When Life Doesn’t Turn Out the Way we Hoped it Would

     When Life doesn’t turn Out the Way We’d Hoped it would ISBN: 0791973719830 Create Space Independent Publishing Copyright and written by Tom Wick.

In this 3rd book the author details his tour of duty as a young enlisted sailor aboard the USS Gridley CG-21 (West Pac 81-82 Cruise Book) that took him into the Indian Ocean during the Iran Conflict and beyond. It first presents the frequently repulsive antics engaged in by ‘old salts’ indoctrinating pollywogs into Shellback status as they “Cross the Line” (Equator) for the first time. He also describes levels of Shellbacks awards for particular crossings and certain ‘Fraternities’ for other types of crossings; e.g. crossing the Arctic Circle, Antarctic Circle, International Dateline, etc. After this test, he was awarded ‘Ship’s Liberty’ in their first port to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Pattaya Beach, Thailand in 1982. Next he describes Thailand in general, its travelogue features and those of its capital Bangkok. Numerous pictures are provided here as well as in the pages following. In the beach area, Kickboxing shows are offered at several beer bars. Go-go bars, nightclubs, and discotheques are in abundance. Sexual, as well as authentic, massage parlors also are numerous and he describes World-famous Walking Street as the center of night life, although seemingly the rest of the area was well supplied. Additionally, the reader is informed that Pattaya Beach had the second largest concentration of gay oriented enterprises in Thailand with Bangkok the largest. Besides Tuk-Tuk busses (pictures included), there was cheap public passenger pickups called songthaews or baht-busses because Thai currency is the baht and they’re cheap. Repeated accounts of his amorous escapades with his 3 lovely Thai prostitutes are provided as well as other similar escapades in the other ports covered. These other ports are Hong Kong with description of weather, demographics and points of interest as well as nearby Kowloon. Sasebo, Japan, again a complete general description and year’s weather report as well as an overview of Sasebo with a post-WWII note preceded by brief historical notes on beginnings of WWII. Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is next where travelogue descriptions again are set forth. The final port of San Diego ultimately is reached and he is met by family. The descriptions of his sexual and drug/alcohol activity, of his shipboard tasks, how the USS Gridley was named and lessons on the Geographic Coordinate System are so prominently and repeatedly described it becomes a bit annoying.

Discussion: In my review of the first book by this author (June, 2020) I wrote: “The material covered in this first book in the series presents, in quite explicit detail, quite lengthy descriptions of the repetitiously indulgent activities of the author, his family, friends and acquaintances as he moves among several locations. However, there is an overlying tone of a man somehow repentant of much of his activity and, as a result of some unnamed factor, ultimately realizing the ‘error of his ways and being ‘born again’ as a Christian. Although the causative factor is not mentioned per se, when he failed 1st grade a psychiatrist diagnosed him as having ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). This long-standing dysfunction, in combination with being brutally beaten, raped and suffering a degree of PTSD could have left him totally repentant for the meaningless sex, constant drug and alcohol abuse and the rest that caused him intense feelings of alienation, isolation, and loneliness.”

The author again has presented a book that presents a maximum amount of thought. Here he still participates in abundant sexual and drug activity “we shot some heroin, smoked some pot, and made love again.” “After our shower, we smoked some pot, got dressed and had some breakfast.” And similar phrases and sentences repetitiously are supplied, but in this volume he does not exhibit any of the repentance shown in the first book. However, the fact that a young man just barely out of his teens and with the background of family psychotic behavior, dysfunctional acquaintances from childhood, and personal problems he has encountered from a very early age, should have the tenacity of purpose to attempt to write a series of books is, at least to this reviewer, amazing. It is most unfortunate that he has not encountered an editor or other sympathetic person who would have been able to aid in his endeavors. His attempts really show promise.

3* Extremely difficult to rate; 2*- 4* dependent upon degree of analysis.

Diary of a Time Travelling Alien

Diary of a Time Travelling Alien ISBN: 9781234567890 assumed published, copyright and written by Yaakov C Lui-Hyden.

The story is of a fictitious Alien who begins with: “dear reader, be this a tale of woe and hope; two things you love above all else. It is difficult to write. To collect my thoughts of a millennium and my motives for doing so I’m not even sure of. Perhaps simply because I can.” He then continues to describe how he belonged to a race that destroyed itself in wars, not foolishly fought on their own territory, but that of others, until they were the conquerors. Further, this was the cause of the wars, they fought for ‘souls’ which their technology had developed technics to move from one body to another. With shortages as a result of the wars (with technical advancements again allowing the bodies to be maintained [rather than killing]. Their fantastically advanced society, once arriving at their conqueror state, led to complete destruction ultimately through infighting among themselves. He had been a soldier and his last days on his planet he was dead, or as he explains: “Not dead because we had gone far beyond that”, but his consciousness was dormant. He now, and for some millennia, was destined to travel the universe as a bodiless wraith that, if desired could again enter another’s body. The story is of his attempt to do so and the disastrous consequences of his action.

Discussion: The author has generated a fast moving tale that offers a unique and distinctly different plot. It is one that lives up to providing suggested insights into the human condition with sarcasm and wit. Most unfortunately, these insights are mostly momentary statements. The opportunity and desire for expansion not only is there, but looked forward to by this reader with thwarted anticipation. Certain episodes also, such as with the dinosaurs, is too extensive for the material offered, as are occasional others. There also is a certain amount of confusion in following the action, part of which is handling of the unusual subject matter. Judicious editing would have helped tremendously. It is my understanding that this is the author’s first novel and as such problems encountered are no more than can be expected. However, this book demonstrates the advent of an author with a tremendous amount of promise.

