Monday, June 27, 2011

GRAND THEFT JESUS The Hijacking of Religion In America by Robert S. McElvaine

Finished Mo 6/27/11

This book clearly documents how certain factions within organized religion have perverted the teachings of Jesus, and used the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party to mesmerize, sedate, and captivate The Contemporary American Gestalt.

McElvaine calls this the "Easy Jesus" creed, since all you have to say is that you 'Believe', and no difficult actions or behavior changes are expected of you. What you say, trumps what you do. Or, once you are Saved, you can do any damned thing that you please.

'ChristianityLite' has completely changed the Truth, and now what passes for the teachings of Christ are exactly the opposite.

"America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations, and the least Christian in its behavior". Amen To that!

I would hope that sensible Christian believers everywhere have been waiting for someone to wrest The Prince of Peace away from those who believe that God supports War, Tax Cuts For The Rich, that The Poor have brought their plight upon themselves. and Torture is always viable if the conditions are right.

GONE TIL' NOVEMBER by Wallace Stroby

Finished Su 6/26/11

This is a thoroughly entertaining contemporary police novel set in very rural Northern Florida. It hinges on a police stop where a black drug courier from New Jersey is stopped for a traffic violation, and shot for attempting to escape. County Sheriff, Billy Flynn, is absolved of any wrongdoing, but after his ex-lover and fellow officer, Sara Cross, arrives on the scene, several of the facts don't add up.

Later, it is revealed that there is $350,000 in drug money missing, and soon, Morgan, an old, yet violent, Black enforcer for the New Jersey drug gang arrives in the boonies, and tries to get the money back from whoever has taken it. Mikey Mike, the gang leader, sends down a couple of crazed brothers to help Morgan, but this action only leads to more chaos and bloodshed. And, a Haitian drug cartel is circling for a piece of the action.

The action is very fast-paced, and the characters are well written. I will very definitely read another novel by Wallace Stroby.

Sara Cross mother of Danny
Billy Flynn weak exlover
Mikey Mike new Jersey drug dealer
Morgan cancer

Saturday, June 25, 2011

IN PLAIN SIGHT by Mike Knowles

Finished Sa 6/25/11

An engaging, and electrifying read, yet it exemplifies all that is great, and not so great, in the Crime Noir genre.

The action begins immediately, without any pretense of background. The protagonist is never named, however, later in the story, he offers the name, 'James Moriarty' (Sherlock Holmes's arch nemesis).

The plot is almost too difficult to figure out, and the bad guys use the good guys, and allegiances change at will.

The only noteworthy element is that the action turns on a rather alarming degree of police corruption and the Russian mafia, although the entire novel is set in the rather isolated city of Hamilton, Ontario. An unlikely place for this kind of international crime connection, but the novel careens at a blistering pace, and succeeds on that level.

A fast-paced adventure if you are a fan of the genre, and are not too hung up on 'who, what, or why'.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

THE POSTCARD KILLERS by James Patterson and Liza Marklund

Finished Th 6/23/11

For an author who claims on his website that he, "has sold more books than any other author (according to Bookscan), and in total, James's books have sold an estimated 220 million copies worldwide", THE POSTCARD KILLERS should be seen as an embarrassment. I don't know how many copies of this novel were sold, but if you paid for this novel, you got taken! (And, if you borrowed it from a library, like I did, you have wasted several hours of your life).

Here's the plot-line:

Young couples are being murdered in Europe, and the killings seem to be staged since the victims appear to be posed to mimic famous works of art. Art students from UCLA, Sylvia and Malcolm Rudolph, are identical twins who are vacationing in Europe, and thought to be the killers. Jacob Kanon, a police detective from New York, teams up with a Swedish journalist, Dessie Larsson to attempt to crack the case. Jacob's daughter was murdered by the killers, and Dessie received a cryptic postcard sent by the killers, so they make a classic 'crime fighting duo'. The ending is so corny that it might have been lifted from a writing class for sixth graders.

