Time Travel for Love and Profit – Jeff Abugov

(Reviewed by Don Jung)

If given the opportunity to go back in time to change the decisions you made in life, would you take it?

Growing up in foster homes and in an environment where crime is the only way to survive, our protagonist T.J. chooses the path of crime. He gets caught and while serving his time, he takes an interest in physics. He dreams of going to Cal Tech and becoming a physicist but first he has to reinvent himself to make it in the real world.

When he gets out, he works as a janitor at Cal Tech and meets a professor who has developed a method of time travel. T.J. wants to test it, and once in the past , finds himself in various situations where the ‘he and me’ see each other at the same time This leads to funny yet touching moments as he tries to find himself.

Time Travel for Love and Profit is not only a twist on the old tales of time travel, but also an imaginative story about a troubled young man who finds a way to change his life and discover love and how to make money. T.J. is told he can’t change history but he can go back to find romance and utilize the talent of time travel to his personal advantage. However making lots of money by knowing history’s various outcomes isn’t as easy as one may think. It’s also not that easy to leave your past completely behind.

There are great glimpses of 20th century America from the stock market of 1932 to the early days of the folk music movement in New York and the 1960’s segregation marches in the South as well as a detailed look at Cal Tech and the academic philosophy they imposed on students.

Novelist Jeff Abugov keeps you tuned in to the various time travels and provides
a wacky look at how one can enjoy some of the major events of our American history without changing any of them. This is a very enjoyable read and keeps you guessing on where it will turn in the end.

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The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time – Brooke Gladstone

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

“American history is picked with ferment, battles and brawls over with is true. But at this moment, the nation seems to waging Civil War over reality itself. It is thrilling to watch, and tough to sit out, because the stakes are so high. But how will it end?”

I am so perplexed on why so many people refuse to accept facts as reality. This has been eating away at me since the day after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. And why all of a sudden do Donald Trump’s “alternative facts” carry more weight than real facts? Am I the one who’s crazy?

Journalist Brooke Gladstone is just as puzzled as I am, so she decided to explore the problem. The results are in her book, The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time . Through research of scientific studies, prominent people in the philosophical and psychological fields, as well as her interviews, she sheds some light on the dilemma.

She advises us that facts do not constitute reality. Reality is personal; it is what we filter out, what we perceive to be true. We rely on stereotypes for our reality, and any disruption of our stereotypes is “an attack upon the foundations of our universe.” This has been proven in neurological studies.

Our politicians certainly can’t agree on basic facts either, so compromise is impossible and according to Ned Resnikoff of ThinkProgress.org “…politics reverts back to its natural state as a raw power struggle in which the week are dominated by the strong.”

At fewer than 100 pages, this analysis offers a multitude of opinions and thoughts on how we can begin to understand how others perceive their reality. Some opinions are so compelling that I plan to look further into their work. I especially valued cognitive linguist George Lakoff’s “Taxonomy of Trump Tweets”.

Americans aren’t the only ones who have trouble accepting facts; it seems to be a universal condition. That is why I think this book will have global appeal.

The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time may not answer all of your concerns regarding our current situation, but it’s a great start. At least you’ll know you’re not alone.

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Rocks Beat Paper: A Wilson Mystery – Mike Knowles

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

“You think winning should make you feel like you want to go to Disneyland…That place is for quarterbacks who win games with rules and referees. That isn’t any kind of place for people like us. The games we play are never fair and they never end clean. They just end.”

That is from our narrator, Wilson, the “set up guy” for heists, who has an excellent reputation for what he does. This upcoming diamond heist at a jewelry store has the potential to make millions. When presented with the opportunity, he foresaw problems, but not all the right ones.

Yes, he believed that this job had too many people. Every man you add to a job adds baggage. With various personalities and motives, a lot can go wrong. That should have done more than raise red flags.

How can you be sure that you can trust the client and the crew? Is the essential information you receive from the start, honest and accurate?

The plot-driven Rock Beats Paper is full of so many unexpected twists and keeps the reader hooked at every turn. While it is short on character development, surprisingly it doesn’t take away from the story at all. It seems that Wilson is an unemotional, hardened loner, but I really didn’t think about it until I finished the book.

