Thursday, October 24, 2013

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Allegiant, Veronica Roth.  New York:  Katherine Tegen Books/ HarperCollins Publishers, 2013.  e-book, 343 pps.

@VeronicaRoth on Twitter 

Living in a fishbowl is awkward and can lead to suicide a la Sylvia Plath.  Or it can make you stronger, possibly braver.  Or perhaps your world will implode.  Revolution is composed of blood and guts and ideology.  The rebels know they are not in for a walk in the park or a picnic.  Only fools imagine otherwise.

Allegiant is the third book in the popular Divergent Series written by Veronica Roth.  The factions have been broken apart and the power seat has shifted.  Lovers Tobias and Tris find themselves at the Chicago Airport along with their friends and frienemies Christine, Uriah, Peter, and Caleb.  There are other people there also.  The other people all seem to have important functions in this new temporary holding place.  Outside the airport, danger lurks.  Inside is not really any safer.

The airport has been reworked into a patrol station and genetics laboratories.  D.N.A. has been unraveled and those with superior genes are endeavoring to fix the mess that is the United States since the Purity Wars.  Tobias/Four is haunted.  By today's standards, some clinician would diagnose P.T.S.D. and offer him drugs and some kind of therapy.  Nothing of the sort exists.  There is only the promise of love and some sort of freedom to sustain him.  But it may not be enough.  It takes extraordinary courage and bravery to truly let go of old dreams and move forward into the unknown.

sapphoq reviews says:  The explanations about the genetics behind the divergent series in Allegiant may be tedious to those who are not science-minded and not expansive or precise enough to satisfy the fans of hard sci-fi.  There is however, much for the geek to love about the series and this book.  Because a revolt is in progress, blood and guts and battle-cries echo throughout Allegiant.  Plenty of action and trickery abound.  Allegiant is a deeply satisfying and unsettling read.  The entire series is highly recommended to those who love an intricate plot and lovers of dystopian fiction. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Faith Healers by James Randi

The Faith-Healers, James Randi.   Buffalo N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1987 and Falls Church Va.: James Randi Educational Foundation, 2011.  e-book, 687 pps. 

At one time, it was my endeavor to become a professional "healer" for Christ like Kathryn Kuhlman.  I thought I had the healing touch.  But nothing much ever happened there.  I even wanted to attend a local Christian Bible College.  Thankfully, Dad had more sense than I did.  This did not happen.

I wanted to be an evangelist/healer and give altar calls to crowded auditoriums and canvas tents of the faithful and wannabe faithful.  I also wanted to be a Christian Educator.  I even briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a missionary, although by that time I had adopted a dim view of what invading white people with crosses did to indigenous cultures.  My flirtation with fundamentalism was pretty near done by time I hear a preacher instruct us to "Place your hands on the radio and feel the Holy Ghost through the airwaves!"  Fortunately, I was not a person of means and I never gave any bisexual bucks to the bandits on religious television.

My aunt did though.  Aunt had multiple sclerosis and was expecting a miracle today a la Morris Cerullo but she received only the ultimate healing that death brings.  The price of false hope is expensive.

While reading The Faith-Healers, I was reminded of my youthful follies.  James Randi did his utmost to get the faith-healers in his book to produce evidence that their God heals.  None of it was forthcoming.  The evangelists were evasive, refused to correspond, accused Randi of being a Satan-worshipper, claimed that anecdotes of the so-called healed were sufficient, and so forth.  His conclusion was that the faith-healers were [and are] living a rich life off of the backs of the desperate.  Some of the desperate died.  Those who threw away their insulin needles and body braces and heart medications at the rallies and revivals and healing services died of the same conditions that they'd been told were removed.  Two or three dropped dead during the services themselves.  Awkward at best. 

The faith-healers claim to have the Gift of Knowledge.  That supposed gift enables them to "call out" people who need healing.  Before the event begins, wives and staffers and sometimes the evangelist himself walks through the audience and talks to them.  Information is then transmitted via radio frequencies and crib notes and healing cards.  There is nothing extraordinary about how a shill calls out people.  It's on the cards or the cheat sheet or being transmitted via a specially fitted receiver in the ear of the preacher.  There is no glory in that.  None at all.

sapphoq reviews says:  I watched a television program once on Peter Popoff and his techniques that he was using to deceive the people.  It was a horrifying bit of investigative journalism.  The Faith-Healers is broader in scope and even more horrifying.  Highly recommended.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Hangover by Duane Schlitz

Hangover (caricature of a retarded hack), Duane Schlitz.  Self-published, 1996.  e-book, 88 pps.

Yes, it is under a creative commons license and legally free to download!

This 88 page story was a fascinating blend of word salad, puke, farts, and action.  Finding that the hawt chick's boyfriend was violent, the friends did the only thing that they could be realistically expected to do.  Full of blood and other bodily fluids.  Sex and rugs and junk food and beat-up old cars and Denver and the outskirts.  What is there not to love?  Even the random substitution of q for g and g for q added to the atmosphere.

sapphoq reviews says:  Duane Schlitz has written a startling e-book in a distinct style reminiscent of a Martin Millar, Joe Hill, Kurt Vonnegut, and Jeff Jacobson.  Hangover is a unique slice of life that will appeal to readers who celebrate counter-culture.  I adored this book.  And I highly recommend it to adults who can handle it.
Duane Schlitz, please write some more!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Trick-or-Treat by Eduard Joseph

Trick-or-Treat, Eduard Joseph.  self-published, Smashwords, 2013.  e-book, 19 pps.

