Monday, March 31, 2014

You Suck by Christopher Moore

You Suck: A Love Story, Christopher Moore. New York: HarperCollins e-books, 2007.  235 pps.

You Suck starts out with a newly turned vampire and his girlfriend. There is a very heavy cat who was shaved and given a sweater, a few bronzed "statues," and a group of co-workers on the night shift at a supermarket. And some bad guys of course. 

sapphoq reviews says: I was guffawing in the living room. Housemate knew I was once again reading a Christopher Moore book. You Suck is a light-hearted look at a few young vampires. Have you ever considered what happens to the bathroom habits of the undead? I mean, they usually don't eat. So... 
     If you are a fan of Christopher Moore or of vampires of a different sort, you must read this book. You Suck certainly does not suck. Highly recommended.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Asylum by Madeleine Roux

Asylum, Madeleine Roux. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2013. e-book, 216 pps.

Some teens labeled as gifted descent upon a college in New Hampshire for a summer program. They stay in a dorm building which used to be an asylum. Three of them become pals. Daniel is described in the book as being anxious and was given the label of "mild dissociative disorder." Jordan is a gay teen who is supposed to be somewhere else. Abby is an artist. They explore the warden's office on the first floor of the building and find other hidden stuff there.

sapphoq reviews says: I was dismayed by the label of "mild dissociative disorder." It seemed not to fit the story as it was told. I think it might have been better to use the words "fugue states" and to explain to the [probably mostly teen] readers what that is.

Asylum started off slowly. I didn't really get interested until the trio began their extended exploration of the secret rooms. Until that point, I was forcing myself to stick with the book. The ending was somewhat predictable. I would have liked also for the characters of Daniel's roommate and the history professor to be fleshed out a bit more. 

The old photos were pretty cool but easily located on the internet. 

A disappointing read, even for teens. Skip this.

Paradise Lot by Eric Toensmeier

Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre and The Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City, Eric Toensmeier and with contributions by Jonathan Bates. White River Junction VT.: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2013. e-book, 234 pps.

The city referenced in the sub-title is Holyoke in Massachusetts not to be confused with the college. [The college is Mt. Holyoke and its environs are totally different than the city of Holyoke. Just saying.]. 

Two guys who were friends [not lovers] bought a duplex in the urban sprawl that is Holyoke in Massachusetts. They converted their backyard to a sustainable garden. Each of them found a woman and married her. All of them lived there for a long time.

     Paradise Lot is far more than the summary suggests. The two guys utilized principles of permaculture to create something natural. The plants they planted had to serve as food sources as well as for "pretty." Included in the grand experiment were nitrogen fixers, edibles, and nectar sources. Thus the soil and the humans and the wildlife were happy and flourishing along with the garden.

sapphoq reviews says: This is the practical application of permaculture to an urban garden not located in Australia [from whence the movement originated]. People with gardens and people who like urban stuff, nature, and chickens will enjoy this book. Highly endorsed.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Love thy Neighbor by Mark Gilleo

Love thy Neighbor, Mark Gilleo. Stamford CT: The Story Plant / The Aronica-Miller Publishing Project, LLC, 2011. e-book, 371 pps.

     Love thy Neighbor was a different sort of book. It took an actual event-- the author's mum suspected that some terrorists were living across the street from her-- and built a story around that. [It turns out that two of the 9/11 hijackers were indeed living across the street from her. Unfortunately the C.I.A. dismissed her phone call, later claiming that it didn't occur]. If you do not read the rest of the book, the "Author's Note" alone makes the price of the book worth it.

     Mark Gilleo's fictional account starts off with a teen stealing a cell phone in Islamabad. From there we meet Clark Hayden, the son of a sort of crazy woman who had called the C.I.A. Clark is a geek who is into robotics. That immediately made the story "cool" to me and I continued to read about his return from a competition.

     From there, the plot flows onward to the introduction of more of the main characters and to the area surrounding Hayden's small town in Virginia. The neighbors across the street do indeed disappear. Hayden and a cute female sidekick begin to investigate because he wants to tell them that their house blew up.

     There is ricin in the story. I had supposed in my youth that castor oil was a product of some sort of swimming fish. Not so. Ricin is the by-product of a bean. That bean is there too, in harvested plants and in seeds.

     The townie patrol cop was pretty cool as a minor character. I'd like to see more of him in a future book along with Clark Hayden and his sexy girlfriend. And the robotics added a sweet touch to it all.

sapphoq reviews says: As improbable as the plot was in places, Love thy Neighbor redeems itself richly by sheer movement from place to place. Violence and murders and stuff blowing up in odd warehouses makes for an interesting tale. Although the dialogue is lacking in some places, I thought this book was worthy of my time. Those who are offended by the conjunction of the word Islam and the word terrorist ought to stay away. For the rest of us, recommended.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Judging Addicts by Rebecca Tiger

Judging Addicts: Drug Courts and Coercion in the Justice System, Rebecca Tiger. New York: New York University Press, 2013. e-book, 209 pps.

