The Apricot Outlook

The Apricot OUTLOOK of Katherine Koon Hung Wong ISBN: 9781734824018 Clever Clock Press copyright and written by Dennis W. C. Wong.

This is an unusual genealogical investigative book that opens with several illustrations, acknowledgements, and an introduction that leads to The Apricot Outlook which is a short recital of Katherine’s life in her own words. In turn, Beyond the Apricot Outlook recites the almost monumental task of attempting to discover the background of her and the author’s roots. An endeavor almost impossible to accomplish for Chinese natives who had immigrated to Hawaii at or around the turn of the 19th – 20th century. A huge part of the problem is that many came from small enclaves of several small villages within an overall larger collection within areas of this huge country and especially when one considers how children were named and the fact that Chinese men routinely could have as many as 7 different names.

The story is simplistically told and, although somewhat difficult to follow, must be a treasure trove of material for a sizeable number of people. It is most difficult to rate the reading interest/enjoyment for general readership.

5* for specific individuals and research accomplished; – ? * for other readers.

Eastbound from Flagstaff

Eastbound from Flagstaff ISBN: 9781642793369 Morgan James Publishing copyright written by Annette Valentine.

The story introduces Simon Hagan, a man in his late twenties, in his small apartment in Albuquerque. His present activities include washing dishes at the hotel, classes in acting and first year pre-med college courses at the university. He is waiting excitedly for the love-of-his-life’s arrival from Flagstaff in an hour. Thus he leaves a little early to drive his typical crank Model T. Ford. At the bus station he learns that there has been a disastrous accident. The story moves from here to follow Simon’s life from its beginning on a rather successful farm outside of Elkton, Kentucky. He is the oldest son of a growing family – God devoted father who is a mentally, as well as physically, a strong man – a loving mother, a two-year younger brother Alain and several other siblings. Although never quite happy with the life of a farmer, he functioned well while dreaming of some other path in life. When he was eighteen, his mother was mauled to death by a bear which he had slowed but not stopped with the family shotgun. Unnecessarily blaming himself for her death and stimulated by his desire not to be a farmer. He leaves for Detroit, Michigan where Ford Motor Company was hiring workers for the very excellent pay of $5.00/day. The tale continues with his ability to equate easily with new people, and his activity on an assembly line. Through a chance remark by one of his new friends, he is given a job as a rookie on the Detroit Police Force. Here he rises very rapidly, becoming a Police Captain within a very few years. Regrettably, he acquires tuberculosis and must resign to move to a sanatorium in Albuquerque. The entire sequence of episodes covers a 9 year period during which he encounters many devastatingly crushing personal blows. Many of which, as with his mother’s death, he blames himself and continues a struggle with attempting to accept the fact pounded into him as a child, that God was in control. All of this mental stress is exacerbated by the constant presence in his bedroom of his mother’s bible that his father insisted he take with him and read the numerous notes he and his mother had entered on various pages. His continuation to do so adds immensely to his tension. Specific details and their chronological order really need to be read to understand the deep feelings and emotional turmoil dealt with in this tale.

Discussion: The author, a well-recognized figure in other endeavors, has presented here a debut novel depicting a period in the early life of her father. An Endorsement recounted before beginning the story points out quite accurately, that this “powerful story of resilience and recovery is a quest filled with brutal tragedies that explores the depths one endures and the path that ultimately leads to redemption”. This reviewer heartily concurs with the summation quoted by the endorser. But most regrettably, as a novel, several features require a greater degree of attention. The protagonist has a self-accusatory problem initiated by his mother’s death, but employed to strengthen his desire to leave the life of a farmer. Subsequent catastrophic occurrences strengthen the belief as his life continues. Furthermore, he fails to recognize the importance of the good matters that so easily come his way – his easy arrival at a pleasant boarding house resulting from his enquiry at the wrong address; similarly his hiring as a rookie police officer; his rapid advancement; and more all are serendipitous. Seemingly he makes a number of wrong decisions, especially with respect to his love life. But then again, his character is so sketchily developed as are those of his loves that it is impossible to even conjecture adequately. Therefore, and most regrettably, from this reader’s perspective the author has set forth a story with all of the elements of a fine fictional biography providing a powerful message, but it does require considerable character enrichment to reach the powerful story latently existent.

3* 5* powerful tale of a tormented trail attempting to reach redemption.

Character is Destiny

     Character is Destiny ISBN: 9781642799750 Morgan James Publishing copyright and written by Pehr Gyllenhammar.

