A Christmas Tartan

A Christmas Tartan
ISBN: 9781250132659 Minotaur Books, a mystery e-book by Paige Shelton.

Delaney Nichols is a former museum curator from Kansas and now in Scotland hired by Edwin McAlister, the remarkable owner of an unusual book store. One morning he discovers a box containing an odd collection of items on his doorstep and asks Delaney to investigate the possible origin of the collection. The story evolves from this starting point and proceeds into the body of a mystery/fantasy.

Discussion: This purchase was made because the reviewer had a short space of time between review requests. Enjoying mysteries, he noticed this title in the genre, that the author had been recognized for previous work and that it was of novella length. After reading the synopsis, he made the purchase and proceeded to read the book. Reaction was dichotomous. The story evolved into an interesting and well-designed mystery/fantasy. However he was a little chagrined to discover that the already short story actually consumed only 64 % of the purported novella length book. The rest of the ‘novella length’, roughly ONE THIRD, was consumed by an excerpt from the author’s NEXT book. It is granted that the author in her introduction mentioned that it was a “mini mystery”, BUT the prospective reader has no way of learning this fact before purchasing it. It also is granted that the price is nominal. However, it appears that this annoying habit is insidiously and increasingly invading publishing. A sad commentary on a once proud and trustworthy industry and one incidentally that does NOT add appreciably to an author’s reputation.

2 ½*      4* brief mystery/fantasy; 1* for ‘lack of disclosure’.

Stories of the Indebted

Stories of the Indebted
ISBN: 9781619613256, Community Books, an e-book by Jorge P. Newbery.

Theme: The author presents several stories (“many based on true events”) of individuals who are in advanced and seemingly overwhelming debt from Credit Card usage, student loans, mortgages far beyond the present property value and others. He begins with a chapter describing how he: “Settled a $5,800,000 Debt for $225,000.” This is followed by step by step procedures for each debtor to reach a similarly satisfactory solution. He describes how: “Borrowers can gain leverage (on their debts) by not paying, exploiting deficiencies and eventually settling debts at big discounts or not paying at all.” And: “Yes, many times we use the legal system as part of the process. It’s legal.”

Discussion: The author has provided a ‘story’ that brings forth an immediate, and very dichotomous, reaction. The traditional conservative immediately will be consumed with resentment that non-payment of debt not only is condoned but actually is provided with a plan for its accomplishment. However, as the story progresses, he/she is presented with numerous examples that make one reflect on statements expressed by some politicians of a need to clear extensive corruption from the country’s presently disastrous business/legal/monetary system. He claims that the government and big banks are the worst record keepers with respect to errors, deficiencies and missing documents. He also states that much of the nation’s college debt results in large part from these factors. UCLA’s tuition is set forth as an example. Tuition in 1980 was $776; 2015 it was $13,218. Reason suggested: Reduction of public funding. Reason for reduction suggested: Sallie Mae owns a large portion of student loans. They also employ 63 lobbyists who encourage states to reduce and/or eliminate taxpayer support. Appointment of businessmen as college presidents is encouraged today so they can be run more ‘businesslike’ and coincidentally raise more money. This frequently is costly; e.g. in 2013 Ohio State President, E. Gordon Gee earned over $6,000,000. Additionally the author provides an example of situations where conflict of interest so easily could arise. The University of California is governed by a Board of Governors. One prominent member is Richard Blum whose firm Blum Capitol Partners owns for-profit colleges whose primary source of revenue is federally guaranteed student loans and grants authorized by congress. Blum is married to congressional member Dianne Feinstein. An interesting aside: “Blum’s for-profit college company is Career Education Corporation, which in 2010, reported 85% of total revenue consisted of federal education funds. Over 96 % of CEC students obtained student loans.” And: “CEC spent about $1500/student instruction in 2009 compared to over $3000/student on marketing and earned $1500/student profit.”

Conclusion: The author has set forth a proposal that certainly will produce quite dichotomous opinions. Some will totally agree and may find it most helpful while others will find the general premise totally unacceptable. However, I’m sure ALL will agree that this is a most thought provoking presentation especially in this particular time of grossly evident unrest. They perhaps may even move to an even greater ‘in depth’ consideration of the conflicting considerations constantly provided with respect to education, its funding, taxes and the existence/non-existence of governmental mismanagement.

3*      5* presentation; 3* for expected sharply dichotomous reaction.