Book Review: HE WANTED THE MOON by Mimi Baird

He Wanted The Moon

A mid-century doctor’s raw, unvarnished account of his own descent into madness, and his daughter’s attempt to piece his life back together and make sense of her own.

Texas-born and Harvard-educated, Dr. Perry Baird was a rising medical star in the late 1920s and 1930s. Early in his career, ahead of his time, he grew fascinated with identifying the biochemical root of manic depression, just as he began to suffer from it himself. By the time the results of his groundbreaking experiments were published, Dr. Baird had been institutionalized multiple times, his medical license revoked, and his wife and daughters estranged. He later received a lobotomy and died from a consequent seizure, his research incomplete, his achievements unrecognized.

Mimi Baird grew up never fully knowing this story, as her family went silent about the father who had been absent for most of her childhood. Decades later, a string of extraordinary coincidences led to the recovery of a manuscript which Dr. Baird had worked on throughout his brutal institutionalization, confinement, and escape. This remarkable document, reflecting periods of both manic exhilaration and clear-headed health, presents a startling portrait of a man who was a uniquely astute observer of his own condition, struggling with a disease for which there was no cure, racing against time to unlock the key to treatment before his illness became impossible to manage.

Fifty years after being told her father would forever be “ill” and “away,” Mimi Baird set off on a quest to piece together the memoir and the man. In time her fingers became stained with the lead of the pencil he had used to write his manuscript, as she devoted herself to understanding who he was, why he disappeared, and what legacy she had inherited. The result of his extraordinary record and her journey to bring his name to light is He Wanted the Moon, an unforgettable testament to the reaches of the mind and the redeeming power of a determined heart.

Published: February 2015

Amazon / Amazon UK

 

My Review: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This is a fascinating, terrifying, insightful story of one man’s descent into madness, as well as an inside view of early psychiatry and our barbaric treatment of the mentally ill. Dr. Perry Baird was, no doubt, a brilliant man. He understood that he was sick, and he desperately wanted to find a treatment. Had his mind not deteriorated so quickly, he very well might have found a way to help himself and countless others like him.

Why so much happiness in the manic state? Perhaps an ability to dwell upon only the pleasing phases of one’s past experiences and current problems, combined with an ability to shut out disturbing considerations; the process of thought seems not only clear and logical but powerful and penetrating, features made possible by focusing all attention upon the major facts, leaving out distracting details.

It’s hard to believe that a mere seventy years ago, during Dr. Baird’s lifetime, mentally ill people were treated as less than human. They were locked away, experimented on, abused under the guise of “treatment”, and had absolutely no rights. The journal-like writing Dr. Baird left behind, which his daughter shares with us in this book, shows us all of this. His mental illness does not diminish the reality of his situation. This comes across clearly in his writing. Yet his illness became his defining factor, and even his closest friends gave no credence to his desperate pleas.

I was chiefly occupied with one intolerable fact: I was back at Westborough for probably a long stay. It would be many days before any word would reach me from the outside. I was in for the usual stupid psychiatric procedures – to go through once again what I had faced so many times before: an utterly meaningless period of confinement in a hospital under barbaric conditions inherited from a culture of darkness and ignorance.

While some readers might find his wife’s behavior cold, I didn’t feel that way at all. To understand her, we need to put it all in perspective. This occurred at a time when mental illness was a stigma to be feared. People did not talk about such things. These were family secrets, filled with shame. She loved her husband, yet she had no way to help him. She was the mother of two young daughters, adrift, with a husband who could no longer provide, who couldn’t be trusted to be with the children. She did what she needed to, what the era and her upbringing taught her to do, in order to survive.

My father was afflicted with a severe mental illness during a period before any effective treatment existed, many years before the advent of modern psychiatric medications. Like hundreds of thousands of mentally ill patients at that time, he was a victim of both his disease and the stigma surrounding it. He was shut away, institutionalized, his family advised to try to forget him, an edict my mother did her best to follow.

Dr. Baird’s writing also gives us tremendous insight into the thoughts of a manic-depressive (bipolar) person. We are with him as his mind unravels. The treatments given to him, under protest, worsen his illness and, quite possibly, bring on the resulting psychosis.

Then began the agonizing experience of being wrapped tightly in cold sheets soaked in ice water that were folded according to various patterns and laid across the bed over a rubber mattress. The initial impact of these ice-cold sheets on the spine is pure pain. Every additional contact with cold sheets as they are wrapped around the body brings chills and continued discomfort. First the arms are bound tightly to one’s sides and then sheets are stretched in several layers across the shoulders, body, and legs, creating a trap that permits very little motion.

