Monday, June 18, 2018

The Dark Before Dawn by Laurie Stevens



Recently in a Sisters in Crime presentation held in a local library, I chanced upon Laurie Stevens who authors the Gabriel McRay series of psychological mysteries. “Dark before Dawn” is the first in the series. Her main character is male and broken by past events in his life. This story is told in multiple viewpoints.

This is done in the suspense genre, a sub-genre of the mystery/crime family. A suspense story has a strong and logical structure. This is so to be able to hold an inner and outer story. The outer is the series of events presented to the reader with the secondary inner story showing the conflict within.

Stevens has chosen to use the male viewpoint. She does a fair job. She must have spent time observing and trying to figure out what maleness is. Femaleness and maleness are not interchangeable in my opinion.

It is a bit choppy on transitions in places.

Stevens is writing in the genre of psychological suspense. Her characters are flawed not super heroes. That fact makes for an interesting story. You will get emotionally involved and start to root for the characters.

Every suspense story should have a crisis. The crisis here is enhanced by the psychological state of the main character as I have mentioned above.  It grips you and is hard to read just one chapter. You must find out wat happens next.

As required for suspense writing she starts with a crisis and intensifies the pressure on the main character. Her secondary characters: the psychiatrist, the girl friend, the boss, are well developed.  The viewpoints of the protagonist and the antagonist are given, heightening the suspense. This makes it a can’t put down type of a story.

 Stevens seems to have control.

As this is the first in a series it may seem to be heavy on the background of the situation, but most if not all first books in a series must provide the foundation on which the rest of the books will grow. I feel Stevens does a good job in this area.

I would recommend this series based on this one book. I plan to read through the series, so I am looking for a good long period of enjoyment.

Still she has done three in this series, so someone must be doing okay. And somehow, they are finding their way into libraries.

She used CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform to handle this book. I advise against self-publishing, As I see it, it is done by people who lack confidence in their skills. That may explain the gaps in transition and the flashbacks in strange places.

The copyright is 2011.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Broad Band by Claire L. Evans



We need to be reminded from time to time that inventions are a group effort. By this I mean there is no gender wall. Both male and female had a part in what we have today.

It seems when we as a group look at technology, which is the area covered in this book, we put on blinders when it comes to those who had a part in creating things. In this case, the computer.

Evans wants us to remember females also played a part in what we have today. In fact, we could look back to Byron, not him, his daughter, Ada Lovelace. She had a sharp analytic mind. She was unfortunately living in a time where females were not allowed a university education. So, she was home schooled. In the nineteenth century she read and absorbed. She had something to do with the differential engine of that day, a mathematical machine.

At the turn of the twentieth century computers—this is what people who worked upon the coding of the machines were called—were needed and females who were mathematically inclined answered the need.

Just part of the history involving females in the cyber history. It is almost as if they have become ghosts. The evidence Evans presents in this book will help put the women back in the spotlight where they belong along side the male partners. It may have been the tendency of the male prejudice to see women as only secretaries even those who were coding and maintaining the discipline.

Even our internet as we know it today had females n the background. Their stories get told here.

Women were there at the very beginning of every important wave in technology. God did not only give brains to men. Women also were blessed in that area.

It was a woman named Grace Hooper who gave us a look at machine independent programing languages after World War two, for one example.

Pioneers all. It is time we acknowledge the women. Claire L. Evans does a good job.

 I recommend this book. It is put out by Portfolio/Penguin. It is copyrighted 2018 and costs retail $27.00.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Necessay Evil by Garry Wills



Even though this book has a copy right of 1999, it is still worthy of being read and considered even in the twenty first century. We still have government and that is what Wills refers to as a necessary evil.

It was Henry David Thoreau who said, “that government is best which governs least.” That is because the more power we allow the government to have the less personal liberties we, the people, retain. We can see that in our loss of a liberty when it comes to health care. If we allow the government to provide our health care as to what we can or cannot receive, we lose.. If we hand the power to have in our possession our guns, all our liberties are gone.  As the states cede power to the central government, tyranny impends.

You see, the size of government inevitably decreases freedom, is something Wills contends.

On the other hand, we the people, must know the facts before we react. Become knowledgeable, not reactionary. This book can be a starting point for researching. You don’t have to agree with all things presented. But ignorance is not acceptable. You may not like the author. Tough. Grow up. Read both sides and form your own conclusions. Garry Wills is a good teacher  and presents the facts in an easy to digest way.

But we do need government to provide the protection for the common defense. Wills Talks about some myths we have grown up with. He exposes some of our early leaders from Washington to Martin Luther King Junior, to the SDS. He talks about the insurrectionists and the vigilantes, to name a few areas handled in this book.

Facts. Become knowledgeable. Know what you stand for and the ground you stand upon.

This is a good sound history of the American Distrust of Government. Read it.

It is published by Simon & Schuster.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James D. Houston



For sixteen years the Santa Monica Library system has held a reading program called Santa Monica Reads where one book is read and discussed by readers. In years past they have had fiction and graphic novels. This year they choose this true story of life inside a Japanese American internment camp.

The idea of the read is to gather people together reading one book and discussing it over a period 0f time.

 This year they made a better choice than last years’ graphic novel.

With the present state of political instability – Muslim fear—this book shows a true historical knee jerk reaction. In this case it was against the Japanese American’s who resided in the United States during the outbreak of America’s response to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

If this is to be one point discussed in the groups, the present-day concern about Muslims and trying to make a template out of what happened in the 40’s, I think there is very little ground to do that. You should not interpret events of history with twenty first century lens. Back then it was a president who wanted us in war and egged the Japanese government to attack us. Today it is just a reminder that we must be careful how we treat our citizens.

The story told by Houston is well written and easy to read.