James Patterson wrote the delightful Alex Cross series, but his work has gone straight downhill. I would not recommend this novel to anyone.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

THE PSYCHOPATH TEST A Journey Through The Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

Finished Tu 6/21/11

This is a clever book, but I think that when all is said and done, the real culprit, and the source of all of the confusion, is not really the test to determine psychopathy, but the entire 'Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV)'. Suddenly, health care professionals were provided a way to categorize hundreds of conditions by simply applying a checklist which was vague and misleading at best. And, coupled with voracious drug companies looking to increase their profit margins by providing a 'chemical fix' for these new diagnoses, you have The Perfect Storm in the mental health field.

A little over half way through the book the author realizes that subjecting prisoners to this test might be a bit contrived, and he wonders if other professions harbor people with psychopathic traits. He interviews a particularly unscrupulous CEO, and this man certainly exhibits psychopath behavior. I would go one step further, and wager that ALL professions contain individuals who embody certain degrees of psychopathic behavior. After reading this book it seems that for every person who has been correctly diagnosed via the DSM-IV, there have been many, many more who have been misdiagnosed, and scarred for life. And, at the very least, exposed to a myriad of untested drugs.

It seems to me that very similar criteria were used in the Salem Witch Trials of the late seventeenth century. If you were asked if you were a witch, and you said "No", then that would prove that you were a witch, because Satan empowered you to lie about your diabolical status.

When I finished this book I know that I will certainly try to refuse any forms of psychological testing for fear that I will be judged, "Insane" or "Anti-Social". Of course, by refusing to cooperate I just might be sealing my fate.

Monday, June 20, 2011

THE ALMOST MOON by Alice Sebold

Finished Mo 6/20/11

Helen has lived her life as a bit player in the grand drama of her mother's life. Now, as a 49 year old divorced woman with two grown children, she has become Clair's primary care taker, and one evening, without much forethought, she smothers and murders the old woman. This occurs during the first few pages of the novel, and then Alice Sebold provides layer upon layer of nuanced detail to show the reader how and why events evolved to such a tragic climax.

The novel has many very well defined characters, and at the close of the story the reader has a keen insight into the background for the action. Clearly both Clair and Helen are flawed and neurotic characters, but Sebold shows their motivations and neuroses very vividly and artistically.

I was surprised that several professional critics dismissed "THE ALMOST MOON" as merely a study of one crazed women who deals with an even crazier woman. This really misses the point of the novel in that Sebold really lets you 'get into the mind' of Helen, and although you may not feel justified in her actions, you can definitely understand why she does what she does. And, not just the murder which the whole novel turns upon, but how she has chosen to live her life.

THE ALMOST MOON is a finely etched tale of a flawed and neurotic family who does the best that they can with the bent and distorted psychological tools at their command. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who would want to put some effort into a tragic tale with little or no redemption.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Finished Fr 6/17/11

Malcolm Fox is a police detective in the 'Professional Standards Unit' of the Edinburgh, Scotland police department. His sister's partner has been recently murdered, and Fox is in the middle of an investigation of a murder/suicide of a mafia connected real estate developer, and he finds himself caught up as a suspect in this crime. He engages the help of a fellow detective who is being looked at for phony pedophilia/'kiddie porn'computer charges.

All paths cross, re-cross, and leave your head spinning, but this is a compelling novel by the author of the John Rebus series.

Once again, Rankin writes a stand-alone novel which is very much worth a look.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Finished Wed 6/15/11

A well written, yet most unusual tale. It is set in St. Louis in the mid 1980's, and tells how the city was infiltrated by a foreign power, India! A new chief of police was installed from Bombay, India, and she and her web of spies and assassins attempt to control the fate of the city. They employ just about every trick in the Terrorist Handbook, and seem very attempt at physiological coercion. S. Jammu, the sexy new chief seems to take fiendish glee in entraping one of St. Louis's most prominent citizens, Martin Probst.