Sub-titled “Reflections on Innovation & Destiny from Volvo’s Longest Serving CEO” is a memoir written by a man who participated in momentous decisions in widespread areas of the world. His prominent position as CEO of Sweden’s automobile industry’s premier entry no doubt placed him a position to be called upon to participate. He was one of earliest individuals working with Reuter’s press, well-respected for truthful reporting, and eventually held many decision making positions. He traveled to Egypt, Israel and Jordan and the territory of Palestine (1970’s) meeting with Sadat, Begin, Peres, the ruling brothers of Jordan and Arafat as a hopefully helpful individual (having refused to head a group); served as part of the European Round Table group plotting ways to gain closer ties among the European countries resulting in the England –France tunnel and more (1980’s). In 1994 he was invited to the newly democratically elected South African Parliament in Cape Town. And the list goes on. Then there are the other serendipitous encounters of importance. An excellent example, his relationship with the man responsible for Singapore’s continued existence, its Prime Minister. It resulted from a chance meeting on a tennis court. – “I have never much enjoyed talking about my personal life, I do find it fascinating to talk about the company of good people that I have loved.” “I have learned the most important lessons, and my connections to people…. Are what allowed me to exceed the abilities and capacities with which I was born, and to become a person who, I believe has been of value in the world.” The dialogue continues with numerous other relationships and the mutual, as well as world, gains from the relationships.

Discussion: The author, now in his eighties, condenses many of his discussions in an interesting summary of his opinion of the world in a closing Epilogue. An Afterword follows from a different perspective written by his eminently intelligent wife, Dr. Lee Croll whom he married after having lost his wife a few years ago. They have a 4-year old daughter. He remarks that there are “Complex currents and eddies at work on every continent” and sites Poland and Hungary as experiencing a rise of authoritarianism;  Austria and Italy gaining strong neo-Nazi tendencies; Russia as being in a brutal dictatorship with unaffordable military and dismal economy; India as growing into a wonderful democracy – the biggest in the world; Tiny Singapore a good model for survival under “firm leadership”- although earlier expressing disagreement with the Minister’s ‘firmness’; China’s amazing rate of growth; Middle East constant brutality; Africa growing, but drought and starvation challenging; Australia comfortable and rich; South America corruption, fascist tendencies, declining growth and discipline. His impression of the United States, discussed earlier, as are the others, is quite extensive and leaves this reader extremely disappointed and really quite amazed. After pointing out his contributions and innovative ideas that have been helpful to other countries, here he presents nothing more than a continuation of the blame Trump material with which the country’s residents constantly are bombarded. In fact, some of his stated decisions denounce the man as viciously, if not more so, than I have heard or seen in the newspapers, TV or other as expressed  within the country. Most regrettably I had expected that if a man of his long and far-reaching experience were going to spend the time discussing the situation here in America, he would look at the situation from a more level basis. I did not expect him to regurgitate material that is provided here daily. There is no question that Trump has few, if any, likeable qualities. However, if the author will take an introspective moment, he will discover a few of those he does not like about Trump, within himself – he prefers not to be part of a group but to work from his own agenda as shown in his preference to visit the Near East individually rather than having to perhaps agree with a group; his chagrin with the media’s reaction to his new “young wife”; his seeming often confrontational relationship with Volvo. These factors alone would appear to provide some basis of thought when he considers the man he has been examining, a man who has been encountering similar situations and attacks for almost 4 years. I guess this reviewer just expected a man of the author’s remarkable attainments to at least attempt to provide innovative thoughts with respect to what road possibly may be followed to bring a no doubt circuitous, but viable path to gain a suitable result for America.

3* Remarkable man; great disappointment in part as described.

 

Boot, A sorta novel of Vietnam

BOOT, A Sorta Novel of Vietnam published, copyright and written by Charles L. Templeton.

Now a Marine Sergeant assigned to the Presidential Helicopter Squadron after completing 150 missions in Vietnam, George Orwell (G. O.) Hill had just completed a flight mission for “one of the many alphabet organizations that crowded Washington, D.C.” He was sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and looking at the Reflective pool while trying to decide “Are you going to look at that damn Wall (Vietnam Memorial) or are you going to di-di (move rapidly) back to Georgetown?” “He squinted into the pool’s reflection. His face was a mask hiding his shadows…. His heart raced and his brain whirred, like a nickelodeon … replaying images from his tour in Vietnam forever camped in his memory. Why would he want to think about that crap anyway? That was then; this is now.” But thoughts came rambling through. His youth and desire to serve as had his father, uncles and grandfathers, his pride reflected in his grandfather’s eyes. But suddenly in the water of the Reflecting pool, he saw the image of a headless North Vietnamese regular. Some creative grunt had pinned a note on his blouse that read, “I just wanted to get ahead in life.” At the time he had lost his lunch. These days he chuckled about the grisly scene.” Such is the reader’s introduction to the ruminations of a man who has lived and experienced the repetitive re-interspersing periods of mind-numbing boredom with those of terror and horrifying activity experienced by any person who ever has participated in combat.

Discussion: Assuming the part of the protagonist, G.O. Hill, the author has examined the highly diversified cultural, religious and racial beliefs existing among the group of Marines involved along with those of the enemy. Additionally, he has injected a perhaps unexpected glimpse of a human tendency that exists even in enemies fighting for survival. His portrayal of characters is most realistically accomplished, the humor included, and the story provides, often unwanted memories for the initiated but is of tremendous educational value for the uninitiated,

5* Educational for the uninitiated; often unwanted recall for participants.

