Featured New Release Of The Week: Troubled by Kenneth R Rosen

This week we’re looking at a troubling – yet anecdotal – tale that bears further research. This week we are looking at Troubled by Kenneth R Rosen.

Here’s what I had to say about the book on Goodreads, and below that I’ll have a confession about a degree of a personal connection. ๐Ÿ™‚

Tragic. Rosen uses case studies of four particular people and their experiences with wilderness re-education camps (and residential, boarding school style similar institutions) to paint a truly tragic picture. On an anecdotal basis, these camps seem horrifying in an Orange Is The New Black kind of way – an in depth look at the what really happens to some individuals. For what it is – these anecdotal experiences with a few claims backed up with the barest of bibliographies – it really is a strong read and a needed one. However, I would welcome a much more comprehensive, and cited, further examination along the lines of Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop or Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Because this particular topic, based on the strengths of these particular anecdotes, seems to warrant such an investigation. Very much recommended.

And here’s my personal connection to the book, such as it is:

Back during my personally-infamous “Year of Failure”, when virtually nothing was going right in my life, I actually worked at a Wilderness Education Camp for a month. In the middle of summer. In the mountains of North Georgia. (And, in my final week with that long-defunct company, the tidelands of the Big Bend area of Florida.) I thought, based on my own history, I might be able to make a difference in this type of environment, working with these types of kids. I quickly learned otherwise, but the overall experience – over 15 years ago now – was remarkably memorable in many ways, and indeed some of the lessons I learned there prodded me in directions that came to dominate at least some of my thinking for the past 15 years and, possibly, for the remainder of my life. So I personally look back on my own time in such a camp with a degree of fondness, and yet I can very much understand the tragedy of what these camps did to at least some kids. (To be perfectly clear, in my month there I never personally witnessed anything remotely like what Rosen describes in this book. One situation I personally witnessed involved a kid storming off on his own through the woods, and a counselor having to track him and try to talk him into rejoining the group. Another I learned about from the person it happened to after the fact was when a kid brought a copperhead into camp, proud to show it off. The counselor – who was originally telling me this story when I found him in the counselors’ cabin after having been to the Emergency Room over this – told the kid to bring the snake to him. The counselor got the snake from the kid, “calmly” walked over to a nearby cliff, and proceeded to try to toss the snake out of camp and off the cliff. Whereupon the snake wrapped down and bit him on the leg – resulting in the ER trip. But these are the only two incidents I remember of my time there that are even remotely similar to what Rosen describes.)

#BookReview: A Barefoot Tide by Grace Greene

Sometimes All It Takes Is A Break. This was a remarkable tale of a woman who was down on her luck being given a chance to take a break… who comes to realize all that she does have, and, perhaps, all that she needs to change. The book-within-a-book was a great technique that is sure to grab the attention of the literati types, but overall Lilliane’s story was a great crossover between Greene’s mountain based Cub Creek series and beach based Emerald Isle series, one full of heart and… well, grace. ๐Ÿ˜€ The ending left this particular reader hoping for at least one more book with these characters, though the two sentence description of that book is quite clear of where it needs to go. So y’all need to go buy this book and give Greene a reason to come back to these particular characters. ๐Ÿ˜€ Very much recommended.

This review of A Barefoot Tide by Grace Greene was originally written on January 11, 2021.

#BookReview: Electric City by Thomas Hager

Those That Do Not Know History… The time period is (basically) a century ago. Most of the action is taking place within about 3 years either side of 1920. And you have a nationally popular and very rich business tycoon running in an election that ends with allegations of fraud and demands for recounts. Sound familiar? This is only *part* of the story of a piece of American history that despite having a tangential connection to (my step-grandfather – the only second grandfather I ever knew – was from the Muscle Shoals region and was born there during the period discussed in this text), I had never heard about before seeing this book. I’ve known of the TVA, I’ve even considering applying for jobs there in my professional career. But this story of how they began – really nearly a decade *before* the Great Depression and FDR’s New Deal – is quite fascinating on so many levels. Hager does a tremendous job of showing the breadth of what was happening and why as it relates to his central thesis, and people would do well to learn the lessons of this particular episode of American history. While the Bibliography was a bit lacking (at roughly 9% of this text vs a more common 20-30% or so), the author explains that much of his research was from original records and correspondences not captured in any previous volume, so that makes a fair amount of sense. On the whole, this seems well done and well balanced, and is very much recommended.

This review of Electric City by Thomas Hager was originally written on January 11, 2021.