The author also shares her own story, from the young girl who loves her daddy, to the adult woman who needs answers. Her mother’s silence as to her father’s “disappearance” is heartbreaking, and likely all too familiar to many families of that era.

Oh, dear God, I say to anyone who cares to listen: Westborough State Hospital and other places like it have nothing to offer; nothing but a jail-like incarceration, brutality and ugliness.

While, thankfully, much has changed in our treatment of mental illness, we are not as advanced as we’d like to think. We still lock away the mentally ill, now in prisons with untrained staff, instead of within barbaric asylums. This book is an important reminder that, while many mentally ill people experience a different reality, it is no less real to them.

 

Thanks for reading. :)

Book Review: HOW MUSIC GOT FREE by Stephen Witt

How Music Got Free

“What happens when an entire generation commits the same crime?”

How Music Got Free is a riveting story of obsession, music, crime, and money, featuring visionaries and criminals, moguls and tech-savvy teenagers. It’s about the greatest pirate in history, the most powerful executive in the music business, a revolutionary invention and an illegal website four times the size of the iTunes Music Store.

Journalist Stephen Witt traces the secret history of digital music piracy, from the German audio engineers who invented the mp3, to a North Carolina compact-disc manufacturing plant where factory worker Dell Glover leaked nearly two thousand albums over the course of a decade, to the high-rises of midtown Manhattan where music executive Doug Morris cornered the global market on rap, and, finally, into the darkest recesses of the Internet.

Through these interwoven narratives, Witt has written a thrilling book that depicts the moment in history when ordinary life became forever entwined with the world online — when, suddenly, all the music ever recorded was available for free. In the page-turning tradition of writers like Michael Lewis and Lawrence Wright, Witt’s deeply-reported first book introduces the unforgettable characters—inventors, executives, factory workers, and smugglers—who revolutionized an entire artform, and reveals for the first time the secret underworld of media pirates that transformed our digital lives.

An irresistible never-before-told story of greed, cunning, genius, and deceit, How Music Got Free isn’t just a story of the music industry—it’s a must-read history of the Internet itself.

Published: June 16, 2015

Amazon / Amazon UK

 

My Review:

I found this a fascinating read. The writing style is conversational and engaging, holding my interest throughout.

“Do you realize what you’ve done?” Adar asked Brandenburg after their first meeting. “You’ve killed the music industry!”

I’m an avid music collector, now considered “old school”, with my vinyl and CD collection. My sons are a little younger than the author, a part of the “free” generation, and so I was very much aware of the piracy issue from early on. Much of the media information back then came via the music industry, with their shouts of foul play and their lawsuits. They failed to grasp that, for the kids, this was not just about getting free stuff; this was a counterculture. Here, Witt gives us the story in its entirety.

They called this subculture “The Warez Scene,” or, more commonly, just “The Scene.” Scene members organized themselves into loosely affiliated digital crews, and those crews raced one another to be the first to release newly pirated material.

The book starts with the invention of the MP3. As an audio format, the industry was not all that interested and it was nearly scrapped. Consumers, however, latched on, surprising everyone with its soaring popularity.

But if the mp3 could reproduce Tupac at one-twelfth the bandwidth, and if Tupace could then be distributed, for free, on the Internet, Glover had to wonder: what the hell was the point of the compact disc?

Witt gives us an inside view of the pirate networks, which were, and perhaps still are, a culture all their own. The music industry remained stubbornly determined to stick to their status quo, refusing to acknowledge that their consumers were changing the rules, with or without them.

The academic institutions themselves were unwitting accomplices, and music piracy became to the late ’90s what drug experimentation was to the late ’60s: a generation-wide flouting of both social norms and the existing body of law, with little thought of consequences.

Stephen Witt’s research is impeccable. The content flows well, and is both interesting and enlightening. If you want to know the truth about how and why music became free, as well as just how badly the select few running the music industry failed, definitely read this book.

 

Thanks for reading. :)

#MondayBlogs: Identity Crisis! A Writer’s Lament

Identity Crisis

Up through last year, I had written and published nine novels and one short story collection. All of those titles fall within the various suspense subgenres (romantic suspense/psychological suspense/thriller, etc.). Therefore, I am a suspense author. Right?

I thought so, at least until I started writing Eli’s Coming, my newest title. Then I had a sudden identity crisis.

You see, I didn’t set out to become a suspense author. I am fascinated by the light and dark of human nature, and all the shades of gray in between. I want to know why people behave the way they do. This curiosity is an underlying factor in all of my writing. But even that is not the whole explanation, or even the driving force. Put simply, I write to relieve all the noise in my head. That noise, coupled with my interests, kept me comfortably within the suspense genre, though this was more by accident than by design.

