A Review of "Trial by Fury" by J.A. Jance

“Trial by Fury”, J.A. Jance’s third novel featuring Homicide Detective J.P. Beaumont (Beau) can best be summed up as an average read, less interesting than some of her other works in the series and much less engaging than her other series featuring Joanna Brady. It is more of a police procedural than an actual thriller, though for some readers who enjoy the act of reading an otherwise well written book, it can still be relaxing to read a book that is going pretty much where you think it is. For me personally, when I read a series featuring a particular character that I’ve already come to cherish, it is still lovely to see them again in a book, even if it isn’t a powerhouse read.

The book opens with the discovery of a dead body in a Seattle dumpster, a high school coach who was apparently lynched. As we learn of the very pregnant wife he left behind, we also learn that he was far from the ideal husband. The gruesomeness of a black victim being lynched certainly adds racial overtones to the story, and perhaps the exploration of these are potential motives could have been developed more in order to give the story line more depth. However, this clearly is another mystery revolving a woman scorned, although there are enough twists and turns and in a mildly surprising ending, there is more than one woman scorned and discovering the truth of the matter has dangerous consequences for Ron Peters, Beau’s partner.

One thing I like about Jance’s Beaumont series is her character development. Unlike other series, the books in the Beaumont series can also be read standing alone, as Jance spends almost as much time on the character’s personal lives and personal interactions as she does in developing the mystery. In this book, we see Beau struggling with the acceptance of his own failings as a parent as he faces the reality of what may become of Peters’ children when his life hangs in the balance. It is struggle that many can relate to and I simply love to read a book where the main characters have to overcome basic human struggles as well as deploying whatever superior gifts they may display.

Overall, this is an enjoyable, light read and I do recommend it for fans of J.A. Jance, although it may not be the best introduction for the series for those readers who are not already enamored with Beau and Peters.

Book Review: Kaya Abaniah and the Father of the Forest, by Wayne Gerard Trotman

I hate clichés, but this book has rendered me quite speechless. In a good way. First, knowing that it is set in The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, tells you something of its uniqueness. Trotman’s firsthand experience of the Caribbean islands shines through in the vivid descriptions of the area’s history, culture, and environment. But this is no glossy travelogue. At least not in the traditional sense. Instead, we are treated to a coming-of-age story with all of the trials, heartbreak and energy that only teenagers fully understand–or any of us who survived those tumultuous years.

The main character Kaya has some special gifts that not everyone appreciates. It is tough enough being normal. But in Kaya’s world nothing is as it seems. From myths to the paranormal, to aliens, and back again, college for Kaya, with its bullies, allies and enemies is one adventure after another. But it is Trotman’s gift for catching the nuances of relationships and the aches of these years that really lifts this book from any genre typecasting.

First there is Kaya’s relationship with his mother Josephine. Ever mindful of her son’s wellbeing, nothing escapes Josephine’s keen eye:

Later that evening, Josephine found Kaya, sitting at the kitchen table, doing his homework and trying not to sulk.

But although Kaya had succeeded in bringing the swelling down, Josephine’s immediate reaction was, “Wha’ppen tuh yuh face?” Deep furrows of concern appeared on her forehead, and she gently turned Kaya’s face from side to side, examining his bruises.

“Ah fell,” said Kaya, meekly.

“Off de bike”

Kaya grunted ambiguously. During his fight with the Mapepires, he did fall, so technically he was not lying; at least, that’s what Kaya thought. If Josephine wanted to believe he fell from his new bike, he was not going to argue with her.

“How yuh fall off de bike? Look how yuh look like Mastifay,” said Josephine, with dismay.”

Equally well-wrought are Kaya’s feelings, angst, and interactions with his love interests, Wendy and Raima:

He stared at the screen, mesmerized by the browser’s slow progress; until finally an image of Raima’s face, hair tossed and eyes closed, began to emerge. The slightly blurred shot captured her dancing with wild abandon, a wicked smile traced on her glossed lips. Under different circumstances, Kaya would have enjoyed the sensual provocation of the photograph. However, all he felt was a growing knot in the pit of his stomach and the increasingly crushing weight of waves upon waves of devastating jealousy.

Also, true to a school system with “houses” or to any school really, Kaya must navigate cliques, bullies, and shifting alliances. If this weren’t difficult enough, some of Kaya’s teachers, friends, enemies, and even some of his relatives are not as they appear. He, and we, are left wondering who he can trust as he deals with the normal problems of teenage life, and some problems not of this world. I can say no more without spoiling the fun and wild times of Kaya Abaniah. Suffice to say, you will be glad you spent satisfying time with this unique and wide-ranging epic of an adventure tale.