The judicial system today is supervising more people than ever in a variety of courts. We have drug courts, family courts, mental health courts, veteran courts, homelessness courts and so on. [See for a quasi-humorous approach to Neurology Court].

Rebecca Tiger addresses some serious issues involved with the coercion of people labeled as addicts by drug courts into treatment, the failure of punishment as "therapy," and why the authoritarian approach to this particular 'social problem' is fail. She points that that there is no medical evidence that points to addiction as being a disease. 

Although people in jails who are given a choice of drug court or prison, this is not to be understood as self-determination. Drug court defendants [not "participants"] are faced with court-ordered day treatment programs, court-ordered residential programs [sometimes for some people], court-ordered drug testing, court-ordered counseling, and court-ordered participation in specific social activities. The defendant must please the judge, the drug court staff, the probation officer, the day treatment staff, the residential staff [if they have been mandated to a 'therapeutic community' or halfway house or community residence...], and the community. It is very much like living in a fishbowl with cranky and demanding neighbors. Those who do not respond to the party line by acknowledging that they have 'a disease called addiction' or who otherwise do not display socially acceptable values face negative consequences ranging from being knocked back a level or more to flash incarceration for a weekend or a week. If one is late to day treatment one day-- a bit of jail time and maybe an essay. If one stays home from day treatment one day because of physical illness-- a bit of jail time and maybe an essay. If one dares to fill a prescription written by his or her physician without checking with drug court personnel first-- a bit of jail time and maybe an essay. 

Because the drug court defendants-- who have been screened and found to be addicted before acceptance into the drug court program-- are judged to be making messes of their lives, the drug court staff is tasked with learning everything possible about their life experiences and using this violation of privacy to 'help' them get back on their feet.

The drug court session is a stage and the judge is the chief actor. The judge has the power to offer praise and encouragement and the power to withdraw approval by banishing a defendant to jail time. Those who fail drug court usually have to serve out their prison sentences without any credit for being in drug court or for time already served.

The author suggests that the problem here is without our legal system and the popularized view of addiction as a "brain disease." Because the addicted have to clean up in order to grow up, the drug court becomes a parent. The defendants are the errant children.

But the defendants are adults. Coerced treatment is not "enlightened coercion" no matter what mental gymnastics one does with words and concepts. The author advocates for a harm reduction approach by loosening up our current laws and by acknowledging that there is pleasure in getting drunk or high for many people as well as bits of pain. Defendants are forced to take on a label as primary identification instead of being allowed to decide for themselves among viable and appealing options what it is they wish to do and how to address their lawlessness.

sapphoq reviews says: I personally know a drug court judge. He cared about people who were struggling with life problems long before he got involved in drug court. He is an exceptional individual. While I have seen first-hand astonishing results via the drug court in town, I have also seen some disasters.

The idea of "enlightened coercion" bothers me. That treatment providers have such power over defendants bothers me also.  I think that addiction is overly-diagnosed. I also think that traditional treatment which relies heavily on the twelve steps is not for everyone. There are inherent problems with the drug court model that this book got me to acknowledge and think about. We are becoming a nation under supervision and I don't like that either. Judging Addicts is a provocative book which challenges the status quo. Highly recommended. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf by Martin Millar

The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf, Martin Millar. Berkeley: Soft Skull Press, 2014. e-book, 705 pps.

     I like werewolves in my fiction. I love well-crafted fiction. Martin Millar is on my list of favorite authors. His latest offering continues the story of Kalix-- a werewolf who has high anxiety, battle rage, and an active history of cutting-- and her three flatmates in London. Two of those are strictly human. One of them is a fire elemental. 

     The human flatmates are pretty cool. In an earlier book, they found her and rescued her from living in an abandoned warehouse. In this one, they demonstrate what true friendship is.

     The werewolf family is fraught with drama and controversy. There is a council which is hesitant on taking action. And an older sister who Kalix continues to be estranged from. I've always found the fashion-plates in my family difficult to relate to myself. Kalix and I both favor a style of dress known as either grunge or comfortable, depending upon who is doing the describing.

     Fairies make an appearance also. These are not the goody-goody and sickening sweet variety. These fairies are cunning, battle-ready, and demanding. 

     I will not give away any of the fighting or the ending. I will say that both were satisfying. I particularly liked the silver bullets that exploded inside the body, much like the Ma Deuce of World War II. 

sapphoq reviews says: If you like werewolves [especially in London] combined with a great story and attention to the nitty-gritty of communication, you are bound to love Martin Millar. If you haven't found him yet, do so now. I love Kalix the Werewolf and I'm looking forward to more, more, more. Highly recommended as a superior fantasy read.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Presumed Guilty by Martin Yant

Presumed Guilty: when innocent people are wrongly convicted, Martin Yant. Amherst NY: Prometheus Books, 1991. ebook, 197 pps.

