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Lessons from Lucy by Dave Barry

July 22, 2018

One day, Dave Barry looked in the mirror and said, “Wow, I’m 70 years old! I don’t have a lot of time left.” He looked at his dog, Lucy, with her graying hair, and thought, “Neither does she, but she’s having fun. Wait a minute, what’s wrong with this picture?” Then Lucy gave him a nudge because she had to make a crucial wee.

So he took her outside, and while she looked for the absolute perfect place to go, he pondered how he wanted to spend the rest of his life and decided to write, of all things, a self-help book.

As ridiculous as it seems, he did just that, with Lucy as his mentor. And the lessons are certainly there, but I never had so much fun reading a self-help book. I’ve always been a fan, and this is classic Dave, but I had to keep putting down the book because I was laughing so hard. And I shed a tear or two for the people who are no longer in my life.

Lessons from Lucy is short and sweet, insightful as only a dog can be. It may be the best book Dave has ever written, and I am not making that up.

Five stars!

Publication date October 23, 2018

White Kids

July 2, 2018

This is a review of an advance reading copy of White Kids by Margaret A. Hagerman, to be published September 4, 2018.  #WhiteKids #NetGalley  I have no afilliation to the author, publisher, or Amazon.


White Kids is an intriguing title, but there are no villains here.  Sociologist Margaret A. Hagerman details findings and observations of

  • Parents and children from 30 upper middle class white families
  • Whose children are middle school age
  • And live in one of three neighborhoods in and around a medium size midwestern city

regarding their opinions and attitudes towards race.

What is “white privilege,” anyway?  I’ve read a number of essays by authors of color who use this term, and I know I’m not the only one who is confused.  Being born white is not a privilege, and there are certainly under-privileged white people.  Then again, I know, empirically, white people have an advantage over people of color, so in my mind, I’ve simply exchanged the word “advantage” for “privilege.”  I found while reading this book it isn’t that simple.  There are many forms of privilege.  Athletic or artistic talent, intelligence, education, and wealth are all forms of privilege.  This study is about the privileges that come with the advantages of wealth.

Why did the parents choose their respective neighborhoods?  What do they consider a good school?  Is racism a learned behavior, or are ten- to thirteen-year-olds capable of forming their own opinions?  How do parents, schools, the media, peers, extra-curricular activities, travel, and charitable activities inform the children in regards to race?  What do the families do to perpetuate or prevent the continuation of white privilege?

These are just some of the questions addressed.  There is also a chapter dedicated to cultural appropriation, centered specifically on the use of the word “ghetto.”  I found this especially interesting, because “ghetto” is a derivation of an Italian word meaning a separate neighborhood in which Jews were forced to live.  Over time, its meaning has changed.  And even during my lifetime, connotations of the word have changed.  Cultural appropriation itself is a sticky subject, in my personal view.  I find it can be quite complimentary.  After all, one would not adopt culturally diverse foods, music, or fashion if one did not enjoy them.  But failing to acknowledge the source of that which we enjoy excludes that source.

Yes, cultural appropriation is a sticky, messy subject.  So are privilege and racism.  But, as you will see, these things are not the product of people who are inherently evil.  Trying to make sense of it all is like walking through oatmeal.  “White Kids,” while it draws its information from a small representation of the United States, is highly illuminating and thought-provoking.  I give it five of five stars.  I learned a lot about things that have eluded me my entire life.  That’s a worthy read!

Relic by Alan Dean Foster – A Review

May 16, 2018

A Stellar Journey

The Myssari are an alien race studying a human named Ruslan.  They picked him up on a planet named Shebaroth, and consider him quite valuable as a specimen, because he is the only known survivor of the human race.  An unknown agent dispersed a biological weapon on every planet colonized by humans.  Ruslan is quite old, but the Myssari take good care of him.  They are not only studying the human race.  They want to bring it back.

Ruslan does not want to be cloned for moral reasons, but he can’t stop it from happening after he dies.  The Myssari strike a bargain with him.  They want him to stay with him, and they will try to find planet Earth on the slim chance any humans survived there.  A carrot and a stick so he’ll answer their questions, and all is well until Ruslan and the Myssari encounter another alien race, who also want to study the specimen, Ruslan.  They offer him a bargain, too.

Ruslan considers himself a simple man, but his thoughts and emotions run deep.  The Relic is not some cowboys of the galaxy story.  It is a story of different races competing, their intergalactic explorations, and a treatise on diplomacy, as well as the hopes and dreams of a lonely old man.  In many ways, it is a reflection on multicultural relationships.  Settle in and get cozy as the story unfolds and finally ends in a way you never considered.  I highly recommend it because it is a refreshing science fiction read.

Available on Amazon in August, 2018.


Cosmic Capers

October 15, 2017

Jazz is a twenty-six year old lunar dweller with loads of smarts, who doesn’t live up to anyone’s expectations.  Her father owns a lunar welding shop in Artemis, the first city built on the moon.  Their relationship is a bit strained, because he wanted her to follow in his footsteps, but she marches to the beat of her own drummer.

What she really wants to do is be an EVA guide, a lucrative occupation entailing taking tourists from earth on moon walks outside the domes which comprise Artemis.  But she failed the exam, and it costs a fortune to attempt getting into the business.

So she’s stuck in her “temporary” position of porter, an a la carte delivery job.  She isn’t above delivering contraband to choice customers who tip well.  A wealthy customer makes an offer too good to refuse, to destroy some machinery owned by a rival.  She accepts, and mayhem ensues.

