems, whatever they are. Are some mainframes about to crash, possibly snuffing out millions of "people"?

Rome asks Emily to return to Tau Ceti with the ship, which has been ordered to leave by an Earth that wants to stay in VR-land. First, they have to find her body. Are those millions of chambers still in nice, neat rows, maintained by an army of robots?

This is a first-rate piece of writing. The author, whose first language is not English, does an excellent job with the characters and storytelling. It is very much worth the reader's time.

America: The Farewell Tour

America: The Farewell Tour, Chris Hedges, Simon & Schuster, 2018

"America's best days are still ahead." That's what politicians and business leaders are supposed to say. This book gives a very different view.

A chapter looks at one family's journey through the nightmare of opioid addiction. Another chapter gives a Very Detailed look inside the porn business. The Taj Mahal Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City may still be officially open. The gaming tables are empty, and large numbers of the hotel rooms are unusable. Maintenance in the rooms that are used is a thing of the past, so a guest may have to deal with, for instance, leaky toilets or cockroaches.

Antifa and the alt-right are two different manifestations of the same phenomenon; people who are frustrated and feel left behind by global capitalism. The factory which provided a decent living for residents of a small Midwest town has closed, and moved to Mexico, leaving them with no alternatives, and no hope. The average minority resident of New York City is more than tired of being repeatedly stopped and frisked, or given a ticket for something like jaywalking, simply because a white cop feels like it.

People who are in prison will get paid a few cents for working, usually for some large corporation, if they get paid at all. Especially in private prisons, they will get financially gouged for everything else, including phone calls to their loved ones.

Donald Trump may have ridden this frustration to the White House, but that does not mean that he can do anything about it, until corporate control of America is eliminated. This is certainly not an optimistic book, but it is a very eye-opening book. It is highly recommended for all Americans.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Who is Jeb!!!

Who is Jeb!!! John Ellis "Jeb" Bush and His Horrendously Horrible Histories, Patrick Andendall, Fact Over Fiction Publishing, 2015

This book is all about Jeb!!! Bush (it's not Jeb, it's Jeb!!!), former Governor of Florida, and 2016 candidate for President. He seemed to be a shoo-in to get the nomination, until he actually started to campaign. This was also before Donald Trump "sucked all the air" out of the campaign.

The Bush clan is extremely secretive, almost like a cult. The CIA has always been a part of George H.W. Bush's life (also known as "Poppy" or "Bush 41"). He started Zapata Petroleum in 1953. Is it simply coincidence that the Bay of Pigs operation was called "Operation Zapata" and that the base of operations was Bush's drilling-rig site on a remote island between Florida and Cuba? A 1963 FBI memo says that the day after the Kennedy assassination, the FBI briefed two individuals. A member of the Defense Intelligence Agency was one of them. The other person briefed was "George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency".

The author looks at the history of the Bush family in the early 20th century. A number of American corporations, including Standard Oil, IBM and Coca-Cola, openly traded with Germany, and used German slave labor, while Hitler was taking over much of Europe. It also talks about the 1936 coup attempt here in America. (What coup attempt?) A group of industrialists wanted to turn America into a fascist state, like Germany or Italy. They asked Smedley Butler, a famous WWI General, to lead an army of half a million men to Washington. Instead, he blew the whistle to a Congressional committee.

Closer to the present, Jeb!!! is an intellectual lightweight, like his brother, W. Florida was about the only "blue" state to not take part in the expansion of Medicare, paid for by the federal government. Why? Florida has the second worst income discrepancy problem in America. Almost half of Florida's residents live below the federal poverty line, or otherwise have problems making ends meet. The book also looks at the Terry Schiavo case, Jeb!!! wanting to privatize Social Security, his total disinterest in foreign policy, his assertion that workers need to get more hours at work, or get a second (or third) job, and 200's Bush v. Gore fiasco. Did I forget to mention Skull and Bones, the secretive Yale society that is a central part of Bushworld?

