Sunday, January 26, 2014

Amunhotep El Bey

This review has been modified from the original and will remain thus unless my legal counsel advises me to take it down.

     The following is my sincerely held opinion as a reviewer of books:
Amunhotep El Bey charges fees between fifty and one hundred fifty d0llars [U.S.D.] for these e-books [on the date that I checked];
How to Beat Any Prior Conviction  50 dollars, 100 dollars.
How to Get out of Prison  100 dollars, 150 dollars.
How to Beat Any Criminal and Traffic Case 50 dollars, 100 dollars.
     In my sincerely held opinion as a reviewer of books, those prices are high for e-books which do not appear to be text books used in college-level courses taught at accredited colleges. Other titles are more reasonably priced.

     Although the other e-books written by Amunhotep El Bey were more reasonably priced [on the date that I checked], it is my sincerely held opinion as a reviewer of books that the other e-books appear to be written in a style of writing that I personally didn't care for. 

     Amunhotep El Bey states that he is "an honorary 33◦ degree Mason, comedian, philosopher, metaphysician, author, poet, historian, and a legal genius."

     An honorary 33◦ degree Mason is one who is recognized for excellent service according to this website: 
     This is a great honor in the Scottish Rite system. [The lodge in New Castle, Pennsylvania is stunning and should be seen by anyone who happens to be in the area].
     Towards the bottom of the above mentioned webpage at, it is suggested that evidence of this achievement be inquired after. 

     These are somewhat self explanatory: 

     I had to look up the word metaphysician, sometimes spelled as meta-physician. The websites below informed me that a metaphysician is a philosopher who studies the nature of reality and/or a modern day healer:

     Bertrand Russell wrote a humorous piece which is reproduced here:

     There are on-line universities which confer such degrees after a period of time spent taking the prescribed courses. One such place is found at:

     I'm not sure what a legal genius is. Perhaps it is a claim to vast intelligence about the law or legal system. At any rate, there is actually a really cool mug that says "legal genius" that one can purchase:

sapphoq reviews saysI do not care for the New Age at all. I distrust most on-line universities. I abhor any claims having to do with healing that are not backed up by science. Having said that, it is my sincerely held opinion as a reviewer of books that Amunhotep El Bey's e-books would benefit from the services of a professional proof-reader and/or editor. And while I appreciate the amount of work that goes into writing a book, it remains my sincerely held opinion as a reviewer of books that the more highly priced e-books would benefit from a price reduction.

References regarding defamation, libel, and the First Amendment of our Constitution: [*wonderful site]   [*personal favorite]  [*I love the E.F.F.].

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Leave No Stone Unturned (A Lexie Starr Mystery, Book 1) by Jeanne Glidewell

Leave No Stone Unturned (A Lexie Starr Mystery, Book 1), Jeanne Glidewell.  New Freedom, PA.: ABN Leadership Group, Inc, dba ePublishing Works!, 2013.  224 pps.

Very fast-paced. Lexie Starr and Stone Van Patten are likeable enough characters. Harriet rocked! 

A few small mistakes:
1. People not using an Adirondack trail or even animal path or footpath due to stinging nettles is not realistic. Folks around here are far more rugged than that. Better reason not to use a trail much might be because the ADKers have convinced people that trails not leading up to one of the high peaks aren't worthwhile. Another might be that only or mostly locals hike there.

2. Schizophrenia the word is derived from a word meaning "split brain" however schizophrenia the condition is entirely separate from having "multiple personalities".

3. The best social engineering would not get a stranger in to see Wanda.

4. If it was described as intensive supportive apartments with staff on-site (with their own apartment 'office') that would have been more believable and in line with the residential services available "10 miles south of Schenectady" than a "home for the mentally ill."

5. Said intensive supportive apartments could have been placed in Albany and been realistic there (as the first Albany exit is approximately 10 miles from the Schenectady exit on 90 South.