I used to say, "The American justice system is the greatest in the world." Things happened and then I added a caveat, "except when it doesn't work." The recent actions of our increasingly paranoid government politicians and agencies has caused me to re-evaluate my thinking and belief system. I am not so sure anymore. I've witnessed far too much injustice to make any such statements anymore.

Presumed Guilty was a horrifying book. Case after case was presented of innocent people who went to prison [and some who went to the electric chair] because of liars. The liars were found among prosecutors, police, expert witnesses so-called, people seeking revenge, and other players in the judicial system. In the scramble to get tough on crime and get re-elected, suspects are arraigned on multiple charges in the hopes that at least one or two of them will stick.

sapphoq reviews says: I'm all for the guilty being made to pay for their crimes. I am against innocent people being forced to pay for the actions of others. Martin Yant has written an important book. He is not just another liberal whining about people in prison. Read this book. Your views may also change a bit as a result. I am happy that there are people and agencies devoted to helping the truly innocent men and women serving time to get out and get free-- hopefully before they are put to death. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, Donnie Eichar with J.C. Gavel and Nova Jacobs. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2013. ebook, 235 pps.

There is something about wilderness that latches onto people and drives us into it. I have spent many happy hours on woods and mountains with only a dog or three for company. It is a primitive drive that takes humans back to a more rugged but satisfying existence. The needs to strike out and explore, to challenge our physical forms, to create solitude are at once understood by some percentage of humans. We are all of us alone in our own skins. By connecting to something wild, we discover the wildness in our innermost beings.
In 1959, ten hiking buddies set out for an adventure. They made for Holatchahl mountain. One had to turn back early. The other nine never made it home again alive. Holatchahl Mountain is in the Urals [in Russia]. It's very cold and snowy there in the wintertime.

Donnie Eichar became fascinated with the story. He turned a garage in his California home into a research center. He traveled to Russia twice and even met the one hiker who turned back early. Eichar also recounted the various theorems about what happened to the nine hikers and included pictures in the book.

sapphoq reviews says: Eichar has written a very thorough book about the nine hikers who died on Holatchahl in 1959. In depth and fascinating read. Highly recommended.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Swarm Traps and Bait Hives by McCartney Taylor

Swarm Traps and Bait Hives: The Easy Way to Get Bees for Free, McCartney Taylor. self-published?: Out Of A Blue Sky, 2011. e-book, 53 pps.

Swarm Traps and Bait Hives is for the bee keeper that is wanting to obtain bees at no cost. The author is thorough and has many valid tips and suggestions. Why hives swarm is explained along with some basic history. Lemon Grass Oil and a bit of old comb are suggested as bait to attract the bees into the temporary structure. Once the bees are settled, they can be transferred to your more permanent set-up. Of particular interest to the hesitant bee-keeper is the chapter on safety. It is noted that the use of ladders is not recommended. If the bees get pissed off, retreating from a ladder without injuring oneself is difficult.

sapphoq reviews says: Although my favorite bees are hover bees [also called wood bees or sometimes mason bees] that don't produce honey but do pollinate lots of blooms for me, the information in this book is highly valuable to now and future beekeepers. 

I do plan to keep honey bees a couple of summers from now. My cousins kept bees years ago and I got to see that hive set up. A bee hatched in my hand which was pretty cool. 

Bees are very important to our well-being because without them, flowering plants and flowering fruits and vegetable plants would not get pollinated. 

Keeping bees is another way to say to company or companies wishing to monopolize seeds, crops, fertilizer, and bug sprays "No thanks. You cannot dictate to us what we will do." There is something infinitely satisfying about growing things from seeds that we harvested ourselves. And even better, the knowing that the fresh foods from our gardens have not been genetically engineered.

Get this e-book if you might ever be in a position to do some bee-keeping. Bees are vital.

 N.B.: is worth investigating for more info.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Free Radicals by Zeke Teflon

Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia, Zeke Teflon. Tucson AZ: See Sharp Press, 2012. e-book, 245 pps.

     Kel Turner is suddenly exiled off of planet earth. He has to make his way around a new planet. In his travels, he encounters a variety of religious cult-like communities and problems. There is much more to Free Radicals but I don't want to give it away.