The writing process for my tenth novel started out simple enough. I had a half-finished manuscript sitting in my desk drawer. It had been there, untouched, for about a decade. I’d left it because the story felt scattered. I had the major plot and at least three subplots. Too much was happening. At the time, frustrated, I put it aside and moved on to other projects. Last year, in cleaning out the clutter of files in my desk, I came across the manuscript. I thought, “I’ll finish this. Quick and easy.”

Silly me.

I quickly decided that the manuscript, as it was, had too many problems. I wasn’t enthralled with the main characters. The major plotline has been overdone in recent years. Then, as I read, one of the characters grabbed hold of me. He was supposed to be a minor character in the original story, but something about him took over. His part wasn’t large, but he captivated me. And I realized this had been the essence of my initial dilemma, and why I’d put the manuscript aside. This character intrigued me far more than the main characters did. Yet his story did not belong to the story I’d been writing. His name was Eli, and I needed to find his story.

My writing process is not what most non-writers expect, and is unlike the way many writers work. I don’t outline. I don’t build a character the way I want him/her. I don’t create plots and map out all the twists. Most of the time, I don’t even have the vaguest idea what the story is about until I’m already writing it. For me, it’s all about the characters, who are, and I know this sounds strange, quite real to me. A character steps into my mind fully formed, with a personality and a history and something to say. All I need to do is listen. And feel. Because, yes, I feel whatever it is that character feels. Sadness, rage, hope, love, desperation. I write from that place, from that experience, with that character’s emotions.

So I sifted through the old manuscript, pulled out Eli’s parts, and sat with him. I listened. And I felt him there in my head. Dark. Mysterious.
Aching. Reluctant to step out into the spotlight, but burning like an ember that threatened to ignite a forest fire.

I began writing, assuming this would be a suspense novel, because I am a suspense author. Or so I’d been led to believe.

Eli whispered his secrets to me. Over time, I learned that he is far more than I expected. When I realized where he was leading me, I stumbled. His story is outside anything I’d intended or anything I’d ever written. Still, I followed, because I had no choice.

I don’t worry about genre while I’m writing. In fact, before this book, I hadn’t thought much about it at all. Eli changed that. About halfway through writing his story, I had a brief “uh-oh” moment, when I realized I was way outside the parameters my readers had come to expect. I hesitated, wondering if I should rein him in, make Eli conform to my readers’ expectations. Eli quickly answered that for me. This was his story, genre be damned.

And, so, I followed Eli, writing his story. Because, really, it was his to tell, not mine to alter.

Then I finished the book. And I had another uh-oh moment. While I’m free to ignore genre while I write, marketing is a whole other issue.

Classifying the genre is necessary in order to list a book for sale, as well as to promote it. I settled on ‘Supernatural Suspense’. This felt right to me. I’m a suspense author. This book has a strong supernatural feel. Easy.

Maybe not.

Early readers began calling this book ‘Dark Fantasy’. My first thought was, “No, that’s not right.” I don’t write fantasy. I’m a suspense author.

Or am I?

Since I never specifically set out to write suspense, maybe I’m just a writer who happened to write suspense. An accident of conformity.

Where does that leave me? I’m in the midst of an identity crisis.

I rarely read fantasy, and I’m not even sure what defines Dark Fantasy as a genre. But, honestly, I don’t care. The luxury of being an independent author is that I don’t have to conform to expectations or remain within strict parameters. I’m free to roam, to listen to the voices, to follow the muse. I wouldn’t change Eli’s story, even if I could. Eli’s Coming is the book it was meant to be, regardless of genre.

Maybe I’m now a suspense author who wrote a dark fantasy novel. Or maybe dark fantasy and supernatural suspense are the same, and I’m still a suspense author. Or maybe I’m a writer, and all the rest is for someone else to figure out.

 

Thanks for reading. :)

Book Review – THE BONES OF YOU by Debbie Howells

The Bones of You

When Kate receives a phone call with news that Rosie Anderson is missing, she’s stunned and disturbed. Rosie is eighteen, the same age as Kate’s daughter, and a beautiful, quiet, and kind young woman. Though the locals are optimistic—girls like Rosie don’t get into real trouble—Kate’s sense of foreboding is confirmed when Rosie is found fatally beaten and stabbed.

Who would kill the perfect daughter, from the perfect family? Yet the more Kate entwines herself with the Andersons—graceful mother Jo, renowned journalist father Neal, watchful younger sister Delphine—the more she is convinced that not everything is as it seems. Anonymous notes arrive, urging Kate to unravel the tangled threads of Rosie’s life and death, though she has no idea where they will lead.

Weaving flashbacks from Rosie’s perspective into a tautly plotted narrative, The Bones of You is a gripping, haunting novel of sacrifices and lies, desperation and love.

