Category: In The Library

Vail History: Two Book Reviews

Two Looks at Vail

As long time readers know, I love visiting Vail, so I was delighted to receive two Vail history books for Christmas. Vail Triumph of a Dream by Peter W. Seibert with William Oscar Johnson tells the story of the first 40 years through the voice of Seibert, a key developer of Vail. The other, Vail: The First 50 Years is part of the Images of America series produced by Arcadia Publishing. This volume is written by Shirley Welch.

Images of Vail History

Both books provide a plethora of photos. Black and white photos are dominant in the early days. Perhaps by design, the Arcadia publication is entirely in this format. This definitely lends an historical flavor.

Meanwhile, Vail Triumph of a Dream includes breathtaking views in full color. And full pages of color. The images transport you onto the slopes.

Just The Facts

Vail: The First 50 Years was read cover to cover in one sitting. The format offers extended commentary on each photo. Welch includes backstory information on the area itself. The settlement of Eagle County predates the development of Vail by over 50 years. Prior to the establishment of the ski resort, inhabitants of the valley were primarily sheep ranchers.

The books in the Images of America series tantalize the reader with a multitude of facts in an easy to read format. The only glitch in the book was through no fault of the author. Vail: The First 50 Years ends with a look forward in the resort town’s future. As of the writing, an expansion called Ever Vail had just received preliminary approval. Welch included this proposal but it failed to materialize and permits expired in 2021.

In Depth Insight of Vail History

While Vail: The First 50 Years provides a nice overview of Vail history, Vail Triumph of a Dream is much more in depth. However, the latter is also as much an autobiography of Seibert as it is record of historical fact. Quite an interesting personal account!

Seibert’s account of Vail’s development is as much a story of his life as it is a description of Vail. This Vail history encompasses so much background, after reading one feels as if they grew up in the valley and more. The insight into the business of Vail is shadowed by the glimpses of passion for No-Name Mountain. While it may be difficult to replicate the devotion Peter Seibert had for Vail, anyone who has spent time on the mountain whether hiking or skiing can emphasize. Vail Valley is truly spectacular.

That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles Book Review

Mac ‘N’ Ivy

Lorena McCourtney is keeping busy and That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles is her latest release. The book, part of the Mac ’N’ Ivy series picks up the narrative after the two lovebirds finish their honeymoon. They are still looking for a place to park the RV and settle down. But the requirement of no murder in the vicinity keeps thwarting the silver fox and his Brillo gray bride.

That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles Plot

Mac and Ivy motor to San Isolde, California in search of a permanent home and as a favor to a new acquaintance met along the coast of Mexico. Blake Houston is concerned about his eccentric Aunt Eleanor and her questionable boyfriend.

Shortly after arriving, Ivy and Eleanor-who now prefers Elena- stumble upon the body of Miles, the boyfriend now fiancé. Thence, the sleuthing begins for the newlyweds. Of course, McCourtney weaves many zany characters into her storyline. Elena perhaps the oddest of all.

There are twists and turns and Ivy and Elena clash on fortune telling; cookie reading signs, as performed by Nicole. Nicole’s ex-husband is a prime suspect and he is a nephew of the victim. McCourtney uses misdirection to keep the reader guessing.

Christian Fiction and Cozy Mystery

That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles is a mixed genre. The book offers up murder and mayhem alongside Christianity. This combination works because the characters do not come across as preachy. The tone is a traditional approach versus an evangelical push. Plus, Mac and Ivy come across as humans not saints.

Recommendation

I recommend this zany story. My husband downloaded the ebook over the Christmas weekend and I read it during our snowy New Year’s Day. We both enjoyed the light hearted escape.

Previous reviews of McCourtney’s work include Invisible and In Plain Sight, both part of the Ivy Malone series. Additionally, Blue Moon, part of the Stanton series appeared in Econogal reviews. The Ivy Malone series segued into the Mac ‘N’ Ivy series of which That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles was a 2021 release. Mac is a great balance for the “Invisible” LOL.

Lorena McCourtney is a master of both misdirection-a key component of a good mystery- and of bringing characters to life. Even those characters that are terminated before the story begins. I envy her character development. Even tertiary characters “breathe.” During this ongoing time of uncertainty, McCourtney’s books are a welcome diversion. That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles is a worthwhile entertainment.

Econogal’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 2021

The List

The top ten “Favorite” books of 2021 is a bit easier to compile this year. Not as much reading, and a few books read and not reviewed impact the pool of eligible books. Interestingly, several non-fiction book reviews yielded the most traffic on the website. A combination of reader and blogger interest generated the list. I hope you enjoy these recommendations.

Non-Fiction Books of 2021

As a kid I loved biographies. However, I don’t remember any autobiographies. Writing for children and teenagers can be quite challenging, so perhaps that explains a lack of memoirs. The books of 2021 are lacking in reviews of memoirs. A few were read, but I did not feel compelled to share my opinions.

Instead, self-help books and multiple entries revolving around Covid-19 became fodder for reviews. Thus this type of writing is found on the Top Ten Favorite Books of 2021. The reading audience enjoyed, or at least visited, the reviews of non-fiction entries frequently.

Interestingly, the most visited post of all types belongs to the review of Liquids Till Lunch. (Perhaps many people did gain weight during lockdown.) I continue to use many suggestions from the book. However, the book I have given to several as a gift is Cleaning Sucks. The tips from Rachel Hoffman have really helped my household organization.

The remaining entries are quite thought provoking. We are living through a period of time that future generations will study thoroughly. Thus, it is not surprising multiple books discussing the pandemic make the list. Additionally, the New Great Depression is worth a mention although just falls short of making the top books of 2021 list.

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America is a must read. Even though this book is a 2011 release, it is a perfect gift for any student of history from late teens to octogenarians.

Top Favorite Fiction Books of 2021

This category is tough for me as I love fiction. Genres covered range from Christian to Romance to Murder. The YA entry Instant Karma just barely missed making the list as did a reader favorite, Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.

Many of this year’s fiction reviews were new releases for blockbuster authors. However, one of my favorites was released back in 2015. Much like American Nations, I think finding a copy of Jack of Spies is very worthwhile.

Top Ten Favorite Books of 2021

Fiction

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Jack of Spies by David Downing

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

A Distant Shore by Karen Kingsbury

Meant To Be by Jude Deveraux

Non-Fiction

Liquids Till Lunch by MaryRuth Ghiyam

American Nations by Colin Woodard

Cleaning Sucks by Rachel Hoffman

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis

Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria

Eight Perfect Hours Book Review

Eight Perfect Hours is a poignant romance. It is also a story depicting the red thread of fate. Lia Louis weaves this tale of what could have been and what is meant to be with deft and skill. The telling brings both tears and laughter.Cover of Eight Perfect Hours

Theme of Eight Perfect Hours

The over-riding theme is one of ships passing in the night. And then kismet. Noelle is stuck in a traffic jam. As in a parking lot on the freeway. No inching along, just a complete stand still. Furthermore, she is experiencing a complete meltdown for all the surrounding drivers to see.

The closest driver, Sam from America, approaches to offer aid-in the form of allowing her to re-charge her cell phone in his car. At first, Noelle is reluctant to take up his offer. Eventually, they spend eight perfect hours waiting for the traffic jam to clear.

 

They part just like passing ships.