It’s Not the Score It’s the Trip

It’s Not the SCORE, it’s the TRIP ISBN: 978 1642251494  Advantage Media Group copyright and written by Brian O’Hara.

Sub- titled “One man’s journey to building a global franchise is a memoir by the founding president and COO (later CEO) of XL Insurance. A company described by importantly prominent members as “the Bermudian re-insurance market instrumental in raising the bar of economic landscape of the island to a now globally recognized as a prominent reinsurance domicile.”  “The publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered.” The book opens with the usual Forward, Preface, and Introduction followed by 9 chapters, an Epilogue, acknowledgements and About the Author, some photographs scattered throughout and a collection at the end. End Notes (18) and a closing note depicting a slightly less formal description of the author complete the volume. Each chapter describes advances and occurrences leading toward his goals as they occurred chronologically. The first accounting Family Luck 1948-1965; #2 Testing my luck 1966-1970; #3 Fun into prophet 1970-1979; #4 No simple highway, the road 1978-1989; #5 Buy or be bought 1990-1999; #6 Leading the industry 1999-2003; #7 Rough Waters 2003-2006; #8 Plan B 2007-2008; # 9 Now what? 2008-2011.

It is a quite personal story of how Brian worked his way through the business to become CEO of a global corporation largely bringing recognition to Bermuda as a prominent center for the insurance-reinsurance industry. His personally rigid belief and adherence to collegiality and integrity he believed were most important for survival and were the keynote to all operations as well as knowing the rules but being flexible in relationship to them. He further worked on the principle that you get better results if you ask people if they can do something, rather than tell them to do it. He was acutely aware of the magnitude of inherent risk in the industry’s cycles and the corresponding uncertainty, especially when it came to matters like budgeting for the premiums. (Especially with Fortune 500 Companies operations and products. “They appreciated their underwriting discipline that would create a stable long-term relationship despite the cyclicality of the insurance industry overall.”) He used his program in Barbados as well as Bermuda and the company went from $450 million in ’87 to $1 Billion by ’90 and ultimately an organization employing 2400 people in 20 countries. Eventually, the main operations moved to Bermuda from Barbados and also started a branch in Dublin, Ireland. Their entire mission was as insurers/reinsurers that dealt with providing coverage for large-risk properties. Finally they opened to become a public company and success continued but he found it to be personally unpleasant because he felt required now to satisfy so many strangers who had invested in the work. Interestingly, the day he was forced to step down as CEO was the year that catastrophe struck the company along with most others involved in this high risk business.

Discussion: The author has written a most interesting memoir from several perspectives. First, it presents an impressive insight to the drivers and inner workings of the property and casualty risk industry for interested parties. Second, the details about this phase of insurance underwriting offer fascinating ‘inside’ information for uninvolved individuals interested generally in how other businesses operate (such as this reader). Third, it is studded with interchanges with well-known athletes and coaches from football, basketball, tennis and golf as well as cinema celebrities, Heads of State and powerful individuals within the world of finance. Thus, the author has offered the entire package in a personally oriented manner that removes it from the more usual somewhat dry and subject oriented business reminiscences.

5* Informative and unusually enjoyable business memoir.

After Olympus

AFTER OLYMPUS ISBN: 9781733801713 Lone Think Press copyright by Desmond Mascarenhas written by Santiago Xaman.

Description/Discussion: Pragmatically, and referred to by the author as “pseudo-fiction”, this most unusual book follows a rambling plot following the lives of three men besides the story teller and their wives or significant others as their lives play out after discovery of a hitherto unknown/unreported Russian Space craft of unusual components and containment. The tale is a tumultuous mixture of mystery and mythology with overtones of mysticism (?), occult (?), history spread over a wide section of the world ranging from Guatemala to Russia, the Serengeti and other parts of Africa, India, throughout much of the U. S. and Europe. The four protagonists all are exceedingly well educated and from backgrounds (families/cultures/traumatic occurrences) that make them prone to a somewhat different manner of living, employment and in their reactions to these matters. The pages are replete with thought provoking messages on such matters as the fact that every subject deserves empirical, intuitive and pragmatic contemplation; everything good grows from the bottom up (plants, trees, cultures?); everything projected from the top down is bad – organized religions, governments et al. – these latter often ‘dodge’ by forming protocols that ‘adapt’. Good comes from people thinking alone; e.g. Plato, Einstein; bad from organizational groups at the top claiming from their collective decision that they are right and everybody else wrong. And unfortunately, even authenticity is vulnerable if railed against at a high level maintained for a sufficiently long time. The author seems most interesting, but who is the author? The book includes a previously published “Opinion Piece” of interest in itself, as is another “Rebuilding the House” that discusses replacing organized religions, governments, corporations “with better versions of themselves”. Also some notes About the Author are quite fascinating when contemplating the entire book and the thoughts that arise from the ‘experience’ of reading this book.

5* Unusual, divertingly intriguing experience for certain readers.