Though Rock Beats Paper is not the first in the Wilson mystery series, it is the first that I have read. I don’t feel that I was at a disadvantage even if I didn’t learn much about Wilson’s past.

Now I want to read earlier books in the series. Even if I don’t learn more about how he got to be the way he is, it will be well worth it if the story is as exciting as this one.

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Madame Alexandra’s Rule of Business…revisited

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Apparently businesses still forget what drives success.  Here’s a reminder…

Exceptional

“…money brings the only worthwhile thing it can bring: freedom…it being only the medium of exchange between a man’s labor and his freedom. Labor is not dishonorable, nor is the money which is only the comestible fruit of that labor; the two are one. Those however who mistake money for a commodity with an intrinsic value will find their coffers empty.”

Many today accumulate money for its own sake. Businesses forget the value of customer service. Employers forget how to treat and motivate their employees. And we all expect those with questionable personal character to be completely ethical in their business dealings.

Where did we go wrong? Now is the time to learn from a wise nineteenth century businesswoman; and who better teach us than Madame Alexandra Borodinskaya. She emigrated from Russia to Paris and ran a well-respected and successful maison close (brothel). She only served high-end clientele, and more was required than mere wealth. During her ninety two years she amassed a huge amount of wealth and property.

An account of her business principles was discovered after her death by a British academic. Later, author and entrepreneur Claude Roessiger put them together in Madame Alexandra’s Rule of Business: The Enduring Principles of Business Success.

Each chapter relates to a specific topic. First the “rule” is stated, and then examples are explained. Much of what Madame Alexandra learned was through her own mistakes; and she is the first to admit to them (one of her rules).

No, her principles don’t seem to be followed today, and the excuse that times have changed because of the internet or whatever, just doesn’t  hold up. One rule that specifically comes to mind is “The conduct of business is inseparable from the conduct of one’s own life.”, “…a man of honor is of honor everywhere…Those who live by two standards have only one: dishonesty.”

Upon discovering these notes, many were disappointed that there was no salacious material about notable people. She took her secrets to the grave, and that wasn’t surprising. Confidentiality was one of her tenets.

Madame Alexandra’s Rule of Business: The Enduring Principles of Business Success is a short book at only 158 pages, but is packed with a lot of punch. This will not only appeal to business people and entrepreneurs, but to those who have to interact with contractors and businesses every day. And that is all of us.

(originally posted on UnderratedReads on May 29, 2017)

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Love Runs Deep – Gail Chianese

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Lieutenant Nic Riley is the only girl in a long-time Navy family, and she’s determined to prove herself as seaworthy as her brothers. When she aces training for submarine duty, it calls for a celebration that ends with one incredibly hot guy for a night. At least that’s what she assumes as she boards the sub and finds herself face to face with her hunky fling.

Lieutenant Kyle Hutchinson’s ran from the oppressive responsibilities of his small town and has been running from all relationships until the explosive night he spends with Nic. Dating onboard is firmly off limits, but Kyle can’t get her off his mind much less out of his vicinity—until a junior seaman’s devastating stunt puts Nic’s career in danger. Kyle won’t let her take the heat alone, even when it means risking his own reputation, but fighting for a future together will be a whole new battle.

Can two ambitious sailors follow orders long enough to see if love is on the horizon when they’re finally above water?

Usually military romances that I follow end up with some kind of lurking danger and aloha heroes. This was a surprisingly sweet down tide, no pun intended. While the plot is simple and sweet and follows the typical fanfare of mills and boon with its share of happy ending, it’s the sweet romance and the characters that brighten it up all for me.

“Make me a promise and I’ll do the same. Next time life gets stressful, and we both know it will with our lifestyles, we’ll talk. No shutting each other out. No making decisions without consulting the other. No listening to my brothers. We each have faith in the other and in ourselves”

The plot is an intriguing mix of female empowerment in the toughest branches of work and has been woven with the vulnerabilities of sexual harassment that is often hidden. But what clinches it for me is the beautiful dialogue that I have quoted. Relationships do get tested; it’s how you fare through it that marks the strength of your bond with your partner. For bringing out such a simple viewpoint in such a beautiful way, with two equally strong and beautiful characters shows a level of clarity that should be appreciated. Everything else about this book ticked off for me and I can call myself a happy reader at the end of the day.