     The cult-like community that I laughed at the most was a variant of Alcoholics Anonymous. The adherents refer to their founder as Will B. Their rituals are outrageous.

sapphoq reviews says: Zeke Teflon had me hooked from the dedication. I love Anonymous and was very glad to read the inclusion of both Anonymous and the surviving members of LulSec.
     Free Radicals is witty. I enjoyed the off-beat qualities of it-- the star travel, the hooded references, the anarchists. Zeke Teflon is right up there with Cory Doctorow. Highly recommended to fans of well-written adult dystopian fiction.

925 Ideas by Devin D. Thorpe

925 Ideas to Help You Save Money, Get Out Of Debt And Retire A Millionaire So You Can Leave Your Mark On The World, Devin D. Thorpe. self-published: Smashwords, 2012. e-book, 761 pps.

Devin D. Thorpe presents a lot of ideas about how to spend less of the money you do have and how to save money. 

sapphoq reviews says: Many of the suggestions are common sense and stuff that richer folks have been doing for years. Valuable and necessary for those who wish to avoid getting sucked into parting with money when cheaper options are available. 

Helpless by Rosie Lewis

Helpless, Rosie Lewis. London: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2013. e-book, 26 pps.

Rosie Lewis, a specialized foster carer, relates a story about a newborn that she cared for during the first six weeks. 

sapphoq reviews says: This short but true tale of a fostered newborn will appeal to those who like syrupy stuff. It was not my cup of tea. 
     The larger story is about babies who are born with drugs in their system and their birth mothers who were unable to or unwilling to stay clean [including the drug alcohol] during their pregnancies.
     Read it if you want to. [Free].

Arrest-Proof Yourself by Dale C. Carson and Wes Denham

Arrest-Proof Yourself: an ex-cop reveals how easy it is for anyone to get arrested, how even a single arrest could ruin your life, and what to do if the police get in your face, Dale C. Carson and Wes Denham. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2007 and 2014. e-book, 333 pages.

N.B.: This book comes with a disclaimer that attorney advice is your first and best resource concerning laws in your state. My review comes with the same disclaimer. 

     The first thing to remember when being questioned by the cops is that you have a right to have an attorney present. It's called lawyering up. Most cops don't want you to do this. But this is something that you should remember to do. 

     Arrest-Proof Yourself is about far more than "Get an attorney-- NOW!"  The book teaches the reader how to avoid arrest. There are changes that we can make and things we can do in order to avoid those iron bracelets. The first thing is to quit doing things that will cause a cop to consider you to be suspicious. There are specific suggestions about exactly how to do this.

     My favorite tip is to take out the back seat of the old clunker that you are allowing your teen to drive around. After removing the back seat, fill the space with yellow goo. Then give your kid a note explaining why you did this to produce to any police officer who pulls him or her over. I don't know anyone who has ever done this but I do know quite a few parents who ought to have done it. Some parents will search their teens' bedrooms and I am for that. [I also think that not allowing a teen to drive the car until he or she is out on their own and earning their own money is a cool thing too]. The search should also include their cars and computers. Same for if anyone living in your home-- regardless of age-- is arrested for any reason.

sapphoq reviews says: I highly recommend this book. I also think that parents would do well to present their teens with a copy of this book or at least read sections of it to them when they can't get away. 

No Crueler Tyrannies by Dorothy Rabinowitz

No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times, Dorothy Rabinowitz. New York: Free Press, 2003.  e-book, 145 pps.

[N.B. This book is a series of  previously published articles from The Wall Street Journal.]

    Some folks may recall the allegations of sexual abuse at Fells Acre Day Care in Massachusetts in the 1980s. It was part of a general mass hysteria that turned children into victims of abuse at the hands of over-eager interviewers. The lives of the Amiraults were forever changed. Rabinowitz has four separate articles on the Amiraults in the book.

     Rabinowitz also covers Grant Snowden in Dade County, Florida. He was a police officer who was falsely accused of sexually abusing children who were being babysat in his home. Janet Reno was the state attorney then. She was gung ho for slamming alleged sexual abusers of children against the wall. Nursery schools were being closed regularly. Grant Snowden fell victim to an alleged expert in childhood sexual abuse who had interviewed the child "using dolls and 'let's pretend' games and, as the interview records showed, exhortations and explicit sexual suggestions." (page 40)

     Then there was the mass hysteria and Satanic Panic that happened in Wenachee in Washington State. Parents allegedly raped children in their homes, orgies were happening in a church, and all sorts of things. Folks lost custody of their kids and were carted off to prison.

