#BookReview: Beyond Policing by Philip V. McHarris

Laughably Dumb? You Decide. This is another of those books where my own experience with the topic absolutely plays into my judgement here, so up front: I’m an Autistic who studied police brutality for years after some… unfortunate… (though mild, comparatively) encounters with police throughout my life. I actually became quite an expert in tracking police murders, helping with a now-defunct project similar to MappingThePolice – MTP being a project McHarris cites in this text. I was also active in CopBlock many years ago after watching its founders have their own unjust encounter with police. I’ve even known one of the victims – though to be clear, I knew him as a toddler and it was over a decade later that he was murdered by police. I’m a former Libertarian Party official at both State and local levels and 2x rural small town City Council candidate. I’ve even given a presentation at the Georgia Sociological Association’s conference. Which is a lot to say that while Mr. McHarris has me beat as far as degrees go, I’m not some bum off the street who doesn’t have both lived and academic experience with this topic as well. πŸ™‚

As to the title of this review and the substance of the book, really all you need to know here is that Mr. McHarris’ aforementioned degree, at least one of them, is in African American studies from Yale. That alone clues you in immediately to the extreme leftist and even racist bent you’re going to get from this book, either proclaiming all white people as racist or dismissing white concerns related to the topic. How you feel about that bent is largely how you’re going to feel about this book. Also, to be clear, the actual “Laughably Dumb” bit was the comment a friend made when I showed them a one of the points we’ll get to below. πŸ™‚

But wait! It gets better! First, some truly, truly great things: 1) The documentation, though slanted, is at least reasonably thorough, clocking in at around 20% of the text. Using the Sagan Rule (“extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”), perhaps that might not be enough for the claims of this text. But it *does* fall in line with the norm of my experience with similar texts, and at least some of the sources cited are some of the very same ones I would cite as well, were I writing a book on this topic myself – including The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, Rise Of The Warrior Cop by Radley Balko (whose history of policing is far more complete and balanced than the one McHarris offers in the first third of this text), and Torn Apart by Dorothy Roberts, among others. Furthermore, though from a clearly extreme leftist position, McHarris does indeed offer some interesting ideas at times, delusional though they may be in terms of his exact preference of implementation. But at least he is proposing *something*, and some of the ideas truly have merit.

And then we get to the stuff where you really need to decide how laughable you think they are. For one, McHarris proclaims the LA riots after the Rodney King beating to be an “uprising against police”, and uses similar “uprising” language to denote the mass riots of 2020. As if that weren’t bad enough, McHarris, while still coming from an “all whites are evil racists” perspective, openly advocates for “direct participatory democracy” to make “all” political decisions. Can you, dear reader of my review, please tell me why that may be a *horrible* idea indeed for minorities? As in, if you truly believe that all white people are evil racists and that there is nothing good about them, why would you want to give them such absolute power in so many areas?

Ultimately, it is this very utopian failure to fully consider his own thoughts and their ramifications that I believe is an objective enough reason to deduct the star here. As noted above, the documentation is reasonably solid enough and McHarris cites some of the very same texts I would (and do) on this topic. Some of the general ideas for moving away from police and of the need to at least consider how it could actually be done are reasonably well thought out, at least in initial conception of end goal and *rough* parameters. But McHarris is clearly blinded by his own ideology in just how doomed to failure so many of his implementations truly are, and for that reason I simply can’t award all five stars.

As I said from the beginning, you decide, dear reader of my review, what you’re going to think of this book. I absolutely think everyone should read it, just know that roughly half of you, perhaps more, are going to want to defenestrate it from the highest available window fairly early and fairly often. Still, stick through it. Finish it. Review it yourself. And *then* defenestrate it, if you truly need to. πŸ™‚

Very much recommended.

This review of Beyond Policing by Philip V. McHarris was originally written on July 12, 2024.