6. Wanda's actions could also have been those of a schizophrenic woman who was elderly AND now also suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's. Her placement in an apartment for the elderly with on-site staff supervision would have fit then. Think: Kingsway Arms off of the Crosstown (route 7 east in Schenectady) would have been believable.

7. NYS is full of democratic politicians who prefer the labels "mental health challenges" or " behavioral disorders/health" to the more direct words "mentally ill". Services in NYS have not referenced the words "mentally ill" here in several decades.

8. I'm fairly sure that New York State hasn't had a death penalty in years.

9. Schenectady has been a dirty city for many years. This holds true of the Upper Union Street area as well as the slummier sections of town. Actually, I was amused at Schenectady being described as a clean city. The resident insect is the cockroach.

Not a mistake but an observation: Lexie uses some 12 step specific jargon throughout the book along with a few Christian phrases. Since the useage is marked, it would be believable for Lexie to be an out of the closet Christian in recovery from alcoholism. She could be a member of either AA or Overcomers Anonymous in good standing. Stone, being a Christian southern gentleman would either not drink because of his religious beliefs or in solidarity with Lexie's desire to stay sober.

If the author didn't mean for Lexie or Stone to be Christian, then the recovery jargon and religious expressions should be omitted in future books.

Good points: 
*Very little cursing.
*Suitable for use by adults in literacy programs.
*If a teen or a child get a hold of this book, their parents don't have to shudder in horror.
*No poorly written sex scenes in this book-- no sex scenes at all.
*An absence of zombies, the paranormal, and dark urban atmosphere.
*The characters were interesting and seemed like folks I've met.

A personal note of thanks to the author for promoting organ donation. I am glad you have survived your ordeal and are now thriving.

sapphoq reviews says: If you like urban fantasy and dark stuff, then this one is not for you. But if you want a wholesome mystery book with some laughs and surprises, then yeah, get this book. But don't rely on it to tell you anything real about Schenectady New York or even about the Adirondacks for that matter. Recommended with a few reservations.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

N.B.: is the website to check out for the names of the actors and actresses and other stuff if you want to.

I went to the movies recently-- which was a costly but fun treat-- with my mate who was determined to see the second Hobbit movie. The exact title is The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. We did use the 3D glasses but both of us declined to sit in the special moving movie theater seats which apparently is all the rage. I sat in the demo seat later and quickly determined that it was not thrilling.

I like special effects in movies. I always have. Things that go boom or hiss or slither or explode-- I'm for all of that. There was plenty of that in the movie. My favorite character was Smaug the Dragon who was played by a guy named Benedict Cumberbatch. His voice was perfect for the role. The dragon himself slithered around in a most satisfying way. That combined with the voice produced a rather creepy effect. Smaug was worth the admission price of the movie.

The other thing I really liked was the village set on water. I think I would like to live in such a village of little houses surrounded by water and having to use boats to get around. Here I am not thinking of Venice and the canals (although canals also fascinate me). I am thinking more of houses connected by ramps and footbridges out in the midst of a large lake in the wilds somewhere.

The funniest part of the movie for me was the escape scene featuring the dwarves and some barrels and a river. It was thrilling and slapstick at the same time. 

As in the first movie, this one had its' share of eye candy. Elves are beautiful creatures in particular. There were no sex scenes. But the elves were classy fantasy material, even with their pointy Spock ears.

sapphoq reviews says: Reading the Tolkien books helps in understanding the intricacies of the Hobbit movies. For those who love fantasy and beautiful movie sets, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will fill the bill. Highly recommended. And yes, my dear Noodle K., endorsed for the eye candy!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Rotamania by Agile Fusion (and others)

Rotamania, Agile Fusion.
available at Barnes & Noble online for those with a Nook:
or from other companies to play on-line "for free" (like example above from

