Thursday, September 3, 2015

Silver Bullet by S M Reine

The action shifts to  Reno, Nevada in the 2nd in the Preternatural Affairs series. Cesar and his partner, Suzy, are assigned to a special team investigating a magical power surge in the Biggest Little City in the World. The trail leads from a nightmare demon who runs a casino to an abandoned silver mine filled with giant spider demons, and right up against a nasty werewolf before the case is finally solved.

Cesar runs afoul of the OPA's security policies when his boss, Fritz, is kidnapped and he is forced to use his cell phone to contact a vicious VP of OPA. She would as soon kill as deal with him, so he has to think fast on his feet to rescue the boss and avoid being terminated in all senses of the term, as a security breach.

Again, long on action, short on plot, but a fun tale to while away a couple of hours. I've downloaded some more of Ms. Reine's work.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Witch Hunt by S M Reine

I believe this book was one of Barnes & Noble's weekly freebies, so I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be an amusing , if not engrossing, tale. Cèsar Hawke is a witch, who works with the Office of Preternatural Affairs arresting dangerous witches, demons and miscellaneous supernatural beings.

He's pretty new on the job, but seems to enjoy his work. After celebrating a successful investigation a bit too much, he finds the dead body of a woman he took home in his bathtub the next morning, a bullet hole in her chest. Cèsar isn't the type of guy who is prone to murder on a first date, and though the police are convinced of his guilt, and his bosses don't send anyone to bail him out, he still has a shred of faith in himself, and escapes custody to find the real killer - shades of OJ, anyone?

His partner, Suzy, seems to believe his innocence, and she gives him a place to hide out briefly, but as the story goes on, it appears that Suzy may herself be the killer. Hawke's naive faith in people leads him into a number of near-death experiences, and it's a dark, wild ride through a very spooky Los Angeles.

Definitely an author worth watching.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Werewolf Cop by Andrew Klavan

I really enjoy Klavan's blog posts on PJMedia, as well as a couple of his earlier police procedurals, so I thought Werewolf Cop sounded like a fun read. It didn't totally disappoint, at least. Klavan's writing was good enough to drag me to the ending, but not quite good enough to make me want to run right out and grab some more, alas!

Hotshot cowboy cop (in fact his nickname is Cowboy) Zach Adams runs up against an adversary he really can't handle when Dominic Abend, a former Nazi turned mobster, shows up in the U.S. Abend and his sidekicks torture and kill a known fence, searching for an artifact which was stolen from him, and then leave a trail of destruction as they interrogate everyone else who had contact with the item.

The trail leads the Cowboy to Europe, where he is attacked and infected with lycanthropy by a werewolf there. The werewolf doubles as an elderly female college professor, who has been hunting Abend for the purpose of destroying a powerful and evil magical artifact which he possesses. When Adams kills the werewolf, he inherits its mission.

Zach's mission is further complicated by the aftermath of an extramarial affair, and his inner struggles as he deals with guilt and the potential consequences of his infidelity if it should be revealed, and by the possible corruption of his partner by the criminal Abend.

Twisted, bloody, introspective - typical Klavan.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Kitty Saves the World by Carrie Vaughn

So, Kitty and her eclectic packmates become convinced that Dux Belloram,or Roman, has acquired a magical artifact which will empower him to cause a volcano to erupt - he seems to have done it with Vesuvius centuries ago. So the hunt begins. They lure him to New Mexico with the promise of a new ally - Cormac in drag, so to speak - and try to trap and kill him, but things go badly, and they are attacked by the usual demon and both they and Roman flee the scene.

When they return, Kitty's wolves have all gone missing, and she spends some time running around Denver trying to locate them. The new master of the local seethe of vampires is a weak-willed fellow, who falls under Roman's spell, and eventually forces a confrontation with Kitty.

At long last they discover that Roman is going to work his disastrous spell in Yellowstone, a cauldron of volcanic instability which is long overdue for an eruption. Kitty and all her allies pack up and road trip to the park, where they are able to divine Roman's location and face him down once and for all.