Complex Storyline

Eight Perfect Hours is far more than girl meets boy. Lia Louis fills the pages with internal conflict for the main characters. Noelle in particular is pulled in many directions. Emotionally attached to a past that has been ruptured, she also is compelled by duty to support her mother. Thus, her dream career is put on hold.

Sam carries tremendous guilt over the death of a cousin. Furthermore, he is struggling to forgive and forget the transgressions of his long-time girlfriend. So, his attraction to the stranger on the freeway adds more complication.

Red Thread of Fate

Noelle and Sam continue to bump into each other. Their attraction builds even as they fight the emotion. Like the Chinese Proverb which opens the story, Louis provides some twists that make the fate even more pronounced. The conclusion will be very satisfying for romance aficionados.

Eight Perfect Hours Emotional Tug

The novel is well written. The inner conflict of the characters tugged at this reader’s heart. The back story brought tears and the interaction of the principles brought smiles. Eight Perfect Hours is highly recommended. A great read for the holidays. Lia Louis is to be commended.

Stephanie’s Ponytail Book Review

Children’s Story Book

Stephanie's Ponytail Book CoverStephanie’s Ponytail written by Robert Munsch with illustrations by Michael Martchenko is one of my favorite children’s story books. The first time I bought a copy was over twenty years ago. I am sure the artwork hooked me. The harried mother trying to fix unruly hair at the breakfast table struck a chord of recognition. And the story itself is classic hilarity.

Two Ideas from Stephanie’s Ponytail

Like many children’s books, Stephanie’s Ponytail posits key lessons. Young Stephanie wants to be different. But, often non-conformity is looked down upon. Or, as in the case of this delightful book, the individual with flare is copied. Dealing with copycats is frustrating.

There is much debate on whether leaders are made or born. Even though Munsch does not delve into deep philosophy, it is clear Stephanie is both a trendsetter and smart. The thinking skills are clearly lacking in the copycats. Deftly woven into the story are kudos for originality as well as a warning to those who blindly follow the leader.

Fun to Read

The best thing about Stephanie’s Ponytail is that the book is fun to read. And this is a “must” requirement for any who have a little one that wants a book read again, and again. Munsch captures family and group dynamics. So, the story is easy to relate to. Furthermore, the illustrations aptly portray both the home and school settings. Michael Martchenko is the go-to artist for Munsch books. The partnership works well.

Stephanie’s Ponytail

My children grew up owning several of Munsch’s books. Furthermore they read many more at school. Plus they checked his books out from the library. If I polled them, I am sure there would be four different titles listed as favorites. Love You Forever, Thomas’ Snowsuit and I Have to Go, all earned a place in the family library.

Apparently, my oldest granddaughter is on track to be a reader. She wakes up from naps and grabs books. And “reads.” Furthermore, as soon as I walk in the door, she wants me to read to her. I hope Stephanie’s Ponytail will be one of her favorites because I love reading the story.

Robert Munsch

Munsch recently disclosed he has been diagnosed with dementia. Click here for the interview. He believes the memories of his books will stay with him. From my experience with my Mom, I think he is right.  I wish Munsch and his family well.

I am thankful Annick Press is re-releasing his books. And for publishing them in the first place. The small publishing house spotted a gem all those years ago.

If you have kids in the family and are not familiar with Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko, I highly recommend these wonderful stories. Christmas is just around the corner.

Page of text from Stephanie's Ponytail
Illustration from Stephanie's Ponytail

The Whole Truth

Recent Read

The Whole Truth by David Baldacci is a recent read for me even though the publication occurred over a decade ago. The theme of disinformation is current. And with one exception, the book could have been written in the last year or so. The only tell that the novel is not fresh is the mention that Osama Bin Laden was still on the run.The Whole Truth Book Cover

Evil Billionaire

Nicholas Creel is the villain of the story. Philanthropic with one hand and greedy capitalist with the other. He has made his billions selling much inflated goods to the Pentagon as well as defense units in other nations.

Creel wants more money. Countries have been concentrating on non-military projects. Sales are down. So he needs tensions to increase. He hires a PR firm to spin a story. The conspiracy begins.

Unwilling Avenger

A man with no first name, A. Shaw is an operative for a secret government agency. His work takes him all over the world. The position is dangerous. A few years back he met the love of his’ life, Anna Fischer. Now he is ready to retire. And marry. But his employer has other plans.

Anna Fischer and Shaw are drawn into the tensions of the world through their respective jobs. Both are determined to find the whole truth. Neither knows they are up against Nicholas Creel.

Recovering Alcoholic

Baldacci stirs the pot with the addition of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Katie James. An alcoholic struggling with recovery, James is trying to claw her way back from hitting rock bottom. An unwitting pawn in Creel’s ploy to bring the world to the verge of war, James nonetheless senses a story. She too, seeks to discover the whole truth.

The Whole Truth

The topic of disinformation was eerily prescient given the publication date. Current events do not mirror Baldacci’s plot. But the sheer amount of disinformation surrounding the pandemic help one suspend disbelief while reading The Whole Truth. A fast paced thriller, the novel tugs at the heart strings as well as entertains.

Those of you who favorably read Baldacci’s Atlee Pine series will enjoy The Whole Truth as well. The author paints bleak pictures of a corrupt world. But then laces each story with hope. Much needed hope.

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story Book Review

The Premonition

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis is an indictment on America’s response to Covid-19. This non-fiction account is critical of various governmental entities. But the bigger takeaway is the hard work of many individuals. Their attempts to stop the spread were hampered by red tape.

Key Players

The Premonition is like a series of mini-biographies. The opening chapters focus on a school science project. Laura Glass, as a high school student, studied the social spread of pathogens. With the help of her father, Bob, a scientist at Sandia National Laboratories, a computer model was developed to predict outcomes. The experiment keyed on social distancing. (Fast forward to the crisis in 2020 and the computer model found a real-life application.)

Carter Mecher is another linchpin in The Pandemic narrative. Mecher’s biography is quite interesting. He was raised in a working class household. Nonetheless, he pursued a medical degree and shined in critical care situations. Eventually, he climbed the ranks of the Veteran’s Affairs as a troubleshooter of the program.

He was in this position in 2005 when then President Bush called for a national pandemic plan. Mecher along with Richard Hatchett became the principle authors of the plan. Furthermore, the two men with diverse personalities, remain close colleagues. We also learn Hatchett’s history.

2005 Pandemic Plan

Hatchett and Mecher discover the computer model developed by Glass. Then they incorporate major pieces of Laura Glass’ project into the plan. Vaccines were only a piece of the puzzle. Pathogens are spread in social settings. Since two of the largest places of socialization are schools and work settings, both were addressed. Next, the plan had to be sold to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) and later to the American public.

Another key author of the national pandemic plan is Lisa Koonin , at the time with the CDC. But, her work on the document took place after hours. In the end, the CDC published its’ own work and the Hatchett and Mecher collaboration was published sans Koonin listed as an author. However, the two men gave direct praise to Koonin.

The Premonition

Charity Dean is the woman with the premonition, or more accurately premonitions. Her biography is the most compelling of the bunch. Lewis spends quite a bit of time detailing  her background. And with good reason. Dean is a force to be reckoned with. As is her devotion to public health.

In The Premonition, the State of California employed Dean. Her career spanned from the county level to the position of Assistant Director of the State Department of Public Health. The Premonition details the roadblocks Dean encountered. It is inferred that the pushback experienced during the early months of 2020 led to her new position in the private sector.