Published: June 30, 2015

Amazon / Amazon UK

 

My Review:

Debbie Howells writes with poetic beauty. Her sentences have a rhythmic pulse, like a violin within a melancholy symphony. I loved reading this book for the sheer pleasure of the words.

However bright the sun, however warm and soft the air on my skin, I discover you can’t unlearn fear.

This is a poignant story. On the surface, we have a young girl’s murder and the quest to find her killer. Beneath that, we have the complicated mess of emotions and personalities that makes us individuals. Some people surprise us with their strength, while others disintegrate under scrutiny.

Death casts its shadow, leaving our hearts sad and tainting our world with fear. Have I reached that point in life where from here on it will always be there, lurking, just out of sight, but waiting in the background for its next victim?

The first half of this book held me riveted, as I got to know the characters and the secrets they kept. About midway, I figured out where the story was going, but I still found the path compelling. For me, this book was more about the journey than the ‘whodunit’.

There’s a lump in my throat, because I share every word, every sentiment of what she’s saying. To a mother, most of life can be reduced to one thing that matters: family.

The problems I had with the second half were more about characterization and movement. I found Kate’s naivete hard to believe. She was often incredulous to find that people did bad things. Her disbelief sometimes bordered on juvenile. This was particularly true of her relationship with Jo. Kate seemed all too willing to ignore flashing warning signs, and simply chose not to question all the odd behavior. I also felt that Laura’s character was only used when needed to move the plot forward. She and Kate were best friends who hadn’t seen each other in years, yet I felt no connection between them, no warmth, and no attempt at reconnecting.

Her onslaught leaves me battered, but I see it for what it is. She’s lashing out at me because the strain is taking its toll, because her agony’s unbearable, because I’m here.

While this isn’t a police procedural, I did sometimes wonder where the police were in all of this. Certain things happened that were glossed over, and this made me question their lack of response.

Despite my quibbles, I was thoroughly immersed in this story. The author exposes the cracks beneath the glossy facade, leaving us, along with the characters, aching and raw, yet also enriched by the experience.

 

Thanks for reading. :)

Book Review – A DARK LURE by Loreth Anne White – Romantic Suspense

A Dark Lure

Twelve years ago, Sarah Baker was abducted by the Watt Lake Killer and sexually assaulted for months before managing to escape. The killer was caught, but Sarah lost everything: her marriage, her child, and the life she loved.

Struggling with PTSD, Sarah changes her name to Olivia West and finds sanctuary working on Broken Bar Ranch. But as her scars finally begin to heal, a cop involved with her horrific case remains convinced the Watt Lake Killer is still out there. He sets a lure for the murderer, and a fresh body is discovered. Now Olivia must face the impossible—could the butcher be back, this time to finish the job?

As a frigid winter isolates the ranch, only one person can help Olivia: Cole McDonough, a writer, adventurer, and ranch heir who stirs long-dormant feelings in her. But this time, Olivia’s determination to shut out her past may destroy more than her chance at love. It could cost her her life.

Published: July 1, 2015

Amazon / Amazon UK

 

My Review:
This is an intense, emotional read. The author tugs at our heartstrings, fills us with despair, and teases us with hope and possibilities.

Without Melody… it was like removing the battery from an appliance. Just didn’t work. Both he and Tori had started to crumble under the confusion. The rage. The unjustness. The utter gaping maw of loss.

The setting is masterfully handled. I could feel the cold, see the ranch and the surrounding wilderness, and hear the wind whistling through the branches.

The characters are well developed with lots of depth. I had a good sense of who they were and what motivated their behavior. Their relationships felt real, the dialogue natural. The killer felt a little too flat and stereotypical, but not so much that I was overly bothered, perhaps because his part is quite small overall.

But a  hunger, a good hunter, possessed patience. He trusted his gut, and he always knew the mind and habits of his prey.

The plot, however, was predictable for me. I knew almost from the start how the story would play out. The twists weren’t the least surprising. Still, while I knew where it all was leading, I enjoyed getting there. I did have some problems with certain aspects of the plot, most having to do with the cop’s involvement. I didn’t totally buy into the reasoning for his poor choices. This sullied the story a bit for me.

More than suspense, I think this story centers on relationships, recovery, love, loss, and healing. There is some graphic violence, though these scenes are short, with the intent to show us the character’s emotional strength and fight for survival. The focus is also largely on the budding romance, with Sarah’s inner struggle as she fights the love she feels.

He regarded her, a silent energy coming from him in waves. He dipped his gaze, taking her in, head to boot. Absorbing her. She shifted uncomfortably, aware suddenly of her hidden scars, her latent shortcomings. Her shame. Her need for distance from people.