To play Rotamania, the idea is to clear the board of the squares. Each square is chopped up into a set of triangles. By getting the colors to match in certain ways, triangles and pieces of triangles will evaporate until you get near the bottom of the board. In Agile Fusion's version of the game, the message at the end will only tell you that you are "pretty good" or that "you won" if your score at the end is higher than all of your last scores. That was a bit discouraging to me until I decided to ignore the message. Agile-Fusion's version has to be played a number of times until you get the idea. There are three levels-- with two, three, and four colors respectively-- and you choose which level you want to play.

sapphoq reviews says: Although Agile Fusion's version of Rotamania may not be to everyone's liking, I have found the graphics most pleasing out of all of the ones that are available. Others may prefer the freebie versions by different companies that are in abundance on-line by typing Rotamania into your search engine. If you like puzzles and challenges, you will like Rotamania

Monday, January 06, 2014

Earning Freedom, by Michael G. Santos

Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-Year Prison Term, Michael G. Santos, Capetown South Africa: A.P.S. Publishing, 2013. e-book, 1242 pps.

Michael G. Santos is the inmate turned scholar and author whose book Inside was reviewed in the post just before this one. He was released from prison in August of 2012 after serving twenty five years. His story is intriguing. He used his time in prison well.  Earning Freedom breaks up the author's prison time into months and years, thereby enabling the reader to follow his progress to becoming the man that Michael G. Santos is today. 

sapphoq reviews says: Anyone facing time should read Michael G. Santos. His work is evidence that prisoners can and do self-rehabilitate in prison, if they choose to do so and work for it. Santos helped himself by deciding that he had to serve his time with an eye on specifics-- how he will achieve his goals, how he will support himself after prison, how he will strengthen his family ties while in prison, how he will avoid any write-ups for disciplinary infractions. In spite of roadblocks put up by various (but not all) wardens and prison staff, Michael G. Santos earned several degrees while behind bars. He also invested money in the stock market legally with the help of his sister-- which paid off handsomely-- so that he would have a nest egg upon release. Although he lost his fashion-plate girlfriend, a friend from high school in Seattle began corresponding with him. After a period of time, he did indeed marry Carole inside prison and are still together today. When their visits were in danger of being cut off by a change in prison policy, their decision to marry at a later date became an imperative to tie the knot sooner. In deciding to avoid write-ups (shots in fed pens; tickets in state pens) and time spent in the hole, Santos became a prisoner who lived his life with integrity. One example was when he refused to arrange to have his mattress stuffed by another prisoner for comfort. Instead, he asked for and received a transfer to a different cell. His two cellies who were sleeping with the altered sleeping pads received time in SHU for destruction of prison property (He is not a snitch. The mattresses were found during a search). There is much to admire about Michael G. Santos. He learned that anything worth having is worth working for. I wish him and his wife Carole the very best in life. Absolutely highly recommended.  

Inside by Michael G. Santos

Inside: Life Behind Bars in America. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2007. e-book,  277 pps.

Michael G. Santos was sentenced to forty-five years for drug trafficking as a young man. Specifically, he headed up an informal organization that worked to get coke from Miami into the streets of Seattle. He was caught. He was arrested and went to court. He was locked up.

Inside talks about the author's own experiences inside the criminal justice system as an incarcerated inmate. By necessity, he describes some of what happens around him. He includes the language (curse words) but does not identify the ethnicity of any of the other inmates. This is not Michael Santos' first book. He has written several others about incarceration.

When Michael G. Santos first arrived in a prison, he determined that he had to do certain things in order to prepare himself for a life outside the walls. He obtained several degrees and while working for a doctorate, his access to education was cut off. He has been transferred several times during his sentence. Inside is a compendium of characters (with changed names and some details altered) that Santos has met during his imprisonment. It is also an indictment of the prison system itself.

sapphoq reviews says: Prisons are no longer considered to be rehabilitative. The purpose is punishment and separation from society for a period of time. A prisoner who concentrates on preparing for his release-- rather than just doing his time day to day-- is a rarity and a perceived threat to the security of a prison. Santos has been open about his writing in prison, not always with good results. The story that struck me the most was the one where a prison guard set up sex sessions with his wife for money. Some prisoners eagerly agreed to the guard's scheme. The guard and his willing wife made some extra money. 
     Michael G. Santos is not looking for pity, sympathy, or an ear upon which to scream about the horrors of prison life. His writing style is matter-of-fact. His education shows in his writing. Highly recommended.