#BookReview: Lenny Marks Gets Away With Murder by Kerryn Mayne

Like Great Gatsby: SLOW Start, Explosive Ending, *NOT* Neurodivergent. I tell the story often of my experience with The Great Gatbsy. Back in sophomore year of HS, it was actually assigned as summer reading before the school year. I didn’t read it. Every time I tried to open it, the first chapters were just SO UTTERLY BORING that I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open. Managed to bullshit through the discussion of it during my International Baccalaureate level English class that fall. Switched to a school without an IB program in Spring Semester, where now I had one of those old school even then (late 90s) slap-the-knuckles-with-a-ruler type English teachers. This lady *forced* me to read the book via making it a point to call on me to read out loud during class. She knew I HATED it, I wasn’t subtle about my disdain at all, and I had a superiority complex at this new school to boot.

But god DAMN if she didn’t wind up getting me through those first boring chapters, where the tale then woke up and became truly one of the great American books, particularly of its period and truly quite possibly ever.

I tell that story here because it directly applies to this book. This book is S L O W at first and utterly, completely, mind bogglingly BORING. There simply is no way around that. Even at 20% in, I was commenting on social media (without naming that I was reading this book) that it was horrible.

And then…

And then you get to the point – roughly halfway in – where you find out WHY the front half was so utterly boring.

And like Gatsby, this point turns the novel on its head and makes it a truly great book. No, it still isn’t Gatbsy’s level, but this is where it is going to make you *feel*. It is going to make the room so dusty you’ll be verifying that the walls around you haven’t suddenly collapsed, because you’re going to be crying so hard during some of this next section that you’re going to be snotting all over the place and finding it very difficult to breathe. Mayne manages to utterly bore your mind before absolutely DESTROYING your heart worse than a direct hit from a G2 Research RIP round would.

This back half is truly what makes the book, so fight through the boredom of the front half – it really does get so very much better.

Oh, and the neurodivergent thing; A lot of reviewers (I’m somewhere right around the 1,000th review on at least one review site) have mentioned that this book features a neurodivergent protagonist. It does not. The words “neurodivergent”, “spectrum”, “Autism”, or even “Asberger’s” are nowhere in the text of this tale, and while the front part of the book in particular (and to a slightly lesser extent the back part as well) characterize our protagonist as *stereotypically* neurodivergent, just because someone acts according to a stereotype does not mean they actually *are* whatever the stereotype is supposed to be of. Indeed, we actually get an explanation in that back half of the book that is *not* any form of actual neurodivergence so much as … something else that is directly explained and explored (part of what makes the heart shatter so much), but which would be a spoiler to reveal here.

Overall truly a tale of two halves as far as the reader experience goes, but absolutely one you should read.

Very much recommended.

This review of Lenny Marks Gets Away With Murder by Kerryn Mayne was originally written on July 8, 2024.

#BookReview: Big Brother And The Grim Reaper by Benjamin Ginsberg

Comprehensive. Dense. Short. Slightly Lacking Bibliography. This is an utterly fascinating look at the history and current issues involving political (and thus legal) life after death, in all kinds of different ways. Some ways you have probably heard of (Wills, Advanced Directives, etc). Other ways may be new to you, including the idea of posthumous reproduction. Everything is covered in a sort of “primer” manner – we get a broad overview, a few specific examples, a decent discussion of the overall subfield… and then we’re moving… and we’re moving. Which is to be somewhat expected given the overall brevity of the book and just how many different posthumous topics Ginsberg manages to discuss at all.

Indeed, the only weakness here is simply that at 13% bibliography, I simply expect at least a *touch* more – even, perhaps, as low as 15% (on an already expanded window that was once 20-30%).

Beyond this particular quibble, read this book – you’re going to learn a lot and have a lot to think about. I know I did and do.

Very much recommended.

This review of Big Brother And The Grim Reaper by Benjamin Ginsberg was originally written on July 5, 2024.

#BookReview: Key To The City by Sara C. Bronin

Taylor Swift != “Modern Day Elvis Presley”! I came into this book wanting to read about the American Government on the Fourth of July. Honestly, as an avowed Anarchist and former Libertarian Party official at both the State and local levels + 2x rural small town City Council candidate… I probably should have known better. πŸ˜‰

It isn’t that this book isn’t illuminating nor well documented – it actually is reasonably good at both, with a bibliography clocking in at 21% of the overall text. Seriously, if you’ve never considered the topic of land zoning as it is practiced in the United States and how it is used to control you, your neighbors, your town, even to a slightly lesser (direct) manner your State and even the entire Country… you need to read this book.