Sections of the novel really do an excellent job capturing the 'feel' of St. Louis, and anyone who is familiar with this city will recognize many of the cities famous, and not so famous points of interest.

However, at times, the plot was so extraordinary, that it seemed out of control. I ended up skimming the last third of the novel, however, I will definitely give Jonathan Franzen a chance with another of his novels.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

THE MAN FROM BEIJING by Henning Mankell

Finished Th 6/9/ll

A sprawling work which spans over a century and a half, and visits nearly every continent on the globe. Yet, maybe it's just a bit too sprawling.

The novel begins after a mass murder in a tiny village in rural Sweden. The reason for these killings seems to be linked to a trio of Chinese brothers who were shanghaied, and forced to work on the American continental railroad project of the mid nineteenth century. The evil gang/boss of these railroad workers had relatives in this Swedish hamlet, and these killings appear to be an act of revenge.

Sections of the novel were almost worthy of an entire book by themselves. The trials and tribulations of the three brothers journey from China to America, their lives as virtual slaves for the railroad, and their trek back to their homeland was arresting stuff. Also, a secret meeting of powerful and influential Chinese globalists in Zimbabwe and Mozambique was quite powerful.

However, the entire novel was not as good as some of the more riveting sections, and I think that I might find Henning Mankell's 'Kurt Wallander Mystery Series' a better place to appreciate this very popular Scandinavian author.

Friday, June 3, 2011

THE BIRTHING HOUSE by Christopher Ransom

Finished Tu 5/17/11

THE BIRTHING HOUSE is an attempt at, 'The Haunted House' genre of fiction, however, there are serious flaws in the execution of Ransom's tale.

Conrad Harrison receives an inheritance from the death of his father, and he buys an ancient Victorian farm house in the small and isolated village of Black Earth, Wisconsin. Conrad had been working part-time in a Los Angeles book store, and living with his much more successful wife, Joanna, and he impulsively buys this mysterious old house as a New Beginning for their lives.

A very odd thing to do, but this is Conrad Harrison at his best, and things only spiral downward from this point. However, once he and Joanna arrive in Black Earth, strange and deadly things begin to occur.

I think that the best way to read this novel is to assume that the protagonist, Conrad Harrison, is an 'Unreliable Narrator'. And, the reader must not believe Conrad because of his rapidly deteriorating mental condition. The last forty pages of the novel are very hard to understand, and I still do not comprehend exactly what went on in the house many, many years ago. If you try to perceive this mystery from the clues which Ransom has offered, you will probably throw the book across the room in disgust. But, if you view THE BIRTHING HOUSE as a record of one man's descent into madness, you will at least complete the novel with a small degree of satisfaction.

All the members of my book club, and most of the posts on Amazon agreed that this novel was a very flawed and confused jumble of fairly interesting ideas which ultimately went nowhere.


Finished Fr 6/3/11

This is the kind of novel that is nearly impossible to put down because the plot is fast-paced and compelling, and the narrative crackles with fresh ideas and insight. 2030 is not a Science Fiction thriller in that it is not really about 'the future', but an attempt to address moral problems which vex contemporary American society. And, each ethical position or principle which Mr. Brooks examines is a logical extrapolation of events and issues that have already happened, or very likely might occur.

Here are a few examples of the topics which Mr. Brooks addresses. America is spending far too many resources on the preservation of the oldest section of the population, and is this position ethically feasible? What would the country do if it was hit by an unprecedented natural disaster, and all other nations refused to bail America out? What happens when most Americans are forced into a financial position where they must assume levels of debt which would be impossible to repay.

The book is written in a style which introduces many characters and each one represents a conflicting force in a national dilemma. The chapters are short, and the storyline never lags. At the end of the novel, Mr. Brooks doesn't really make an attempt to 'solve' these issues, but, instead, presents a rational and easily acceptable response to the radically conflicting ideas.

I would most definitely be interesting in reading more by Albert Brooks. His movies have always been first rate, and now he can add 'novelist' to his list of remarkable achievements.