#BookReview: CyberSpace by Matthew Mather

CyberSpace by Matthew Mather 5*

Interesting Time To Read These Stories. I read CyberStorm nearly a year ago, in February 2020. Right as the COVID issue was beginning to cause global panic. But at least that story *mostly* focused on New York City, so while it was uncomfortable due to being all-TOO-realistic, it was at least possible to tell myself (as a Southern man who has only rarely even been through or over NYC) that it wouldn’t happen here.

This book kept that all-too-realistic nature going (though with perhaps a few too many shots at billionaires who are legitimately trying to save humanity at the front), but this time went from New Orleans to Virginia Beach via Mississippi, Kentucky, and Ohio. Much harder to tune out as “it can’t happen here”, particularly since I stared down the face of Irma less than a month after moving to Florida and this book features just such a storm bearing down on Virginia. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Overall truly a remarkable work of near-future science fiction, one that primarily uses tech that is already available to tell a tale that will hopefully never come to fruition.

And that ending! Let’s just say I’m glad I read this book in January 2021, knowing CyberWar – the next book – is slated to be released in just a few months. ๐Ÿ˜€ Very much recommended.

This review of CyberSpace by Matthew Mather was originally written on January 9, 2021.

Which Kindle Should I Buy?

I have them all. Seriously, every new model Amazon currently sells. 😃

And ultimately it comes down to personal preference and economics. 🙂

If you don’t mind the same glare/ eye strain you get from your phone and want something that can do… well, pretty much everything your phone can do without a cell connection… you want a Fire. Those come in 7, 8, and 10” sizes, with about a $100 price swing from smallest to biggest. They all pretty well do the same things in the same ways, and are pretty interchangeable.

On the eReader side, you get devices that are basically dedicated readers. They have Audible support via bluetooth, but the text to speech reader is horrible. (If you want a text to speech reader, go with Fire. Fire’s T2S capabilities are pretty damn awesome.) They all now have a front lighting capability that is different from the back lighting of your phone/ Fire and that is generally easier on the eyes.

The Kindle (base) is the cheapest option with the least features and no add on capabilities. You get a device that can hold a few hundred text based books or a few dozen Audible books at once, but you can swap on and off from your Cloud anywhere you can get a wifi connection. If economics are a prime concern, you’re really not going to get a bad device here, the next ones just have a few more bells and whistles. But again: this one is perfectly fine.

The Paperwhite adds splash proofing. (Amazon calls it waterproofing, but DO NOT SUBMERGE these devices. Learned that one the hard way. It also comes with about 4x more memory, and even in the base model Paperwhite (roughly 50% more expensive than the base model Kindle above) you’re going to be able to hold low 4 digit text based books on the device at once, or low triple digit Audible books on the device at once. This one has add on capabilities (up front, you can’t add these on later) to increase the memory to 16x that of the base model Kindle and to add “Free3G” capabilities (4G in most of the US) that allow you to swap from the cloud anywhere you can get a (AT&T) cell signal. Both of these add ons combined will raise the price of the Paperwhite by roughly double its base model, up to right at the price of an Oasis at $250.

The Oasis adds on to the Paperwhite base model a “warm light” feature that allows you to customize the lighting from the white/ blue light of the base model Kindle and Paperwhite to a brown/ orange hue – or anywhere in between. It also adds physical page turn buttons – the only device Amazon makes with this feature. And it adds an “ergonomic back” that basically means that one side of the device (away from the page turn buttons) is so thin it is little more than device casing and screen, while the “guts” of the device + the page turn buttons are on the other side. Note that some cases can negate this effect, so if you get this device be *very careful* of any cases you buy for it if this is a primary benefit for you. Oasis base model starts at about $250 and has the same add-on capabilities as the Paperwhite, but here those add ons will increase the price to around $375.

NOTE: As best I can tell, the Free3G upgrades are not currently available on either the Paperwhite or Oasis as of this writing on January 9, 2021. Due to notices on the Amazon site noting that they will be available in 6-9 months, my best guess – and it is purely a (somewhat educated) guess – is that this is due to supply chain/ manufacturing issues due to the COVID-19 debacle.

I have them all and regularly use them all. I don’t really have an actual preference, though I will note that my Fire 7 seems to drain battery faster than the others, even in similar usage conditions. Ultimately, it really does come down to personal preferences and economics, so just take the above and make the best decision for you. 🙂

#BlogTour: The Patriot by Nick Thacker

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a remarkable book showing many real-world issues on Puerto Rico while still telling a kick-ass mystery with an explosive ending. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Patriot by Nick Thacker.