3* fine effort from a new author demonstrating 5* uniqueness in plot design.

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.

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.

The World According to Jennie Morris

The World According to Jennie Morris, published, copyright and written by Jennie Morris.

Sub-titled “Adventures and mis-adventures of a single female traveler”, the author provides an astonishingly extensive list of places visited in the world, portions of which had been visited before many of today’s amenities were available, and were revisited more recently. Included are large portions of Africa, Near and Far East and South-east Asia including Cambodia, the Killing fields and the total area dominated by the Khimar Rouge, Borneo, Australia, New Zealand, Russia including the Trans-Siberian Express, Central and South America and more. Her experiences have included diving Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as well as other notable as well as lesser known areas, swimming with Shark and Semiaquatic reptiles, chasing Komodo Dragons and more. This fascinating book can provide an interesting escape for anyone needing one and for the travel junkie it presents a remarkably extensive list of areas to peruse in attempting to choose their next itinerary.

Discussion: The recounting of this woman’s truly remarkable travels is even more fascinating when considering all have been made largely on a somewhat restricted budget. They, along with snippets of the authors thoughts provided here also provide some insight to the actual answers to the constantly recurring questions she receives as to why she would travel to places that so often called for dangerous activity in miserable circumstances. Her answer always explains that it no doubt may be difficult to understand and is to a certain extent even for her. Regardless, she, has found each journey to be a compellingly enjoyable experience.

As just stated above, a most pausible answer to these questions may be found in the book’s prologue. When one considers the restriction on travel funds, one is aware that this fact advantageously functioned to bring her intimately into contact with the working and/or poorer classes of residents in all of these countries, thus providing a greater understanding of the true nature of each country, its people and its basic culture. The author states: “You learn a great deal about humanity by frequenting waiting places” – airports, train stations, boat docks, doctor’s offices and such, and even more especially when attempting to cross borders of countries less frequently traveled. “Cultures lay themselves bare in these times of watching.” More importantly perhaps, “You also cannot escape yourself, and so much downtime comes from excruciating amounts of reflection and overthinking.” And here perhaps, the real underlying reason appears. She states “I grew up in a family of alphas, a family of chaos, anger, jealousy, put-downs and violence. I was never thought much of by my siblings, and all of my attempts at being loved and accepted were met with derision and insults.” It is a well-known fact that thwarting of a young child’s attempts to earn familial love not infrequently leads to the world of books. This activity allows escape for the individual whenever desired, and into a totally different and magical world where dreams can be realized and unwanted thoughts ignored for a time. The author discovered the same escape at an early age and with growth and maturity was able to obtain the means to actually realize many of those dreams. Her prologue ends with the somewhat poignant “Though I have forgotten more than I remember regarding my travel adventures of the past 20 plus years, I wanted to put a few on paper to those who may enjoy a break from life for a little while.”

Conclusion: Thus, this once poorly understood child has produced a book that actually serves two purposes. The first she has verbalized. The second is that it provides the travel aficionado the basics for a wide range of excellent travel itineraries from which he/she can select their next series of adventures. A third, possibly only vaguely considered, is to follow either of two routes to give even more help to those who best can benefit. First, each of the areas discussed could be expanded by setting forth more details about the places, fellow travelers, and adaptations made by particular residents of these countries to their dreams within the mores of their society. (A plethora of stories lie within the brief synopses that have offered only a tantalizing hint of the many tales waiting to be set forth) Second, the huge number of opportunities for fictional treatment of the material presented certainly deserves consideration.

Summary: This book, although it is granted to suffer from numerous faults set forth by most writers in their first attempts, provides synopses of material that fulfill the author’s stated purpose “to put a few (journeys) on paper to those who may enjoy a break from life for a little while”. But most importantly from this reader’s perspective, it presents synopses of tales a reader hopes she will expand upon in her non-fictional prose to provide further substance for those ‘needing a break’. But also, consideration of a fictional line of endeavor could be considered for the huge number of individuals who look forward to stories that satisfy their needs in the many genres nuanced by the brief descriptions provided.

5* Recommended for targeted audience; others as well for reasons explained.

Breaking Free

Breaking Free, ISBN: 9789493056145 Amsterdam Publishers. Good to Go, Part 1 copyright and written by Jeffrey Vonk.

The author has provided a quite unusual travelogue that begins in Switzerland and ends in an Afterword that brings this native of Holland to Chicago, IL on an impulsive decision. Between these points of ‘advanced civilization’, his journey takes him through parts of Russia, China, Tibet, Nepal, India, African Gambia, Jordan, Syria and Kurdistan. Perhaps even more intriguingly most of his journey was conducted singly on a Chinese built motorcycle, on foot and even horseback with occasional local bus and invited rides on trucks, vans and unusual personal transportation. His sleeping accommodations were at the least expensive hotels and/or hostels, personal homes and frequently ‘hopefully acceptable’ shelters in abandoned buildings or even the open air where he could pitch a shelter, or perhaps not. Conditions encountered for the most part were extensively primitive. Quantities of food and water frequently were low and even dangerously missing for periods of time. Quantities available were purchased if possible, or provided for one reason or another by many kind people he encountered.

Discussion: This is a fascinating tale of travel largely in some of the most poorly developed areas of the world undertaken by a young man who is intrigued by different cultures and thrives on living a totally different way of life. His story is descriptively presented and a reader can only marvel at the fact that his survival itself is quite remarkable.

5* Travel tale for those interested in other, often primitive cultures.