7 Days in Russia

7 Days in Russia ISBN: 9781456631796 Orca Publishing, copyright and written by M. G. Crisci.

The book opens with the usual credits, followed by a list of sponsors; acknowledgements; a preface presenting brief biographical data including the raison d’être for the presentation; maps of specific routes taken in the 7-day journey; an amusing (and most appropriate for the Russian language) “Idiot’s Guide to Verbal Survival”; Day 1: “What could go wrong, goes wrong” and each succeeding chapter setting forth descriptions of more enlightening, frequently amusing, activities from each succeeding day. Additionally a photographer of note, the author was able to provide photographs of many of the places and people visited. Thus, the book describes an interesting and eye-opening account of the country and its inhabitants that will surprise many, if not most of today’s Americans.

Discussion: The author has presented a most appealing picture to describe present-day Russia that have strengthened his beliefs that the alcoholism, surveillance, and otherwise general effects of apprehension among the residents now exist only within the beliefs of the average American. Regrettably and most apologetically, this reviewer still retains some measure of reservation in totally accepting the author’s conclusion. He makes mention of the fact that his trip was made during one of Putin’s inaugurations following a first that had preceded it by two years. And from the freedom he noticed, and to a large extent quite ably demonstrated, today’s Russia appears to be one that is far removed from that which long existed. This reader also has travelled to Russia and experienced some similarities to those set forth by the author, but under other circumstances; i.e. not visiting as a tourist, but as a scientist visiting other scientists. We encountered most comfortable accommodations, transportation, excellent food and entertainment and really had no sense of being under any manner of surveillance other than tight restriction with respect to picture taking. (Granted this first trip was made when Gorbachev was struggling to bring the country together following the Troika disasters.) A week later we visited St. Petersburg to see the magnificent Hermitage and had the fascinating added pleasure of attending a performance of Boris Godunov in the city’s gem-like Opera House. Upon boarding our plane to leave Russia, a seemingly inconsequential remark by an In-Tourist representative provided a definite impression that surveillance of our activities actually had been quite extensive. Activities encountered on a subsequent trip a few years later still did not offer any definitive answer causing two other thoughts linger. Within the last 2-3 years this reader has received translations of books by Russian authors to review. None of these offer any clarification of the situation for this reviewer, but in fact strengthen an originally observed observation of a seeming dichotomy in the manner in which different classes or grades of citizens are observed/treated according to their main source of employment and/or activities; the other, a tendency toward observation/treatment according to religion, especially the apparent persistence of a degree of anti-Semitism – a feature one author commented on as having been accurately mentioned in my review. Additionally as continually discussed ‘ad nauseum’ by the media, we still have the involved Russian-American political situation.

Still another possibly unrecognized component in this seemingly benign Russian citizens’ complete freedom – the unbidden thought that this author, as a well-known lecturer as well as friend of the Director of the Russian Cultural Center in Washington D.C., may have received some measure of un-requested and un-recognized aid in his reception and activities in Russia. But then again, and most apologetically, this reviewer is an American who had WW II acquaintances and memories, the Cold War, Cuban fiasco, of the recurring political charges and the rest, as well as a couple of personal visits to Russia as a scientist conferring with scientists. Albeit this individual’s trips were a few years previous to Mr. Cristi’s and the memories may well be influenced by the troubled times not experienced by the author of this book. Trump and Putin seem to understand each other and actually seem to ‘be on the same page’ whereas the old hardliners of the Russian Politburo and those in the U.S. Deep State appear to be unrelenting. Perhaps it would be better if both countries paid a little more attention to China?

But to conclude, the picture the author has provided hopefully is the correct one as he has described it and this book is highly recommended as a most enlightening and interesting read for ALL Americans to further assess and better interpret the barrage of news to which they constantly are subjected.

5* Highly recommended as described.

What to do with POTASS

What to do with POTASS ISBN: 97809990589372 Mystery House Publishing copyright and written by Glenn Shepard.

Sub-titled “A comedic novella of political errors” the reader finds an oddly dressed but narcissistic President of the United States making idiotic decisions with respect to accompanying legislators on the golf course. From this unflattering introduction of today’s duly elected top executive of the United States, the parody continues as a lowly positioned building custodian who is relatively knowledgeable about aspects of public interest in the president, is elevated to a silly but important position on this executive’s staff. In this position he learns of several plots that are being generated to do away with the President. The tale continues as each plot is attempted to be carried out by each inept politician while POTASS, in his usual fashion, fails to listen to his informer’s inadequate attempts to aid him in avoiding the situation.

