The COIN

The COIN assumed published, copyright 2013 and written by Maria Elena Alonzo-Sierra.

A prologue finds a man searching an area in the mountains of the Côte d’Azur looking for a stash of coins and records he previously had hidden there. A recent naturally caused upheaval in this section had caused a re-arrangement of the territory that had eliminated any familiarity with its former formation. With intense frustration, he realized that it was impossible to find any remnants of the material he had secretly stashed away. Unexpectedly, a lost tourist stumbles upon him, thinking he had found someone who could help. Instead, he is slowly and cruelly put to death by the intensely frustrated man. The story then opens to follow the subsequent results of Gabriela Martinez discovering an unusually marked coin while hiking in the same area, La Marbriére, a short time later. Gaby, along with her parents, was a refugee brutally forced out of Cuba when Castro moved in. Quite sheltered while a Cuban resident, she now is happily married to her first love whom she met in college, and the mother of two young children who are visiting their grandparents in the United States for the summer. Her husband, Roberto, an innovative designer of new materials, frustrated by not being able to proceed, had been offered a position in Europe, had found a considerable degree of freedom and had extended his assignment. He loved his wife dearly, but with a totally ‘old-fashioned’ mindset that the husband was the bread-winner, and the wife a mother and housekeeper, was completely involved with his work. Simultaneously, Gaby had developed into an artist of tremendous talent and was being mentored by an enormously wealthy and influential man who was readying her for an exhibition of such importance as to launch her into a career that would make her one of the leading artists in the world. Unfortunately he had further designs on making her his mistress. Now, Richard Harrison, a lead member of an American special operations unit, as a courtesy to the Israelis’ request and favor to his boss is in France on vacation but has consented to interview Gabriela with respect to the special coin she had discovered during here trip to the mountain. Richard is a man typical of such operatives – handsome, pleasant and charmingly accommodating, but calculating, coldly uninvolved and with no compunction against killing when necessary. When meeting her, he is startled with the natural warmth and seeming degree of underlying naiveté – qualities he never had, or expected to, encounter in any woman. A set of circumstances develop, where Gabriela is to be introduced to a collection of world art connoisseurs with the latest of her works on the same night Roberto is to sign an important contract providing all he ever has wanted. Complicating the situation further is that Gabriela’s life has been threatened because of the coin that had been found and Richard has become her 24-hour-per-day bodyguard. The interrelationships that develops among these individuals, aided and abetted by an interesting group of supportive characters, develops into a mysterious, thrilling chase and sex-laced romance about which furnishing further details would be a great disservice to the prospective reader.

Discussion: The author has positioned three individuals in situations of almost insurmountable tension production with adequately supplied supportive personnel. The plot providing a thrilling, fast-paced tale and engaging climax. A number of inadequacies or unusual mental activities are difficult to totally accept, but no doubt are a personal consideration arising from this reader’s pragmatism. If noted at all by other readers, probably they will be observed as an unimportant ‘blip’.

5* Fast paced psychologically oriented mystery/thriller/romance.

 

A Laughing Place

A Laughing Place Berwick Publishing, copyright and written by Christian Hageseth, M.D.

This offering is a relatively short but quite thorough look at the position of humor in the content of an individual’s mindset and the extent of its importance in an individual’s well-being. It includes an introduction that once again reiterates the importance of Hippocrates’ statement “It is far more important to know what person has the disease, than what disease the person has. The difference between patients is the content of their minds.” Twelve chapters follow, opening with a humorous, tenuously embarrassing incident that occurred with the author’s first lecture with respect to the subject. An incident that gave rise to the quote “Life and adversity: You can’t have one without the other” and an opportunity to provide further discussion of the importance of how the individual deals with adversity when encountered. Years of treating patients who were almost impossible to help finally brought this psychiatrist to a realization of the vital importance of Positive Humor. Thus he decided that rather than treat the aftermath of adversity, he wanted to prevent some of the pain that poured out in his consulting room and instruct his patients to learn about humor – what it is, how it constantly is modified, what purpose it serves and when properly couched and utilized, what it can bring to alleviating some of the suffering individual’s most debilitating episodes of despair.