There is no doubt that White is a talented writer. She drew me right into her world and held my interest throughout. At times, though, the writing has almost a forced literary feel. Comparisons between the building storm and characters’ emotions were overdone. Leaves and reeds were constantly ‘whispering’. This became distracting by the midway point.

Dry leaves rustled over the lawn. Reeds whispered.

Finally, I have to mention the books within the book aspect. We have two characters who are writers, and segments of their books are shared within the narrative. The problem for me is the voices are all exactly the same. The passages from both author-characters read like the narrative voice of the actual author, complete with the literary style and word choices. I needed some stylistic changes to offset the characters’ writing styles as different from the author’s. Also, when other characters compliment the beauty of the author-character’s prose, because the styles are exactly alike, it feels too much like the author is complimenting herself.

Despite my grumblings, this is a compelling story that is sure to capture the romantics out there.

 

Thanks for reading. :)

Review – Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out the Beatles, Made the Stones, and Transformed Rock & Roll

Allen Klein

The story of notorious manager Allen Klein, revealing new, behind-the-scenes details about some of the biggest rock bands in history

Allen Klein was like no one the music industry had seen before. The hard-nosed business manager became infamous for allegedly catalyzing the Beatles’ breakup and robbing the Rolling Stones, but the truth is both more complex and more fascinating. As the manager of the Stones and then the Beatles—not to mention Sam Cooke, Donovan, the Kinks, and numerous other performers—he taught young soon-to-be legends how to be businessmen as well as rock stars. In so doing, Klein made millions for his clients and changed music forever. But Klein was as merciless with his clients as he was with anyone else, earning himself an outsize reputation for villainy that has gone unchallenged until now. Through unique, unprecedented access to Klein’s archives, veteran music journalist Fred Goodman tells the full story of how the Beatles broke up, how the Stones achieved the greatest commercial success in rock history, and how the music business became what it is today.

Published: June 23, 2015

Amazon / Amazon UK

 

My Review:

I love music. I love to read about music, particularly the budding rock scene of the sixties and early seventies. The handful of players who changed all the rules fascinate me. I expected to love this book. Sadly, I was mostly bored.

Call the deal for Tracey a sleight of hand or call it brilliant, it was state-of-the-art; in his first negotiation of a major recording contract, Klein had taken the standard deal apart and put it back together the way he wanted.

While this is marketed as a biography, it is largely a study of business and economics. The content revolves around finances and contracts. Clearly this was important to Klein and his clients, though it does not make for interesting reading. My sense of Klein as a person came mostly through his contractual dealings, which showed me his intense drive to succeed at all costs. He certainly was a key player in changing the music industry, though the excitement of that was largely overshadowed by all the talk of contractual and corporate law.

Frankly admitting he knew nothing about making records, Allen nonetheless believed that part of his job as business manager – a term he claimed to have coined – was weighing in on artistic decisions and offering opinions about the work.

The content doesn’t flow well. Goodman veers off into mini biographies of other key players within the industry at that time. While interesting, much of this is of little to no relevance to Klein’s story.

It was the spring of 1965, and London, following two deadly gray decades in which it had fought and won a brutal war for its life only to nearly succumb to its depressed aftermath, awoke to find its fresh, eye-popping popular art and culture scene was transforming the city into the tastemaking hub of the world. And Oldham, as co-manager of the Rolling Stones, was at the kaleidoscope’s paisley center. He had just turned twenty-one.

I was most intrigued by Klein’s relationship with the musicians he represented, though this made up only a small portion of the book. His obsession with the Beatles bordered on insanity, a single-minded drive to represent a band that, by this time, had already stopped touring and was a breath away from splitting up.

Klein was growing frustrated. His obsession with getting the Beatles wasn’t new, but since Epstein’s death, he’d focused his strategy on finding a way to see Lennon.

If dry facts and business dealings of the music industry interest you, then you will likely love this book. If you’re looking for a story with substance, like me, you might find this one lacking.

 

Thanks for reading. :)

Book Review – Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens

From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”

One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?

Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.

Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?

Featuring 27 photographs, 6 maps, and 25 illustrations/diagrams, this provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential reading for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem.

Published: February 2015

Amazon / Amazon UK

 

My Review:

This is a complicated book to review. I found it often compelling, sometimes annoying, mostly well researched, and certainly well written. The writing style is not overly academic, though also not overly simplistic. This is a good middle ground read that works for both casual and serious readers.

The first part of the book, in which we trace the evolution of the various human-like species, was the most compelling aspect for me. Here the author takes us on a journey. We follow along as Homo Sapiens conquer their surroundings and eventually become the only people walking the earth.

The earth of a hundred millennia ago was walked by at least six different species of man. It’s our current exclusivity, not that multi-species past, that is peculiar – and perhaps incriminating. As we will shortly see, we Sapiens have good reasons to repress the memory of our siblings.