Indictments within The Premonition

Criticism of various governmental groups is a part of The Premonition. Neither political party escapes. Both the Trump White House and the Gavin Newsom California administration failed to recognize the talent and expertise available to them. But the most glaring failure of all belongs to the CDC.

Lewis traces the weakness of the CDC back to the Swine Flu debacle of the late 1970s. This is the point the agency lost its’ independence. Since then, politics has played a big part.

He also portrays the agency as a large bureaucracy unable or unwilling to make decisions. Instead, he suggests the CDC prefers to study and analyze problems. Not solve them.

Lewis is not all negative. His mini-biographies demonstrate that the country has many hard-working and brilliant scientists. He blames the pandemic response, or lack thereof, more on process than on people. I agree to a point.

Recommendation

I found a few things missing.

First of all, the lack of accurate statistics is not really mentioned. Lewis cites the U.S.A. as a country with four percent of the world’s population. But having more than twenty percent of the Covid-19 cases. I use the Johns Hopkins Covid Tracker for my data. These numbers do not match. Furthermore, an open society such as the United States will have a more accurate account (although not perfect) of cases. Numbers from communist countries should be taken with a large grain of salt. This leeriness of the presented data is particularly true considering the calculated death rate of the United States is in line with the world rate.

Secondly, Michael Lewis handled several governmental experts with kid gloves. Most notably, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Nothing was discussed about Fauci’s admitted lies to the American public concerning the airborne transmission of the virus and the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) especially masks. I see this as a failure on the author’s part.

Furthermore, I found the delay in recognizing Covid-19 as a concern. I first wrote about the coronavirus in January 2020. Only Charity Dean’s December 2019 premonition predates me.

Overall, the hours spent reading The Premonition were well spent. The individuals above are only a small representation of those highlighted in the book. All give hope for a better future. If you are not tired of the pandemic, this book provides information of interest.

Jack of Spies Book Review

Jack of Spies by David Downing is not a recent release. But I urge you to find a copy. It is that good. The historical fiction with a bit of romance covers the time period just prior to World War I. The book features the many technological advances of that time.

Book Cover for Jack of Spies

Protagonist

Jack McColl is a full time car salesman and part time British spy at the beginning of Jack of Spies, peddling cars in China. And spying on the Germans a year before the start of The Great War was just one of his assignments.

Right from the start, McColl is attracted to American Caitlyn Hanley, a progressive, independent journalist also travelling vast regions of the world. Throughout the relationship McColl struggles with divided loyalties. Will he choose the love of a lifetime or his dream career?

Jack of Spies Plot

The author weaves a tale of espionage involving diverse nations. In addition to the Germans attempting influence in China and Mexico, much is made on an alliance with Irish rebels both in Ireland and abroad. There is no love lost between the Germans and the British even before hostilities break out.

Anywhere civil unrest is occurring, the Germans are nearby to provide a bit of prodding. McColl’s job is to keep tabs and run interference. Also, he is tasked with cover-ups a time or two. But one of the biggest challenges he faces is in America. Early 20th century workers are easy prey for outside groups socialistic in nature.

Downing does a fantastic job of portraying the conditions leading to the movement toward unionization. He also conveys a time of dissension in various locales. This was the time of the Mexican revolution and the prelude to the Irish War of Independence. But most of all the run up to World War I. The history is well weaved into the plot.

Action vs. Intrigue

There is quite a bit of action throughout the novel with multiple attacks on McColl’s life. But, the novel is more than an action adventure. There is intrigue and political commentary. Furthermore, historical facts are woven in with the fiction. Most of all there is a reluctance toward war among the mature and at the same time a bloodthirst by the young.

Recommendation for Jack of Spies

I absolutely loved Jack of Spies. It was a book picked from a pile of possibilities while on vacation. The time period is what sold me as I have not read much fiction set in the early twentieth century. And I feel so fortunate to discover another new to me author. He has written a number of books and I can’t wait to find the sequel to Jack of Spies.

If you are a fan of either spy novels or historical fiction this is must read. Find a copy today.

Head Wounds Book Review

Head Wounds is a Michael Mc Garrity novel and begins in the border country of New Mexico. Additional settings include the Mescalero Reservation and various locations in the northern regions of Mexico. Characters represent a number of diverse cultures. The main characters each have their own moral code- even the killers.

Head Wounds Book Cover

Characters

Even though the book is billed as a Kevin Kerney novel, in my opinion it is not. Kerney makes cameo appearances which really add nothing to the story. Clayton Istee, Kerney’s son, is the key character at the beginning of Head Wounds. But only at the beginning.

El Jefe is the antagonist to Istee. Also known as Estavio Trevino and by his true name of Wind Stands with Bear Among the Wallows, El Jefe is an assassin. He has his own code of honor and is a fascinating character. There is good at the core of a very violent man.

By the end of Head Wounds, Istee has taken a secondary role to a pair of federal agents. Yet he is brought back in at the conclusion. Perhaps this is an intentional display of governmental hierarchy. However, to a new reader of McGarrity’s work, it was a bit off-putting.

Head Wounds- Action vs. Plot

The action packed novel opens with a triple murder. The two main victims had ties to a crime committed on the Mescalero Reservation. However, a different crime caused a contract to be issued for their deaths. Thus starts a tangled plot line.

Many characters with overlapping ties create complicated stories. Head Wounds is a prime example of this situation. McGarrity throws in surprise elements in character motivation which add various twists to the plot. But the main driver of the story is action. Time lapses are well-explained and do not detract from the plot. Instead, the passages of time add realism.

Recommendation for Head Wounds

If you are a big fan of Michael McGarrity, I have a feeling this novel will be a “can’t miss” for you. I bought the book on my recent trip to Santa Fe off a local authors’ table. Readers not familiar with his work may want to check out a copy from the nearest library. Head Wounds is a quick read and ideal for settings such as a long plane ride or a rainy day. Engaging and distracting, I finished the book in one afternoon.

A caveat- the book contains a lot of violence along with beautiful landscape descriptions. And lines blur between the good guys and the bad guys. Well worth the time spent reading, yet I will not be anxiously awaiting another.

Liquids Till Lunch Book Review

Mary Ruth’s Liquids Till Lunch

Mary Ruth’s Liquids Till Lunch: 12 Small Habits That Will Change Your Life For Good is an interesting self-help book written by Mary Ruth Ghiyam with Sarah Durand. While the title may hint as a diet book, Liquids Till Lunch encompasses an all-around approach to well-being. Each habit has a designated chapter. Furthermore, the habits fall into a tighter parameter of mental wellness, sleep, nutrition and exercise.

Nutrition

Intermittent fasting is not new. In Liquids Till Lunch there is actually more leeway than other approaches I have read about. Liquids can include juices, smoothies, and limited caffeinated beverages. And of course water. Meals are suggested at noon, three and seven. According to the author this allows your body to both burn more fat and sleep better.

What was new to me was the concept introduced in Chapter 2-Chew Your Food Until It Becomes Liquid. To be honest, I was very skeptical that this was even possible. I was wrong. Furthermore, the author’s key points were right on target. A can’t miss chapter.

Chapters 3-5 offered more nutritional advice from the expert. The tips offered in the “Move Forward Everyday” boxes are great. Advice from using moderation with respect to eating and drinking to canvassing your fridge and pantry on a daily basis are commonsense and useful.

Fifteen Minutes of Sunshine

Chapter six is a bit hard to categorize since it impacts wellness on multiple levels. Natural Vitamin D has been shown to combat Covid-19. Spending time each day in the sun also helps with sleep. This chapter is key.