Search for a Silver Lining by B.C. Murray

Search for a Silver Lining: One Man's Life Inside the Bizarre World of Prison, B.C. Murray. Portland OR: BookBaby, 2013. e-book, 309 pps.

B.C. Murray is currently incarcerated. He is from the South and has done his time primarily in southern jails and a hub (a prison where an inmate waits with other inmates until there are adequate numbers to justify the use of transport dollars to transfer an inmate to wherever he is going within the system). He has landed at a fed pen in Arkansas. Search for a Silver Lining is primarily about the social aspect of his experiences as a prisoner.

sapphoq reviews says: B.C. Murray admits near the end of his book that his motives for writing it were unclear. Certainly, he recounted some humorous tales of various cellies. He also had a few things to say about prison jobs-- food service jobs are the worst-- and he busts a few racially-based myths along the way. Unfortunately, his writing suffered from his lack of purpose. There is a weak argument that after being through the humiliation of arrests, court dates, trials and public media, prison is almost a relief. There is also the unconvincing argument that it makes more economic sense to give non-violent prisoners house arrest. I don't know if it makes more economic sense or not. I do know that his arguments were not backed up by any evidence. I did enjoy the variety of quotations that B.C. Murray used to set off each chapter. Any monies received will go to his two sons, he says. Not really recommended.

Prison, Inc., by K.C. Carceral

Prison, Inc., by K.C. Carceral. edited by Thomas J. Bernard. New York: New York University Press, 2006. e-book, 268 pps.

Prison, Inc. was written under a pseudonym in order to avoid any retaliation by those who watch over prisoners. K.C. Carceral has remorse for his crime, as evidenced by his apology that has been inserted before the table of contents. The author does not seek to excuse his actions nor does he seek to deliver a "feel good" tome on how to change the prison system so it doesn't suck quite as much.

What K.C. Carceral succeeds in doing is pointing up the dangers inherent in privatizing prisons (to the lowest bidder) to both convicts and the staff. He goes into his own history as a way to illustrate his points. Each chapter also analyzes how inept policy contributes to the problem. In the first chapter, the Reflections go into the idea that although private prisons are not allowed in the state where he was incarcerated for eighteen years, policy allows for transfer of prisoners to a privatized prison located somewhere in the south.

K.C. Carceral spent four years in the southern privatized prison before being transferred out. He states that the privatized prison was the most violent of any that he has ever done time in. His last chapter, Part VI, Analysis details multiple factors at work in making the privatized prison so violent a place for the convicts and the guards and other workers.

sapphoq reviews says: I had to get used to the references to "Northern State," "Southern State," "Anonymous Numbered Inmate," "Ventura," and "Enterprise."  I admire K.C. Carceral for daring to write Prison, Inc. in spite of possible dire personal consequences for him. (He remains in prison to date). Wardens and other staff people in corrections object when a current inmate write a book. For the uninitiated, prison is no longer considered by the Department of Corrections to be a rehabilitative experience. Convicts are there for punishment. All decisions must [should] have as their bottom line the perceived safety of the institution.
     Prison, Inc. is a fine book. K.C. Carceral has many things to say and he says them well. His writing is scholarly. He is not asking for pity, sympathy or outrage. He is clear about his guilt and not blaming anyone other than himself for his incarceration. The book pulls no punches. Highly recommended for those studying social justice issues, radicals, protesters, people working on behalf of prisoners, and general (adult) audiences. 

Arrested by Wes Denham

Arrested: What to Do When Your Loved One's in Jail, Wes Denham. Chicago: Chicago Press Review, 2010. e-book, 266 pps.