Discussion: This is another author’s contribution to this pasquinade of usually only slightly disguised varying degrees of derision toward duly elected President Trump. It is surprising and most regrettable for this reviewer to find it written by this particular recognized and intelligent author. The populace now has been subjected to three years of negative material that has been repeated ad nauseum about the man. And please, do NOT dismiss my remarks as those of a die-hard Republican. Through the years I have voted for each party’s presidential candidates depending upon my judgement of the candidate’s qualifications, not the party. Thus, it is sincerely hoped that my remarks will be accepted for the observations. No political or derogatory overtones are meant or implied. To begin, I heartedly concur with much that is here. The man is objectionable in many ways – appears to be ego-centric and narcissistic, seemingly inattentive and often ignores what others consider good advice (although with passing time evidence has vindicated a number of his criticized decisions).  Also he can be crude, quite abrasive and appears to enjoy spouting copious and often poorly considered opinions on twitter. But again parenthetically, many of these same traits are quite noticeable in other successful persons, even those without his range of successful achievements before assuming the presidency. A prime example, his predecessor whose narcissism and ego-egocentricity were just as noticeable, even though his achievements were unremarkable and definitely quite in minimal number demonstrating his qualifications to be elected President of the country. Then following election, his mistakes and/or miscalculations were numerous but only cautiously referred to even when blatantly apparent (with increasingly solid evidence of wrong doing only recently surfacing). Perhaps one most prominent example, his authorized delivery of a huge quantity of U. S. taxpayers’ dollars in cash to an enemy country. Our reward? Liberation of a soldier captured after deserting his duty post in the front lines of action. Sadly, the hesitancy of the time to address this and other mismanaged incidences may well be the reason the mass of derogatory material has occurred against the present POTUS. Such assumption easily may be made when considering the prominence accorded the extremely sensitive term ‘racism’ and the adverse thoughts conjured up by the term with that President. After suffering through eight years of this perceived restriction, or at least seeming need to minimize perceived ‘wrong-doings’, perhaps its removal has been enough to release the long pent-up desire by the media and even individuals to be able again to discuss freely perceived inadequacies in POTUS. For example, Trump’s apparent concurrence with Putin’s position and the entire Russian election interference situation in disagreement with the FBI/CIA repeatedly has been heavily criticized. But this also currently is under reconsideration as the result of a recent official report offering sharp criticism of the repeated inadequate and even seemingly bordering criminal performance by these ‘pillars of justice’ of the U. S. Government. But then again, there are his improper call to the newly elected President of Ukraine; his involvement in a poorly-thought-out series of associated events and more. BUT ENOUGH! As previously stated, the discussion of his inadequacies now has continued ad nauseum for more than three consecutive years. And the history of this country is replete with a long list of pros and cons of the activities of every president this country has had.

So to summarize: records quite clearly show that at his time the former occupant of the White House made a sizable number of often minimized mistakes that included appointing and retaining a Secretary of State who knowingly was involved in activities detrimental to our country while compiling, with her somewhat tainted former president husband, a huge personally overseen fortune. Additionally, his own final departure from office shows a sizable increase in net worth, his entire party in disarray and a totally confused country. Meanwhile, the overall activity of the sitting president, at least to the present moment, has appeared to be highly productive for the United States and its residents – accomplishments largely resulting from his activity alone. The opposing political party’s outright obstruction long has been as blatantly evident as has the lackadaisical aid from his own. So to reiterate, from this reviewer’s sincere attempt at impartial examination, this book is very well-written in the author’s usual manner, but from this reader’s perspective and most apologetically to the author, it is a tedious repetition of material the likes of which has inundated the media, the airways and especially the late night comedy shows for an inordinate period of time.

2* For reasons cited in the discussion and apologies to a fine author.

Slater’s Tempest

Slater’s Tempest assumed published, copyright and written by T. J. Jones.

This 3rd book in the Slater Mystery series follows former Navy Seal, now PI Eric Slater, as he and his ‘working for her license’ love Maggie embark upon solving another mystery. This one is in the Florida Keys where the much loved daughter of an exceedingly wealthy tycoon supposedly died when hurricane Irma tore through the area in 2017. It was believed that Isla the daughter, had taken her beloved dead mother’s boat, the Caroline, out trying to save it by sailing it to safety. Slater is contacted by the tycoon when he receives in the mail a neckless that his purportedly dead daughter never removed. Slater and Maggie, with aid from Jasmine, his young ward who is eighteen, brash, overconfident with a mind of her own, but really a most intelligent and nice young person who enjoys ‘pushing his buttons’. It seems that the old man has ALS with a remaining 3 -5 year life span. He now was struggling with numerous additional complications arising from his less than exemplary life style. After being cleared of killing his first wife with whom he had been totally in love, but both had ‘messed-up’, he had married a beautiful younger woman. Seemingly, his money was not important because she really cared for this much older man as a result of her own early problems. His daughter Isla, close to the new wife’s age, did not equate well with her and for that matter believed her father did kill her mother. He had a brother who was intelligent and a part owner of his company, but actually was a ‘playboy type’ individual interested only in the money, not the company. The caretaker for his mansion actually was a brilliant engineer who helped develop many of Dunbar’s products. This man’s longtime live-in Asian friend/wife (?) who serves as the mansion’s cook also had some strange type of relationship with the owner’s family. Then there is a local PI who works as a barman at his son’s local tavern and whose other son is a recluse growing marijuana. Still others are entangled in the very complicated plot that even includes a ghost of Eli, an old sailor in some manner associated with the dead wife and/or the house. All in all, an interestingly involved tale including mystery, romance, humor, many psychological overtones and even a touch of the occult that the author ultimately is able to untangle.