@TheEduardJoseph is an indie author and I've grown quite fond of his writing.  I reviewed the novel God's Gonna Cut You Down previously.  Today's review is on a short story that he wrote.  Since Sam Hain is around the calendar corner, I decided to review Trick-or-Treat.

Trick-or-Treat is a fabulous 19 pages of what a pain it can be dragging a little brother around on Hallowe'en when you'd much rather be at a party down the road with the bigger kids.  The conversation is very realistic.  I feel like I was there.  The characters were true-to-life.  The story is quaint and has a twist.

sapphoq reviews says:  Eduard Joseph has done it again.  An enjoyable story for the season designed to run chills up and down your spine without being ghoulish.  A definite winner!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

21 days in May by Crispy Sea

21 days in May, Crispy Sea.  self-published: Smashwords Edition, 2013.  3-book, 474 pps.
@CrispySea on Twitter
Crispy Sea is also found elsewhere on the Web.

I first became aware of Crispy Sea on Twitter.  I found Crispy to be an engaging, forthright, and intelligent atheist.  I read Crispy's blog and discovered a book there.  So I bought the book.  I was not disappointed.

     Crispy describes 21 days in May as being "hope fiction."  The hope is in the revolt, not in the status quo.  Business as usual sucks and the people don't yet know that.  Martha knows that.  Martha is doing something about it.

Martha has given her life to the work she is doing.  It is very important work involving genes.  Martha's company is the hope of humankind.                                                                                       

sapphoq reviews says:  Crispy Sea has penned an extraordinary tale of the future.  The hope of the earth-- modeled after our earth-- is in genetic modification, vaccination, and population control if the human race is to survive.  I've heard it said that science fiction writers are great predictors of the future.  21 days in May is that kind of a novel-- containing hints of what our present technology can flower into-- for passionate fans of possible futures.  Highly recommended.  Up the rebels!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett

The Magician's Assistant, Ann Patchett.  New York:  Harcourt, Inc., 1997.  e-book, 252 pps.
@Ann_Patchett on twitter [outdated]
@ParnassusBooks1 on twitter [book store she is co-owner of and in use currently].

The magician is dead.  Parsifel is dead.  His grieving widow, who was also his assistant, left behind the rabbit named Rabbit, and a bunch of money.  Some of it was in the form of a structured trust to three women that Sabine had never heard of.  But Parsifel's family was dead.  He was from Connecticut, he had told her, and they had died in a horrific car accident.  An old postcard spoke the truth.  The magician had staged his own disappearing act.  He was not from Connecticut.  And his family was very much alive.  The rest of the book tells the story of what Sabine discovers about Parsifel and his family after his death. 

sapphoq reviews says:  This is the second Ann Patchett book that I've read and I plan to read the rest of them now.  The Magician's Assistant gave me a sense of being there.  I was in the audience at The Magic Hat and at the Johnnie Carson show.  I was at the cemetery outside of Los Angeles.  I was watching the snow twirl and fall outside the window of the little house in Nebraska.  The conversations were realistic, the characters were complex, and Rabbit was a darling.  Highly recommended to intelligent readers who enjoy a sense of place and who enjoy unconventional love stories. 

Monday, October 07, 2013

Little Princes by Conor Grennan

Little Princes:  One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, Conor Grennan.  NewYork:  HarperCollins e-books, 2010.  264 pps., incl. index.  @conorgrennan

Conor Grennan decided in 2004 to travel throughout the world.  His first stop was a volunteer stint at an orphanage in Nepal.  The decision to volunteer was one that dramatically changed the course of his life.

The kids in his care turned out not to be orphans.  Nepal was in the midst of a civil war.  A notorious child trafficker had gone to the rugged region of Humla-- where people were starving and the poverty level was high-- and offered to take children away to safely from conscription in the Maoist Army for a price.  He accumulated children in that manner and then led them far away from all that was familiar.  Some he sold them into childhood slavery.  Others were abandoned to the streets.  It was a profitable business for him and other child traffickers.  It still is.

Conor Grennan decided to do something about this.  He and friends went on several treks and found the families of the children that had been lost to them for many years.  He and friends educated the families to the harsh realities of what their children had gone through and then worked to reunite them with their children.  He also started an organization called Next Generation Nepal.  And there was an attractive woman in the book too that he fell in love with.

sapphoq reviews says:  This book stayed with me and haunts my dreams.  Little Princes is one book that demonstrates the brutal reality of child trafficking that still goes on today.  The children of Nepal  that Conor Grennan writes about are especially resilient and earned my utmost respect.  Little Princes gives the reader a glimpse into the lives of people effected by trafficking.  It made me want to move to Nepal.  A percentage of the profits from Little Princes goes to Next Generation Nepal.  Trafficking of children and of adults remains an international shame.  Once you've met a survivor of trafficking [and I have], something in you changes forever.