In addition to the importance of daily sunshine, Liquids Till Lunch addresses the concerns about screen time and blue light. I have invested in blue light blocking glasses and I have my computer settings set to adjust brightness at a certain time of day. Both suggestions from the book. However, I need to incorporate the mindfulness exercises as suggested. Because I still have sleep problems as I discuss here.

Sleep

The chapter on sleep urges all to get seven to eight hours of good sleep each night. As the author emphasizes, good sleep is imperative for mental clarity. Lack of sleep creates poor decision making. New information within this chapter will be tried. I know lack of sleep is an area of concern for me.

Ghiyam stresses that people experiencing insomnia need perseverance. She posits that the regular habit of good sleep will take hard work to achieve. I personally have a task in front of me.

Exercise

Two chapters focus on the benefits of exercise, both calling for daily action. To follow this advice one needs to carve out forty-five minutes a day; fifteen for stretching and thirty of exercise. Difficult, but not impossible.

Stretching and exercising are key components in self-care. In addition to the many tips for working these forty-five minutes into hectic schedules is the health logic behind the need. There are two points offering a differing point of view. The first, stretching is detrimental right before a hard workout and the second is the inclusion of ballistic stretching. I need to ponder these ideas more.

The connection of stretching to mental health is presented. Both stretching and exercise provide mental and physical benefits. As the author presents, life is about choices. Daily stretching and exercise are beneficial choices, ones I hope to continue.

Mental Wellness

The last chapters of the book focus on aspects of mental wellness. Stress Less, Think Positively and Believe in a Universal Force of Goodness are the topics. These self-help chapters are crucial in today’s negative world. The ideas seem simple, yet can be hard to achieve.

In the chapter on stress, Ghiyam discusses the correlation between mental stress and physical illness. Then she offers steps to alleviate the pressures of everyday life. For example, in a Move Forward Everyday box, she suggests packing a lunchbox to alleviate stress caused by hunger (and out of kilter sugar levels), not going to bed angry, and idea I have already adopted, making a to-do list for the following day.

In another box, the author discusses personal relationships. Again, the insights are helpful and positive. As are the many anecdotes and examples throughout. This continues into the following chapter, Think Positively.

To be honest, reading the chapter on positivity kept reminding me of a young blogger I personally know and follow. Madison Dorenkamp posts frequently on staying positive as well as “deleting the negatives.” Click here to read a post on positivity written at the beginning of the pandemic.

Mary Ruth Ghiyam is another positive soul. She is inspirational. Perhaps those individuals that have truly faced hardships are the best role models for facing adversity with a positive outlook. Her thought process shared in the book is one to follow. Stuff happens. The true measure of an individual is how one reacts to the “stuff” of life.

This ties into the final chapter, Believe in a Universal Force of Goodness. This inclusive chapter has a lot to offer the reader. At times, such as this pandemic era, things will be beyond control. Belief can carry an individual past the crisis.

Recommendation for Liquids Till Lunch

I checked this book out of the library. Soon, copies will be purchased. Self-help books are among my favorite gifts. Liquids Till Lunch certainly qualifies for this category. I highly recommend!

Book cover of Liquids Till Lunch

The Scorpion’s Tail Book Review

The Scorpion’s Tail Book Review

I picked up The Scorpion’s Tail in a New Mexico bookstore because it was written by one of my favorite writing duos, Preston & Child. No reading of the front cover or checking of the publication date. So, I was in for a surprise and a treat.

The Scorpion’s Tail belongs to the Nora Kelly series but reads as a standalone-for the most part. One character waltzed in toward the end without much introduction and then quickly waltzed out. It was not a major problem for this new reader although I am sure previous readers of the series had a better idea of the relevancy.

Women Driven

The novel has a wide cast of characters. Young FBI Special Agent Corrie Swanson and archaeologist Nora Kelly drive the action. Sometimes their paths meander apart, but the key action brings them together to unravel the mystery of hidden gold. Female leads make the action interesting, although Nora Kelly is backed up by her brother and the young FBI agent seems to get along quite well with an equally young Sheriff Homer Watts.

There is a balance. The authors do have an action thread toward the conclusion driven by the aforementioned Watts and Supervisory Special Agent Hale Morwood. It is quite refreshing to read an action/adventure where neither sex is diminished.

The Scorpion’s Tail Location

It was a treat to read a novel set in New Mexico. Especially, on my return trip from visiting Santa Fe. The descriptive settings matched the terrain we were driving through. Preston & Child capture the vast wilderness without slowing down the action. Picturesque writing to mirror the gorgeous state.

New Mexico

New Mexico Landscape

Plot of The Scorpion’s Tail

Essentially the tale of The Scorpion’s Tail is a treasure hunt. Multiple entities are on the hunt for ancient gold. During the ensuing search, looting and murder bring in the authorities. Special Agent Swanson enlists the aid of Nora Kelly in order to identify a mummied corpse.

There are only a few twists and turns in the plot. The bad guys are fairly easy to identify. Instead, the plot is a race to find the gold. A highly entertaining race!

Recommendation

I highly recommend The Scorpion’s Tail. Everything about the book is topnotch. Even though part of a series, the novel stands on its’ writing. The characters are well-developed and I plan to go back and read Old Bones where both Kelly and Swanson first appear on the page. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have another hit on their hands.

The Bounty Book Review

The Bounty is a Fox and O’Hare adventure written by Janet Evanovich with Steve Hamilton. The series features mastermind Nick Fox and his FBI handler Kate O’Hare. A series that I started reading with the first release- The Heist. But the series has had a change of co-writers through the years. And I will admit, The Bounty is the first of the series I have read in a while.

Plot of The Bounty

The Bounty is one of those around the world adventures. The opening scene has Fox and O’Hare consulting with the Vatican Security to stop a theft. However, a problem arises and it is a huge conflict of interest for Nick Fox. The successful burglar is none other than Quentin Fox. Nick’s Dad.

For readers, the action scenes at the Vatican provide the hook to keep reading the novel. This remains the case throughout The Bounty. Each time I was tempted to stop reading, the action pushed me forward. From one country to another. All in pursuit of gold-stolen by the Nazis.

In other words the action is quick paced. So the story shouldn’t drag. Yet at times there was drag…something was off.

Writing Duos

I have reviewed many books featuring co-authors. The most recent, the excellent offering by Christina Lauren with The Soulmate Equation. I also enjoy novels by popular duo Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Further, I love the combination of Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison.

Since The Bounty is the first collaboration between Evanovich and Hamilton, I am willing to read a follow-up attempt. I will be looking for more tension between the main characters as well as quick paced action.

I envy prolific writers. There are times when I struggle with each sentence. Furthermore, I respect authors such as Evanovich that can capture the reader with the same character such as Stephanie Plum for decades. So, I was a bit disappointed in the characters of The Bounty. The personal interactions were forced and out of character.

Recommendation for The Bounty

The copy of The Bounty that I read was a large print edition borrowed from the public library. Perfect for reading on a day one needs to stay indoors. My suggestion is to look for a copy at your local library or read an E edition. And if you are not fans of either author, another book choice may be for you.

Meant to Be Book Review

Small Town America

Fictional Mason, Kansas, the setting for Meant to Be, is representative of hundreds of small towns across the Great Plains. And thousands of similar communities all across flyover country. Even though Jude Deveraux paints a less gritty picture than those of author Kent Haruf, the depiction of small town life hits a bull’s eye.