     The one case that Rabinowitz covered of an adult accusing another adult of sexual abuse was during a colonoscopy. A woman who was upset that the doctor would not support her lawsuit against a prior landlord [she claimed that she was having stomach pains from the stress of eviction and this messed up her life] then accused him of having oral sex with her during the procedure. She sued the doctor later on for a large sum of money.

sapphoq reviews says: To those who are genuine survivors of sexual abuse, please note that I do understand that there are some evil and demented people in this world. Anything that I write about those who falsely accuse others is not directed at you who-- like me-- have had to live through stuff that others haven't even had to think about. Much respect. Keep striving. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

     I don't particularly miss the 1980s as a decade. The cases described in No Crueler Tyrannies were aided forward by a host of ambitious prosecutors, prejudicial judges, supposedly expert child sexual abuse interviewers, and a willing public frenzy to feed off of sensational media reports. [Rabinowitz does not make it clear that there was a police officer who led the pack in the Wenachee accusations]. People went to prison for things they did not do. Even after acquittals [most re-trials on appeals are not won], it was difficult to impossible to get back the life that was had before.
     People in this decade [here I guess it is "usually men" although I have no evidence to back up my guess] continue to be falsely accused of sex crimes that they did not commit. I do feel a certain relief that it is no longer a parade of toddlers and preschoolers. But my relief is uneasy at best. Because innocent people continue to have their lives torn apart by those who false accuse them and then by copycat accusers who are then compelled to come forward. These things happen.
     Where is the justice when someone is forced to plea guilty to something he or she also did not do in order to avoid trial on trumped up charges by overly-ambitious state agencies anxious to prove that they are committed to the protection of people? Especially when there is a multitude of charges brought? Getting tough on crime is good for the headlines. Innocent people having to serve time in prison, endure premature career endings and unjust lawsuits where the standard of proof is lower than in a criminal case, and the cost of competent legal assistance are things that a public addicted to yellow journalism is not interested in.
     Sexual abuse and sexual assaults do happen. There is no doubt about that. But a system that is set up to automatically believe the accuser is a system that is faulty. Innocents are bound to be convicted by such a system before even seeing the inside of a courtroom.
     We need more sane voices like Dorothy Rabinowitz. No Crueler Tyrannies is highly recommended.


Making It by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen

Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. New York: Rodale, 2011. e-book, 368 pps.

     Making It is written by the same people who brought us The Urban Homestead. This book picks up where The Urban Homestead left off. Projects are divided into five sections. The first four sections involves things that one uses or does daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonally. The fifth section is devoted to planting tips, composting, and beekeeping.

     Each project in Making It lists the approximate preparation time and a list of ingredients. The instructions are well-written and easy to follow. A list of resources and an index is included.

sapphoq reviews says: Those fans of The Urban Homestead are sure to love Making It. Highly recommended.

The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen

The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City, Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. Port Townsend WA: Process Media, 2009 and 2010. e-book, 285 pps.

     The Urban Homestead is a how-to book. There are chapters and projects for those who are interested in becoming more self-sufficient. The authors cover urban farming, chickens, canning, foraging for food, dumpster diving, and transportation along with many other topics. 

     Self-sufficiency means spending less at the supermarket. It means eating produce from your garden. It means foraging for foodstuff. It means canning and composting. It means solar ovens and building stuff that will help you to live wisely in the environment. 

     And we need to care about this stuff because we humans are an ecological disaster. 

sapphoq reviews says: A practical and thorough guide to living in an ecologically responsible manner in the heart of a city. The authors are recognized urban homesteaders. They live what they write. I have the utmost respect for them and their work. Highly recommended.

see also:
                              if you want to.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Operation Desolation by Mark Russinovich

Operation Desolation, Mark Russinovich. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2010 and 2012. e-book, 29 pps. plus a lengthy preview of a novel.

     Jeff Aiken is a security geek with way too much work and not enough fun. He is attending CyberCon in San Diego but things are not well. He is juggling work for one his clients along with attendance at the con.

     Jeff Aiken does not care for the hacktivist meme Anonymous at all. This is made abundantly clear in the story. There is talk of an op named OpDesolation and some dude in a Guy Fawkes mask beats on Jeff in an alleyway.

sapphoq reviews says: Mark Russinovich is a Micro$oftie staffer, a fact which shows very much in his writing. And as expected, his short story is rather harsh on Anonymous. The book reads like propaganda. In addition, the dialogue is poor or utterly absent. I hated the book. Skip it. Not recommended at all.

Genuine Magic by Silence Leaflin

Genuine Magic, Silence Leaflin. self-published:, 2013. e-book, 99 pps.

Tannor Fitzgerald is a scholar seeking magic in the alternate world that the story is set in. He is so stuck on his research that he has no time for romance.

He happens to be in a bar one day when an altercation takes place. And that changes his life.

sapphoq reviews says: Silence Leaflin has written a novella that truly is Genuine Magic. There is some fighting in this one but no talking animals. A mature teen may understand the story line. No cursing or sex scenes. For those who like fantasy. A gem of a book and highly recommended. 

Twelve-Step Fandango by Chris Haslam

Twelve-Step Fandango, Chris Haslam. New York: HarperCollins e-books, 2003. 277 pps.