There is a lot of mayhem, and humor, too.  She botches the job in epic fashion, and after that she’s on the run from the law, the rival, and a mysterious assassin.  But Jazz has a conscience, and wants to make things right, so she keeps entering other endeavors to make up for her mistake.  And she has to stay on her toes, because some of her friends are actually foes.

It’s a fun, thrilling, frightening story that moves at a hectic pace.  I promise, it will leave you breathless.

Buy here beginning November 17, 2017



War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918, by Michael Kazin

August 6, 2016

I was provided a free advance reading copy of this book for review.

The United States, during the Wilson administration, was isolationist and neutral when the Great War began.  Wilson himself promised the US would remain neutral.  But beginning with the sinking of the Lusitania, US relations with Germany became strained.

Kazin pulls together the story of many peace activists who pressured Wilson to stay out of the war.  They sued for peace, maintaining a declaration of war would result in tragic loss, and that reason and compromise would better serve our country.  War is murder; it is immoral, and who wants to send a son to a foreign country to die?  This seems a perfectly reasonable posture.  Nobody wants war, unless they seek to gain from it, and that, too, is immoral.

But as Kazin points out, Wilson faced another side of morality.  The Germans kept attacking civilian ships with submarines.  The US was not at war with Germany, yet civilian casualties were mounting.  And there were some who said our country could not stay out of the Great War, lest the casualties continue or Germany attacked an unprepared United States.

We know, of course, Wilson eventually declared war on Germany.  That did not stop the peace activists from spreading their message, for a while, at least.  America, not for the first time, was divided.  And what happened to the peace movement is the meat of the story.

Some activists backed off somewhat, some altogether, and some not at all.  What I can only call a suppression movement began.  Postmasters stopped delivering some literature and magazines published by the pacifists, during a time when Americans got their news from the written word.  Some of the pacifists even wound up in jail.  The peace activists wound up walking a fine line, not entirely silenced, but muted.

It is not entirely clear to this reader if some who were imprisoned did or did not disseminate sensitive information.

I am, perhaps, an unlikely candidate to read this book at all.  To know me is to understand I fiercely defend our war fighters.  Consider this conversation I recently witnessed:  A fellow worker, who is a Reservist, told another fellow worker, thoroughly civilian, he was preparing for a drill.  He will jump from a plane with full body armor, and admitted he feared doing this.  The civilian repeatedly asked why the Reservist was going to do a jump practically against his will.  The Reservist repeatedly answered he must, and finally simply stated, “I will do it because it’s my duty”.  Listening to this conversation, and seeing their faces, I felt it was akin to someone explaining religious faith to a non-believer who never considered faith.  It was a friendly conversation, but not a conversation of understanding.  I am not a veteran, and I understand the civilian’s point of view because I am a civilian.  But I also understand the veteran, because I know and work with so many.  I “get” duty.

I found this book thought-provoking because of the suppression of the First Amendment rights of the peace activists.  There are always war mongers, and there are always peace activists.  What prickled my antennae is the fact that the US government stifled the First Amendment rights of many of the peace activists.

These people, for better or worse, delivered news and information, and the government manipulated the news with its interventions.  We must ask ourselves, is this happening now?  It’s so easy to get news with the internet, but are we really getting all the news?

Read it yourself and wake up a little.  You will learn a lot from this book, whether or not you agree with the author’s left-leaning views.

This book is currently slated for publication in January, 2017.

Strange History

June 11, 2016

I received a free, advance reading copy of Strange History from Netgalley for review.

Have you seen Junior’s grades?  I really disliked history when I was young, and that isn’t unusual.  History begins for us when we’re born, and it takes some living to appreciate what others did before we’re born.  History classes absolutely made me squirm, but part of the problem was the linear, detailed curriculum that didn’t spark my interest.

Based on the drooling and snoring that occurred in the classroom, I can honestly say my disinterest in history was hardly unique.  That probably would not have been the case if the subject was served up in interesting little morsels.  History, no.  Trivia, yes!

Of course, I read long history books for pleasure now.  I’ve achieved the necessary patina to relate to what happened in the days of yore, now that my youth is considered the days of yore.  Strange History jumps around in short bits, using famous quotes as segues.  The topics rotate:  Strange people, places, and events in categories such as “Frankenstein”, for odd medical history, and “Dracula” for the book and the character on which it was based.  Yes, there is some ick factor here, but the prose is straightforward and not cringe-worthy.  It is dubbed strange history, after all.

And no tale drags so long as to overstay its welcome.  The book chugs along at an admirable rate.  It’s a light read packed with information.  A good gift for people who like reading trivia, and not out-of-place for the children.

Four out of five stars.

Are You Fully Charged? – A Review

April 22, 2015

Capitalize on yourself by doing what you love, being selfless, and living a healthy lifestyle. Rath explains why these behaviors give us energy, keep us engaged, and make us happy.

Making enough money to pay your bills is enough. Spend your discretionary dollars on life experiences, not stuff. Remember, there are other people in the world, and you should think about others, and not just yourself. Help other people, because it will make you feel great, and friendships are more rewarding than status. Eat, sleep, and move to maintain good health, keep your mind clear, and be ready to handle challenges.

The benefit of age shows me these are truths. Doing what Rath advises is not easy, but worthwhile. This is the rare self-help book that covers all aspects of daily life that doesn’t push an agenda. This is what we should teach our children.

Follow this advice, and carpe diem!

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley at no charge, for review purposes.