Outsiders to rural America are not immediately accepted. Adapting to places without stoplights and shopping malls can be difficult. Unravelling who is related to whom and how, is even more challenging. Over time individuals either become part of the community. Or move away.

The roadblocks in life are just as taxing for those born and bred in small towns. The yearning to explore the outside world can run strong. The struggle between desire and duty to family is very real. Deveraux captures this conflict in her latest novel.

Meant to Be

Growing up I often heard the phrase “It wasn’t meant to be.” My paternal grandmother used it most often. The words were an effort to console a youngster when she couldn’t have everything she wanted. Deveraux’s use of the phrase takes a slight twist. Sometimes things are meant to be-regardless of what life presents. In this book, true love among the key characters is inevitable. Life delays, but doesn’t erase.

The storyline revolves around the Exton sisters. Close in age, but far apart in dreams. Vera yearns to explore the world while Kelly desires to make the small town of Mason her world. Throw in multiple love interests and you have an intriguing tale of passion and true love.

Generational Themes

Meant to Be begins in the early 1970s and continues to the present day. The sisters age and remain close in heart if not proximity. There are twists and turns as each generation faces consequences stemming from the actions of the initial characters. The author’s writing tugs at the heart strings. Life is messy and world events impact small towns on a grand scale.

I thoroughly enjoyed Meant to Be. Deveraux captures the conflict of the Vietnam War, the complexity of Equal Rights and many other challenges of the past fifty years. Both technological and sociological. She paints a picture of change without preachiness. Or superiority. Instead, her writing reflects the culture. All while weaving a story of love, lost and found.

Book Cover of novel Meant to Be

The Soulmate Equation Book Review

Dynamic Duo Writes The Soulmate Equation

The writing duo Christina Lauren pen a winning romance in The Soulmate Equation. The novel is a classic example of the genre. And fun to read. As typical for this type of novel, the initial antagonism gives way to mutual attraction. Only to have an event occur to put the couple back at square one. True romance.

 

Big Data

This is the first romance I have read that incorporated the element of Big Data into the equation. Hence the title Soulmate Equation is very apropos. The main characters are both geeky data analysts at their core. A mutual interest in stats paves the way for harmony-once the initial clashing is overcome.

The authors treat the background scenario appropriately. The mathematics adds to the storyline but does not usurp the theme of romance. This is nicely done by the duo.

Single Mom

The main character is Jessica Davis, a thirtyish, never married single Mom. She is supported by grandparents and a best friend in raising her young daughter Juno. As a free-lance statistical analyst, she often works from an independent coffee shop. The perfect setting to observe and reach her own conclusions about “Americano” Dr. River Peña.

Jess is portrayed as a hard-working and always harried single mom. So, juggling a career with school and after school activities leaves no room for romance. Let alone genetically driven dating apps. But she reaches a breaking point after one stressful day and sends in a sample. Then the fun begins.

Soulmate Equation

The authors do a great job of tapping into the idea of the perfect one in The Soulmate Equation. Surely, somewhere, sometime there is that lifetime match for everyone. If only we could know when and more importantly who.

In addition to the theme, the writing flows for the reader. The science is believable as are the characters. Human fallacies and personal doubts are explored all while showcasing personal growth for the characters. Both main and secondary. The Soulmate Equation is a fun read and a perfect romance. Well worth the price to purchase.

Cover of Soulmate Equation
Cover of The Soulmate Equation

A Distant Shore Book Review

A Distant Shore Is Christian writer Karen Kingsbury’s latest. This book of faith combines romance and finding faith while spotlighting the seamy underworld of child sex trafficking. The main characters each have their own reasons for doubting their faith.

Tragedy on A Distant Shore

The novel opens up with an American family vacationing on a beach in Belize. As two teenage brothers toss a football back and forth, a very young girl purposely swims too far from shore. Eliza sees the rip current as a way to reunite with her mother and brother who drowned at sea. She believes God will bring them together again. But He has other plans.

Jack, the oldest brother, immediately swims out to the rescue. He warns his younger brother to stay onshore. To no avail.

The young girl is saved. But the brother is lost.

Fast Forward

The story resumes a decade later. Jack is now a top notch FBI agent. Not caring whether you live or die helps. His new assignment is to infiltrate a sex trafficking ring by marrying the daughter of the owner. Unbeknownst to Jack, she is the same girl he saved years ago. Before he lost his faith.

Eliza is turning twenty. She has been “saved” for this day. Her father hopes to expand his business by marriage. Eliza is being sold. The horrors of her life have taken a toll. She no longer prays.

Sex Trafficking

The author creates a heart-wrenching story of a young girl forced to entice other young girls into her father’s brothel. The details of human trafficking are accurate. Victims are often young runaways, but not exclusively. Very young girls do get kidnapped and forced into this life of slavery.

The use of older girls to trick younger ones off the street into a forced life of a sex worker as depicted in the story is well documented. Kingsbury thoroughly researched the topic before weaving this tale of trafficking, faith and romance. Often this mix does not work, but in A Distant Shore the sex trafficking is an integral part of the story.

Finding Faith

A Distant Shore is a faith based story. The characters have lost their belief in God. Once Jack realizes who Eliza is, he re-evaluates his relationship with God. And with her. However, the weaving of faith into the story is not as seamless as it could be.

Struggling with one’s faith after a tragedy is natural. The concept is good.

The execution needs fine tuning. There was only one hiccup in the story line. Eliza’s father discovers Jack’s identity before the denouement, yet the author depicted a smooth rescue. At least to this reader.

Recommendation

I think all who enjoy Christian fiction will like A Distant Shore. Karen Kingsbury does an excellent job with the mix of rediscovering faith and the very ugly story of sex trafficking. My one complaint mentioned above does not negate the writing. Others have tried to mix romance with sex trafficking. (See my review of The Deception.)  Kingsbury strikes the right mix with her approach of romance and finding faith. A Distant Shore is a good addition to this genre. And the book accurately depicts the ugliness of human trafficking. This deserves a read.

Dial A For Aunties Book Review

An Unintended Murder

Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto is a chick read and soon to be Netflix chick flick. The book is delightful and I am considering signing up for the streaming service just so I can see how the characters are brought to life. Yes, that good!

The book is a murder without the mystery. Plenty of mayhem surrounds the “accidental” death. Hilarious mayhem. I will try not to give away too much of the story.

Meddelin Chin- Protagonist

Meddy is an American of Asian descent. Specifically Chinese and Indonesian.  The main character introduces the reader to her multi-lingual Asian family with much humor. The males fly the coop and Meddy, the obedient female, stays close to home. But she did have a secret life; during college. And her secret lands her in trouble.

Fortunately for Meddy, her mother and her mom’s three sisters are tight knit. So when the heroine shows up at home with a dead body, the foursome swing into action. Meddy must come into her own in order to keep the Aunties out of trouble. It is refreshing to see her character grow. And heartwarming to witness the family love and loyalty, amongst the bickering.

Additionally, Sutanto includes the right amount of romance. Meddy runs into her former love while trying to juggle a big wedding event with disposing of the body. Her stress levels increase exponentially as wedding drama entwines with the dead body. Fortunately, all is hilarity for the reader.

Dial A For Aunties

Dial A For Aunties is full of good humor, sibling rivalry and family love. The endings are happy in both the main and sub-plots. There are a few twists and surprises. The topics are modern and the language can get a bit “R” rated. Love and acceptance are key themes.