N.B.: Twelve-Step Fandango has absolutely nothing to do with recovery groups who use "twelve steps" in their program. If you are in search of books about recovery, this one is not it. The main character-- an English ex-pat on the run in Spain-- does admit that he'd rather have cocaine than anything else. But there is no recovery here. Look elsewhere if that is your schtick.

     Martin lives in a crumbling sort of castle structure in Andalusia, Spain with other foreigners eeking out a living. The place is drug-infested for sure. There is a small bar on the grounds and a thriving drug trade.

     But all is not well in stoner haven. Martin's girlfriend Luisa is tempermental and difficult to live with. His buddies are junkies. He has no prospects for any sort of future. He cannot think. He makes poor decisions. His decisions puts a lot of people at jeopardy. And, uh there is quite a bit more going on here.

sapphoq reviews says: Chris Haslam has penned a fine first novel. I loved it. There is some violence, dead bodies, car chases. I was transported to Andalusia when reading Twelve-Step Fandango. The book left me wanting to travel to AndalusiaThe ending was very satisfying yet left me wanting to hear more about Martin's mis-adventures. For fans of the counter-cultures, highly recommended.

The Beast by Oscar Martinez

The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail, Oscar Martinez. Translation by Daniela Maria Ugaz and John Washington. New York: Verso, 2013, 2010. e-book 250 pps.

     The problem of illegal immigration through Mexico is much worse than I realized before reading this book. It is not just poor Mexicans attempting to cross the border into the United States ["El Norte"]. People are fleeing from Central American nations because of violence and threats to their lives and the lives of their family members. Besides Mexicans and Central Americans, some Chinese folks also use the border illegally.

     Some percentage of illegals never make it to the wall. [There is a wall separating the U.S.A. from Mexico now]. They are picked off by narcos after being robbed, sold out to narcos by  coyotes and then robbed and picked off, picked off the roofs of the trains they ride in hopes of some sort of freedom. It is a violent world. The author traveled the migrant trails and rails in preparation before writing The Beast.

     Forced prostitution is common among Central American women who discover that they can send significant amounts of money home to their families. Some settle in the souther-most parts of Mexico to ply the trade. 

     The lucky illegals find a break in the shelters set up for them along the way. The unlucky ones find themselves within shooting range of the narcos.

sapphoq reviews says: Oscar Martinez's book is easily the most informative one about the illegals I have found to date. Building a wall and increasing patrols along it both helps and hinders the situ. The problem encompasses far more than Mexico. Americans increase their demand for illicit drugs. [Marijuana is only part of the problem]. People in Mexico and Central America are not safe from the cartels and attempt to flee. I am still for the legalization of pot in the United States and still against amnesty for illegal aliens. I came away from The Beast with an increased understanding about what is happening south of the border. Highly recommended.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Urban Voodoo by S. Jason Black and Christopher S. Hyatt

Urban Voodoo: A Beginner's Guide to Afro-Caribbean Magic, S. Jason Black and Christopher S. Hyatt, PhD. Tempe AZ: The Original Falcon Press, 1995. e-book, 162 pps.

On some occasions, police and/or reporters have referenced satanic rituals where the proper label should read afro-caribbean. [Satan is from the christian theos originally]. Lay people-- aided by the hysteria of religious leaders-- in a general way fail to distinguish between practices which derive from a source other than the Middle East. People sold into slavery who originated in African often brought their tribal beliefs with them. They were forced to disguise their ancestral spirits as Roman Catholic saints. Voodoo in its various modern forms is practiced by more people of mixed ancestry nowadays than before the Civil War. [Urban Voodoo uses the word "voodoo" to denote practices of any system that is derivative from Caribbean and/or African roots].

Like me, both authors find much of what passes for "New Age" as distasteful and hinky. There is no talk of "positive thinking" or any misinterpretations of Eastern Karma in Urban Voodoo. Historical knowledge is extensive-- for example on page 81 it is noted that the cross was used prior to the advent of Christianity by Africans-- and easy to understand. The authors also take issue with the passivity inherent in Christianity. Voodoo is much the opposite, requiring active participation in order to get done what needs to be done. Page 98 tells us that miracles/magic "are made both by the spirit and the man."

sapphoq reviews says: My first non-casual exposure to any form of voodoo occurred in the swamps of Louisiana. Although not a practitioner, I understood that this was an ancient magic which was in stark contrast to the "New Age" white lighters and the McWiccans. Urban Voodoo reminded me of those times. For those searching for The Old Times, this book is certain to leave one thinking and re-evaluating what it means to incorporate magic into one's life journey. 

City Magick by Christopher Penczak

City Magick: Spells, Rituals, and Rituals for the Urban Witch, Christopher Penczak. San Francisco: Weiser Books, 2001 and 2012. e-book, 238 pps.