Well aware of present day demand for short, crisp, to-the-point- comments, in the book he first provides what he believes are the ten basic components of humor. And he does so simply, “without detail, without examples, without metaphor”. With these as a basis, he then expands to examine the subject from its very first appearance to its many levels beyond. Many psychologists believe that humor is a function of language and a process involving abstract thought. As such, its first appearance is around the child’s first grade. The author contends that the first humor experience emerges even before with the smiling response which occurs at about eight weeks of life. Regardless, from this initial emergence, he traces it through the stages of mental and physical growth accompanying childhood, adolescence and into the adult. He explains how humor is more than jokes and that three pathways exist to a humor experience; that one’s surroundings, culture and subculture dictate the acceptance or non-acceptance of a humorous statement, with occasional exceptions as noted. And he provides numerous true stories of the effectiveness of humor in certain disastrous situations. Further presented are “the four elements of successful humor” and how they are achieved as well as how it may be used to combat illness as well as depression. The book ends with again a succinctly presented list of twelve affirmations of positive humor.

Discussion: The author has set forth a quite thorough overall discussion of humor. Further, he has provided the material in an easy to read form that the neophyte looking for help will discover to be simple to follow. Amusingly perhaps, is the fact that he most obviously is well aware of the extent of decrease in the general public’s attention span. Whether watching TV, reading or conversing, this activity measured 12 seconds in the year 2000; 8.25 seconds in 2015 and seemingly is dropping even lower in newly acquired data. (Comparatively, that of a goldfish is 9 seconds.). Resultantly, he has provided much material in quite simple to read lists and individual phrases. As an aside, his inclusion of certain humorous incidents/tales are quite hilarious for any reader with a degree of imagination. One word of caution seemingly would be helpful for the self-help reader – no matter how easily comprehensible one discovers the material to be in this book, it would seem wise to find a competent individual with whom to discuss this subject before embarking on any extensive personal change.

5* Thorough presentation of humor and its importance to human health.

The REZ

The REZ, An American Love Story assumed published by copyright and written by G. Michael Madison.

The story opens with a group of children listening to the Storyteller, an important member of any American Indian Culture. It then proceeds to describe the reservation. It comprises a section of land lying on Totem Beach, an area of Puget Sound from which they catch large quantities of fish to supplement their mostly inadequate government income. Then we meet inhabitants Franc Esque, French/American Indian, Lois, his Nordic, non-Indian wife, and their seven daughters and 3 boys with particularly prominent characters ten-year-old Jonny and slightly older brother Caj. Jonny is slight of build, has an only partly described speech impediment and seems to be somewhat mentally deficient, although, as the story progresses, it appears that any impairment of importance may be more apparent than real. Contrarily, Caj is outgoing, liked my all and with a desire to ‘see and do it all’. He develops into an excellent athlete. The other most prominent characters are Ginny Thomas, her husband Nick and daughter Nikki-D. Ginny is the daughter of Chinese aristocrats who were forced out by the Communistic regime and were able to survive by opening a restaurant in which her martinet mother demanded she work as any other employee. Now married to her former American Air Force Pilot husband she had met in Hawaii, she was quite autocratic always insisting that her daughter only associate with the other families of wealth who lived on the Bluffs overlooking Totem Beach. She was extremely displeased with their having to move to this new area across the country when Nick had received the offer of President of the local bank. Unfortunately, Nick did not have the business acumen exhibited by his older brother, and accepting this offer was somewhat of a move in desperation. Nikki-D was as disgruntled as was her mother but also persisted in maintaining a confrontational relationship with her mother while espousing all of the social and cultural upheaval of the sixties.

As time progresses the story line develops with some expected, but also some somewhat surprising directions. Franc who we discover is suffering from PTSD from wartime service, gradually increases his indulgence in alcohol. Nick, manages to perform adequately although he, too, begins to increase his consumption of alcohol. Nikki-D and Jonny, as two very lonely 10-year-old children meet and develop a most unique and interpersonal bond. Lois and Ginny develop an unusual and remarkable friendship. Lois finally reacts to the years of tension, is hospitalized and the older children, including Caj and Jonny are removed and distributed to different reservation schools.  Caj becomes an accomplished athlete, but upon graduating, enlists and serves in Vietnam, also succumbing to PTSD. Jonny begins to exhibit latent administrative abilities. Nikki-D becomes involved with all of the latest social/cultural movements until struck with a devastating emotional blow that brings her home, and the years continue following these unusual people in their poignant journey until its final pages where a position of budding hope appears for a better future.

