Friday, July 22, 2011
El Secreto Sumergido
by Cristian Perfumo
(Amazon Digital Services / Kindle Edition B004VS7LMC / (no date of publication) / 341 KB / $2.99)
Reviewed by Dr. Al Past for PODBRAM
Although my last class in literature in Spanish was 40 years ago, I undertook to read this El Secreto Sumergido because the subject matter interested me, and I thought it would be a good review for me. It was worth it. I like a good adventure story and I like a mystery, and I particularly like stories connected with the sea. El Secreto Sumergido was both, with the dividend that it offered a glimpse into a part of the world that I was barely aware of: Patagonian Argentina. As a bonus, the unpleasantness of the "Falklands War," as the English speaking world knows it, that is, the dispute between England and Argentina over the possession of Las Islas Malvinas, in the south Atlantic east of Argentina, also figures in, mainly in the epilog.
Basically, a high school student in the (real) town of Deseado learns of a (real) British shipwreck 200 years earlier on the rocks of the mouth of the river where his town is located. As a new but enthusiastic SCUBA diver, he decides to investigate, and perhaps locate the wreck. When the retired seaman who provides him with early documentation of the wreck is mysteriously murdered, that sets off a train of events that the young man and his friends pursue to their violent end. It is a rollicking tale.
Keeping in mind that my skills in Spanish are a bit rusty, I will say that I found the book well and cleanly written. As a former non-SCUBA diving officer in the American surface navy, I'll add that the details of diving in the cold tidal waters of the mouth of a river, and of the hazards of undersea salvage, struck me as accurate.
The English-dominant reader who is intrigued by the book and who has some skill in Spanish and a decent desk dictionary should enjoy El Secreto Sumergido as much as I did.
Dr. Al Past is the author of the five Distant Cousin novels, a popular adventure/romance/sci-fi series, the photographic collaborator for Barry Yelton's On Wings of Gentle Power, the author of a book of treble clef duets from Charles Colin, a reviewer for PODBRAM, and a member of the Independent Authors Guild. He lives on a ranch in south Texas.
Friday, July 15, 2011
by Don Meyer
(Two Peas Publishing / 0-984-07739-1 / 978-0-984-07739-7 / June 2011 / 318 pages / $14.95 paperback / $11.66 Amazon / $7.99 Kindle / $14.36 B&N / $7.99 Nook)
Uncle Denny is Don Meyer's completion of the Sheriff Tom Monason Trilogy, a series of crime thrillers set in an unnamed ski town high in the mountains of California. The sheriff is an experienced cop from the big city, now nearing semi-retirement age and running a tiny, informal police department in what should be a sleepy town, but rarely is, sort of like Paradise MA or Cabot Cove ME. As you may have already guessed, most of the charm of Don's trilogy comes from his quiet town of amiable characters. The main distinction from those similar settings of novels and television is that blizzards and heavy snow often play key parts in the crimes solved by Sheriff Monason, and the plot of Uncle Denny is no exception.
Key storyline elements from Winter Ghost and McKenzie Affair have been woven into this third book, but the story pretty much stands alone for any reader who has not read the earlier books. You can read my reviews of these earlier two by clicking the links, and I highly encourage you to do so, since I am not repeating much of that material here.
I personally enjoyed McKenzie Affair the most of the three, and Uncle Denny the least. This is the direct result of so much of this newest storyline surrounding two groups of feuding mobsters in Chicago. Mr. Meyer explains this concept in closing remarks at the end of the book. The author describes how he spent most of his life in Chicago and that he wanted at least one part of the trilogy to evolve from this experience. That is fine if you like mobsters, but these sorts of characters have little appeal to my tastes. Maybe yours are different. I have memorized all the Andy Griffith reruns, but I have never watched The Sopranos. Enough said?
The title derives from a mispronunciation of a lead character's name, that of a Russian mobster. An FBI agent phones Sheriff Monason to explain that several criminals from Chicago are headed to Monason’s town. Because of a severe blizzard in the area, FBI personnel cannot reach the scene quickly enough, so the sheriff and his few deputies need to head off the mobsters at the pass, as they used to say in old westerns. The reader is introduced to the malicious modus operandi of Uncle Denny early in the story, and then the plot begins to unroll.
Don Meyer writes in a very direct, concise manner, telling his story mostly through incisive dialogue with little extraneous descriptive detail. Uncle Denny is a somewhat satisfying read, but proper editing and punctuation are sorely lacking. There are way too many repeated phrases. A few examples are that cell phones are always pinched closed and Sheriff Monason’s desk chair always squeaks; however, I was most annoyed that Uncle Denny always drives a big black SUV. It is never a sport utility vehicle, a Cadillac, an Escalade, a truck, a snow-covered vehicle, or even a black SUV or a big SUV. An editor should mention these to you. Do you get my snowdrift, Don? I really like your settings, plotlines, and most of all, your folksy characters, and I think most readers will, too.