Book Review: A President From Hawaii

Dr. Carolan and Joanna Carolan have prepared a beautiful book that shows the influence Hawaii had on Barack Obama who grew up there and subsequently became the first President from that state.

The less than seventy pages are not only beautifully illustrated but also clearly state the values held by the Hawaiian people, in their language as well as in English. These include:

1. Education: Obama went to school at Punahou and is known as being “askamai” or smart. He has stated that his experience there gave him support and allowed him to grow and prosper.

2. Religion: Even though the eight islands that make up the Hawaiian chain are small, there is always room for churches to be built by people of different faith backgrounds. The word “Mana” describes the Hawaiians belief that divine spirit or power is in every person, rock and flower.

3. History: Before Hawaii became the fiftieth state of the United States, it was ruled by a monarchy. Hawaii has had both positive and negative experiences over the years. For example, War began when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese. Olympic Gold has been won and now one of the Hawaiians has become President.

5. Tradition: The lei is a garland or necklace that is made from flowers, shells, leaves or other materials and given as a symbol of affection or respect. This is just one of the ways that the Hawaiian people demonstrate their uniqueness.

4. Environment: Because of the rainfall, Hawaii has had great success in growing sugarcane and other crops. The Hawaiians also enjoy the lush and tropical surroundings that they have that include mountain and ocean. Everyone is taught to protect and care for the land as a duty.

5. Family: Everyone in Hawaii is treated like family (Ohana). Each child is cherished and elders (kapuna) are honoured. Obama was particularly influenced by his maternal grandmother who set a good example and sacrificed for him. He often refers to the multi-cultural diversity in his own family. His sister is half Indonesian. His brother-in-law is Chinese. Some brothers and sisters are African.

6. Attitude: Mahalo means respect and thank you. From a young age, Hawaiian children are taught not only to use the word but understand its meaning. Kokua means helping get something done and Obama has learned to encourage people to work together because that is the Hawaiian way. They also value working things out resolving conflict, talking, listening and forgiving.

This interesting book also has a CD on which the main storyline is narrated and Hawaiian music is sung.

My daughter bought this book for me when she was on vacation in Maui. I have greatly enjoyed the simple but beautiful way that the authors have told the story not only of Hawaii but also of the way that Hawaii has influenced Barack Obama who became the first President to be born in Hawaii (kama aina means native-born).

How to Master the Art of Talking to Anyone – A Book Review

As adults, we often burden ourselves under the idea that – if we have the proper tools – we should automatically have the skills. For example, if we have reasonable coordination, our eyes work together and we have the strength to swing a racquet, then we should be able to play tennis. We’ve got ten fingers and can read notes on a page, we should be able to play piano. And, if we’ve got two ears, a mouth and vocal cords that work, we should be able to talk to anyone, anytime.

That’s where we get fouled up. We realized that Pete Sampras makes it look easy because he’s been working on his skills for years. Van Cliburn began playing the piano at age three. We think that because we’ve been talking that long, that we should be able to be skillful at networking events, business meetings, presentations, conferences and trade shows. But talking is a lot different than conversing. And conversing, like tennis and playing the piano, requires practice and skill development.

I have personally attended over 2,100 business networking and business social events in the last eight years. I’m comfortable talking with nearly anyone and I can skillfully turn the conversation toward or away from a topic. My business friends marvel at my ability, but they might not realize how much effort has been put into developing that skill. This effort includes not just reading but studying books on just the topic of conversation and communication.

One of the most important books I’ve studied to build my conversational skills is “The Art of Talking to Anyone” by Rosalie Maggio. It is a fantastic resource for anyone in business or even those who are tongue-tied at social occasions.

Starting with the basics, Ms. Maggio covers likeability, keeping a conversation going, asking questions and dealing with unpleasant discussions. The specifics gives detailed how-to’s on business meetings, social events, telephone conversations and even how to talk with someone who is suffering through a difficult time.

The book is extremely user-friendly, with long lists of actual phrases to use in almost any situation. One of the most fantastic segments is the “If They Say, Then You Say…” with lines that you will often hear at many events, along with the best suggestion of what to say back.

The best way to use this book is to read the wonderful information segments and then read out loud the conversational suggestions. Yes. Read it out loud. Practice these phrases. Put them in your own tone of voice with your own words. Imagine yourself using them in the appropriate situations. Imagine the positive responses you will get and the productive and interesting conversations you will have.

Pete Sampras and Van Cliburn practice and rehearse all the time. Why would you do the same for something as vital to your personal and business success as conversational skills? Rosalie Maggio’s “The Art of Talking to Anyone” will provide you with the best training possible from a book.

Book Review: The Problems Of Work – Scientology Applied to The Workaday World by L Ron Hubbard

The Problems Of Work – Scientology Applied To The Workaday World was written by L. Ron Hubbard as he travelled from the USA to England aboard the Queen Mary ship in 1955. It was written as a basic book of Scientology theory for any person to understand and apply to their work life.