During this journey, the author makes interesting suppositions as to how and why various religions formed and evolved. I was intrigued by his ideas here. He offers some unique input on this topic. At the same time, some of the content seems too far-reaching in his conclusions, and some is clearly there to spark controversy.

People easily understand that ‘primitives’ cement their social order by believing in ghosts and spirits, and gathering each full moon to dance together around the campfire. What we fail to appreciate is that our modern institutions function on exactly the same basis.

An important thing to remember is that this book is more a work of journalistic social science than it is history. The author mixes fact with conjecture, stating both with equal conviction. Yet we simply cannot know what early man was thinking, any more than we can know what our neighbor is thinking today. Some of the author’s assertions are merely educated opinions, and those do not belong in a history book.

At times, the author’s biases are too heavy-handed. I found this particularly irritating within his political discussions. Harari claims that all liberals believe in the Christian God, and that, without God, a liberal’s belief system of individual rights collapses. Many atheist, Jewish, and Buddhist liberals would likely disagree. There is quite a lengthy section in which he berates liberal beliefs. He does the same with socialism. Though, oddly, he makes absolutely no mention of conservatism.

The liberal belief in the free and sacred nature of each individual is a direct legacy of the traditional Christian belief in free and eternal individual souls. Without recourse to eternal souls and a Creator God, it becomes embarrassingly difficult for liberals to explain what is so special about individual Sapiens.

Harari also seems to have little understanding of certain societal problems. He claims that poverty is no longer much of an issue for developed countries, and that people are more likely to die of obesity than starvation. While this argument has some merit, it’s far too simplistic. Here he completely overlooks those people dying of malnutrition-related diseases, where obesity is in fact a side effect of cheap, processed foods. Poor people in developed countries might not be starving for food, but they are still starving for nutrition.

People still suffer from numerous degradations, humiliations and poverty-related illnesses, but in most countries nobody is starving to death. In fact, in many societies more people are in danger of dying from obesity than from starvation.

The last part of this book, in which the author looks at the future direction of humankind, certainly gives us a lot to consider. Here we have content that will likely be the basis of much conversation and perhaps a little fear of what’s to come.

Overall, this is an entertaining read on a complex subject.

A word of caution for the strongly religious readers: The author calls all religions myths, perhaps in a bit of a mocking tone, which might be offensive to some.

 

Thanks for reading. :)

#GuiltyTour: Get Your GUILTY PLEASURE with Justus Roux

Guilty Pleasure Banner Large

Title: Guilty Pleasure
Author: Justus Roux
Publication Date: May 10, 2015
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Guilty Pleasure Cover Nicole frees herself of an abusive relationship and makes a fresh start in Chicago. Her new roommate Monica makes her feel at home right away, and Nicole is excited about starting her career as a paralegal. She meets the handsome defense lawyer Michael Lyons, whom she will be working with. Their attraction is immediate and intense, and she finds herself falling in love with her new boss.

Just as it seems Nicole’s life is finally going right, a series of brutal murders plague the Chicago area. As the number of these murders escalates all the evidence begins to point to Nicole’s new friend Adam Matthews or her lover Michael Lyons. She refuses to believe that either could possibly be capable of committing these brutal murders. Yet, by closing her eyes to this possibility, Nicole could be making a deadly mistake.

Goodreads / Amazon / Smashwords

 

GP Meet Button

Justus Roux’s long running “Master Series”, which she affectionately calls her BDSM drama, has won the hearts of many readers. She just released the 30th book in the series and plans to write several more books for the series. Her “Dom/sub trilogy”, and “Master of My Heart Series”, plus several single titled books have earned her several outstanding reviews. She has dabbled in the paranormal and fantasy realm with her “Barbarians of Malka series”, “Demon hunter Series”, as well as several single titled novels. Justus’ loves to explore new things, adores music and art, and loves to play the occasional video game and enjoys a good poker game as well.

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Pinterest / Tumblr

 

The Writing Life Interview with Justus Roux:

When you first begin writing a new book, is your main focus on the characters or the plot?

My main focus is on the characters.

How much research goes into your fiction writing? What is your approach?

A lot of research goes into my fiction writing. For “Guilty Pleasure” I spent a ton of time researching the aspects of a serial killer. I also researched Chicago, since I’m not that familiar with the city. I researched police procedures and the courtroom as well.

Describe your writing environment.

I have my office to write in. When I’m writing it’s quite messy. I have notes posted on several cork boards around my office. My character board is up on its easel where I can easily see it. All my research is piled up on the small desk to my right. My thesaurus, dictionaries etc are on another small desk to my left. My computer is on my main desk in front of me. My miniature Dachshund’s dog bed is right next to my desk. Bella loves being with me in my office when I write. I have a large bookshelf against the left wall that holds all my research books. My book covers are hung up all over the room. And I have a futon in my office when I read through my research.