Love Runs Deep is a beautiful book to remember.

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His Fake Alien Fiancé – Patricia Eimer

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Princess Perripraxis not only has to find a fiancé—and fast—she’s has to find one who doesn’t mind that her “no makeup” face has green and purple scales. Otherwise, Daddy Dearest is going to take her back to her home planet to marry her off in order to strengthen kingdom alliances. Only her human best friend can now help in finding an amiable solution to this other-worldly problem.

Bartender Brandt Turner has learnt from his army days that you never leave a man behind— or an alien princess in need of a pretend fiancé. If she needs someone to play the lovesick fool to convince her dad to let her stay on Earth, well then, he’ll let the world think Cupid finally took him out.

In a world where all things are alien, can Brandt realise his love for the alien princess?

Honestly I wasn’t expecting much from this book, despite a cheery cover image and an equally amusing plot description and a title that matches it all. The plot has been beautifully written with the perfect balance of humour, drama and of course romance. The characters from two opposite spectrums, literally, manage to blend their own personality quirks within the plot, thereby keeping the readers engaged till the very end. The narrative style is simple and humorous and yet pays attention to finer details like an alien species and their cultural differences. Instead of the blood and gore that is usually seen when it comes to anything that is alien, this was unique and uplifting with its intergalactic morality.

I will definitely recommend it for a try, especially you are bored of the usual fare of chick lit.

Posted in Humor & Satire, Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Mythology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

All Over the Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty Theft – Geraldine DeRuiter

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

If you want to be absurdly happy, marry someone you love whom you can spend time with. But most importantly, marry someone who can help you deal with your shit.”

Former copywriter and current travel blogger Geraldine DeRuiter means “shit” literally. The “shitty” part of this book is among the funniest episodes in her memoir, All Over the Place.

She declares right off the bat that this is not a travel guide. She explains that she can only speak with authority about her own experiences.

“…I was an expert at being me: broken, terrified, and lost.” She needs to be in control and unfortunately that doesn’t go along well with traveling. “Every trip is just an opportunity to screw up on a grand scale” , and she does manage to accomplish that.

“I am a neurotic worrier. I obsess about things. I hold grudges. I’m basically Larry David, if he were raised by Don Coreleone from The Godfather.”  Yes, she does seek revenge on the little things—another hilarious part of the book—, and that can be chancy while traveling.

As I started reading, I wasn’t sure if I would like this book even though I was laughing from the beginning. It seemed to be “all over the place” and I wanted her to stick with a specific topic or issue in her life.

In the past I have enjoyed humor from neurotic, relationship-impaired writers. DeRuiter is happily married and seems to be emotionally well-adjusted, even though she is hard on herself. She does mention “Fucking goddamn miserable piece of shit Steve”, but Steve is her brain tumor.

I’m glad I kept with it though,  since I learned that relatability can be hilarious…and I could relate to her on so many levels. I also learned that expressing gratitude can also be accomplished in a humorous way. She aced that one also.

If you want a comical and entertaining read, All Over the Place may be for you. Remember,

“…getting lost isn’t the worst thing in the world. If you are trying to find yourself, it’s a great place to start.”  Yeah, I can relate to that.

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Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy – David Daley

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

“America is the only major democracy in the world that allows politicians to pick their own voters. And since the 2010 election, the system has been gamed to create an artificial –but foolproof—Republican majority in the House and in state capitals nationwide.”

How could this happen? Furthermore,

“Now that the Citizens United decision has unleashed limitless dark money, it only takes one billionaire to write an eight-figure check and bet that his or her side could fine-tune a model so smart and intuitive that it locks in control of the House for another decade.”

While Democrats were celebrating their 2008 victory, Republicans were masterminding a method on how they could take over Congress. Republican strategist Chris Jankowski engineered a way that conservatives could create supermajorities in certain states. He targeted states where congressional redistricting was done by state legislatures. By pouring money into state elections, they could elect Republican legislators who would change the districts to benefit them. With non-competitive congressional races, there would no longer be a need for Republicans and Democrats to work together or compromise.

