Michael Mullin’s Simon

I received this book courtesy of Mr. Mullin for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: Simon is back in his hometown for some paperwork that his mother and step-father need him to sign. Why the rush? After all his Dad has only been gone for four months. Imagine Simon’s shock when his Dad’s ghost shows up wanting revenge for his murder. What is Simon to do?

Story Telling: Welcome to the 21st century’s production of Hamlet. This has been modernized for the newest generations and we’ve lost the play format of the original.

Likes: Richard showed his acceptance for Simon’s dreams in the best way possible. He supported the dream as long as Simon worked toward it.

Dislikes: I’ll be honest. The only play of Mr. Shakespeare’s that I’ve read is “Romeo and Juliet” and I did not like his style. So I have avoided much of his work. There’s enough of his darkness in this book to identify the source material.

But my biggest problem was the chronology. I prefer a rather straight-forward story, but this one seemed to shift from the future to the present to the recent past. We even hit the far past. Simon’s short film was sprinkled through the novel as well. At times it was confusing.

Favorite Character: Richard. He was the best person around. Too bad he was already dead.

Favorite Quote: No such luck this time around guys.

Favorite Scene: I enjoyed reading about how Alex got started as a videographer.

Conclusion: This was an interesting read. I strongly believe that it was my tastes that made this book fall flat. There are plenty of people that will enjoy this one.

Dean Koontz’s Night Chills

Overview: Paul Annendale has been taking Rya and Mark out camping in the forest surrounding Black River, Maine since his son was two. The past few years have been both more important and difficult. But not even Annie’s death can prepare Paul or his children for this year’s excursion.

Story Telling: This novel is structured more like “Innocence” was. The chronology is a bit mixed until the last half of the book.

Likes: Sam’s search for the truth about how Hitler gained control over the nation was something to be admired.

Paul took what time he would to spend with his children. It showed his devotion.

Dislikes: Mark’s fate threw me here. This isn’t Mr. Koontz’s MO. Also there seems to be an over emphasis on sex in this novel. It’s a bit of a shock, if you come to this book after some of his newer works.

Salsbury, Dawson, and Klinger had serious problems. They sought to have more control than was good for them.

Favorite Character: It’s Sam. His moral character and strength of will made him someone you would want watching your back.

Favorite Quote: Sam’s reasoning is pretty spot on here. “Does what happened to him when he was eleven justify what he did to Mark? If Salsbury wins, if he takes control over everyone, does it matter what happened to him when he was eleven?”

Favorite Scene: The time the Annendales and Edisons spend in Sam’s library after they found Mark was pretty good.

Conclusion: While I understand why “Night Chills” took the path it did, this is one of my least favorite Dean Koontz novels. It’s still good because it is one of Dean Koontz’s.

Cassi Eubank’s Diary of an Ugly Sweater

I received this book courtesy of Mrs. Eubank for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: Sophie, of the ‘Tree With Pom Balls’ family, is looking forward to finding her forever person. Her best friend is her diary. But, let’s not tell her that she is categorized as an ugly sweater. Let’s see how she handles a Christmas season filled with shoppers, parties, and an upcycler.

Story Telling: This is a very naughty feeling read. Come on, we’re reading her diary. Do sweaters actually have diaries? Cause if not, then I’m pretty sure this is okay.

Likes: This is clever way to attract children to the joys of keeping a journal.

Katie had a good sense of creativity, though even I think she might have overdone it a bit. Her time spent with her niece was kind of cute.

Dislikes: Oh my! Sophie is a yankee! The horror of it all. It actually explains a lot.

Some of the encouragements bordered on being preachy. Yes, people need to be encouraged, but sometimes you need a regular hammer instead of a sledgehammer.

One last thing, suicide may come because you are focused on the sad things in life. However, it’s been my experience that usually happens when the world gets to be too much.

Favorite Character: It has to be Santa Steve. He seems to have a pretty good attitude, and he was always trying to get Sophie to think before she acted.

Favorite Quote: Here’s something to keep in mind. “…I realize I have much I don’t know…and I love studying and analyzing how people behave. I find our differences fascinating!”

Favorite Scene: The scenes leading up to the photo shoot were pretty funny.

Conclusion: This was a cute story. I’d read it to my children, and then encourage them to write in their own journal. I, personally, might pick the days based on the child’s understanding, however.