I can write whether it’s noisy or quiet, but I do prefer the quiet.

What do you find the easiest to write; the beginning, middle or end? Why?

The beginning. I have a good idea how I want the story to start before I begin to type. To me, the middle is the hardest, because you have to be careful not to get bogged down and let the story drag on.

Tell us about your process for naming your characters.

All my characters have names before I start. I choose the character’s names very carefully because they have to fit the image I have in my mind of that character.

Do you write a book sequentially, from beginning to end? Or do you sometimes write scenes out of order?

I always write the book sequentially.

Do your characters sometimes surprise you with their behavior? Or do you always have complete control?

My characters surprise me all the time. When they start interacting with each other that often times will change the story.

Do you edit as your write? Or do you write an entire rough draft before doing any edits?

I write the entire rough draft before I begin to edit.

How do you decide on your book’s title?

The title is the feel of the story. Sometimes I will change the title after I start writing the story because the feel of the story has changed.

Where do your ideas come from?

My ideas just pop into my head it seems out of nowhere. I will be listening to a song and an idea for a story will just happen. I could be doing household chores then boom, an idea for a story will hit me. I have notepads stashed everywhere in my house and I have one in my car as well to quickly write down any ideas that come to me.

If you could bring any one of your characters to life, which would you choose and why?

I would choose Master Drake from my Master Series. He was the first character that I fully developed. He is and always will be my favorite character for that reason.

 

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#MondayBlogs – LONELINESS – A Short Story

Loneliness

“What do you see?” Rick asked.

“Loneliness,” I replied.

I hadn’t meant to say the word aloud. I’d been sitting here by the window, watching the palm trees sway and the occasional car pass by, thinking it should feel peaceful but all it felt was lonely.

Rick reached for my hand. I pulled away and said, “No,” in a weary voice I hardly recognized as my own.

His fingers grazed my arm. His touch left a trail of electrical current. I remembered how good his arms felt, how safe I felt there.

But that was before.

Rick always asked what I saw when I looked outside, as if my world was somehow different than his. I’d give him silly answers, like purple unicorns and talking trees. Sometimes I’d weave elaborate tales of a fantasy world outside our windows. He’d pretend to take me seriously, looking through the glass for the passing chariot. It had been a game between us.

We shared many types of intimacy.

We knew everything about each other.

Or so I’d thought.

“Kelly, please talk to me.”

His voice held a quiet plea. I shook my head. Talking was pointless. Words could never fix this.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

I heard the honesty in his voice. Apologies, even the sincere ones, came too late. Apologies couldn’t undo the damage.

“I know,” I said on a sigh.

“She didn’t mean anything to me,” he said. “I don’t even know why I did it.”

“She meant enough for you to do it more than once.”

Rick reached out to touch me, but thought better of it and let his hand fall by his side. “I’m so sorry,” he said.

I thought we had the perfect relationship. We were best friends. Lovers. Partners. I trusted Rick completely.

All that was before.

Now when he touched me, I imagined his hands running over her bare skin. His touch no longer belonged to me alone.

Each time his cell phone rang, I watched his face and wondered if she was the person bringing that smile to his eyes.

Each time he walked out the door, I felt the betrayal to my core. How many times had he lied with ease, telling me he was going one place while he was really going to rendezvous with her? How many times had I rushed into his arms at the end of the day, not knowing those arms had been holding her just hours before?

His lies broke the honesty anchoring us together.

I was weightless now.

“I love you,” he said.

Despite everything, I didn’t doubt those words. And I would love him forever. But our love was now tangled in lies. Love doesn’t work without trust.

I used to love who I was when we were together. I didn’t like who I’d have to be if I stayed. That woman whose husband cheated. That woman who doesn’t have enough self-respect to walk away.

Rick sat across from me. I didn’t look at him. I couldn’t bear to see my anguish reflected in his eyes.

“It’ll never happen again,” he said. “I swear to you.”

“With her?” I asked. “Or with anyone?”

“I only want you,” he said softly.

His voice held the weight of unshed tears.

I felt the loss of something profound. Our love had become like a priceless vase that shattered. We could glue it back together, but it would never be the same.

This would be easier if I could hate him for what he did. But all I felt was deep despair.

The world outside my window hadn’t changed, yet it all looked different. I had a crack running through me that distorted my view.

“The world is a crowded but lonely place,” I said.

I’d never truly understood the feeling of loneliness.

But that was before.

