Category Archives: Book Browse Reviews

A book review club.

CHANGE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

White Blood
By James Fleming

Narrated by Simon Vance

Change is neither good nor evil but at times in history it seems more of one than the other.

“White Blood” captures one’s imagination after slogging through the first half of its story.  Written by James Fleming, an English author, “White Blood” is a pale version of “A Tale of Two Cities”.  Rather than the French Revolution, Fleming tells the story of the 1917 Russian Revolution.

Fleming wastes too much time setting the table for his story.  The book really begins when a listener reaches its halfway point.  In fairness, the devlopment of the main character is critical to the suspension of disbelief in the second half of the book but the hero’s vocational aptitude for murder and his passion could have been more succinctly presented.

Fleming creates Charlie Doig, an ex-patriot of Czarist Russia, raised in England.  Doig is descended from a royal family in Czarist Russia that has lost most of his family’s fortune.  Doig chooses to become a naturalist, sweating, puking, and “doink-ing” prostitutes in the Far East to discover life, particularly beetles, birds, and conjugal bliss. Doig’s experience as a naturalist, killing and mounting living species, broadly prepares him for the death and destruction of WWI and the Russian Revolution.

Just prior to the outbreak of WWI, Doig receives a grant to study a bird species in his native country.  War breaks out and money for the study dries up.  Doig decides to visit his aristocratic relatives in Smolensk, an eastern Russian town founded in 882.  He falls in love with his Russian cousin and marries her just before the revolution.

CARTOON OF PRE-LENNINST RUSSIAN BUREAUCRACY

The Russian’ revolution is seared with the same fire that consumed France in 1789.  The monumental gap between the rich and poor boils to the surface in an orgy of rape and murder.  The complacent rich ignore the warning signs; deluding themselves with the belief that they are feeding the poor by being rich employers of peasants that deserve their stultified lives because they were not born into wealth.

DEPICTION OF THE PEASANTS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

The broad theme of inequality based on inheritance and tradition rather than equality of opportunity and freedom are played out in the details of Doig’s life.  The great “unwashed” visit Doig’s family home in the guise of two travelers that are Russian but seem untethered from Russian tradition.  The two travelers arrive in a 1917 fall snow storm seeking food and rest, one seems morose and rude; the other officious and diplomatic.  The morose and rude traveler exudes threat.  From this point forward, Fleming’s book becomes a thriller.

OCCUPY WALL STREET PROTEST

Fleming’s book is another signal to the wealthy that believe trickle-down economics and survival of the fittest are the lynch pins of society.  America needs to listen to the “Occupy Wall Street” marchers; Assad to his Syrian people, Royalty to its Arab Spring protesters, and Israel to its Palestinian neighbors. The status quo is not a safe haven.  Change is inevitable; preferably not by revolution but by compromise that curtails slavery, embraces freedom, and offers equality of opportunity.  [contact-form-7 id=”1710″ title=”Contact form 1″]

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NOT SO DISTANT FUTURE

First Impressions Book Review

For BookBrowse

By Chet Yarbrough

3/21/12

Twenty Thirty

By Albert BrooksTWENTY THIRTY

ALBERT BROOKS
ALBERT BROOKS

Albert Brooks is a clever and insightful writer.  Yes, that Albert Brooks, the actor and director, and now published novelist.

For those over 60 years of age, this is a story that will enlighten and frighten; for others, it forecasts a dystopian or opportunity driven future.  Brooks envisions earth in the near future, where science cures cancer but has the consequence of skyrocketing medical costs, increasing the gap between rich and poor, and widening the cultural chasm between young and old.

GOVERNMENT BANKRUPTCY

Brooks describes a 2030 American government that is virtually bankrupt.  America’s bankruptcy is exposed to the world by a major earthquake in California that decimates Los Angeles.

The American government is unable to handle the crises because it does not have enough financial strength to rebuild the City.  Southern California residents are thrown into the street with little to no prospect of financial recovery.   Insurance companies cannot cover individual losses.  The government is overwhelmed by the size of the catastrophe; this major crisis magnifies America’s societal ills.