Bronin truly does a great job of examining the history of zoning as practiced in the US, including how it came to be and why and how it has been used over the century or so since it first came into being. (Indeed, according to Bronin, the Supreme Court cases that effectively legalized the practice are still not quite a century old at either the writing of this review in early July 2024 or when the book is scheduled to be released in early October 2024.)

My issue, and I think it is objective enough (if, perhaps, barely) is that Bronin approaches this topic as a Chair of a Zoning Board who wants Zoning Boards to be even *more* active in limiting what you can do with the property that you legally own and actively encourages strategies to accomplish a very progressive agenda, including “Climate change” and mass transit theories that barely work in the extremely densely populated “Boshwash” (Boston – Washington DC) corridor she rules the aforementioned Zoning Board in – theories that could never work in the *far* less densely populated areas of South Georgia or even Central South Carolina that I’ve lived in, much less west of the Missisippi River where population densities (until you get to the Pacific Coast) largely truly plummet. And yes, there are *reasons* I mentioned my political background up front in this review. πŸ™‚

As but an example, I point to the title of this review – at one point in this text, Ms. Bronin does in fact claim that Taylor Swift is a “modern day Elvis Presley”. To be clear, if she had compared Ms. Swift to say the Beatles or the Rolling Stones or even Johnny Cash himself, that would have been a fair comparison and I would have had to find another example of where she is particularly outlandish without going into the actual details of the book (ie, spoilers). But as Ms. Swift never had to so much as register for the Draft – much less be selected by it and forced to serve in the US Military, this alone shows that Elvis was a different breed entirely. And to be clear, lest any Swifties attack this review just because of this paragraph, I’m not actually criticizing Ms. Swift. She is indeed a global phenomenon and is clearly quite talented in her own right. I am not saying otherwise or taking anything from her. I’m simply noting that for all she has done and all the fans she has, Elvis was *still* on another level from her.

Overall, read this book. Seriously. You’re going to learn a lot, no matter your own political leanings or how you feel about the sanctity of private property. But “if you feel as I feel” (to quote the always amazing V for Vendetta), know there will be many points you will want to defenestrate this book forthwith and from the highest available window. But unless you’ve had the experience of myself or Ms. Bronin or the admittedly *numerous* people like us who *have* actively dealt with zoning boards at some direct level before… you really are going to learn some things here. Clearly, even *I* learned a few things here myself, even *with* a few years of directly relevant experience.

Recommended.

This review of Key To The City by Sara C. Bronin was originally written on July 5, 2024.

#BookReview: Ladykiller by Katherine Wood

Slow Start Leads To Rollercoaster Twists. This is one of those books that starts out almost disaster movie slow. Other than the prologue that reveals an intriguing setup, a lot of the front of the book is solid enough in slowly building tension in an idyllic setting. But it really is more the back half, or maybe even the last third, of the book where it seems to become more of a cat and mouse, what the hell is going on, who can the reader actually trust kind of tale, one that ends with a deliciously ambiguous ending that would be intriguing to see a follow up to – IF Ms. Wood can manage to replicate the almost lightning in a bottle feel she has going on here, particularly through the last bit of the book.

Ultimately, this tale won’t be for everyone, for a variety of reasons. But if you’re looking for an interesting tale in a beautiful location and aren’t averse to a fair amount of onscreen sex (and not always exactly of the missionary-position-only-with-lights-off variety), this may be a book for you.

Very much recommended.

This review of Ladykiller by Katherine Wood was originally written on July 5, 2024.

#BlogTour: Made For You by Jenna Satterthwaite

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a quasi scifi tale that leans more heavily on the murder mystery and reality tv components. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Made For You by Jenna Satterthwaite.