I’m actually going to turn my normal approach on its head and give you the Goodreads review first, with my confession underneath. Here’s the Goodreads review:

Excellent Story With Explosive Ending. So some people of late have decried reviews that even mention anything at all about the ending. If you’re such a person, stop right here. I’m not going to give away any spoilers- not my style at all – but that ending deserves a mention: It sets up what could be one HELL of a book 3.

Beyond that though, this book does an *excellent* job of showing the dichotomies of life on Puerto Rico and the nearly-as-divisive-as-mainland-US-politics issue of whether PR should be granted Statehood, maintain the status quo, or become an independent nation. Even while the main thrust of the actual action and mystery actually revolves around Big Pharma, how they are treating the citizens of PR, and terrorism. Indeed, we pick up not far after the ending of the first book, which was explosive in its own right and which set in motion the events here, at least as far as Parker’s involvement in them.

Truly an excellent mystery with plenty of action in a cool tropical setting (and with the requisite hot, mysterious woman), I’ll have a bit more to say about my own story that actually blends well with the overall story here when I participate in the publisher’s Blog Tour on my blog (BookAnon.com) on release day. So you might want to check that out – I even have a picture to share. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Obviously, I can’t wait for Book 3 – even if it is a possible finale, it should be an epic one. Very much recommended, both this book and the series.

And while you really should go buy the book already, here’s my confession, the story I promised in the review ๐Ÿ™‚

The date is Martin Luther King Jr Day 2017 – so Monday, January 16, 2017. Just four days before Donald Trump would be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America. I am on a cruise aboard the Carnival Sunshine out of Port Canaveral with my wife – a fellow experienced cruiser who actually got me into cruising – and three friends, none of whom have been on a cruise before. On this day, we’ve stopped in San Juan – a port I’d stopped in once before and loved, particularly for its two centuries old forts. We’d just been at one of the forts – Castillo del San Cristobal – when we walk through the plaza right outside of it – the very plaza you see in the picture to the side here. Apparently it is a popular political demonstration spot, being just blocks away from the Capitol Building there. And that particular day, it was indeed hosting a political rally. As we walked by, all we could tell was that it was very obviously a lot of Puerto Ricans – there were numerous PR flags all over the plaza – and we were obviously… not Puerto Rican. The crowd sounded agitated, the speaker was very enthusiastic… so I made it a point to guide my group swiftly along the edges and away from this crowd. We wound up walking down a street of shops nearby, one I had been on in my previous trip. We went into one store, and when we asked the shopkeeper what was going on up the street, he went into a very passionate diatribe about it being a Puerto Rican Independence rally and that Puerto Rico should be free of the mainland US. So we quickly left his shop as well, and when we went across the street to another shop had a much more pleasant experience. Showing me that day the very dichotomies Thacker brings to life to well in The Patriot, just how very divisive the issue of Independence continues to be in Puerto Rico. Personally, I don’t have a position on the exact issue of Puerto Rican Independence, but I *do* believe it is time for the US to give up the “territory” system. Either grant every “territory” its full independence (even if under a Commonwealth type system such as the British have where the nations are independent officially, yet closely linked economically) or bring them in as full States of the United States of America. Even there, I don’t have a real preference, I just believe an action of one of those two types needs to be made.

But enough about my confessions. Seriously. Go buy the book already!

Oh, and here’s a blog tour poster that Bookouture (the publisher) provided. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now. Go. Buy. The. Book! ๐Ÿ˜€

#BookReview: My Own Personal Rockstar by Kirsty McManus

Funny With Heart. This is one of those Hallmarkie type romances with a lot of humor and some mild ish angst. The humor is broad enough to cross cultures (being set in Australia and written by an Australian, even this American reader thought it was hilarious at times ๐Ÿ™‚ ) and the drama/ angst was of a type that most any adult can identify with nearly all of it, between career and personal issues. I sound a bit repetitive right now with noting that this is a great escape for a couple of hours in nearly every review I write this week, but hey, sometimes you just get in a mode where you really need the escape, and this really does work for that. ๐Ÿ˜€ So if you’re looking for a fun, mostly light romance that still tackles some pretty tough subjects, you’re gonna wanna read this book. If you’re just looking for *any* book that can take your mind off the “real” world for a couple of hours, give this one a chance. And if you have kids of your own and only have a very limited amount of reading time… this one is near perfect, as it is a fairly short read (under 200 pages) to boot! Very much recommended.

This review of My Own Personal Rockstar by Kirsty McManus was originally written on January 7, 2021.