Book Review – Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado

Unfair

A child is gunned down by a police officer; an investigator ignores critical clues in a case; an innocent man confesses to a crime he did not commit; a jury acquits a killer. The evidence is all around us: Our system of justice is fundamentally broken.

But it’s not for the reasons we tend to think, as law professor Adam Benforado argues in this eye-opening, galvanizing book. Even if the system operated exactly as it was designed to, we would still end up with wrongful convictions, trampled rights, and unequal treatment. This is because the roots of injustice lie not inside the dark hearts of racist police officers or dishonest prosecutors, but within the minds of each and every one of us.

This is difficult to accept. Our nation is founded on the idea that the law is impartial, that legal cases are won or lost on the basis of evidence, careful reasoning and nuanced argument. But they may, in fact, turn on the camera angle of a defendant’s taped confession, the number of photos in a mug shot book, or a simple word choice during a cross-examination. In Unfair, Benforado shines a light on this troubling new field of research, showing, for example, that people with certain facial features receive longer sentences and that judges are far more likely to grant parole first thing in the morning.

Over the last two decades, psychologists and neuroscientists have uncovered many cognitive forces that operate beyond our conscious awareness. Until we address these hidden biases head-on, Benforado argues, the social inequality we see now will only widen, as powerful players and institutions find ways to exploit the weaknesses of our legal system.

Weaving together historical examples, scientific studies, and compelling court cases—from the border collie put on trial in Kentucky to the five teenagers who falsely confessed in the Central Park Jogger case—Benforado shows how our judicial processes fail to uphold our values and protect society’s weakest members. With clarity and passion, he lays out the scope of the legal system’s dysfunction and proposes a wealth of practical reforms that could prevent injustice and help us achieve true fairness and equality before the law.

Published: June 16, 2015

Amazon / Amazon UK

 

My Review: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I can sum up my thoughts in three easy words: Read this book. No, don’t even hesitate long enough to read this review. Just buy the book.

Research suggests that you’re significantly more likely to convince a lawmaker to support a new bill that will indefinitely detain certain sex offenders after they complete their sentences if you tell him about a specific child victim than if you explain that it will save a thousand statistical lives. It’s no coincidence that major pieces of legislation – like Megan’s Law and the Adam Walsh Act – have been motivated by the murder of a single child.

For those of you still with me, I’ll do my best to offer some specifics. While the author gives us lots of facts to ponder, the content never feels dry or overly academic. Benforado writes in a conversational style, engaging his readers as if he’s sitting with friends.

I read a lot on this topic, and this book is one of the best out there. We look at psychological studies and indisputable facts, proving our ‘justice’ system is anything but fair. We explore topics such as jury selection, which allows and even encourages lawyers to seek jurors with the most prejudicial tendencies in their favor. The side with the most money to spend on consultants for jury selection has an enormous head start in the trial.

How troubled are we by the thought that, this very day, men and women are sitting on death row for crimes that they did not commit – one in every twenty-five, by the best estimate?

Some of the most startling information, for me, came in the section on plea bargaining. I was aware that this often allowed violent criminals to plea down to lesser crimes for lesser time, but I wasn’t aware how often it worked in reverse, forcing people who are not necessarily guilty of anything aside from being in the wrong place at the wrong time into plea bargains. This is particularly true with our poor and uneducated class of people, who cannot afford private lawyers and whose court-appointed attorneys are too overworked and underfunded to be of any real value. These people are bullied, scared into believing they will do hard time if they opt for a jury trial. Sadly, this scare tactic works. Less than 10-percent of cases ever go to trial. Our court system has instead become a plea bargaining system.

In the United States today, the vast majority of people charged with a crime are presented with a choice: say you did it and receive leniency, or maintain your innocence and suffer the consequences if a jury doesn’t agree.

The psychological information Benforada provides is both fascinating and upsetting. All of us, whether we realize it or not, make quick assumptions based on little fact. I was startled to learn that even something as simple as having a lot of trees in a given neighborhood leads many of us to believe the neighborhood is safer than a similar city neighborhood with few trees. Once we’ve made an assumption, we look for data backing us up, while ignoring conflicting information. This isn’t done maliciously. We aren’t even necessarily aware of doing it, which makes it all the more challenging to conquer.

Research suggests that one we have summed someone up, we search for data confirming that identity and disregard or minimize evidence conflicting with it. Or course, it doesn’t feel that way. It feels as though we are just dispassionately sorting through details.

Benforado closes with some intriguing ideas for fixing our broken system. Whether you agree with his ideas or not, his insight opens a dialogue we desperately need to be having nationwide.

Have I convinced you? I hope so. Buy the book. Read it. Give it to friends. Then talk about it. Maybe then we’ll finally start working toward change.

 

Thanks for reading. :)