The book goes over such topics as the Anatomy of Confusion. We have all been confused in work and life. Some people are able to handle confusion better than others. Here is the way to get out from any confusion at work. The example given is of a telephone operator who all of a sudden finds there are too many calls and does not know what to do. She gets confused. So to correct the confusion, she selects one call and answers it, and then selects the next call, and has her own methodology on how to select them. She may select those calls on the right hand side of the board first and work across, or she may have another method of putting order into the confusion. It does not seem to matter if the way of putting order into the confusion is correct or not, just so long as there is a methodology in doing it. The confusion will vanish.

There is also the famous Scientology rule or law on how to get more understanding. The book explains that there is a triangle with three components of understanding on each corner. These components are affinity, reality and communication. Affinity is liking something, in one of varying degrees. Reality is what people agree upon. And communication is pretty obvious. The law here is, that to gain understanding from someone, all you have to do is raise one corner of the triangle. That is, raise communication, reality or affinity with that person. You can simply like the person more, or find what is between you that you can agree upon, or just spend more time talking. Doing any of these will bring about more understanding. This one chapter is probably the most important part of the book and if someone were to read the book for this single chapter alone, it would be worthwhile.

Then there is the fundamental rule on how to turn “bad control” into good. We have all experienced bad control. Well, what makes bad control, bad? Here is an example. Who has been told to do something, and then before it was done, is told to do something else, and before that was done, told to do another thing instead again? As a subordinate, this drives you mad at the executive who does it to you.

Next is the Secret of Efficiency. Executives should read this chapter, and it really does explain how to be a better boss.

There are eight chapters in the book, each one dealing with separate principles or laws which apply to every endeavour of work and life.

Another of these laws is the most fundamental law of work, and living, the Doctrine of the Stable Datum. Here is what enables a person to learn a job fast, as distinct from a person who is slow to learn. We have all seen people who find it hard to learn on the job, and likely we have all experienced it ourselves. Here you are encouraged to find something that is very basic that a person can grasp about the job, learn that well, and from there all other learning should grow. Well, this is a simple way to speed up training. So, for the trainer this book is a very useful tool to read in greater detail.

The last chapter of the book covers the rock bottom cause of exhaustion. Who has not been exhausted at work? The book goes over what causes it, how people then bring this exhaustion back to their homes, disrupt the family. The book also explains how to get rid of, not only the exhaustion, but any upset it may have generated.

The Problems of Work is a great beginning book on Scientology and is written expressly for those who want to apply it in their lives at work. After all, work is the biggest component of living. The book also goes over why we need work, and why work is personally giving each of us a purpose.

The Problems Of Work comes with a good lengthy glossary and it comes with sketches through each chapter.

So instead of wondering why some people get work and hang onto it, and why others seem to fail, even though they have more talent and qualifications, read this book. It will solve many of the riddles and mysteries of work. It is available in many libraries and was reprinted recently with a very aesthetic cover. The book is available in most libraries and comes in hard bound, soft cover and audio book versions.

Flying a Flag for Hitler – Book Review

“Flying a Flag for Hitler” tells the story of the young Elsbeth Emmerich growing up in Nazi Germany during World War II. This is a superb little book written by Elsbeth herself.

Of how her Daddy reluctantly goes off to war to fight and never comes back from the snowy wastes of Leningrad. Of how her mother loses her job as an athletic’s coach because she refuses to join the party. Of her how her granddad is repeatedly taken away by the Gestapo for not flying the swastika flag.

What particularly struck me was how similar her memories are compared to my own mother’s, as Elsbeth was evacuated from the city to the country, just as my mother was from Liverpool to North Wales. The photographs Elsbeth shows us of herself in school are almost identical to the ones I have of my mother from the late nineteen thirties.

I particularly found the day they were finally conquered/invaded/liberated by the Americans particularly moving. They had been told they would be tortured and shot. Elsbeth and her brother and sisters, terrified of what was about to happen, hid in an old washing tub. Her words describe what happened next far better than mine ever could.

“I became so happy and totally relieved and exhilarated when I realized that the Americans were not “the enemy” as I had been taught, but normal human beings, friendly and generous. No one was being shot and no one was being tortured. I didn’t have to plead for my mother or sisters’ lives. I cannot remember ever feeling happier or more relieved than I did after the Americans came to our little village.”

This is a marvellous little book. I have read hundreds of books about the Second World War, both fact and fiction, and I have no hesitation in recommending this one.

Flying a Flag for Hitler, My childhood in Nazi Germany by Elsbeth Emmerich. ISBN: 034090268X