     Christopher Penczak is to witchery as Issac Bonewits is to druidry. Both men are scholars and I like that. Both are respected within their communities and neither one caters to the McWiccans. Both are authors with extensive publication histories behind them. And I've read quite a few books by each one of them.

     This version of City Magick has been updated with a new intro. In it, Penczak points out the different "feel" of each urban area. He also believes that the sacred is all around us. This belief is borne out in the rest of City Magick

     The mythology and archetypes that urban dwellers have created are no less real for the believer than those that have been inspired by woods or ocean. The practitioner who makes the city his or her home may find different items to use as tools, different symbols, and different animals roaming around the streets than the more traditional stuff of the rural or suburban dweller. With the ongoing emphasis on holding circles in wooded areas [or conversely, online] the modern pagan is apt to forget that there were temples in the cities of old. 

sapphoq reviews says: Weiser Books is noted for publishing arcane and occult subjects for the more serious among us. City Magick is no exception. Although I personally do not care for the "New Age" talk that abounds in so much of the modern day witch material, I like Penczak's writing in spite of such material included in his books. The exercises are helpful to those who are unfamiliar with them, but basic for the rest of us. Recommended to those pagans who are tired of being told they must "get back to the land" and who are finding their way in urban environments.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Last Child by John Hart

The Last Child, John Hart. New York: Minotaur Books, 2009. e-book, 397 pps. including preview from a next novel.

     The Last Child captivated me from the prologue onward. The story opens with a thirteen year old boy named Johnny. He is no ordinary kid. He knows how to drive. To the consternation of the police-- one Detective Hunt in particular-- Johnny will not give up driving.

     Johnny is equally at home in the woods. He knows things. He is a keen observer of animal nature and this ability gets him into trouble.

     Trouble surrounds Johnny. After a family tragedy, a horn-dog named Ken moved on in and his mother is the worst for it. Ken is not a nice man. And Johnny does not trust Detective Hunt.

     There is a cast of characters in The Last Child who are devious and mean. There are murders and manslaughter, betrayals and tests of friendships. And there are the woods of course. Ancient woods with mossy fragrances and dead bodies.

sapphoq reviews says: John Hart delivers a finely-crafted story which transported me into the back country of North Carolina and held me there until the last page. I don't mind a thirteen year old dropping f-bombs in a work of fiction. If you do, then skip this book. Nasty people abound. The Last Child was pure magic-- a coming of age tale that will stay with me for a very long time. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Berlin Turnpike by Raymond Bechard

The Berlin Turnpike: A True Story of Human Trafficking in America, Raymond Bechard. New York: Sons of Liberty Press, 2011. e-book, 1939 pps.

The Berlin Turnpike traces the history of the Berlin Turnpike in Connecticut near Hartford from its' beginning to what it is now and its' connection to prostitution. There are bunches of motels along the road-- and a few stripper clubs-- where prostitutes are kept. Ads can be found in a local free paper for their services. Dennis Paris was one such pimp [but not the only pimp] who used the Berlin Turnpike as his base. He was mean and abusive in particular to two teens that he had under his control.

sapphoq reviews says: Raymond Bechard has written a thorough book. The Berlin Turnpike ties in the history of a road with its' present day commercial activities. Those who insist that "all" or "almost all" sex workers remain with abusive pimps of their own free will are presented with a story that will require some thought. Those without an interest in tracing history will probably not finish this book or will thumb through to the areas of their interest. The rest of us ought to read this book from beginning to end. It is a lot to take in. I did not finish it in one sitting. But I did finish it and it made me think. I found that some things that I thought were correct really aren't. Highly recommended.

Not for Sale by David Batstone

Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade-- and How We Can Fight It, David Batstone. New York: HarperCollins e-books, 2007. 228 pps.

Not for Sale talks about the slave trade, a.k.a. human trafficking. In the intro, the author admitted that he had dined at a particular restaurant in Berkeley frequently-- 
     [the case covered in Slaves of Berkeley by Tim Huddleston, reviewed at: ]--
without the realization that the imported help from India were part of the labor trafficking done by the rich and well-respected owner.

Chapters cover Cambodia, Thailand, South Asia, Uganda, Europe, Peru, and the United States. Of particular interest to me was the narrative about the child soldiers of Uganda and the woman in Peru who was sheltering street kids. The Lord's Revolutionary Army takes children as it will and forces them into fighting. Once the pressure in Uganda got to be too much, their headquarters was moved to Sudan. I was disgusted to learn that since the U.S.A. does not consider Uganda to be a politically important [to the goals of the United States], nothing has been done by our interfering country in a case where something ought to be done. Lucy Borja of Peru got her start in child trafficking work when she offered shelter to two street boys. She is a true hera. Also mentioned is Ma'am Anna of Florida and the work that she is doing there.

sapphoq reviews says: This inspiring book gives a solid understanding of human trafficking and the evil that people do to each other in the name of greed. Definitely a keeper. In order to change the system, we have to create a meaningful dialogue while disregarding our personal comfort zones and learn how to observe our environment in order to be able to identify possible victims of human trafficking hiding in plain sight around us. No one is a possession. Highly recommended.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Slaves of Berkeley by Tim Huddleston

Slaves of Berkeley, Tim Huddleston. Portland ORE: Absolute Crime, 2013. e-book, 40 pps.