See Also: Winter Ghost at Amazon
McKenzie Affair at Amazon
The Protected Will Never Know
Don Meyer's website
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Living With Evolution or Dying Without It: A Guide to Understanding Humanity’s Past, Present, and Future
by K. D. Koratsky
(Sunscape Books / 0-982-65460-X / 978-0-982-65460-6 / June 2010 / 618 pages / $49.95 hardcover / $37.30 Amazon / $14.99 Kindle)
Reviewed by Lloyd Lofthouse for PODBRAM
Koratsky's book is a heavily researched, scholarly work that gathers what science has discovered since Darwin's discoveries and fills in the gaps explaining why evolution has something to teach us if humanity is to survive. The other choice is humanity going the way of the dinosaurs into extinction.
I started reading in early 2010 and took months to finish the 580 pages. The Flesch-Kincaid Readability level would probably show this book to be at a university graduate level leaving at last 90% of the population lost as to the importance of its message. For months, it bothered me that so many in the United States do not have the literacy skills to understand an important work such as this. (The average reader in the U.S. reads at fifth grade level and millions are illiterate). This is certainly not a good foundation to learn how precarious life is if you do not understand how brutal the earth's environment and evolution has been for billions of years. As I finished reading Living With Evolution or Dying Without It, I realized that it would only take a few key people in positions of power to understand the warnings offered by Koratsky and bring about the needed changes in one or more countries so humanity would survive somewhere on the planet when the next great challenge to life arises.
On Page One, Koratsky starts 13.7 billion years ago with the big bang then in a few pages, ten billion years later, he introduces the reader to how certain bacteria discovered a new way to access the energy required to sustain an existence. By the time we reach humanity's first religion on Page 157, we have discovered what caused so many species to die out and gained a better understanding of what survival of the fittest means. To survive means adapting to environmental challenges no matter if they are delivered by the impact of a monster asteroid to the earth's surface, global warming (no matter what the reason) or by competition with other cultures or animals competing for the earth's resources. In fact, competition is vital to the survival of a species for it is only through competition that a species will adapt to survive.
The book is divided into two parts. The first 349 pages deals with where we have been and what we have learned, and the two hundred and eleven pages in Part Two deals with current ideas and policies from an evolutionary perspective.
I suspect that most devout Christians and Muslims would dismiss the warnings in this book out-of-hand since these people have invested their beliefs and the survival of humanity in books written millennia ago when humanity knew little to nothing about the laws of evolution and how important competition is to survival. Koratsky is optimistic that the United States will eventually turn away from the political agenda of "Cultural Relativism" that has guided America since the 1960s toward total failure as a culture. The popular term for "Cultural Relativism" in the US would be "Political Correctness", which has spawned movements such as race-based quotas and entitlement programs that reward failure and punish success. Even America's self-esteem movement is an example of "Cultural Relativism", which encourages children to have fun and praises poor performance until it is impossible to recognize real success. The current debate started by Amy Chua's essay in The Wall Street Journal is another example of "Cultural Relativism" at work.After reading Living with Evolution or Dying Without It, it is clear that Amy Chua's Tiger Mother Methods of parenting are correct while the soft approach practiced by the average U.S. parent is wrong and will lead to more failure than success.
Koratsky shows us that the key to survival for America is to severely curtail and eventually end most U.S. entitlement programs. While "Cultural Relativism" is ending, competition that rewards merit at all levels of the culture (private and government) must be reinstituted. He points out near the end of the book that this has been happening in China and is the reason for that country's amazing growth and success the last thirty years. In the 1980s, merit was reinstituted at the bottom and most who prosper in China today earned the right to be rewarded for success by being more competitive and adapting. Even China's state-owned industries were required to become profitable or perish.
The earth's environment does not care about equality or the relativists' belief that everyone has a right to happiness even if society must rob from the rich and give to the poor. This book covers the evolution of the universe, the planet, all life on the planet including the reasons why most life that lived on the earth for hundreds of millions of years before humanity is now gone; the beginnings of the human species; religion in all of its costumes; the growth of civilizations and the competitions that led to the destruction and collapse of so many such as the Roman Empire and the Han Dynasty two millennia ago. The environment and evolution says that all life on the planet is not equal and no one is born with a guaranteed right to success, happiness and fun. To survive means earning the right through competition and adaption. If you don't believe Koratsky's warning, go talk to the dinosaurs and ask them why they are gone.
See also: K. D. Koratsky's Website