RISING POLITICAL POWER OF AARP

Longer lives are accompanied by falling birth rates so fewer people are born to support a growing and aging population.  AARP becomes the strongest political organization in the United States.

RISING HEALTH CARE COST FOR THE AGED

Medical costs escalate because of technological advances.  When a parent becomes hospitalized, costs are passed on to children of parents that die at increasingly older ages.  Surreptitious euthanasia is practiced when the “olds” fail to sign “do not resuscitate” agreements.  A subculture of young terrorists develops to revolt against the burden of an aging population.  The die seems caste for a stultified society that pits young against old.

Brooks is not seeing far into the future.  The future of today’s children is burdened by America’s growing debt.  Medical costs continue to rise with medical discoveries extending lives through extraordinary medical intervention; cost escalation is inherent in a world-wide movement toward universal medical coverage.

There may be a way out of this dystopian vision.  A possible escape is a growing affinity between disparate cultures symbolized by Brooks’ story of Chinese and American cooperation.  Brooks suggests that earth is one nation, one culture that is interdependent, borderless, and capable of resolving world problems.  President Trump has a quite different vision.

Brooks is cleverly extrapolating from science and societal evidence of 2012 to send a message to the world about the potential consequence of ignorance. Science will continue to advance in ways that affect society and science’s effects need to be understood in light of the immutability of human nature.  Human greed, pursuit of power, and covetousness are not expected to magically disappear but nature’s drive for self-preservation will sustain humanity.  That is Brook’s story but our current political circumstance belies his vision.

“Twenty Thirty” is an entertaining read; i.e. structured in short paragraphs and chapters that appeal to today’s Iphone’, Ipad’, and Ipod’ distracted society.

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ORPHAN KOREA

First
Impressions Book Review

(This book is in review with its publisher-not on the book stands yet)

                                        For

"THE ORPHAN MASTER'S SON" BY ADAM JOHNSON
“THE ORPHAN MASTER’S SON” BY ADAM JOHNSON

BookBrowse

By
Chet Yarbrough

11/6/2011 

The Orphan Master’s Son

                                       By Adam Johnson

UPDATE: 4/16/2013–ADAM JOHNSON WINS THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION WITH “THE ORPHAN MASTER’S SON”–MY EARLY REVIEW SEEMS OFF THE MARK BASED ON JOHNSON’S SUCCESS.  WILL HAVE TO READ THE PUBLISHED EDITION.  CONGRATUALIONS MR. JOHNSON.

Adam Johnson’s book, “The Orphan Master’s Son”, tells a tale about the dismal condition of life in North Korea.  His fiction is consistent with Barbara Demick’s “Nothing to Envy” that is based on interviews of immigrants and refugees from Kim Jong-Il’s totalitarian regime; i.e. Johnson’s fictional picture fits descriptions given in Demick’s North Korean’ interviews.

Johnson tells a story of Pak Jun Do, his survival and advancement in Kim Jon-Il’s
“Alice in Wonderland” world where cards can be soldiers because the “Mad Hatter” (North Korea’s Dear Leader) says it is so.  Pak Jun Do’s story begins in an orphanage; he becomes a kidnapper of Japanese citizens for the Dear Leader, and later assumes the identity of a general in the North Korean army.  Pak Jun Do’s surrealistic adventure exposes bizarre methods of intimidation, torture, and propaganda that sustain North Korea’s existence.

The pace of Johnson’s narrative,  the clever exposure of North Korea’s propagandist methodology, and his references to reported real life incidents (like the kidnapping of Japanese citizens) keep one’s interest long enough to complete the book. However, Johnson’s story is disjointed with jarring segues in the history of its hero.  Johnson packs many bizarre incidents in his story but character development is weak.  The love of Pak Jun Do for North Korea’s most famous actress and how that love develops is too contrived and unbelievable.

Johnson’s book reads like a comic book episode of Captain America or, more aptly, Captain Korea.  The hero’s tortuous flight to freedom is unconvincing.

