We Were Eight Years In Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

powerAn eye opening treatise and a must read…..  *****

This is a history lesson, a sobering view of the country we call the United States, and an eye-opening look into how a government can oppress a specific part of its population. Coates does an excellent job of describing the struggle and overt, as well as covert,  discrimination of blacks in this country.

There are too many events from black history in this book, that I had no idea about, to list. One that stood out to me was the way the GI bill, which provided low cost housing loans, was handled regarding black veterans. Because the local banks and cities were given the power to decide how the bill was implemented, they were able to deny loans to black veterans. Coates goes into this in great detail, so I won’t.

Coates shares the articles he wrote for The Atlantic, spanning the eight years of the Obama administrationHe introduces each essay with his comments in retrospect.

This is a must read and an unsettling view of this country. Sadly, it probably won’t be read by those that need to, and based on current attitudes I doubt it would change their minds anyway

This one gets five stars.

The Whispering Room by Dean Koontz

9780345546807   Mr. Koontz, glad to have you back…..    ****

This is the second novel in the Jane Hawk series. In the first, The Silent Corner, Koontz re-established himself as the writer I have grown to love. After reading Ashley Bell, I wondered if he had lost it. This novel shows he’s back.

In the continuation of Jane Hawk’s pursuit of whomever is responsible for her husband’s suicide, Koontz’s ability as a wordsmith shines. The plot, as in most of his novels, is simple, and it is his command of prose that keeps the pages turning.

While there are parts that are predictable, there were enough twists to keep me interested and guessing, especially in the end, which I will not reveal.

When I read the first book in the series, I thought one more would wrap up the story. I was wrong, Koontz managed to stretch it to a third, which I look forward to reading.

This one gets four stars.

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

beauties

 

A book to go to sleep by………  *

In a time when some tend to label all members of a group by the acts of extremists, such as those who think all Muslims are terrorists, or all Mexicans are rapists, SK and son choose to write a story that adds fuel to that fire.

This novel is an insult to men, a subtle dig at women, and worst of all an in your face to good writing. This was seven hundred pages of constantly asking myself, “Where is the Stephen King I loved to read?” While there were hints of that SK, it was obvious the majority of the book was written by Owen King or at least SK was missing in action..

With a broad brush this diatribe paints most men as useless or as men who mistreat women. The #meToo effort has shown that there are men who fit these descriptions but even so there are plenty who do not, and I would argue most do not. Using stereotypes to describe male characters was pure laziness in my opinion.

While trying to show how women do not need men it was ironic that men were the “heroes” in the story.  Here again stereotypes were an easy way to write about the female characters.

As for the writing, the plot is weak. There are lot of characters, none of whom I cared about. The story felt like it was patched together and at the end my reaction was, “Okay, that was a waste of time.”

This and Gwendy’s Button Box, were written by SK and another author, let’s hope he decides to go solo again and write like the author he used to be. A ray of hope is that  in 2018 he is releasing The Outsider which he did write alone. Hopefully, it will not disappoint as this one has.

I give this one star, only because as a man I am one of the good ones.

 

Wonder Woman

one cigar   After all the hype, I finally sat down to watch this film. My expectations were not high but I was not expecting it to be this bad. Batman vs. Superman has to be one of the worst films ever, but this takes a close second.

The story is weak, the characters are comical (pun intended), and the special effects are ludicrous. The film spends too much time at the beginning setting up just who WW is and then descends into a thin story line.

This was two hours and twenty one minutes I could have spent playing golf or reading a good book. Reluctantly, I am giving this one cigar.

Dereliction of Duty by H.R. McMaster

derelictionofdutyA book that should make you angry……..  ***

If you served in Vietnam, served during the Vietnam era, had a relative who was killed or served, knew someone who was killed or served, or care anything about the senseless war that defined the sixties, then this book will make you angry.

McMaster goes into painstaking detail about the politics and incompetence that not only kept us in Vietnam, but in how the war escalated to the point that it did. Since this is a review of the book and not the war, I will, as hard as it is, keep my comments focused on the book. I will say that this was a difficult book to read as I kept getting angry about how the whole thing was handled. I was in the military from 1966 to 1969 and, as many of us did, knew this was a war we should have never been in.

My problem with the book is that although McMaster does an excellent job of providing insight into who was making decisions, the political climate of the time, and the lack of military expertise being listened to, the book is very repetitive. He explains an event, then gives a different view of the same event, but feels the need to repeat much of what he has already said.

After slogging through the minutiae and finally reaching the epilogue, I was expecting some new insight about what I had just read. Instead, it was a recap of the book, and one could almost read it alone and get the message McMaster intended.

This is an important book. It proves that we do not learn from the past, and just how much our government is capable of doing to keep the American public in the dark. For me one of the saddest quotes is from Admiral David Lamar McDonald, “Maybe we military men are all weak. Maybe we should have stood up and pounded the table….. I was part of it and sort of ashamed of myself too. At times I wonder, ‘why did I go along with this kind of stuff?'”

Yes, why did you?  Okay I said I was not going to lose focus.

This one gets three stars. It could have been better written but it is a must read.

 

The Late Show by Michael Connelly

the late showJust when you thought it was safe to go back into the water…..   *

Having been a long time fan of Connelly, and recently disappointed with his novels, I had hopes that this new series with a female protagonist would be better. His Bosch novels are stale and the Lincoln Lawyer was good for one book. This one is a dud right out of the box.

If you have never read a police procedural/detective/crime novel or seen a TV show about any of those, you might enjoy this book. Connelly assumes the reader knows nothing about forensics and awkwardly describes things such as a bullet can be matched to a weapon by the striations left when it was fired.

Even setting the basics aside, the novel is not a thriller, nor a page turner, and was totally predictable. I love reading about strong female characters but there is nothing about Renee Ballard, the main character, that made me want to know any more about her.

There is the predictable clash with superiors, the renegade detective, the endangered detective who manages to escape her captor, and the false trail at the end to try and keep the reader guessing. None of which go beyond Crime Writing 101.

I would not have been surprised to see a second author’s name, a la James Patterson, and that Connelly had lent his name to help a new writer. For him to be the sole author means he just filled in the blanks in an old and worn out outline.

This one gets one star. I long for the Connelly that wrote novels such as The Poet, one of his finest.

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.