Slaves of Berkeley recounts the story of the death of an illegal immigrant from India and the crimes of a millionaire in Berkeley. Lakireddy Bali Reddy "helped" many impoverished people from India to migrate to the United States. He set them up in apartments that he owned and gave them jobs in his restaurant-- Pasand Madras Indian Cuisine restaurant-- in Berkeley. But all was not what it seemed on the surface.

The restaurant workers were indentured servants who owed the owner for his "help." 

sapphoq reviews says: A remarkable e-book, especially for the part that high school student Megan Greenwell had in breaking the story as well as for the bravery that Marcia Poole displayed. The narrative illustrates what can happen when one citizen decides to get involved and when a student begins to ask the right questions. Highly recommended. 

Saving Bobbi by Pam Louwagie

Saving Bobbi, Pam Louwagie. Minneapolis: Star Tribune Media Company LLC, 2013. e-book, 64 pps.

The epilogue of Saving Bobbi tells you what to do if you suspect that a child is a victim of sex trafficking. There are also warning signs to watch out for, what pimps do, and suggested websites as well as other books to read and a video. Anyone who is interested in the problem of selling children [including teens as well as younger children] for commercial sex enterprises would do well to look up the resources listed in the epilogue.

Bobbi Larson's story about what happened to her as a teen also illustrates what a child sex trafficking victim may go through emotionally as she or he embarks on the journey of recovery. She was eighteen at the time that Pam Louwagie began interviewing Bobbi and others involved in her plight. 

sapphoq reviews says: Child sex trafficking is not limited to large cities. Bobbi Larson is from a small town in Minnesota. Saving Bobbi relates some of what happened to a teen and her struggle to get out. E-book profits are donated to MN Girls Are Not For Sale campaign. A short read which is especially valuable in illustrating how perps target their prey.

Hidden Girl by Shyima Hall with Lisa Wysocky

Hidden Girl: the true story of a modern-day child slave, Shyima Hall with Lisa Wysocki. New York: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers, 2014.

Shyima was a child in Egypt born in poverty. When her sister stole money from the family that she was "working" for, Shyima's parents surrendered her to that family. Shyima was ten years old. She was taken from the slums to Cairo, Egypt. "The Mom and The Dad" had a grand house and other servants. Something happened and everything changed. Shyima migrated to Orange County, California with the family-- there were also two boys. Once in the United States, Shyima was the only servant/slave. She slept in a constructed hidden small box of a room inside the garage of the expensive condo. She was not allowed to go to school. Her clothes were rags. She had to wash them by hand. Her life sucked badly.

Things were dismal for several years. Shyima came into freedom. Today she is a citizen of the United States. She has come a very long way.

sapphoq reviews says: A heart-wrenching book with a powerful message. I learned something about how to be more observant of those domestic slaves which may indeed be hiding in plain sight. Highly recommended for tweens, teens, and adults.

Ma'am Anna by Anna Rodriguez as told to Anthony Bunko

Ma'am Anna: The Anna Rodriguez Story; The Remarkable Story of a Human Trafficking Rescuer, Anna Rodriguez as told to Anthony Bunko. Green Bay WIS: Title Town Publishing, 2013. e-book, 199 pps.

People are not property. Tragically, there are those in the United States and elsewhere who treat others as property-- kidnapping, abducting, buying, selling, trading in human wares. The child slave who toils morning til night. The human prostitute-- we usually think of a woman or a girl but this isn't necessarily so-- in Tijuana waiting with others under the watchful cameras of their masters. A girl or a boy disappears down an alley with an adult. People in abject poverty who agree to allow their child to go "work for" a family or perhaps to migrate to a foreign country for "educational opportunities" or the promise of small amounts of money to be sent back home. Illegals who cannot afford fees to their coyotes who hike up those fees once across the border. People promised great jobs in a foreign country required to pay a holding fee. Once there, they are the ones who are held. Bonded servants. It's ugly. Oh, and the Super Bowl. I never thought of the Super Bowl as being an open market for commercial sex before reading this book.

sapphoq reviews says: It takes one human being to start a revolution. One human being and a friend to imbue that revolution with momentum. Anna Rodriguez is one such human being. Read this book. It's inspiring. Highly recommended.