White Privilege?

Is there a problem with ‘white privilege’ in America? I don’t really think so. As Americans, I’d like to believe that we all have ‘American Privilege.’

It seems to me that ‘white privilege’ is a code phrase for racism. And even the definition of racism has gone a little screwy. It used to be that a racist held a feeling of superiority based on his race. But that’s not what people are proclaiming now. Now we’re being told that racism is inherent to the race that holds the majority of the higher jobs, politics, or who are the owners of businesses.

Now this isn’t fair. It’s not like I don’t believe that a minority isn’t able to become a CEO, or a business owner, or a politician. In fact, by believing in things like ‘white privilege,’ or–in some cases–that the police are out to get you, it’s my belief that we are teaching our children that, unless you’re white then you’ll never make anything of yourself. One problem. Well, more than one really. One: our president is black. So if those who have the power are racist, what does this tell you? Two: nobody is stopping you from making something out of your life, except you.

Let me ask you a question. Allow me to set the scene for you. Let’s say that you find that you have a brain tumor. You are told that the two best neurosurgeons are in the hospital and can fit you in for surgery tomorrow. One of the doctors is conservative in dress, enunciates his words clearly, and acts like he knows what he is doing. The other one dresses like a ‘gansta,’ uses ebonics, and acts like he is higher than a kite. Who do you want to perform the surgery?

You see, in my example here, both of these doctors held the same degrees. They were both the top of their respective classes. But one portrayed his knowledge and expertise in a more professional way. If it makes you feel better, bot of the doctors were the same color.

Yes, there are more white politicians, but this is also a choice. Take a look at the cities of Detroit, Baltimore, or other cities that are predominately black. If the citizens wish to tell me that they don’t have enough people of color in positions of power, then I have a question for them. Are you all talk? We may get some bad politicians, but they at least had the guts to try. If you don’t like the way they are doing their jobs, go for it yourself.

So if you want to say that someone has ‘white privilege,’ perhaps you should consider what it is that you are saying. You’re saying that if you’re white then:
You are expected to work hard.
If you fail, then there’s no one to blame.
You can’t claim racial profiling if you get pulled over by the police, no matter what the circumstances.
You cannot get away with disrespecting authority.
Overall, you are expected to take responsibility for your actions (and everyone else’s).

We are Americans. Shouldn’t we be teaching all of the children of America most, if not all, of these things? We all have the opportunity to be what we want. Should we really waste such a golden opportunity because we don’t have the right pigmentation? Are we so shallow that Dr. King’s admonition to focus on the content of character and not the color of the skin lost on our generation? Is that something you really want to pass on to your children?

I’d like to leave you with the words of wisdom that was laid out by Pres. Thomas Jefferson. “Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.” The emphasis is mine. If you can, read the whole prayer. May God keep our Great Nation.

Steve Martini’s Shadow of Power-Paul Madriani 9

Overview: It’s another favor from Paul Madriani. The son of a friend is accused of the murder of political firebrand Terry Scarborough. Thankfully the evidence is pretty thin. Just the fact that Carl hated the victim’s politics, and one set of fingerprints, maybe the bloody shoes and clothes, or the bloody shoeprint left at the scene. Paul has his work cut out for him. Thank goodness Harry and Herman are here to help.

Story Telling: There are more action scenes this time around, and Paul is still strong in the courtroom.

Likes: Carl’s friends have some serious ideological problems, but he still deserved a fair defense.

Herman can work just as well as a bodyguard as he does a private investigator. He seems to be multi-talented.

Dislikes: I’ve got to hit the biggie first. America is not, nor has she ever been, a democracy. I know that is a popular belief, but the idea of a democracy was a cause of great concern for the Founders. It’s so easy for a tyrant to seize control in a democracy (see Hugo Chavez of Venezuela). A majority rule invites disaster, you can convince the majority to ban water with the right turn of phrase. The United States is a republic, specifically a representative republic. Which is a nice way of saying that we elect (hire) people to run the government. The politicians are our employees, not our masters.

Now that I have that off of my chest, let’s go to my biggest problem. Terry Scarborough seemed like he just wanted to destroy the republic given us. He wanted more control, and yet he practiced no control over his own life.