Secondary themes are mother-daughter relationships and the age old story of lost love rediscovered. The author does a nice job of introducing the reader to the Asian culture as they assimilate into urban America. Communication in a multi-generational family of immigrants can be difficult. The United States is behind other parts of the world when it comes to second and third languages.

I highly recommend Dial A For Aunties. Lighthearted reads are so important in breaching cultural differences in this day and age. Sutanto is already working on a sequel and one hopes she has a role in the film adaptation as well. Pick up a copy today!

The Four Winds Book Review

Epoch Times-Epoch Story

The Four Winds represents the best part of Kristin Hannah, her originality. The novel is set during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Mother Nature challenged many during these harsh years. Life revolved around survival.

Hannah often rotates between present and past in her novels. But, The Four Winds stays focused on this historic era. This change in style is appealing. Readers are caught in the dirty thirties. One feels the hopelessness experienced by this generation considered our Greatest Generation.

Protagonist

Elsa Wolcott Martinelli is the heroine of the story. Overlooked by her parents and sisters due to a childhood illness, she clings to words of a beloved grandparent in her most trying times. The love of her youth and the father of her children is Rafe Martinelli. But Rafe cannot handle the harshness of the land. Fortunately for Elsa, his parents provide the love, acceptance and strength she needs.

As the story progresses, Elsa is forced from the land she loves in order to save her son. The bulk of the story takes place in California. The small family of three end up in migrant camps. Elsa, and later the children, work at any day job available. The poverty is abject. The love profound.

Strength of The Four Winds

Hannah provides rich detail. The reader is transported to this unrelenting time period. Historical events are weaved into the story. But, The Four Winds really excels on the emotional level. Somehow, Hannah’s mastery of writing transports the reader into this epoch era.

The Four Winds is one of those books that draws the reader like a magnet. A page turner, but not because of suspense or mystery. Instead, one is compelled to continue the read by emotion. Will the plight of the Martinelli’s end? Is the never waving hope misplaced?

Recommendation

The Four Winds is an incredible tale of survival. The will to withstand a harsh climate. Fortitude to keep on despite rejection. Endurance of a personal nature.

But the greater theme is love. Multiple types of love.  A mother’s love, a child’s love, love thy neighbor and love of the land. Most of all, belief in one’s self.

Kristin Hannah has surpassed herself. Don’t miss The Four Winds. This novel is suitable for all.

The Four Winds Cover

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue Book Review

Never make a Deal with the Devil

V.E. Schwab is the author of The Invisible Life of Addie Larue. This lengthy, intense book rotates back and forth between New York City in recent times and various locations in Europe starting in the early 1700s. The ping pong action is necessary to understand Addie Larue. But it takes a while to catch the rhythm.

The protagonist is Addie Larue. She is not quite an ordinary girl. Unlike other young women of her time she has no wish for domestic life. Instead she desires travel and adventure. However, her parents have other ideas. So, she is pledged to a widower.

In order to escape her destiny, Addie makes a deal with a very handsome devil she calls Luc. Life is tough at first. But after the first hundred years or so, Addie makes a go of the circumstances.

Dark Blue book cover of The Invisible Life of Addie Larue

Addie’s Invisible Life

As part of the deal, Addie becomes invisible in a way. She no longer has the ability to make a mark on the world. This invisible life is almost her undoing. Over time, she pushes limits by influencing various artists. Thus a whisper of who Addie is, lives through art.

Centuries pass. Addie leaps from the old world to the new continent. Time ticks on. And then she meets Henry.

I Remember You

Henry sees Addie in the present as others do. But he also remembers her from one encounter to the next. This impossibility occurs for one reason only. Henry has also bargained with the evil of the night. However, his deal is vastly different.

Naturally, Addie and Henry fall in love.

Their love story is what kept me reading The Invisible Life of Addie Larue. One cannot help but hope for a happy ending for these star crossed servants of the dark. But true love involves sacrifice.

Recommendation for The Invisible Life of Addie Larue

To be honest, I struggled to connect with this book at first. If I did not need a very long book to occupy a five hour wait, I might not have finished it. But, in the end I found it enjoyable. The reader will need a suspension of disbelief.

Furthermore, I believe The Invisible Life of Addie Larue is not appropriate below a high school senior level. In fact, college lit classes would be a better fit. Older generations may be put off as well. As for my millennial friends- I think you will adore the Invisible Life of Addie Larue.

The Survivors Book Review

Another Winner

Jane Harper has another winner in The Survivors. Harper is one of my favorite authors. Her characters are compelling and the plots twist and turn. Furthermore, the books go beyond just a mere mystery. They offer a plethora of literary meaning and insight into the human condition. The Survivors is a great stand-alone novel.

The Symbolism of The Survivors

An artwork entitled The Survivors is a local landmark. The iron sculpture dominates a series of cliffs and caves above an ancient sea wreck. The spot also marks a more recent tragedy. A major storm a dozen years back took the lives of two young men and forever changed the life of the sole survivor.

More mystery surrounds that fateful storm as a young teenager disappears, never to be found. This is the backdrop for The Survivor. The story takes place in a small beach town on the island of Tasmania. Like many small towns, the community of Evelyn Bay is tight-knit on the surface with jagged scars beneath.

The Protagonist

The novel centers on Kieran Elliott. As the sole survivor of the storm, he battles survivor guilt as he makes a new life with his partner Mia and their newborn. Both grew up in Evelyn’s Bay. But a four year age difference kept them apart before adulthood.

A return to their home town highlights the various coping mechanisms of survivors. Further, it shows the devastation parents face after the loss of a child. Finally, the importance of living life and finding love is featured.

Harper’s use of flashbacks provide an understanding of the trauma and tragedy. Short passages provide great insight into the difficult task of living with survivor’s guilt without distracting from the story. Indeed, these flashes of memory fully flesh out the protagonist.

Additionally, the young man and his partner must deal with the great changes in Elliott’s parents. Verity and Brian Elliott still reel from the loss of their older son in that terrible storm. But in different ways. Verity is ultra-controlled. Brian has early onset dementia.

Storyline of The Survivors

Harper deftly weaves the theme of survivor’s guilt and the loss of an offspring around a new mystery-one of murder. A young waitress from off island turns up dead. The investigation turns up new information on the earlier tragedy. And the small community begins to rip apart. Neighbor turns against neighbor. Women are afraid to walk alone.

Kieran Elliott and his young family are the most affected by the discoveries. Misplaced and misdirected guilt test the young man. Yet he manages to piece together the evidence of what really happened long ago as well as the current murder.

Recommendation

I highly recommend The Survivors. The pace of the novel is quite a bit faster than the two earlier Harper penned books I reviewed, The Dry and Force of Nature. And I have yet to read The Lost Man. Plus, in my opinion, The Survivors focuses more on the growth (or lack thereof ) of the characters. And also the ability to survive. The murder is secondary.

Perhaps it is the inclusion of the infant. Little Audrey has her own personality at just three months. Even though the book ends on yet another death, the final feelings of this reader were of love and hope. Put The Survivors on your reading list!

Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World Book Review

Ten Intriguing Lessons

Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria is another library find for me. Obviously, the book is recently written. Much like The New Great Depression, the push to publish detracts from the author’s insights. Both writers and publishing houses are guilty. The Covid 19 pandemic is worthy of study. In depth study. Unfortunately, the publishing houses of the world fear a loss of interest in this topic. I believe they are wrong.