This is a scathing book. The author makes no secret of his feelings toward what he calls the Stupidparty (he is not talking about the Democrats). This is a huge eye-opener that is highly recommended.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Quantum Roots II

Quantum Roots II: Worm Holes, Kyle Keyes, CreateSpace, 2017

Present-day America is being menaced by a vigilante who looks like he just stepped out of a Western movie. Whenever someone is in trouble, whether it is an attempted rape, or someone getting beat up in a bar, he is there, with the black hat, the tin badge, and being a crack shot. He says his name is Leroy McCoy (a real person who lived in 1870's Dodge City). Could he be traveling by wormhole, to exactly the right place, or is the explanation much more down-to-earth?

The feds are hot on his trail. Alexis Grumman, head of the Department of Paranormal Affairs, and fellow agent (and boy-toy) Jeremy Wade are always one step behind. Can they stop him?

This one is really good, and pretty easy to understand. It's got some science fiction, some paranormal, some humor and a considerable amount of violence. It is the second in a series, but it stands on its own really well. Yes, this one is worth checking out.

To Dream the Blackbane

To Dream the Blackbane: A Novel of the Anomaly, Richard J O'Brien, Between the Lines Publishing, 2018

This novel takes place on an altered present-day Earth. The Anomaly has opened portals between Earth and the faerie/paranormal realm. It also caused people to be fused with whatever animal or thing was closest to them at that moment. Pure humans, called pedigrees, have relegated fairy refugees and hybrids into ghettos.

Wolfgang Rex is a retired Chicago police detective who is part dog. He is now a private investigator who has been hired by a couple of vampires to retrieve an ancient scroll. At the same time, Charlotte. a pedigree woman, wants him to travel to very rural Louisiana to exorcise a headless demon from her house.

Of course, it is not that easy. Wolfgang falls for Charlotte, and the vampires demand results. They make it clear that failure to find the scroll is not an option. Can Wolfgang stay alive long enbough to find the scroll, while his friends are killed by the vampires? Do Charlotte and Wolfgang live happily ever after?

This one is a first-rate piece of writing. The author explains The Anomaly in the first few pages to instantly get the reader interested. The story is full of strange creatures, good world-building and some really good writing. Detective story fans will love this book.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Slower

Slower, Ted Shepherd, 2018, self-published

Emit is an average high school freshman who discovers, one day, that he has the ability to slow time. In the beginning, everything is cool. He pranks friends, and gets back at the school bullies. The power goes to his head.

Things get serious when he learns that there is someone else with the same ability. He learns that this other person was involved in several major historical moments. The other person says that he was forced to do these things; Emit learns later that his participation was a lot more voluntary. Emit is asked if he wants to help make the world a "better place" (according to whom?).The thought is very tempting. The final confrontation takes place in Washington DC, in the House Chamber, during the State of the Union address.

This is surprisingly good. It is very easy to read, and moves really well. It touches on things like neo-Nazis, the Kennedy assassination, Operation Paperclip and puts on the S&P 500 (betting that the entire stock market will go down). This is very much worth reading for teens and adults.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Chinatown

Chinatown (Ten Possible Endings - One Way Out Alive), Charles Hanna, Amazon Digital Services, 2018

For anyone who grew up with those Choose Your Own Adventure books, they have returned.

This one is about four friends (two married couples) who decide to visit San Francisco's Chinatown. Things go very badly for them. They experience underground tunnels that go on for miles, living stone beasts and a hole in the ground that actually does go to China. In one scenario, they are decapitated, and their heads are turned into shrunken heads. In another adventure, they are turned into human-sized piggy banks.

This is a short book, less than 100 pages, so it is a very fast read. It is also pretty macabre, so it is OK for teens and adults, but not recommended for smaller children. The actual writing is pretty good, so it is worth checking out.

Pastor of Paris

Pastor of Paris, Anil John, Amazon Digital Services, 2018

This is a collection of jokes, one-liners and short stories mostly about the subject of religion. This book also changes your perspective, it reduces your heart rate and blood pressure and helps the body fight infection.

Here are some examples. Consciousness: that annoying time between naps. Marriage is a three-ring circus: engagement ring, wedding ring and suffering. A man doesn't know what happiness is until he is married. By then, it's too late. I keep trying to lose weight but it keeps finding me. What do you get when you cross a Unitarian with a Jehovah's Witness? Someone who goes around knocking on doors for no apparent reason.