And Sarah was being brainwashed by her professors.

Tuchio was okay, until he started lying to the jury. This is a good reason why you don’t rush to get a conviction. Other than the fact that you might convict an innocent party, you also look like a liar and you won’t stop a riot anyway. If people want to riot, they’re going to riot. It doesn’t matter what you do.

Favorite Character: This time it was Herman. Talk about unflappable, nothing could shake the man.

Favorite Quote: Sarah and Paul where getting into it here. ““But it’s embarrassing, Dad. People at school are saying after what he did, he doesn’t deserve a trial.”

“Then those people are living in the wrong country.””

Favorite Scene: It’s what Herman does when the guy comes for their client. Oh, or how about the time he is on the stand.

Of course you could also go with Tuchio’s opening statement from Paul’s point-of-view. (This one shakes, rattles, and rolls.)

Conclusion: This was a real good case. And a good example for why the court of public opinion is a bad court to state your case in. Enjoy this one, if the Founders weren’t treated so harshly, I’d call this one mandatory reading.

Steve Martini’s The Judge-Paul Madriani 4

Overview: Paul Madriani has done something that he normally wouldn’t do. A friend from his prosecutor’s days has asked him for a favor. Lenore’s distant cousin has been tapped to appear before the grand jury. Of course the grand jury investigation kind of falls through when the presiding judge gets caught in a prostitution sting. Paul doesn’t feel too bad about it until the undercover agent is found dead behind the D.A.’s office building. Judge Acosta needs counsel for more than the prostitution charge now. Paul doesn’t want to defend the guy, but it just takes one dirty trick of Mr. Kline’s and Paul gets pushed into the corner. Does he let the judge hang for lack of counsel? Of course not.

Story Telling: Let’s face it. Books, that follow lawyers for protagonists, spend a lot of time in the courtroom. This one is no exception.

Likes: You got to give Paul some credit. He may not like Judge Acosta, but that didn’t mean the judge didn’t deserve a defense.

Sarah is at such a cute age here in this book. You know the stage, where the more syllables added to a word, the more likely the parent in question will give in to the current demand.

Mrs. Kline handled meeting Lenore well and with such a graceful attitude.

And Harry is…well, Harry.

Dislikes: Lenore may have been cheated out of her job, but she had no excuse to have such a nasty attitude. Especially when it came to meeting Mrs. Kline. You can be angry all you want towards the man that cost you your job, but don’t drag his wife into it.

Phil Mendel is working for the wrong family. He seems more of a crime boss, than one of the men in blue.

Kline played a dirty game. Simple as that.

Favorite Character: Judge Radovich was cool. He didn’t want anyone playing games in his courtroom. Even Paul bought it a time or two.

Favorite Quote: Here’s something that every parent needs to remember. “My wife was an authority not to be crossed, not so much angry as stern, a firm believer that children should never be allowed to manipulate parents, to divide and conquer, that consistency was the correct path to the holy grail of raising our daughter.”

Favorite Scene: I love how Harry got back at Phil Mendel. I mean how can he go wrong with returning property to it’s rightful owner?

Of course, the point of the bailiffs and psychologist trying to put Binky back into evidence was kind of funny as well.

Conclusion: This was a good story. I like Madriani, but I’m not so sure about the courtroom aspect of a legal thriller

John Sandford’s Broken Prey-Lucas Davenport 16

Overview: Lucas has the whole house to himself. Weather is over in England for some medical thing, and she took the children with her. Now Sloan has a case that he needs help on. A woman has been found murdered and staged. There doesn’t seem to be much to investigate, until another body shows up. Problem. The newest victim is male, though he still has the tale-tell signs of being killed by the same killer. There’s at least one piece of luck. A sexual predator has disappeared a month prior.

Story Telling: When I said that I needed to start the Lucas Davenport series a bit earlier, I didn’t mean by one book. This isn’t a police procedural, more thriller and less procedure, but it can make for a fun ride.

Likes: Lucas and Sloan have such the interesting partnership dynamics. They didn’t seem to need much in the way concession in order to work well together. The benefits of friendship.

Lucas’s ultimate rock list brought about some fun arguments, and many who enjoy rock ‘n roll ought to appreciate the full list in the appendix.

Poor Ruffe! What is going through a parent’s mind to name a child “Red-head.”