Being taken from the place where you live to be placed in an interment camp located elsewhere brings about changes. It disrupts families and societies. This is a coming of age story that is also a historical reminder. History should never be forgotten.

History is people, not events. Yes, events happen but people are there. It puts flesh to the event.

This book is copyrighted 1973. The reason it is still in print could be because it is human interest.

It is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishing company and the paperback retails for $9.99. See if your library has a copy.  

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Trump White House by Ronald Kessler



Wait. Before you turn away from this review because you feel it is just another poorly constructed praise job for Trump, think again.

This book is written by Kessler who for twenty years has been a friend of Donald Trump. That should be enough time to see the warts under the exterior.

This book concerns the people Trump choose to bring into the White House. It also concerns the issues he has had to face in his first year as president.

Sure, it concerns Trump. Kessler points out there are two faces to Trump. The one we see is his public face. Brash, making outrageous comments on television to get attention, a persona. The second one, the private face, is the dearest, most thoughtful, most loyal, most caring side that only insiders know.

Childhood scars. We all have some. Trump didn’t have it easy, growing up in Queens, New York. He would erupt in anger and pummel other boys or break baseball bats when he struck out. In school he often could be found in detention. He will admit that he created mischief “because for some reason, liked to stir things up, and I liked to test people.”

He seemed to have a need to be first at everything and wanted everyone else to know he was first.

We do see that in his actions today.

When he was forming his staff, he seemed to have let his family loyalties blind him. He has for some reason allowed his daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared, to function on his staff.

Chief strategist Stephen Bannon has said, “They are nice people, but they don’t know anything. If their name wasn’t Trump they would be midlevel marketing managers somewhere.”.

 Neither Jared nor Ivanka have any experience in government yet they can influence his decisions. They also lack the judgment necessary to maneuver in Washington. A case in point is the firing of Comey. Both Ivanka and Jared pushed for Trump to fire Comey without understanding it would be impossible to get a new nominee through the Senate. This step Trump took opened him to the special council being formed.

Trump seems to be treating the Presidency as a business and not an office. As a businessman he would need to cower other businesses and push his brand over theirs. He doesn’t seem yet to understand how to act as a politician. Calling the leader of North Korea “Rocket Man” is not the way to gain friends and influence others.

Former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter has said, “I think the media have been harder on Trump than any president certainly that I’ve known about. I think they feel free to claim that Trump is mentally deranged and everything else without hesitation.”

Kessler with his years of knowing Trump can give us a picture and an understanding we need to fully parse this man. He used twenty-five chapters and a Prologue to do so. Chapter twenty-four is titled “Interview with The President.” This alone is a good reason to read this book.

The subtitle of this book is” changing the rules of the game.” One should read this book also to be up on what is the dream Trump has. Everyone who has ascended to the level Trump has carries with them a dream.

Random House is the publisher and the price is $29.00 retail.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Garden State Gangland:the rise of the mob in New Jersey by Scott M. Deitche


Most of us like to think that the mob is a thing of the past, that it is not here anymore. But we would be foolish to think so. The mobs are still around, just not as active.
At least, one can hope.
In this book we have Deitche tracing the mob families into the twenty first century in a certain area of the great land of America.
A welcome book for those who wish to read about the mob history in New Jersey.
Each chapter takes up a mob figure and the family they ran with. It is interesting as the reader walks the time line with the author.
There is a whole section in our library concerning real life crimes and murders. This will be another addition to that section. I guess the rational for that section is we should be aware of evil. Not that we don’t already know of evil.
I guess some people just enjoy reading this genre of nonfiction writing.
I personally enjoy mystery stories, so I guess I get a thrill reading true cases.
Most of the mob figures recorded here do finally get the due of their actions as a good percentage of them get executed some time later by other mob figures. As the Bible says, what so ever a man sows, this he will reap.
The writing is not too technical or scholarly. The prose flows. There is a picture section in the middle of the book, so you can refer to head shots of most of the figures mentioned. It has a 2018 copyright, so it is current. It is published by Rowman & Littlefield
It would also serve as a source book when further research is needed.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Screen Schooled by Joe Clement and Matt Miles



The present generation of students are no doubt dumber. Not dumber because they are not being taught correct information. No, more likely they are heading toward the distinction of being dumber because of technology.

What do I mean by that? Dumber? Why they are smarter because of technology. They have the computer handy and can access so much more information quicker than the earlier generations. Why do I make this statement?

I am not the one inferring this. But when we can see digital screen technology having a negative impact on our brains, it is time for us to slow down and consider.

“Our brains adapt to the environment,” states Oxford Neuroscientist. Susan Greenfield. “The human brain is an extremely complex yet malleable piece of the human hardware.”

This means that our brains can adapt to what we put in it. The use that students make of their iPhones, iPad, and other devices, the screen time, can tend to stunt the mental growth and possibly tend to lobotomize rather than enhance.

The idea of education is to enrich the process of learning by giving the student skills that are useful for adult life.

Instead technology addition leads to increased depression, anxiety, withdrawal, demised focus and diminished cognitive function. Not at all what is desired.

When the student beings his technology device into the class room and starts to multitask, which is what they attempt to do when they sit in class and listen to the teacher, read email on their screen, play games, they tend to slow down and increase their mistakes.

The sad truth, as our authors point out, is that unfortunately the ill effects created by an entire childhood of multitasking may be irreversible, severely impairing one’s ability to focus as adults.

I feel this book should be read by concerned adults. It is stated that the more we shield students from the consequences of their inability to focus and complete the work, the more they will continue to struggle.  Therefore, we should know what is happening in education and take steps to help our young ones adapt.

The two authors are teachers and they know what they are writing about.

It is copyrighted 2018 and published by the Chicago Review Press. It retails for $18.99. Better yet, see if your library has it. Either way, get it and read it.