Well Organized Book

Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World is well organized in its presentation. First, the ten chapters are bookended by an introduction and a summation. The lessons range from What Matters is Not the Quantity of Government but the Quality, to Life is Digital. Zakaria is left of center, but not an extremist. He presents his ideas in a logical manner. The writing is concise. And insightful.

Naturally, my favorite chapters  revolve around my topics of interest. And in some cases agreement. For example, Lesson Four- People Should Listen to the Experts—and Experts Should Listen to the People covers a topic I harp on frequently. My noggin nodded up and down while reading this portion. A key take; mutual respect seems to be missing in many parts of the world.

Agree To Disagree

However, I could not  agree with many parts of the book. Personally, I believe the differences stem from locale. New York City is central to the author. But, I live in a very rural part of the country. Remote too. Since moving here three decades ago, I gained new insight. Rural life is a vast change from living in major cities. So, I now have a rural perspective. Yet, I still recall life in a big city.

One of the key ideas put forth by Zakaria revolves around urbanization. He sees a push globally for continued urbanization. Yet, he also sees a natural limit to population living in the cities. That natural limit is close to 90%. Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World supports a city-centered world. Thus, he posits the pandemic inspired “work from home” will be short-lived. I disagree.

Zakaria cites Aristotle often in Lesson Six, including the great philosopher in the title, Aristotle Was Right –We Are Social Animals. Yet, I believe the workplace will see some of the greatest changes post-pandemic. Again, my perspective is different. Young people are returning to the small towns dotting the High Plains in numbers not seen in over a generation. Covid-19 has accelerated this.  I hope Zakaria can agree to disagree.

Furthermore, education will be changed. Remote learning will replace snow days. Online and hybrid teaching will gain traction. These and other alternative instruction models will keep any future educational shutdowns at bay. Thus, the pandemic work-arounds will remain an option.

Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World

I found the book interesting. There are a few shortcomings. For example, the lack of widespread Covid-19 outbreak among the American homeless population was not addressed. Perhaps not enough space, or perhaps because this oddity is counter to one of the theories.

Another concern arises from the treatment of China and the U.S.A. in the lesson, The World is Becoming Bipolar. Perhaps it is misplaced patriotism on my part, but I felt this chapter was unequal. Furthermore, the premise leaves out both the EU and Russia. Economically neither may be on par with China and America, but both greatly impact the world. As do many other nations.

The publication of the book prior to the end of the pandemic impacts the analysis. For example, the vaccine rollout turns the analysis upside down. Countries lauded for their early action are lagging in vaccinating their populace. Other nations, stumbling at first, are now leading in the eradication of the virus. Thus, another reason for writers and publishers to either update publications, or better yet not rush to publish.

Recommendations

Fareed Zakaria is an accomplished writer. Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World is well written and documented. I liked both the literary and historical references throughout. Readers interested in current topics will appreciate the book.

Politically, the writing is left of center. Those on the far right may not appreciate some of the writing. Neither will readers identifying with the far left. For the rest of us, there is merit to be found. I hope there are many of “the rest of us.” A divisiveness in culture is blamed for many of the pandemic failures. I concur.

Anyone tuning into major networks will recognize Zakaria.  His ideas are interesting. Even though studying in New Haven had an opposite impact (I became more conservative, Zakaria more liberal) I encourage the reading of his work. Regardless of ones political leanings, there is much to ponder. This latest best seller is available on audio as well as in print.

The Authenticity Project Book Review

A Novel Idea

If you are looking for a unique story, The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley should be your next read. The novel has an ensemble cast. (Perfect for a movie!) The characters range from “almost” octogenarian Julian, the catalyst of The Authenticity Project to newborn Bunty. Yes, a newborn adds to the plot line. For the most part, the setting is suburban London. The author brings the neighborhood to life.

The Authenticity Project Book Cover

Simple Premise

The Authenticity Project begins with protagonist Monica, proprietor of Monica’s Café, finding a notebook left behind by one of her elderly customers. Julian Jessup, Wikipedia worthy artist, purposely leaves the journal. His entry challenges the finder to enter the truth and then pass along as he has done. Thus, starting a chain of truths.

As the journal travels from place to place, secrets are revealed and souls unburdened. Additionally, real life connections are formed among the participants. Then, these connections bring other characters into the fray. Each new character adds to the story. And each provides food for thought.

Through her characters, Pooley touches on quite a few societal controversies and phobias. She is not preachy. Instead, she tackles a variety of topics injecting fear of the unknown as well as acceptance of new ideas. Above all, there is a sense of humbleness.

Protagonist

Monica is responsible for holding things together. A take charge personality, she too, jumps to conclusions about others as well as about her own failings. She is such a real character, I wanted to travel to England just to visit her café. While all the characters show growth throughout the novel, Monica’s is most evident. As a reader, I was always pulling for her to have a happy ending.

The Authenticity Project Twists and Turns

The novel yielded a few plot twists and turns as the collective stories unwound. Thus the final outcome for each character yields a few surprises. The overall tone is uplifting, but like the rollercoaster of life, there were a variety of ups and downs. Not everyone ends happily ever after.

Clare Pooley is commended for writing such an authentic tale. I bought this copy and it is one that will find a permanent place in the home library. Buy or borrow a copy of The Authenticity Project. This refreshing novel is a must read.

The New Great Depression Book Review

The New Great Depression: Winners and Losers in a Post-Pandemic World by James Rickards beckoned from the new releases stand at the public library. This non-fiction work strives to evaluate the possible economic fall-out from the Covid-19 pandemic. The book includes a recap of early 2020 events as well as the author’s thoughts of outcomes in 2021 and beyond.

Rickards uses the first two chapters as a summary of 2020 social events. Naturally the novel coronavirus features prominently. But he also discusses the important consequences of political responses to the pandemic.

First, is the outcome of lock down’s. Rickards evaluates both the economic and health responses to the strict governmental edicts in 2020. He also discusses the tentative connection between the virus, the lock down and the social unrest that roiled through the United States and spilled over to other parts of the world.

The New Great Depression

The author turns toward economic thoughts in Chapter Three. He posits that a new great depression will mark the February 24, 2020 market downturn as a pivotal date. However, he believes the economic weakness began in the latter part of 2019 and the pandemic accelerated the time table.

Unemployment due to lock down layoffs figure prominently in the discussion. The service industry accounted for many of the job losses. Unlike manufacturing, lost services are just that-lost. A missed haircut in June will not be recaptured work.

Rickards theorizes a second wave of unemployment among higher paid labor due to the output loss from the first wave. He further postulates that output and job recovery will be hindered by the June 4, 2020 Congressional Budget Office report of unemployment benefits greater than employee earned income. This disincentive to work, if lasting, is of great concern. Rickards expounds on this point.

Modern Monetary Theory

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) features heavily in the author’s warning of possible deflation and a potential for a new great depression. Much of this economic discussion is compelling. MMT and the overwhelming National Debt are the backbone of the author’s theory of deflation. His analysis is a bit depressing. As it should be, if his analysis is correct.

The three arguments for deflation hinge on a greater savings rate, a decrease in spending and a tightening in money velocity. All three are occurring now. But will that change once the pandemic recedes? Rickards says no. I am not so sure, although I concur with his thoughts on the dangers of MMT and the horrific level of debt.