Elle was good at reading the criminal mind. It makes you wonder where she would be if she hadn’t joined the convent.

Dislikes: Here’s the thing. The killer is a sexual sadist (thank you ‘Criminal Minds’). The crime scenes are not pretty, but the crimes themselves didn’t have to be so graphically described. This is not a good thing for those with weak stomachs.

Also, the language isn’t something you want to be reading out loud. What if your Momma walked in the room, or, even worse, your Daddy? (Mine likes action, so there.)

Favorite Character: This would be Elle. Sure she got attacked in an earlier book, but she still likes the puzzles.

Favorite Quote: There’s a guy here, Mihovil, and I love what he had to say to the ‘anti-colonialist’ American. (Personally, I’d go with un-American). “He said, “I think what you said is bullshit. No, wait–it’s worse than that. We talk about the black people in Uganda and the brown people in New Guinea, and you say that we push our cultural artifacts upon them…You mean, medicine? You mean, TV? You mean, cars? Those people are just as smart as we are.””

Favorite Scene: I had two that made the cut. The first one is the whole rant Mihovil gave to the anti-colonialist. Be sure to read it all.

The second is when Lucas is just about to use some rather vulgar language and then remembers that there’s a nun in the room. It was a nice save.

Conclusion: This book was almost too violent for me. Read it to see why Sloan chose to be a bartender. And remember, this one can be a bit rough.

Is the American Dream a Sham?

I’ve always believed that America was founded on the basis that we had the right, and obligation, to seek life, liberty, and the pursuit of happyness. But as I look into the world today, this is not what I’m witnessing. It seems like there’s a group of people who claim the need of special treatment because their ancestors were slaves. Let me be clear, I don’t think this is a race issue, it’s a perspective issue.

Here’s the thing. These same people claim that both the Founding Fathers and God Almighty Himself supported slavery. But, how true is this argument? Um, not very, at least not from my research.

Let’s take the laws of slavery according to God. If you honestly examine these laws, you will find a common denominator. The slave has sold him or herself to pay off a debt. Also, a close family member could ‘redeem’ the slave. This description is more like that of indentured servitude. One person could, quite literally, hire himself out to make money. Sounds kind of like the job market today, doesn’t it?

But, you see the idea of selling another into servitude had a very different result. There were three crimes that guaranteed the death penalty under God’s Law. Premeditated murder, rape, and–as God puts it–stealing a man and selling him. Now what could that last one mean? Well, we have kidnapping for ransom today, but when America had slaves, how did they get here? That makes slave-trading under God’s law illegal, doesn’t it?

As you look through our Monuments in Washington D.C., you’ll notice Biblical passages on them. This is simple to see because atheism in the eighteenth century was even rarer than it is today. The first book printed in America was a Bible, so how did the Founders miss the fact that slavery was wrong?

The truth of the matter is, they didn’t. America couldn’t survive a war against slavery being fought at the same time as The Revolution. So they added a couple of clauses to The Constitution to deal with the issue. The infamous 3/5 clause was meant to keep the slave-holding States out of the majority when it came time to abolish the practice. In my opinion, the 3/5 clause included children, most women, and any other person who didn’t own any property. The Founders attempts to abolish the practice didn’t work out too well. We didn’t listen to section 9 of Article 1. According to that section, we were to ban the importation of slaves in, ready for it, 1808. Our failure to do so lead to the Civil War.

So now we know that the Founders didn’t intend to keep slavery as a part of America. It wasn’t meant for our inheritance. We can move on to our next set of questions. How did slavery get started in America? And why did the Founders have slaves, themselves?

Let’s start with the first question. When America was first colonized, we had a system of indentured servitude. Now that doesn’t mean that all servants came of their own free will, it just means that they could become free after a time. Indentured servitude meant that you had a chance of make a life of your own as soon as your contract was up. Of course if you tried to steal the time you owed to your boss it could cost you your ability to work for someone else. It would be like agreeing to work for, say, Coca Cola, then reneging on your word. At that time, you could be told that you can now only work for Coca Cola. It would guarantee you financial security, and your boss would be guaranteed a constant employee.