5* Well-written, addition to the seemingly popular developing series.

A Spell of Murder

A spell of Murder ISBN: 9781838880958 Bookouture, London copyright and written by Kennedy Kerr.

The story follows the activities of two local but very modern witches as they attempt to solve a murder that appears to involve some manner of witchcraft. Their home belonged to their parents in the small town of  Lost Maiden’s Loch, named for the small lake in Scotland which had gained its name from  a young maiden who mysteriously had drowned in its waters. The sisters’ parents had been quite knowledgeable of the dark arts, even purportedly have taught the subject. The two young presumed witches are thirty-year-old Temerity Love, owner and proprietress of Love’s Curiosities and her 2-year-older sister Tilda, each quite accomplished in different most unusual subjects. Temerity was the proprietress of a small antique shop, Love’s Curiosities, in their home, but more importantly was a world renowned clairvoyant who had the gift of psychometry or psychic provenance that allowed her to gain extensive history of an item merely by touching and/or holding it – a talent of immeasurable importance in the antique and collectors’ world. Tilda was an authority, verifier and dealer in rare books as well as an Herbalist. Thus, their designation. The plot involves a number of prominent characters living in the town as well as the Laird, his home, wife and former wives, his sons, two of his old mansion’s remaining staff members, the town’s police officer, his quite newly arrived replacement along with Temerity and Tilda and their unusual knowledge as they attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of a relatively newly arrived school teacher.

Discussion: As aptly explained by the author, this is a tale about “a little Scottish village alongside one of those strange, sometimes enormous lochs. A gossipy, cozy village where, sometimes, strange things happen and two local witches are on hand to investigate…” This reader found the description basically to be quite accurate and, for the most part, the story enjoyable. The only detracting features were insertion of ‘Americanisms’ in an otherwise Scottish tale and a sense that the charming picture developed in the book’s earlier chapters would have continued unabated if a little more judicious editing had been employed in the last third of the volume.

3* Charming mystery tale with slight caveat.

Gritty Tales

Gritty Tales ISBN: 9781732544109 an anthology assumed published, copyright and written by Tyler M. Mathis.

The author states that this book contains “13 stories of Crime, Mayhem and Terror”. A forward, although purported to be brief, contains adequate length to provide an overview of the contents with a few directions on suggested approach. He also defines “Gritty tale” as “a story of harsh and uncompromising realism” and lists three definitions of gritty – “courageous, course and abrasive and characters driven by their very basest motives” – as applicable to his content. He also admonishes that “vulgar language, graphic content and unhappy endings” are abundant. He also advises that 6 of the stories previously have been published and all are “straight-up crime, horror of supernatural bent, and most are cross-genre works.” Each individual tale is initiated by its own brief forward providing a hint of what the reader will discover in the following prose.

Discussion: The collection of stories offered are replete with characters who are losers, contain sick minds and/or are basically evil or are in an evil position as a result of one or another factor. Each story is independent of the others and can be randomly selected to read, except for 4 designated as closely related and to be read as such. Thus, the volume provides an excellent read for the busy person who finds only short spaces of time for such activity. The book perhaps is a more fitting read for those who enjoy stories on the dark side.

4* for readers who enjoy dark tales often involving course characters and language

May Cause Drowsiness and Blurred Vision

May Cause Drowsiness and Blurred Vision ISBN: 978732721616, published, copyright and written by Gloria Squitiro.

This is an autobiographical segment in the life of a woman of Italian birth, happily married to a man who is a brutally frank auditor who attacks waste in government budgets – Mark Funkhouser, politician, author, former Auditor, then elected Mayor of City of Kansas City, MO. She, like Mark, is adamant about seeking the truth about her areas of interest; e.g. a freelance (unattached to any hospital) individual providing knowledge and aid to couples before and during childbirth after experiencing 2 caesarian sections that seemingly were unnecessary. Her birth children are a son and daughter and she has others she has attracted because of her nature. The story covers a period preceding her husband’s run for Mayor starting with a somewhat extended trip to Europe with the whole family as well as a period following their return.

Discussion: The author has initiated “The C’mon Funk Series” with this first volume that is sub-titled “The side-effects of bravery”. Here, she has set forth a no-holds-barred look at her unvarnished truth seeking evaluation of a number of factors and situations from her brave but confessed quite hypochondriacally slanted approach to life. It provides both humor and bits of poignancy from a realistic viewpoint that seems to be quite congruent with her husband’s thought processes. In her own words: she “has an INFJ (Introverted, intuitive, Feeling, Judging) personality. She is an advocate. She is a dreamer who takes concrete steps to realize her goals and make a lasting positive impact. Helping others is her purpose in life, but not through charity work. Her real passion is to get to the heart of issues so people need not be rescued at all.”

5* Fascinatingly amusing approach to life fascinating for many readers.