Black and Blue: Inside the Divide Between the Police and Black America by Jeff Pegues

jeffpeguesA well written text on a complex subject…….   ****

The issue of confrontation between the police and the black community is a major problem in this country. Understanding both sides is a necessary step to resolving a problem that has deep roots. Taking a side and blaming the other is easy and requires very little thought.

In this book Pegues presents both sides, both perspectives, and the frustration felt by all. Having interviewed several police chiefs, black leaders, and politicians, he lays out in great detail the problems facing communities. Through their eyes, Pegues gives a rational approach to solving the problem.

As a white male, I found this quite an eye opener. Especially regarding the lack of funds that police departments face in being able to hire and train good police officers. The fact that community policing would be a great step toward solving many of the problems and is hindered by funding is sad. Community policing being defined as having sufficient coverage by police to keep officers in one area where they get to know the community, Almost as astonishing was the lack of reprimands or discipline of police officers who over stepped their authority. A department that cannot remove the bad apples only perpetuates the problems.

The issue of poverty and crime in black neighborhoods is too large for this book to address, but Pegues gives a glimpse into understanding the black community’s frustration over being neglected. Add to this the abuse by law enforcement and Pegues gives us a sense of what life in these neighborhoods is like..

This is a good book to help us understand the issues, it is also a book that will make you want to know more about what can be done to bridge this blue/black gap. Here is my only criticism of the book, it lacks a clear suggestion for what the average citizen can do to help.

This one gets four stars.

The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz

Untitled-1 A different Koontz, a refreshing change….  ****

Since I am a fan who owns and has read all of Dean Koontz’s novels, I always look forward to his next one. The last few have been disappointing, especially Ashley Bell. The Silent Corner was a surprise on several levels.

Koontz has been known to experiment with different writing styles and genres, and here he steps into the world of Micheal Connelly, Lee Child, and Michael Crichton. The story of an FBI agent who loses someone close and goes on a personal vendetta for justice is a common, if not overdone, storyline.  In the hands of a master wordsmith like Koontz, the familiar becomes a lot more fun to read.

Jane Hawk is the female protagonist who takes a “leave of absence” from the FBI to discover who caused her husband’s suicide. The obstacles she faces, as someone is determined to stop her, become minor inconveniences which she cleverly overcomes.

The story is well written and the technology, while futuristic, is feasible enough to be frightening. The novel does suffer from the same flaws of most hero/heroine stories. There are times when the bad guys hesitate, ensuring the protagonist’s survival, and the ease of getting outside help strains believability.

This is book one of a series. It will be interesting to see if it stops at book two, which should wrap up the storyline or if Koontz will take this character for a longer ride.

This one gets four stars.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

handmaid  Better title – The Handmaid’s Short Story …..  ***

This classic dystopian novel is closer to a short story or novella. The plot is simple, overly descriptive, and drags. The first person narrative became tiring to read, and although an attempt was made to bring out the emotion of the main character’s situation, it fell short.

Parts that needed fleshing out were short and parts that did not need fleshing out were too long. The back story did nothing to make this reader care about the situation the protagonist finds herself in. She seems less caring about her child and her past life than one would expect.

For me, the best part was the last chapter. The scene is in the future and is a lecture on the “diary” which the handmaid wrote and readers just read. It is here than we get a better understanding of what the tale is really about and how life has changed since.

This is a cautionary tale, one that is not out of the realm of possibility, yet as far as dystopian novels go, mediocre at best.

This one gets three stars.

Asia-literacy and Global Competence: Collections and Recollections by Alicia Su Lozeron

asialit  Not sure how to describe this one……  **

This treatise came to me by request based on my reviews on Amazon. I was intrigued enough to read it after reading the description which promised a raising of awareness between East and West in the name of global competence.

The premise is sound, as a better understanding of the world around us not only broadens our outlook, but helps bridge the divide between people of varying origins. Lozeron does this in part with several short vignettes that explain the different approach to certain aspects of life by various nationalities. Describing how certain cultures handle marriage, care for the elderly, funerals, and child rearing. These parts are interesting to read, although short and lacking depth.

Sadly, the majority of what is written, reads like a Chamber of Commerce pitch for Las Vegas. There are several chapters devoted to what this city is doing to entice and service Asian tourists. How this serves global competence escapes me, other than the filling of Las Vegas coffers.

This booklet does have some value, and at the Kindle price is possibly worth it, but I notice the hardback releasing in September is priced at $20.99. That I would not recommend.

This one gets two stars.

Al Franken: Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

alfranken  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry…..  *****

With a sharp wit and a refreshing honesty, Al Franken reflects on his journey from comedian/writer to United States Senator. In the telling of his story, he also pulls back the curtain on the inner workings of our government. While his satire made me smile and occasionally laugh out loud, reading about our dysfunctional government was sad.

In the current political climate we all (or most of us) realize our government does not function as well as it could, one might say it is a disaster. The gap between Democrats and Republicans seems too large to bridge. But, Franken does offer a ray of hope. He purports that 64% of the things that have to be decided, both parties actually agree on. So if politicians focus on those, things can get better. I am not so sure I agree, but Franken is on the inside and I am not.

Franken does an excellent job of explaining the Republicans’ unwillingness to work with Obama when he was in office. He also has insight into why Republicans are so against climate change, whether they believe it or not. Hint: Koch brothers. He also has no qualms about dissing Ted Cruz or Trump.

This is a book that needs to be read more than once, marked up, and used to remind all of us that there is hope, as long as more politicians are willing to be as open as Al Franken.

This one gets five stars. Regardless of your politics, read it.

 

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

NeildeGrasse   Close is only good in horseshoes and hand grenades…..   ***

The intent of this book is to give a simple and quick understanding of the universe. Maybe that in itself says why this didn’t quite meet expectations. The stated intent is to be able to read a chapter, “While you wait for your morning coffee to brew, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive…”  This works if your coffee pot takes a while, or your bus is late, or the train is late, or you get to the airport two hours early.

The book is full of interesting information and is a good starting point for understanding our universe and its makeup. The problem is that it is not simple to absorb. DeGrasse suffers from the problem of knowing something so well, he has a hard time explaining things as simply as they could be.

On the positive side, deGrasse writes with wit and does pack a lot of information in just over two hundred pages. His passion for the subject comes through and is infectious. The last chapter, “Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective”, is worth the price of the book.

I am giving this one three stars only because it is marketed incorrectly. This is a book that should be read, read several times. But does take time to understand and digest. It is worth missing a flight over.

The Burial Hour by Jeffery Deaver

TheBurialHourUSA-220x334  Good to see Deaver back in good form……   ****

As a fan of Jeffery Deaver, and especially Lincoln Rhyme, this book did not disappoint.

Deaver does an excellent job keeping the truth of the who and why of strange kidnappings until near the end. Moving Rhyme and his team from New York to Italy made this a fresh read. Weaving politics, refugees, and nationalism into the story kept me turning the pages.

Although the outcome is predictable, the ride getting there was pleasurable. There was just enough of a twist to offset the knowledge that Rhyme would solve the case, as always.

The introduction of Ercole Benelli, an Italian forestry officer, who gets caught up in the story, was a nice touch.

Deaver seemed to be in his element, as the story is well written.  The only negative is near the end when Rhyme proves he is smarter than the “intelligence” service, the mistake he points out is one they would not have made.

This gets four stars.