This worked until Anthony Johnson, a black man, had a disagreement with one of his white neighbors over a black indentured servant’s contract. Johnson won more than the contract; he won the ownership of the indentured servant, starting our problems with slavery. It wasn’t like the prior times of an indentured servant being stuck with a boss, this poor guy didn’t even have the benefit of having a paycheck.

Now to our next question: why did the Founders have slaves? To put it simply, most of them were in debt, quite possibly from funding the Revolution. During times of debt, freeing your slaves was seen as bad form. In fact, the slaves would probably be confiscated and sold to pay off the debt if their owners had tried. All they could do at the time, would be to try to climb out of debt, and then free their slaves. Our nation cost our Founding Fathers everything. Their slaves got their freedom after the Founders died, if they were lucky.

I’m not sure how we got to where whole classes of people in America can claim that the American Dream is just for the 1% or that The Constitution doesn’t go far enough. This isn’t the fruit of our Founding Fathers. Like them, I don’t want your patronage just because I look different than you do. I’ve worked and practiced too long and hard for such a cheap feeling of inclusiveness. I want your patronage because I’m good at what I do.

Thank you for your time. And consider Pres. Washington’s prayer to the Almighty before you leave.

And now, Almighty Father, if it is Thy holy will that we shall obtain a place and name among the nations of the earth, grant that we may be enabled to show our gratitude for Thy goodness by our endeavors to fear and obey Thee.

Bless us with Thy wisdom in our counsels, success in battle, and let all our victories be tempered with humanity. Endow, also, our enemies with enlightened minds, that they become sensible of their injustice, and willing to restore our liberty and peace.

Grant the petition of Thy servant, for the sake of Him whom Thou hast called Thy beloved Son; nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done. Amen.

If you have time, you might want to consider more of Pres. Washington’s and Jefferson’s prayers. They are quite enlightening.

Tamir Turgal’s The Smokefree Way

I received this book courtesy of Mr. Turgal for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Disclaimer: While there are smokers in my family, I am not one of them.

Overview: Mr. Turgal has managed to pull off an amazing thing. He has broken his addiction to nicotine. Now he wants to help other smokers to do the same.

Story Telling: This is a situational self-help book. Pretty much, it is designed to help smokers, no-one else.

Likes: If you think that you can help someone, then you should at least try.

Dislikes: Aside from all of the redundant sentences, which might have just been there for the purpose of getting the ideas to sink into the mind, I had a few problems with this book.

For starters: we spent a whole lot of time with the physiological and mental effects that addiction presumably results in, that it seemed like the audience wasn’t supposed to be able to understand that they had a major problem. I’m sorry, but anytime that I’ve noticed that either myself or anyone else has admitted to having a problem, then the person in question will sooner or later be able to admit that the problem is bigger than he or she is. Pointing out how we get addicted can result in people feeling as if they are being talked down to, and that never helps.

Then we get to the confidence issues of smokers. I’ve grown up around them. Never have I seen any smoker in my family feel as if the cigarette gave them any power. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. They say that the cigarettes don’t have any power except what is given them. This isn’t a confidence issue.

I also take issue with the book’s premise that non-smokers have a natural serenity of the mind about them. Allow me to inform you, my non-smoking mind is pretty chaotic half of the time. Serenity is something you get from your relationship with your God, or however you find your peace. It’s something that has to come in time, not that you’re born with. Smoking may give you another need, but sometimes cravings have a basis in needs that you may not quite be aware of. Just like thirst may let you know that you need water, sometimes the things we crave have a particular ingredient that helps. Much like how the anti-oxidants can be found in things that seem like they would be bad for you. Like chocolate and wine.

Personally, I’ve found that the non-smoker has a nasty habit of holier-than-thou-syndrome. They are always trying to make people act like they wish. Yes, in the old days, smokers had free reign around the world, but they never told the non-smoker that they had to isolate themselves. That has only happened in one direction, to my knowledge.

Favorites: I don’t have a quote or story this time around. Such is the way with the self-help books. You either find one or not.

Conclusion: This book is not for every smoker. In my opinion, the foundation is a bit wobbly. This makes what is built on it prone to disaster. Just remember one thing, if we were to take everything that people use just to get through the day, the smoker might be forced to lose their unpopular crutch, but the non-smoker might be surprised at what they would have to let go of. I hope you are able to quit if that’s what you wish to do.