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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.

All in the Family: A Review of “Inside the O’Briens” by Lisa Genova

March 13, 2015

Joe O’Brien is an Irish Catholic cop diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, which is fatal and genetic. He has a wife, Rosie, and four young adult children.

How is he going to break the news to his kids that he’s going to die of this wasting disease? What will his children do when they learn that because he has the genetic variation that causes Huntington’s, they might have it, too?

Ms. Genova opens the story with broad strokes. The O’Briens are typically Irish Catholic, and the symptoms of HD are not self-evident. Not in the early stages, with forgetfulness and clumsiness that could happen to anyone. As Joe’s HD progresses, unraveling his body, Ms. Genova weaves individuality into the characters.

Huntington’s Disease is rare, but casts a wide net. Every O’Brien is deeply affected, and forced to face life choices most people make when they are ready. Rosie, Joe’s wife, will become a widow sooner rather than later. His children have a 50% chance of inheriting Huntington’s. The family members must decide whether or not to be tested for the disease, but there are more questions. Should they have children? Should they marry? Should they pursue their dreams knowing or not knowing their fates, or should they abandon their ambitions and quietly wait to die? If they get tested, will his children be able to use the information in a manner each finds morally acceptable?

Hard choices and hard luck are stamped all over the O’Briens as Joe’s illness deepens. This is a rich, realistic story, neither sugar-coated nor maudlin. Ms. Genova brilliantly works the details into those broad brush strokes, creating a vivid picture of Hungtington’s, and transforming the O’Briens into people we know and care for.

I received a free advance copy to read from Netgalley. This review is my own creation. I received no compensation for this review.

The Chasm: A Review of “The Great Divide” by Thomas Fleming

February 23, 2015

What if I told you that politics in the United States today are no more divisive than when this country was founded?

We are taught our Founding Fathers were quite united, but they were united only in their desire to break free from England. Quickly after the Revolutionary War ended, the Fathers became sharply divided into two camps. Parties, really. Fleming shows how greatly Washington and Jefferson differed. Jefferson is portrayed in a quite unflattering light.

Fleming shows us correspondence, planted news articles, and backroom bargaining. He pulls together obscure but important facts in an extrapolative narrative, Do you know the connection between yellow fever and the Louisiana Purchase?

This is the stuff of understanding how difficult it was for the Founding Fathers to get this country started, and keep it together. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty. It’s also the stuff of understanding why the Founding Fathers are as relevant as ever, not thinking only of the present, but the future of our country for all time.

I received a free advance copy to read from Netgalley. This review is my own creation. I received no compensation for this review.

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Boys to Men

April 4, 2014

A Review of 9,000 Miles of Fatherhood, Surviving Crooked Cops,Teenage Angst, and Mexican Moonshines on a Journey to the End of the Road, by Kirk Millson

In 2002, a big shakeup at the Salt Lake Tribune proved disastrous for Kirk Millson, its 42-year-old Editorial Writer.  The doting husband and father of two was busted down to Copyeditor, a job he’d loathed when he held it years before.  It was a bitter pill to swallow, so he tried getting drunk instead of going to work.  This was not an appropriate solution, so after a few days, he did what any responsible, self-respecting family man would do.  He took a four-month unpaid leave of absence so he could drive around Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and El Salvador.  And he decided to take his 13-year-old son, Peter along, because the trip would be good for the morose little bra – young teen.  And because Peter was his trump card, to get his wife to agree.

 With his wife’s blessing (!), Peter’s school assignments (really, what 13-year-old wouldn’t skip school for four months with his parents’ permission?), and nine thousand dollars, father and son packed up Kirk’s 1974 Dodge Dart, aka the tank.  For which I vouch, as a former owner of a 1966 Dart I dubbed my newspaper car, because it was black and white and red all over.  They set off on their long journey on a hot day with nothing but miles between them and Christmas, their return date.  The trouble started before they even hit the Mexican border.  With the Dart making twelve miles a gallon, Kirk knew the budget would be blown, but that didn’t stop him and Pete.  Wagons, ho!  He crafted a plan to eat and stay at the cheapest places he could find.  In Central America!  

Horrifyingly and hilariously, Kirk and Peter face cops, robbers, cops who are robbers, drunks looking for fights, hookers, car breakdowns, bus breakdowns, personal meltdowns, and, welcome to the jungle, get lost in the jungle.  Each also has to face his studies.  Kirk has to relearn Spanish, and Peter has to learn Spanish and bring up his D grades, or they’ll face doubly frightening consequences when they get home.  

They do meet fine people in their teachers and complete strangers who go out of their way to help when they’re in a bad spot.  And somehow, during this crazy journey, Peter learns the value and virtue of self-discipline, while Kirk learns how to be a truly good father.  Peter grows, and grows fit while acing his Algebra studies.  And Kirk learns he’s going to have to suck it up and work that copy desk, for the time being.  

After a rough but enlightening trip, Kirk and Peter returned home just in time for Christmas, and everyone lived happily ever after.  Except for Torie, their mastiff-mutt.  But even she hung in there far longer than expected.  

You’ll be shocked one minute and giggling uncontrollably the next.  Millson’s prose is vivid and salty.  He has a winning way with self-deprecation.  

The author provided an advance reading copy to me free of charge.  I can’t get over the fact that a newspaper man asked someone who owned a newspaper car to read and review his book, but there it is.  That bit of irony aside, I don’t know the guy from Adam.  But he wrote a great book.  Two wings up.  

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