North Korea is a dark totalitarian country that needs real heroes.   Adam Johnson appears to have enough understanding of the country to create a more believable North Korean character than Pak Jun Do.

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OCCUPY WALL STREET

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

RIGHTS OF MANRights of Man
By Thomas Paine

Narrated by Arthur Morey

It is past time for Americans to re-read Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man”.  Though his primary purpose is to refute Edmund Burke’s condemnation of the 1789 French revolution, his observations on British Aristocracy are the essence of today’s American “Money-ocracy”.

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and punched faces at Donald Trump rallies are an amorphous scream of disgust by a population that resents American “Money-ocracy’s” control of the economy, elected representatives, the election system, and the “Rights of Man”.  “Money-ocracy” has become an inheritable line of an American aristocracy.

Instead of 18th century Aristocratic control of British government, 21st century America substitutes the wealth of individuals and corporations (classified as individuals) to control American Democracy.

—————————————BRITISH RULE OVER INDIA——————————————

Management executives that are employees of corporate America take salaries 300 times more than the salary of their average employee.  Once a corporate executive reaches that level of compensation, money becomes fuel to maintain America’s “Money-ocracy”, the new hereditary right of succession; i.e. the new controller of our economy, the primary interest group of elected representatives, the master of the American election system, and ultimately, the thief and ruler of inherent “Rights of Man”.

——————————————-TOP 10 CEO PAY 2015———————————————-
AYN RAND (1905-1982)

Tax change to soak the rich is a smoke screen that obscures the real danger of American decline in the 21st century.  It is a smoke screen because it is too blunt an instrument to bludgeon the rich to benefit the less rich.  It smacks of the worst characteristics of Ayn Rand’s attack on government interference in free enterprise.  American history shows that Americans believe that hard work is the source of success; being American does not guarantee a free ride; i.e. being American (at least theoretically) means equal opportunity for all, based on ability, without limitation based on race, color, or creed.

WILBUR WRIGHT AT AGE 42

America needs to return to the ideals of equal opportunity by allowing entrepreneurs to create wealth through human productivity.  Money is not an end but it has become an end that has no end; i.e. high salaries perpetuate themselves through an Aristocratic “Money-ocracy”.  Salaries should be determined by human productivity; i.e. salary should be based on individual contribution to company performance, not hierarchical position or an artificially created salary competition for the latest best performing company CEO.  Every time a CEO changes jobs, they should have a new mountain to climb, a new productivity scale to be measured against.

WRIGHT’S 1903 FLYER ENGINE

Questioning salaries that exceed 300 times average employee compensation is not denying the creation of wealth.  Entrepreneurs who create productive companies that grow to multi-billion dollar enterprises have opportunity to become billionaires; not from salaries, but from building human productivity that creates wealth.

Stockholders in American companies need to fight employee compensation inflation that is disconnected from human productivity.  It is time for corporate boards to truly set the standard for CEO s rather than meet 4 times a year to receive exorbitant and unjustified million dollar bribes for sitting at the boardroom table.

Entrepreneurs that create productive enterprises should be rewarded by as much money, power, and prestige as their contribution warrants but not by ridiculous salaries that make a mockery of human productivity.

———————————–UNION RECRUITMENT OF WOMEN————————————–

“Occupy Wall Street” is an unlikely precursor of another American Revolution; however, it may be a symptom of an American cancer that debilitates productive life without killing the patient.  “Occupying Wall Street” is not a hippie “sit in” but a plea for reform of American “Money-cracy” just as Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man” was a plea for reform of Aristocratic inheritance.

Donald Trump undervalues or misunderstands the importance of equal opportunity for all people of the world.  Trump may be a patriot but the same is said of Vladimir Putin.

————————————OCCUPY WALL STREET PROTEST—————————————–

 

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TOUGH AUDIENCE

WRITING REVIEWS

By Chet Yarbrough

WALKING THE DOG
WALKING THE DOG-(Blogging is brain exercise like walking the dog is physical exercise.)

Blogging is brain exercise like walking the dog is physical exercise.  In theory, the more you write the brainier you get; the more you exercise, the stronger you become; i.e. definitely not true about the first and doubtfully true for the second.  Age destroys the theory; the best you can do is mitigate the inevitable.  The general public is a tough audience to please but hope springs—-something.