First, the review I posted to the book sites (Hardcover.app / BookHype.com / BookBub.com / TheStoryGraph.com / Goodreads.com):

For Some Reason I’m Having A Tough Time Writing This Review. I finished this book 5 days ago as I write this review. I’ve read three other books (that I also need to write reviews for) since then, and for some reason there’s just nothing flowing for this book.

To be clear, there is nothing technically wrong with this book. It is solid, with perhaps a misstep or two.

I think what it comes down to, for me, is that the most interesting question in the description: “That is…if Julia truly is a person.” doesn’t really feel as explored as I think I wanted it to be. And I don’t know if that is on me as the reader or Satterthwaite as the writer. I don’t know if it was that I was wanting a harder probe or harder questions or more forceful thinking on the subject or some such, or if Satterthwaite really did do more telling than showing or perhaps not enough telling to make me really think deeply philosophically as maybe I was hoping to be forced to or what.

Ultimately, more time was absolutely spent of the murder mystery/ reality TV side of the tale than the synth side, even as the synth side plays key roles and is genuinely interwoven with the other components of the tale. So if you’re looking for a more reality TV/ murder mystery tale than a scifi synth tale… yeah, this one may work better for you.

Perhaps most damning, particularly for a debut – although perhaps one that was never meant as a series starter – is that I’m also not sure whether I would want to come back to this world or not. I’m sure that I think Satterthwaite has done enough here that I’m willing to read the next book and see if she grows as a storyteller with more experience, I’m just not sure with what she leaves us with here if I necessarily want to come back *here*. Although if that is in fact where her sophomore effort brings us, I’m absolutely going to be back for the ride.

So read the book for yourself, reader of my review. And maybe tag me in your own review so I can see if my own questions are *me* or if others are having similar difficulties with this book?

Recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book info, description, author bio, social links, and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Made For You by Jenna Satterthwaite”

#BlogTour: Forbidden Girl by Kristen Zimmer

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet featuring the lesbian daughters of Boston mafiosos. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Forbidden Girl by Kristen Zimmer.

First, the review I posted to the book sites (Hardcover.app / BookHype.com / TheStoryGraph.com / Goodreads.com):

Romeo And Juliet. But Lesbian. With Mob Families. In Boston. Without Suicide. Seriously, that’s most of what there is to this book, without going too deep into spoiler territory (as many other reviews have done, to my mind). Will this book be a Shakespeare level classic, nearly single handedly redefining literature for centuries to come? No. Is it an interesting spin on a tale that *did* do that? Yes. And honestly, for that reason alone it is one you should read.

Now, one flaw here that didn’t quite raise to the level of a star deduction, but does deserve to be mentioned, is the casual misandry of the text. It is one thing to be a feminist and want equal treatment for both sexes – an ideal I too share. But when you go so far as to be so overtly bigoted against either sex… you’ve stepped too far, and this book does that a fair amount. Again, not so pervasive as to warrant a star deduction, but often enough that a discussion in the review is warranted.

Overall, an interesting spin on a beloved classic that does enough blending of classic tale and modern stylings to be entertaining on both levels. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details” – book info, description, author bio, social links, and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Forbidden Girl by Kristen Zimmer”

#BookReview: The Deepest Map by Laura Trethewey

Interesting And Comprehensive Examination Marred By Leftist Ideology. If you can overlook (or if you like) the *frequent* bigotries against “males”, “white males”, and/ or “rich white males” and if you agree with Greta Thunberg re: “Climate” “Change” (or whatever the hell they’re calling it now as you read this review), you’re going to love this book. The star deduction comes specifically because of such slanted “reporting”. (I read the Audible version of this book and thus can’t comment on the length of its bibliography one way or another.)

If the above doesn’t apply to you, you should read this book anyway.