Yes, we have been “rat fucked”, that is, victims of political sabotage. Author David Daley tells us how in Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy.

There are specific chapters on Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin North Carolina and Michigan and how they packed minorities and traditionally Democratic voters into single districts. The book even includes maps of the state congressional districts after 2010. They make no sense to the naked eye, and will astound you once you take a look .

Some may feel that Daley goes into too much detail, from the meetings, attendees and mapping software used, but I think it is necessary in order to accurately explain how this horrendous but legal assault on our democracy could succeed.

He also shows the states that have independent commissions and other methods of redistricting, and the effects they have had on Congressional races.

Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy is a must-read for Americans who are concerned about whether their vote counts and will serve as a wake- up call for the rest of us . I hope that it motivates citizens to get involved in the mid-term elections and tell their state and congressional representatives that they work for us, not the party.

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Heels over Head Paperback – Clay G. Small

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

“The Lindon brothers and their redneck friend had not only humiliated him in from of the whole damn school but had unleased his father’s scorn. Guy Jr. tightened his fists. No matter how long it took, his enemies would pay a hefty price for causing his father to treat him with such loathing and disdain, a price he alone would dictate.”

Guy Wheeless Jr. still can’t forget these embarrassing moments from high school and seeks revenge after all these years. Guy is from a prominent Wichita family and the other three are from modest means. Now they are 50++ and all very successful—that is, except for Dan Moore. Guy did succeed in getting him disbarred, and ruining his reputation. He still hasn’t settled the score with brothers Marvin “Marvelous” and Henry Lindon and his impatience in doing so is getting the better of him.

Both brothers were successful executives, though Henry has his own issues. He always lived in free-spirited Marvin’s shadow and still resents it. Henry worked his way up to CEO of a large company, but then lost his job when the it underwent a hostile takeover. With that job loss, he also lost his identity. As a result of his contacts, Marvin was able land Henry a teaching job at Southerland University. Though happy to get the job, he wished it wasn’t through Marvin’s influence. His unhappiness has also taken a toll on his marriage.

Family issues, infidelity, bribery, psychosis, murder and, of course revenge are all themes in Heels Over Head. The story takes us from Wichita to Dallas to Mexico and Argentina. When a story tends to do so much, it usually ends up as a hodge-podge of events just thrown together.  Surprisingly this doesn’t happen with this novel. There’s a lot going on, but it all comes together in a cohesive fashion.

Another element that makes this book so engrossing is that the story is character-driven without compromising on the strong plot. You know the characters and what makes them tick.

Heels Over Head is an engaging novel that I couldn’t put down. I’m looking forward to more from this author.

Posted in Crime, Mystery and Thrillers, Modern Literary Fiction | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Cyber Crisis: It’s Personal Now – William Keiper

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

“…constant attention to the device is reinforced by the delivery of intermittent variable rewards. These are handed out or enforced inconsistently and occasionally. This usually encourages the person to keep trying, checking or playing until they get what they want, without changing their own behavior.“

This sounds like the thrill that one gets while playing the slots. However developers are learning from casinos on how to retain our attention while on our computers and smartphones. While I don’t gamble, I admit that I am addicted to my computer and iPhone. I’m always checking my email or googling something. Yes, I’m constantly leaving my digital fingerprint somewhere.

William Keiper must have had me in mind when he wrote his latest book, Cyber Crisis: It’s Personal Now.

First he warns us that our obsessive behavior can lead to “flawed assessments of the situational facts and circumstances.” No, it’s not just due to compulsive drinking and gambling.

He educates us on the difference between the internet and the web. He goes through the Deep Web and Dark Web and what goes on in the dark web. Scary stuff. This puts everything into context.

He not only alarms us with the probability that at one point we will be hacked, but gives us pointers on how on to minimize our risks. He finally spells out a Web Access Routine that we should all diligently follow. He also includes numerous outside resources.

Like me, some of you will be aware of many of these safeguards. However, there were some that I didn’t know. If you get just one tip—and I learned many— Cyber Crisis: It’s Personal Now, will be worth the minimal cost of the book. Also, at under a hundred pages, it’s concise and well worth your time.

Keiper hopes that you will be motivated “to accept a higher level of personal responsibility for your digital well-being.” I think he succeeded.

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