Discussion: This, in many ways, is a strange tale. It contains thoughtfully written material with respect to the long existent disgraceful situation of the American Indian and the discrimination and racism they have encountered. It includes remarks pertinent to other ethnic racism but develops this no further. He describes the rebellious nature of the youth of the sixties, the reaction to the senseless Vietnam War, the horrors witnessed and participated in by those involved and the everlasting memories invoked. It provides interesting women of strong character being able to survive and even aid their men who appear to be lacking in one or another aspect. In all, a book that once begun requires reading to the end. It is understood that the author is a Native American Indian, Vietnam Veteran and prominent in the thrust to amend for the long-standing disgraceful treatment of the Indian nations. For this reason, this reader is regretful and most apologetic to say he found little closure, no clear message, and regrettably no one character with whom to empathize. Thus, a conclusion, perhaps for him alone, that this is a thoughtfully but somewhat unevenly written book only vaguely resembling the stated “American Love Story”. In fact for this reviewer, assignment of any specific genre is difficult.

3* Thoughtful, interesting, but difficult to define look at an era and some of the people involved.

The Pickelfrey Twins

The Picklefrey Twins Mystery in the Bermuda Triangle assumed published, copyright and written by Molly McIntyre and Kyle Kroupa.

This is a nicely written children’s book about two precocious children who are able to save their parents who had initiated a flight into the graphically designated Bermuda Triangle. They are aided in their performance by magical gifts they previously had received from a favorite aunt. Added after the story’s conclusion are brief accounts of the three most (in)famous tales from the Triangle area – the strange case of the sailing vessel, Mary Celeste that left New York in 1872; the disappearance of WW I USS Cyclops with 306 crew members; disappearance in 1946 of Flight 19 that consisted of 5 U.S. Navy bombers making a routine simulated bombing run in the area.

Discussion: The author, with assistance from her co-author grandson and enjoyably pertinent illustrations from Arthur Lin, has set forth a tale which has all of the elements for basic appeal to young readers. The additional material at the book’s end should even provide stimulation for slightly older children to search further into the mass of material that has collected referring to these incidents.

5* Enjoyable, appealingly written/illustrated book for young readers.

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.

Her eyes underwater

Her Eyes Underwater assumed published, copyright and written by Romona Simon.

Julia Straus is a thoroughly spoiled daughter of wealthy parents who finally have informed her that it was time to stop her “wasteful, immature, goalless life” and do something with it. She enrolls in Law School, is thoroughly bored but must continue at least for a while to satisfy her parents. One evening she stops at a local coffee shop and sees the most attractive man she ever has encountered. She approaches and attempts to attract him and succeeds in being invited by him to visit a friend who lives some distance away. She accepts. The trip is unusual and contains a rather scary encounter, but ends with her safe return somehow with his discovery that they are in the same law class. She discovers that his name is Alex Bowman and that they previously had not met because he has missed a considerable number of classes. She still does not meet him in school for several more days until he finally appears as a fabulously popular, socially polished individual who attracts all manner of fellow students of both sexes as well as those at the professorial level. In spite of constantly attempting to spend time and actually obtain a legitimate ‘date’ with him he manages largely to ignore the attempts. Julia is an extremely attractive young woman who always has been the object of choice, even over other attractive women. Her attitude, “You doesn’t need men. Men need you. You are a modern woman, not your mother.”  Chagrined by his constant refusal she persists with intermittent successes leading to various somewhat unusual sexual encounters interspersed with other activities shared with each other as well as with other acquaintances. The activity continues in this fashion until the concluding chapters which somewhat strangely are largely repetitious of the early one but from a slightly different perspective.

Discussion: This is an usual book following a period in the amazingly totally free-living existence of a thoroughly spoiled young daughter of wealthy parents living with equally wealthy friends following a similarly wasteful and goalless path. Their principal activities appear to consist of shopping, heavy drinking and partying plus acquiring any number of available men, seemingly for ‘bragging rights’. The newly acquired activity is totally new for Julia and she muddles onward in an often almost unbelievably socially immature manner. The story is stated as being the first attempt by the author at serious storytelling and as such, shows considerable promise. Her descriptive powers are excellent and her tale is so unusual as to provide continuing interest as to ‘where it possibly could finally lead’. Unfortunately, a good editing could greatly enhance the format. Another regrettable feature, for this reviewer at least, is the fact that not a single character was able to elicit any level of positive empathy. As a result the reader is supplied with a somewhat bizarre tale of misplaced love and socially disturbed individuals in often well-described settings of these rather dysfunctional individuals interacting with a psychotic sociopath who’s ‘other’ activities provide a bit of horror to the account. If a reader’s interest tends toward such stories, it is well enough written to be within your realm of interest. A rating of a significant level for others is difficult.

3* ranging downward depending on reader interest as discussed.