Because when it stays on subject about the efforts to map the seas and specifically the deepest parts of them, both cutting edge and throughout history, this book actually is quite good. Tretheway manages to show both the necessity of the effort and just how dangerous it can be in both academic and very real senses, along with all of the problems associated with having the data or not as well as gathering the data in the first place. Along the way we’re going to encounter quite a few legendary people, some truly globally famous even well outside their exploratory regions, others famous only within very narrow, sometimes quite niche, fields – but famous nonetheless. She manages to make the reader care about both the historic exploration and the current efforts, up to and including even using AI drones to get data humans otherwise can’t easily obtain. And all of this is quite remarkable indeed.

It is simply a shame that she had to integrate so much bigotry into this reporting – it truly could have been a truly remarkable work otherwise. And yet, the tale as written is still strong enough even with the integrated bigotry to still warrant a read by truly everyone remotely interested in the oceans for any reason.

Recommended.

This review of The Deepest Map by Laura Tretheway was originally written on July 1, 2024.

#BookReview: Husbands & Lovers by Beatriz Williams

Story Tries Hard But *Just* Misses + Story/ Cover Mismatch. This is one of those reviews where the review and rating may not seem to align, because for the vast majority of this book, I thought it was pretty damn good. It does a LOT – even more than similar Soraya M. Lane books usually do – and *for the most part*, it does those things quite well. We’ve got a romance tale in the 2000s era New England that alternates between 2022 (current) and 2008 (the halcyon summer where the couple first fell in love). We’ve got a historical fiction tale that alternates between the 1952 Great Cairo Fire/ Black Saturday period and early WWII period. Either one of those tales could be an entire book in and of itself, and yet we’ve also got a 23 And Me type DNA mystery that links the two (and which admittedly is a spoiler mentioning, sorry). I’ve read many entire books that would use any one of those three elements to tell an entire tale, and yet we get all three tales in one book here. And *for the most part*, it all works.

Where it fails, and the cause of the first star deduction, is that the climax of the Cairo tale is rushed and its fallout effectively buried in service of the New England romance and 23 And Me mystery. This book could have been *so much more* with maybe as little as 10 extra pages flushing out the Cairo tale in 1952 rather than the 2022 manner in which we get that information, and I think this is a close enough to objective opinion to merit a star deduction here.

The other star deduction is one I don’t encounter often, but *have* done a time or two before, and is warranted here for the same reasons I’ve used it before – the stories told here and the cover as it exists at publication (June 25, 2024) do not match. At all. The 1952 tale in Cairo -the era this cover screams to me – doesn’t really have even a pool scene at all, much less one involving a diving board. Even the 2000s era tales don’t actually involve any real pool activity, again particularly with a diving board. There are some ocean/ beach scenes that play key roles, but that isn’t what this cover evokes. Even in tone, this cover leads the reader to believe that this will be some 1950s era glam tale of some form… and it isn’t, not really. Yes, the Cairo tale is played as “exotic”… but that isn’t the tone I get from this cover.

So a lot of words, maybe too many words, to say that you really do need – as one 2* reviewer also noted – to read the description of the book to really know what you’re getting into here, and judging this book by its (admittedly great looking, in and of itself) cover may get you into a bit of a letdown situation with this particular book.

Overall, I actually really, really enjoyed this book. I thought it did a lot, and for the most part did well on damn near all of it. It simply lacked execution in a final detail and needed a cover that ties to the story more than the current one does.

Very much recommended.

This review of Husbands & Lovers by Beatriz Williams was originally written on June 28, 2024.

#BookReview: You’ll Never Find Me by Allison Brennan

Solid Series Starter. This has pretty much everything one would want in a family based PI / police procedural type drama series starter. Complicated family dynamics, a compelling case – where in this particular instance (series?) family members find themselves on different sides of the case -, an interesting mystery, and the storytelling to put it all together quite well indeed.

As is typical of such a series, this is clearly going to be a “freak of the week” type with an overall lore and mythos, and both look to be compelling going forward.

Fans of the genre generally will find a lot to like here, and those who haven’t really dabbled in this kind of tale before will also find a lot to like that could potentially bring in new fans.

Ultimately, this is one of those series starter books that does everything it needs to do and does it all quite well.

Very much recommended.

This review of You’ll Never Find Me by Allison Brennan was originally written on June 26, 2024.