Arrested is an ideal book for the family members of someone who is going through legal difficulties. Wes Denham is a business writer who has an excellent grasp on the law;,5556 for an example of an article that he wrote. He addresses concerns of those left behind to hold up the fort until the convict becomes an ex-convict.

When a loved one is arrested, there are several pitfalls to watch out for that Denham addresses. One of them is the high cost of phone calls from jail and what that can do to the family's budget. Another is making sure that your own living quarters and car are "clean" should law enforcement want to toss the place because your family member lives with you. And then there are the attorneys.

Denham discusses life as a prisoner and how that can effect the family who is outside the bars. He talks about commissaries, getting religion (while incarcerated), sex, and how to tell if your convict really wants to change. He discusses what to do if you are threatened (flee; and report the threat to the cops) and provides several handy checklists. The appendixes include helpful forms and letters and the most thorough vocabulary list of prison slang that I have ever seen in a book.

sapphoq reviews says: Wes Denham has written a pretty good book to guild families of people who are getting tangled up in the justice system. Arrested leaves nothing out. A valuable aid to thinking clearly in a situation where family members can often go to pieces. There is straight talk about financial concerns, avoiding prison rackets from the outside (don't send money to people when asked to, especially to other prisoners), and having a life. Highly recommended.

Behind Bars by Jeffrey Ian Ross and Stephen C. Richards

Behind Bars: Surviving Prison, Jefrey Ian Ross and Stephen C. Richards. Indianapolis: Alpha Books/Penguin, 2002. e-book, 173 pps.

I read through several books on how to prepare for prison and this was the one that I thought was the most valuable for soon-to-be convicts and their families. Behind Bars was written by two college professors who have had experience with incarceration-- one is an ex-con and the other was on the staff. This book tells it like it is. In spite of cries from some readers that "we need more positive prison literature" [huh?], there is no glossing over the facts about fighting and sex, the gangs and the drugs, giving birth in prison and the high recidivism rate. Because serving time isn't on most peoples' bucket lists. 

Behind Bars starts off with some stats about American prisoners and then walks the reader through the arrest process, the difference between jails and prisons, classification, getting to prison and what to do and not do once you get there, and getting out. There is a rundown on a "typical" day in a fed pen which has controlled movement. All the taxpayers who are screaming about how their/our tax dollars pay for prisoners to go to college can stop now. There are no Pell grants for convicts and haven't been since 1992. Cons (or their families) have to pay for any college courses. Although a meaningful education is a huge help in not returning to the prison system as a con, there are many barriers in the way. Prisoners are subject to almost instantaneous transfers. Wardens are threatened by the educated. Cons work in prisons for what is considered to be slave wages on the outside and then spend that money (added to their accounts) in the commissary where the markup is usually around 125 percent. The food is inedible and many fights break out in the chow hall. Hope that you do not get sick in prison. See a dentist if you can before arriving at prison-- some of the ones on the inside may be dedicated-- because you don't want to take your chances with the local hack surgeon. There is a ton of information in Behind Bars.

sapphoq reviews says: Ross and Richards have written an excellent book for those who are on their way to becoming convicts. Behind Bars should be read by anyone who is about to have a first contact with the legal justice system as a prisoner. The curious and the folks who figure they will never have to serve time behind bars [some innocent people do wind up in prison] will also find this book to be valuable. Highly recommended. 

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Innocence Isn't Enough by G. John Armstrong

Innocence Isn't Enough: A Journey Into the Nightmare of False Accusation, G. John Armstrong. Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2005. e-book, 301 pps.

He was a teacher somewhere on the West Coast. He was dedicated and happy in his work. But all of that changed in 1989. Elizabeth Loftus' ground-breaking work on how memory actually works was still being cursed by some gung-ho therapists and patients who believed in the truth of "recovered memories." [Some still curse her work and the False Memory Syndrome Foundation in turn]. 