Investment Possibilities

Even though much of The New Great Depression is sobering, the author outlines steps for individual investors to prosper. His proposal relies heavily on Bayes’ theorem, an applied math formula which many may not be familiar with.

Rickards also discusses diversity in investment. He does not consider a wide array of stock companies as diversity. I found his break down of investment disbursement quite interesting. And contrary to current thought.

While I am a bit more optimistic about a return to consumer spending and firmly believe in pent-up demand, I am not totally opposed to Rickards thinking. As readers know from my Inflation Check Challenge, I tend to think inflation is in store. But, The New Great Depression definitely provides a legitimate counter point. I believe all those in the audience with interest in the economy will greatly benefit from reading this author’s point of view. Much food for thought!

Instant Karma Book Review

Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer is an excellent Young Adult (YA) novel. The author weaves a teenage love/hate relationship with environmental social awareness, old fashioned right vs. wrong and a drop of karma mysticism. Growth of character is also a strong part of the narrative.

Instant Karma for the Protagonist

Protagonist Prudence Barnett is finishing up her sophomore year of high school. Her Type-A personality clashing with lab partner Quint Erickson. Quint is a laid back, always late even for the final presentation, popular personality without a care in the world. Or so Prudence thinks.

They earn a C for their collaborative work. But even worse, Quint outscores Prudence individually. A rough start to the summer. Things get complicated from there.

Meyer does an excellent job creating the characters. Over-achieving Prudence is so sure she is right-all the time. A bump to the head gives her super karma powers. Instant Karma both good and bad befalls others. But she really doesn’t have total control. Her maturity needs improvement as well. Instant Karma helps Prudence grow.

Social Issues at Play

A key part of the novel focuses on the marine animal shelter run by Quint’s mother Rosa. The center relies heavily on volunteers. Quint is naturally a volunteer. Prudence becomes one as well. However, her initial motive is self-serving. She hopes to improve her lab grade.

Meyer uses the shelter as a vehicle to discuss the harm of ocean pollution. The rescued animals have been harmed in many ways, including plastic. The author deftly weaves the needed social awareness into the story. Thus, the focus on environmental harm to the ocean is an integral part of the story, not just a contrived add- on.

Relationships and Growth

The love-hate relationship between Prudence and Quint is the basis of Instant Karma. Both characters show considerable growth in the story. Each wrongs the other. In the end all is well.

Secondary characters are also important to the interaction. Both teenage and adult characters are highlighted. There is a nice flow between the two groups. One would hope the give and take between the generations exists in reality as well as fiction.

I highly recommend Instant Karma. This is YA fiction entertainment at its best. The subject matter of karma may call for a bit of suspension of disbelief. But the characters and story line feel all too real. While YA literature can be dark and gloomy, Instant Karma messages with uplifting pleasure.

Cleaning Sucks Book Review

Rachel Hoffman delivers in her self-help book Cleaning Sucks.  This is a follow up to a previous guide which I probably missed due to the title, Unf*ck Your Habitat. Sometimes my late Baby Boomer attitude clashes with the younger generation. I am glad Hoffman toned down the colorful language for this most recent foray. Her advice is fantastic. As in don’t miss.

Psychological Roadblocks

A key difference in Cleaning Sucks is the author’s attention to mental health and wellness. Certain events in life lend themselves to periods of malaise. Hoffman addresses this factor. She also discusses the challenges faced by those with handicaps.

Furthermore, her approach to tackling housekeeping in small bites creates success. The outcome is immediate. As someone who would much rather spend time in the garden than indoors, I love this approach. No toiling all day long at drudgery.

Cleaning Sucks is a workbook. The author intends the reader to interact with the philosophy. The “homework” is not difficult. The tips and tasks are an important component. Best of all, there is a large amount of flexibility. So, even on busy days, Hoffman’s methods can contribute to both a cleaner home and greater mental wellness.

For households with multiple residents, Hoffman’s section on Sharing Space is outstanding. In this time of two incomes, the burden of keeping the home functioning should not fall entirely on one person. The author tackles this hot topic with psychological advice and multiple interactive guides.

Cleaning Sucks Techniques

Various small task goals are featured in Cleaning Sucks. A favorite is Sink Zero. Dirty dishes are never ending whether you are a household of six or just one. Hoffman’s advice on this topic is epic. She has you record the time you hit Sink Zero daily. This term applies to the point where all dishes are cleaned and put away-or at least stashed in a dishwasher.

Another worksheet involves the concept Do Something Every Day. This is very appealing to those with active lifestyles. She ends the recording page with the wisdom: You don’t have to do much; you just have to do something.

Noteable Quotables

Words of the wise are sprinkled throughout Cleaning Sucks. Hoffman shares quotes from some of my favorites. Ann Richards, famous for her quote about Ginger Rogers doing everything as well as Fred Astaire but “backwards and in high heels” lends the following:

I did not want my tombstone to read “She kept a really clean house.”

 

Perhaps even more fitting is Erma Bombeck:

My second-favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.

 

Both quotes are reflective of my sentiments. However, I have been using Hoffman’s guide for over a week now and I am surprised by the ease and by the results. One could truly handle guests popping in following this wonderful book.

I highly recommend Cleaning Sucks. And I am not waiting until Christmas to buy copies for gifts. One caveat, I think Millennials and Gen Xers will appreciate the author more than older generations who will find the language too colorful.

 

Book Cover of Rachel Hoffman's Cleaning Sucks

Spin Book Review

Spin, the follow up to Quantum, continues the action from the latter as if an old time serial. Patricia Cornwell’s Captain Chase series picks up the pace of technology. And the protagonist, Calli Chase develops a second skin. But once again, the acronyms are distracting.

Contemporary Science Fiction

Cornwell thoroughly researched the latest robotics and space technology before beginning the series. Thus much of the technology discussed carries a paradox of both realism and an “out of this world” vibe. Cloaking devices, fabric made with electrical “thread”-I have actually witnessed this technology with my own eyes-interactive AI and eye wear are novel but apparently no longer experimental. So, if you love reading about these advances, Spin is definitely for you.

A key component of the novel is the use of interactive AI (artificial intelligence.) ART is one with Captain Chase. The repercussions are scary and not far off. Cornwell is masterful at revealing the complex decisions we face with the continued development of this technology. Science fiction is now fact.

Spin Characters

However, I feel there is a danger of the novel, and indeed the series, focusing too much on the technologies and not enough on the characters. As a sequel, many of the same characters returned. There was an unevenness in the development of these roles. The greatest growth was naturally in the personality of the protagonist. But few of the other players evolved.

An exception is that of four star General Dick Melville. He plays a very large role in the story. Much like the military plays a large role in the development of new technology. The symbolism is not lost. I think Melville is a good guy, but often it is hard to tell. So true to life.

Of the new characters introduced, young Lex, a boy genius is most appealing. An orphaned teen on the threshold of choosing between right and wrong, good and evil. I hope we see more of this character in future books. The chemistry between Captain Calli Chase and Lex is believable. Furthermore, the technical abilities of the young versus the older generations’ grasp of today’s tech mirrors the real world. Small truths lend credibility to fictional story lines.

Recommendations

Spin is well written by a master storyteller. Yet the book may not be for everyone. Once again jargon is a predominant part of the problem. Individuals not fluent in NASA speak or tech terms may feel weighted down.

Another problem is the serial approach. Truly, this book series needs to be read in order. So, if you haven’t read Quantum yet, find a copy of that book first. (Click here for the review.) And be prepared for an ending that is the beginning of the next.