#BookReview: Don’t Make Me Turn This Life Around by Camille Pagan

Return To Vieques. As it turns out, this book is a sequel to Life And Other Near Death Experiences. I didn’t know that going in, but I’ve read a couple of Pagan’s other books and had to read this one too. (And yes, I *have* Life already, I just haven’t *read* it yet. :D) But this is a “sequel” in that it follows some of the same characters years later, rather than being an “immediate aftermath” type sequel. So in that sense, think of it more along the lines of Nicholas SparksThe Wedding (“sequel” to The Notebook, years later) or maybe the new Saved By The Bell reboot (which I haven’t seen yet, but have seen the premise of). In other words, not knowing the first tale might have *slight* detriments here as far as getting the full potential impact of certain scenes, but overall this book is closer to being a standalone book rather than a “you MUST read this other book first” type.

Within this tale itself, you get a strong look at what life in the Caribbean (and, technically, nearby Atlantic) can do for a “mainlander” – but also a view of what life there is *really* like, specifically in the aftermath of storms like Irma and (specifically used in the text) Maria. Potential real world spoiler sentence: (view spoiler) And we’re back: Overall, this book is what I’ve come to expect from Pagan: Tackling solid, hard hitting issues with enough humor to be enjoyable and enough heart to be heart wrenching. So read it, enjoy it, and consider the possibilities. Very much recommended.

This review of Don’t Make Me Turn This Life Around by Camille Pagan was originally written on January 5, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Accidental Text by Becky Monson

This week we’re looking at an excellent source of a few hours of escapism. This week we’re looking at The Accidental Text by Becky Monson.

In between the time I originally wrote the Goodreads review below early this morning and when I am forming this actual post closer to sunset, social media exploded with real world news today that has many on edge. Which actually makes the release of this book even better – it really is engrossing escapism that will allow you to take a few hours to calm down from the real world before responding. And let’s face it, if there isn’t an actual imminent danger to your life – and for the vast majority of us, there isn’t -, taking a few hours to calm down before responding is generally a very good strategy – it is why we are told to sleep on a major decision before executing on it.

So take a few hours with this world. You’ll laugh. You might even cry. But you’ll have a good time regardless. And then you’ll be more ready to handle whatever may be out there when you’re done with the book. ๐Ÿ™‚

As always, the Goodreads review:

Perfect Distraction. If you’re like me, you’re damn near desperate for any distraction from the constant fighting in “the” “real” world. Well, good news for you – Monson has written a poignant yet hilarious tale of love, loss, and adventure that will take your mind away from said “real” world for a couple of hours. And you’ll have a blast on the ride as you skydive, cliff jump, drive fast cars, and do other adrenaline junkie type stuff… all while being embarrassed for the awkwardness of the main character accidentally texting someone else when she thought she was texting her recently dead mother… ๐Ÿ˜€ Truly funny book with heart, and since the only weighty real world issue is the death of a parent (in non-recently-in-the-headlines fashion), a truly great escape and perfect distraction. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: Light In The Darkness by Heino Falcke

Phenomenal Achievement, Well Written Story Of How It Happened. That may leave a bad aftertaste with its final section. 200 years ago, humanity didn’t even know black holes existed – nor did actual photography quite exist yet. Now, not only do many of us carry around highly detailed cameras in our pockets, but humanity – led, in this effort, by this very author – has now taken a picture of a black hole. Falcke does a remarkable job through the first three (of four) sections of this tale setting the stage for that ultimate day in April 2019 when his team held half a dozen press conferences simultaneously all over the world announcing what they had done. He also spends a bit of time in the third section discussing the fallout of that day through about a year ish later, as the COVID pandemic changed the way most of the world worked… but didn’t really change much for this already global team. The way Falcke builds the history of the achievements that led to his is nothing short of poetic, yet also very easy to follow along with for those of us *without* PhDs in advanced theoretical astrophysics, and is truly remarkable. Even when Falcke begins speaking of even more theoretical concepts such as Einstein-Rosenberg Bridges (aka “wormholes”) and Hawking Radiation, he grounds these concepts in the work that has already been done. Even when speaking of the intermingling of religion and science sporadically through much of the text, Falcke is still remarkably grounded. But then, in the final chapter or two, he goes off into more “Your Mileage May Vary” territory when he begins speaking directly of God in light of what is shown via black holes. And that is where the potentially bad aftertaste comes in. Had Falcke made the worldwide announcement truly the climax of the book, with an epilogue of the team’s post-2019 efforts, this could arguably have been a bit tighter and less potentially controversial. Still, a very well written tale about one of the most monumental human achievements of my own (mid 1980s-forward) lifetime, and thus very much recommended.

This review of Light In The Darkness by Heino Falcke was originally written on January 4, 2021.