He was indicted on five charges of sexual assaults which involved three students. Yes, 'repressed memories' figured significantly in the case. The dedicated teacher supposedly had a torrid affair with one student at his home several times a week. He supposedly operated as a perpetrator would, identifying the weak and shy students and culling them from the herd for his deviant purposes. The public who read about the case or heard about the case automatically assumed guilt. The justice system also did. Investigators wanted to believe those that came forward instead of investigating the evidence as objectively as possible. He was threatened with a long prison term. Life began to suck badly.

There was a protracted Board of Education arbitration hearing with a three-member panel. That sort of hearing does not take place everyday over the course of a week or so. His took place over the course of a year and a half. It wasn't done yet when he told his lawyer that he'd had enough. The schedule was random and unpredictable. His life was being dictated by the Board in accordance with when he was to show up or not show up. He withdrew from the hearing and felt that he had gotten part of his life back.

In late 1990, sometime after the aborted hearing process, the author and his elderly parents learned via a radio news broadcast that he was facing criminal charges. The prosecutor did not contact the author's attorney before his press release. Everything is supposed to go through the attorney first but this was not done. Instead, the media got the story and ran with it. Finally, he received copies of his indictment and of some transcripts of investigations which were carried out. [These are reproduced word-for-word in the book].

In November of 1992, after two prosecutors quit, the teacher's lawyer (now from Legal Aid) succeeded in getting the case thrown out on constitutional grounds. The case had kept changing as witnesses kept changing or embellishing their stories, as more 'memories' were recovered, as the prosecution kept adding witnesses last minute.

The other side appealed. In May of 1993, three appellate court judges threw the case out forever. The man was finally free to get on with his life and a new career. In spite of his innocence, he would never teach again.

sapphoq reviews says: False accusations do happen for a variety of reasons. A vic might mix up the benign actions of one person with those of someone who actually did victimize him or her. G. John Armstrong maintains in his book that some people just like to cause other people pain.

Innocence Isn't Enough was very persuasive and believable. The author was the true victim of an over-zealous system. In reading the court documents and transcripts, I was able to detect the major contradictions in the testimonies of the three accusers and their allies. 

A sad story. I wish G. John Armstrong the best in his future endeavors. Highly recommended.

Enduring Shame by Anonymous

Enduring Shame: A Sex Offender's Journey Through America's Legal System, [by] Anonymous.  self-published, 2013. e-book,  130 pps.

[N.B. Craig's List, FaceBook, Twitter are all companies which own and operate advertisements on line and/or social media. No infringement of their trademarks, registrations, or copyrights is intended. This is a book review. The author of the book being reviewed mentioned these three services so I did also. None of the companies approve of this book review in any fashion. Copy trolls are not welcome in the space of this blog.  ~ sap]

     The author of this book was diagnosed as having Asperger's. He admitted in Enduring Shame to be somewhat obsessed with having sexual chats with adult women on-line. This sort of thing put the fascination on him. He decided to run an ad on Craig's List to have sexual chats with "younger women" online. Someone responded to his ad. She claimed to be a fourteen year old female. Since there were no other non-spam type responses, Anonymous Author sent her some pictures of the x-rated variety.

     The author arranged to meet the girl in a park. He says that he did not bring a condom. He changed his mind about meeting her and he was arrested. He stated in the book that he had turned his car around and was proceeding away from the park when he was pulled over and arrested.

     The man received legal consequences for his actions in accordance with the laws of his state. The man appeared in his writing not to understand that he should not have corresponded with someone who was not a legal adult in the first place-- never mind sending her dirty pictures through e-mail. His excuse that he wanted to "break up with her" or terminate the [budding?] relationship that day in the park I consider to be fecal bovine matter.

     The professionals described in Enduring Shame were portrayed as mean and petty. That a shrink would remark to a secretary that he wants to 'retard proof' something is horrid. On the other hand, I found the sending of porno pictures through e-mail (especially to someone who plainly claimed that she was not an adult) to be reprehensible.