( To learn something about someone or something that appears interesting to others.)

As a book reviewer and observer, an objective is to improve memory of what you hear, see, or read; second is to learn something about someone or something that appears interesting to others, and finally, most egoistically important, is being rewarded by increasing numbers of people who read what you review or observe.

(Places visited, places lived, and books reviewed are better remembered because of writing about them. )

Places visited, places lived, and books reviewed are better remembered because of writing about them.  More importantly, a sense of perspective rises from the clutter of every day living.

Knowing something about physics, even a little, offers perspective on how earth compares to the vast cosmos.  To hear that fundamental elements of mass and energy are so small they cannot be seen or measured except as a mathematical function of quantum mechanics is mind numbing and perversely interesting.

MICHAEL BROOKS (SCIENCE WRITER, PHD IN QUANTUM PHYSICS FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX)

It is fascinating to see how different genius is from most of mankind but how similar genius is in human nature; how important God is to some and not to others; how cultures are different but human nature is the same; how mankind is equally greedy in elitist and egalitarian countries; how accurate facts can be distorted by history; and how inhumane man can be to man.

FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY (ALSO SPELLED DOSTOEVSKY, 1821-1881)

Classics from Charlotte Bronte to Tolstoy to Dostoevsky to Ray Bradbury to Nabokov to Richard Wright have been read by millions.  They are revisited to understand why they are classics.

“THE STRIP” ON LAS VEGAS BLVD.

Occasionally, articles are written about living in Las Vegas.  In the future, there may be articles about visiting New York, Philadelphia, Chicago,WashingtonD.C., Boston,Portland or some other interesting place.

The measure of success will be an increasing number of people who read, comment, and continue following the blog.  After blogging for many months, readership is improving; albeit at a glacial pace.  I have received very few comments which may mean nothing or everything.

Ego and ambition drive this bus with no definitive destination but my hope is that readers will continue to come along.

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DEMENTIA

FIRST IMPRESSIONS BOOK REVIEW

For BookBrowse
By Chet Yarbrough

turn of mindTURN OF MIND By Alice LaPlace

Website: chetyarbrough.com

“Turn of Mind” frightens aging parents and their children.

Alice LaPlante expertly puts a reader into a dementia burdened mind. The main character, Jennifer White, is a doctor spiraling down a darkening rabbit hole. The reader searches for truth between imagination and remembrance. A murder has occurred and the prime suspect is the 61 year old doctor.

The scare of the story is not the murder; it is the terror of forgetting and the burden of living. Doctor White tries to remember faces and names. She raises hell with her family and nursing staff. Her two children are reluctantly compelled to commit her to a complete care facility because Dr. White’s dementia exceeds a care giver’s ability to manage her at home.

The murder mystery is not solved by Doctor Jennifer White. Snatches of her memory and confessions of others reveal the murderer and solve the crime.

LaPlante’s story is a fairly good mystery but it is most interesting because it reminds a reader of the tragic and scary consequence of dementia. The poor, at least today, have Medicaid for this long life disease. The rich have insurance. The middle class have bankruptcy. “Turn of Mind” is a primer on what dementia means to a sufferer and his or her family.

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RELIGION

BOOK REVIEW For BookBrowse
By Chet Yarbrough

ADAM & EVE By Sena Jeter Naslund

Website: chetyarbrough.com

Sena Jeter Naslund’s writing skill is beautifully displayed in “Adam & Eve” but the story stretches suspended disbelief to a breaking point that makes the novel less than it could be.

Naslund re-invents arguments about the creation of man and the inherent conflict between science and religion. Character actions seem too hap hazard, bizarre and unbelievable to carry the weight of their meaning.

Arguments for religious and profane sectarian beliefs are sometimes too obscure for a reader to clearly understand the author’s intent.

Even with these harsh criticisms, Naslund’s writing is a pleasure to read. There is enough suspense in “Adam & Eve” to compel a reader to complete the story.

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