How many Roman Catholics does it take to change a light bulb? None - they use candles. Ever stop to think, and forget to start again? Dear Lord, please protect me from your followers. The secret to a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending, and to have the two as close together as possible.

This is an excellent book. It is short and very easy to read. Humor is always a good thing, on some days in particular. This is very much worth reading, even for those who are not religious.

Height of Day

Height of Day, Desmond Cory, Amazon Digital Services, 2018

Set in 1950's Central Africa, Johnny Fedora is part of British Intelligence. He has hired a boat to search for a near-mythical white ape. He runs into an archaeological expedition looking for some specific ruins. They are going in the same general direction, so they hitch a ride on Johnny's boat.

As the days go on, it becomes clear that the expedition is not looking for ruins. Johnny is not really looking for a white ape, either. The words "Fourth Reich" are used. Johnny's real mission is to recover a mysterious object, wanted by the Nazis and British Intelligence, regardless of the cost.

Things get interesting when members of the expedition start dying. Can Johnny discover the real purpose of the expedition, and keep himself from becoming the next victim?

This book hearkens back to the days, before technology, when an intelligence agent used his wits to survive. It is very easy to read, has plenty of blood, and is very much recommended for all fans of spy novels.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Quality DNA

Quality DNA, Beth Martin, Beth Martin Books, 2017

Set in the near future, America's answer to climate change is to impose a strict one-child policy. Sterilization is mandatory, for men and women, after the birth of their first child.

Annette becomes pregnant after a one-night stand with a sexy stranger. Everyone's DNA is listed in the Genome Database. It gives Annette the name of a man who she never met, who died several years previously (frozen sperm does not last for several years). Irene is an investigator with the Seattle Social Department. More such anomalies cross her desk. This is not just a "glitch" in the system; something is very wrong. Just to make things more complicated, Jamie, Irene's wife, really wants to have a child (much more than does Irene). Finding a suitable sperm donor is easier said than done.

Focus shifts to a very off-the-grid group called the Alliance for Quality DNA, or AQD. It is almost a cult, and is run by Aidan, who is charismatic, but nuts. Irene goes undercover, with help from the FBI. They are concerned about terrorism, but Irene is on to the reason for the birth anomalies. Does she become an unintended guinea pig for whatever the AQD has planned?

Here is a really good piece of writing. It's gripping, it's plausible and it will certainly keep the reader's attention. This is very much worth checking out.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Memory of Lost Dreams

The Memory of Lost Dreams, Davon M Custis, CreateSpace, 2016

Set several hundred years from now, this novel is about a young man named Malik. Leaving his village, He finds a huge cavern containing an abandoned city. It is full of leaning skyscrapers and debris all over the streets. He comes across a machine called REQUIEM, which transports him back to when this city, Imperia, was alive and full of people. He is also brainwashed to forget his life in the village; he has lived here for his entire life. Imperia, part of the People's Republic of Amerika, is a place of total government control of the people.

There is a good story here; this book just needs a trip to a professional editor to help get it out. Much of the writing is. . . overdone. The society-building is probably the best part of the story. In its present form, this book gets 3.5 to 4 stars.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Twilight's Last Glory

Twilight's Last Glory, Stephen C Perkins, Star Born Publishing LLC, 2018

This near-future novel is about the future of American football.

In the 2030's, football has gone global. The NFL has just merged with a world football league. It is worth hundreds of millions of dollars in TV revenuer, merchandising and season ticket sales to a sport that is totally corrupt.

Everyone is in on it: the referees, the media and some of the players. A man named Gigi Salerno controls all East Coast entertainment, including football, and Las Vegas, for an ultra-secret group called The Octagonal, based in London. Salerno is not totally cruel and heartless. Living in Boston, he has a soft spot for Michelle O'Hara, an old high school crush who has fallen a long way from her beauty queen days.

The book focuses on two teams, the New England Rebels and the London Lightning. The General Manager of the Rebels, Preston Billings, is a member of The Octagonal. Zachary, his son, is the team doctor. The Octagonal. which also controls the police, is looking for an excuse to impose martial law in America. How about to stop a race war started by a couple of popular football players (who know that they are acting for the media)? There is also a crusading sports writer who is starting to put it all together.