     That the adolescent turned out to be a police officer does not lessen the crimes that Anonymous Author committed. The author was not falsely accused of something. He was guilty of criminal actions from the moment he e-mailed the cop who was pretending to be fourteen.

     I can understand why the author was legally barred from both FaceBook and Twitter. There are those that want to sexually assault teens on both sites as well as teens themselves. The author did not have sex with teens, but sex crimes-- like other criminal behavior-- can escalate over time. By providing legal supervision to the author in the community, it is hoped that his likelihood of sending sexually explicit photos or raunchy e-mails to teens will lessen to zero. It is highly likely in my opinion that the arrest of Anonymous Author prevented his committing any future crimes against teens.

sapphoq reviews says: The writing itself was adequate. The book has some small value in demonstrating the excuses that sex offenders use to justify their criminal actions. Here is a short list of excuses used by sex offenders:

1. I didn't do it, I wasn't going to do it, or I did do it but I could not help myself or I didn't know that the mark was under-aged.

2. It doesn't really count because the "young female" or "young male" was actually a cop. Since no real teens were involved, what I did, wanted to do, or was going to do shouldn't matter. Besides that, I was entrapped. I never would have taken any of the actions that I took if the cop or decoy didn't approach me first.

3. I don't understand what the big deal is anyways. Teens are horny and are waiting in line to have sex with creeps like me.

4. I have a psychiatric diagnosis, psychological problems, a disability or something that ought to excuse me from taking any responsibility for my actions. Or, I am in therapy for this and the therapy isn't working yet.

5. I was meeting with the teen in order to 'mentor' him or her and explain why teens should not engage in conversations about sexual matters with scumbags like me.

Now that I've given you this partial list, you don't have to waste your time reading this book.

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty

No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days, Chris Baty. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2004. e-book, 145 pps.

     For those who do not know this, Chris Baty is the founder of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write a novel in the month of November without any editing or re-writing. After completing the novel (of at least 50K pages), the writer can then proof-read it, edit it, publish it or search for a publisher.

     The first section of No Plot? No Problem! is the sort of preliminary stuff that some writers will go through before actually writing. Also included are tips on how to get the people around you to become your cheerleaders.

     The second section deals with a week-by-week breakdown of the process of writing the novel and the emotions that are sure to bedevil the NaNoWriMo participants. The author cautions not to read ahead on Section Two but rather to read it week by week.

     I did not decide to write a novel until November 13th. Thus I did not officially sign up on the NaNoWriMo website. Nor did I want to participate in a silent group of people getting together to write. But I did want to write a novel in thirty days. And I did do that. My novel was completed on December 13th, one month after I made my decision to write it. I am currently re-writing, editing, and proof-reading.  I expect to self-publish Up the Rebels! as an e-book by the end of February 2014. After that, I plan to write and self-publish two more novels in the year 2014.

     No Plot? No Problem! was my personal cheerleader. Although I did not manage to convert my housemate into a supporter (he groaned about the computer being hogged during the time that I was writing), I did have a bunch of people on [tm]Twitter known as the #BogBuds and a couple of lawyers cheering me on.
sapphoq reviews says: The lack of a plot was the thing that held me up from writing a novel. I've written many poems, short stories and a few essays. I've had my work published in a bunch of zines, lit mags and magazines a bunch of times. But something was lacking. That something was the satisfaction that I derived from writing a novel. With No Plot? No Problem! on my e-reader, I was able to achieve a dream. So yeah, if you are serious about writing a novel and just haven't yet, get this book and challenge yourself with writing 50K or more words in a month. Highly recommended. Infinitely more satisfying than the formula writing how-to tomes abundantly available. 

Sex,Lies, and the Classroom by James P. Wilcox

Sex, Lies, and the Classroom, James P. Wilcox. self-published, 2012. e-book, 799 pps.

Sex, Lies, and the Classroom is a bit deceiving at first glance. It reads like a poorly written memoir but in fact it is a work of fiction. There are some things that the author got correct in the book and perhaps a few things that he did not, in my opinion.

The teacher, Mr. O'Connell, styles himself as a maverick in the inner city school that he teaches at. The students are poor and mostly black. (The Black English-- or Ebonics-- is something that James P. Wilcox got right). The principal views Mr. O'Connell as a pain in the ass. I understand why.

Three students plot to get back at the teacher and they do. They accuse him of sexual misconduct. And they plot to have others do the same. Predictably, Mr. O'Connell is suspended and then fired after a Board of Education hearing, even with his attorney who is pretty good. He is also reported to Child Welfare and he is ordered to stay away from his own two children. Several of the parents of the students start a lawsuit.

sapphoq reviews says: The book was too long. The conversations between all of the people in the book who are (considered to be) not black and poor were stilted and overbearing. This was a major failing in Sex, Lies, and the Classroom.  I wanted to take a pen and slash the dialogues down into more realistic and manageable pieces. Even the more pedantic among my acquaintances do not talk that way. The prologue and the epilogue were the best parts of the book. Give this one a pass unless you want to torture yourself needlessly. Not recommended at all.

Fluke by Christopher Moore

Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings, Christopher Moore. New York: HarperCollins e-books, 2002.  340 pps., including excerpt from another book.

     Fluke is set in Hawaii. It starts off as a story about researchers studying whale song. There are the good guys-- which include a hot chick and a howlie who wants to be an Hawaiian Rastafarian-- and the bad guys and some neutral folks all studying whales for their own purposes.

     Something happens when you don't expect it. Fluke suddenly becomes a tale involving an underwater dystopia, weapons-testing, and captivity. People who were given up as dead grace the pages. And there is a genetically engineered race of a human-whale hybrid.  Plus a nice twist at the end.

sapphoq reviews says: Christopher Moore did quite a bit of research in order to make Fluke feel realistic before the reader is swallowed up into the belly of a whale. After that, the reader has to adjust to a changing fictional reality. My favorite character is Kona, the pot-smoking young man. And yes, there is something appealing about the tail of a whale that reads "Bite me." (That's on the cover of the book).  The reason given for the singing of the whales felt contrived and almost spoiled Fluke for me. But I stuck through it and thought it was a worthy investment of my time. Recommended to those who like the ocean, whales, and dystopian fiction.

Hotel Honolulu by Paul Theroux

Hotel Honolulu, Paul Theroux. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company/ Mariner Books, 2001, 2002.  452 pps., e-book.

     Buddy owns an eighty-bed hotel and gives a howlie (non-Hawaiian, in this case also the narrator) a job managing it. Seems the other manager did things like bricking up the door of a guest's room when he didn't see eye-to-eye with the guest. So he had to go.

     The howlie-- whose name we never learn-- goes native and marries Sweetie. Sweetie is the daughter of the hotel resident prostitute. Sweetie and he have a brilliant child named Rose. The family lives in the hotel.

     Besides managing the hotel, the howlie reads Tolstoy. Buddy likes that his manager has written a book and does not hesitate to tell everyone that. The howlie's muse is on strike and nothing is forthcoming. Meanwhile, the howlie learns the backgrounds of many of the hotel's guests and divulges them in this fictional tale. 

     This review does not do justice to the book.

sapphoq reviews says: Paul Theroux is my favorite travel writer and I am finally getting around to reading more of his fiction. His ascorbic humor is evident in Hotel Honolulu. I liked this book. The rats dashing around the hallways, the drunks in the bar, and the beautiful Hawaiian weather made me want to visit the parts of Hawaii where tourists fear to tread. Hotel Honolulu is sort of an adult coming of age party. Outstanding and highly recommended to all fans of Paul Theroux. Those who require something different in their fiction will also like this book.