It had been previously decided, by The Octagonal, that the Rebels and the Lightning would play for the Summit Cup at Wembley Stadium in London. It is interesting to read British commentators attempting to call an American football game. Meantime, The Octagonal has decided that Salerno is now a liability.

This is a very good, but very dystopian, novel. All football fans should read it, if only to get an idea of the future of their sport.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Surgeon's Story

Surgeon's Story, Mark Oristano and Kristine Guleserian MD, Authority Publishing, 2017

This short book takes place at Children's Medical Center in Dallas, Texas as Dr. G fixes the hearts of some of the tiniest patients. Her day is a jumble of consultations with colleagues, checking on her patients, meeting with the families of new patients and operations. Sometimes, there is actually time for a snack.

A native of Massachusetts, Guleserian was exposed to cardiac surgery from an early age, when her younger brother was born with heart problems. The book looks at her medical training, moving up the medical ranks as she went from one hospital to another.

Several of her young patients are profiled in this book. A young boy, who is a big Boston Red Sox fan, has successful open-heart surgery. Three weeks later, he is at Fenway Park, throwing out the first pitch at a World Series game. A little girl named Rylynn is born with a very underdeveloped heart (one of her ventricles is much smaller than normal). Several operations are unable to fix the problem. Rylynn is eventually attached to a mechanical heart, but her condition continues to get worse. She is put at the top of the transplant "list". Does she get a new heart in time?

This is a very heartwarming book. There is only a little bit of medical jargon. It is a must-read for parents of a child with heart problems. It also works as an inspirational story. Dr. G is an excellent role model for any girl who wants to be a surgeon when they grow up. This book is very much recommended.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Requiem for the American Dream

Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth and Power, Noam Chomsky, Seven Stories Press, 2017

The "American Dream" is a central pillar of life in the United States. Work hard, and you can be rich and happy. This book gives a very different view.

Over the past several decades, tax policy has been designed to benefit those at the top of the income triangle. Maybe a few percent of the benefit of a tax cut will actually reach those at the middle-income level, but the vast majority of the benefit will go to the top One-Tenth of One Percent. The public reason for tax cuts is that they supposedly increase investment and create jobs. A much better way to do that is to allocate that money to working-class people, who will use that money on clothes and groceries, not on a second (or third) home.

Social Security is based on the principle of solidarity, which means caring for others. That automatically makes it a bad thing (in the eyes of the super-rich). A way to destroy it is to de-fund it. The system won't work, so people will get angry, and demand something else.

For those who want a third party in America, voting for it every four years is not enough. You must be constantly be working at the local level, developing the system that goes from the city council to Congress. That is how the Tea Party got started.

This is an excellent and eye-opening book. Based on a movie of the same name, this gives a very easy to understand look at how America Really Works. Whether you see the movie, or read this book, this is very highly recommended.

My Sister, The Zombie

My Sister, The Zombie, Stacey Longo, The Storyside Press, 2018

Blossom and Jasmine are teenage sisters whose family has recently moved from Arizona to the (real) town of Glastonbury CT. Their parents felt that the New England climate, especially the winters, would help preserve Blossom. An accident at a nuclear power plant back in Arizona turned Blossom into a zombie.

There is the usual treatment of the "new kids" at the local high school. Some of the students are decent and reasonable. On the other hand, Jillian, a female bully, and a couple of her followers, start wearing t-shirts that say Anti-Zombie League.

Things get serious when people start dying. Their skulls have been sawed open, and their brains have been removed. Jillian is one of the victims. Blossom is suddenly the main suspect, totally forgetting the fact that she is not physically coordinated enough to do such a thing. Also, all of her teeth have been pulled to prevent her from eating anybody. Can Blossom and Jasmine find the real murderer before the police and the Anti-Zombie league get involved?

This is an excellent novel. It works as a Young Adult mystery, it is very easy to read, and it is also a very good metaphor for other physical disabilities. Teens will love this book; adults will, too.