Vaughn claims this is intended to be the last of this series, and it's been a pretty good run, but once you've killed one arch villain, it's tough to top cataclysms and world domination, so she may actually be telling the truth.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Rotten Person Travels the Caribbean by Gary Buslik

When Rick Steves speaks or writes about travel, you can be fairly certain that he demonstrates a high level of respect and love for the countries and cultures that he visits. On the contrary, Buslik seems to hold most of the places he visits and the people he meets in contempt. Granted, he's not only sarcastic about foreigners in his writing - he says nasty things about his wife and friends, as well.

I know that the purpose is supposed to be comedy, so one can forgive him some poetic license, but it wears thin pretty rapidly for me, and I gave up on it about halfway through. There's plenty of sarcasm going on in my own head some days, I don't need to increase the traffic.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Sword of the South by David Weber

Did I miss something? It seems as if there may be at least a short story, perhaps an entire novella, in between War Maid's Choice and this book. Bahzell and Leanna are happily married, running a tavern, with a ten year old daughter, Gwynna, who has a telepathic bond with a dire cat. How time flies!

The fourteen hundred year old schemes of Wencit of Rum are finally coming to fruition, beginning with the appearance of a bedraggled man without a memory, at least of who he is, though his knowledge of geography and swordplay and harpistry seem to be just fine. Wencit knows his true identity, but he refuses to enlighten the poor fellow, who names himself Kenhodan. I suppose if Wencit told him, he'd have to tell us, and spoil the surprise, which truly isn't all that surprising if you've read enough of this sort of thing.

Be that as it may, Kenhodan is the key to the next step in Wencit's plots, which revolve in this episode around the defeat of an evil sorceress, Wulfra, and the recovery of a powerful ancient artifact which she has under her domain, though not necessarily her control. Our mysterious red-headed warrior, Bahzell Bloody Hand, and the ancient wild wizard Wencit (say that three times fast) book passage aboard Brandark's fastest ship for the first leg of their voyage, enduring yet roundly defeating a pirate attack, then journey overland, pursued by Dog Brother assassins, for the remainder of the quest.

Things go about as expected, and the trio manage to deal with every obstacle thrown in their path, including an acid-spitting dragon. It is, of course, quite handy that Bahzell, as a Champion of Tomanak, can magically heal his fellow travelers from all the wounds they suffer in various skirmishes.I don't recall Aragorn being able to pluck out the arrows pincushioning (that's totally a verb) Boromir and lay on hands, but Bahzell is special, dontcha know.

There's a side plot which will probably become important in the 2nd or 3rd book in this final fantasy trilogy of Weber's involving Bahzell and Leanna's daughter, who appears to be slated to be the next incredibly powerful wild wizard, either succeeding or replacing Wencit as appointed guardian of Norfressa.

Predictable, but Weber is always quite readable.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Veiled by Benedict Jacka

Alex begins to worry about what will happen when his former master, dark mage Richard Drakh, decides to focus on either recruiting or eliminating Alex at last. His friends suggest that he join the Keepers, the law enforcement branch of the Council, to gain some extra protection and to make Richard more reluctant to deal with him violently. So he approaches his sometime friend, Caldera, and she gets him recruited on a probationary basis.

Just about the time Alex gets used to the idea that most police work is boring, a late night routine assignment goes horribly wrong and results in him being chased around a railway platform by an assassin, who very nearly succeeds in killing Verus. Alex begins to pull at the threads around the edges of his new case, and pretty soon begins to unravel a deadly conspiracy which holds incriminating information on many of the "light" mages on the Council.

This seems to be more of a transitional novel than anything. The point seems to be to get Alex firmly ensconced in his role as a Keeper, and to finally find a good teacher for Luna's Chance magic talents. Anne and Variam are in a holding pattern, though Variam has definitely found his home with the militant wing of the Keepers. The balance of power on the Council is shifting in a way it hasn't in centuries, as a dark mage is appointed a seat for the first time in history.

Hoping for book six soon, now.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Wicked Bronze Ambition by Glen Cook

 I've been reading Glen Cook's work for a long time - three decades, in fact. I may have to re-read his early Black Company novels one of these days and get some reviews up. I used a Christmas gift card to buy Nook versions of the first six of them recently, and picked this one up as an ebook to catch up on the Garrett series, too. Ebooks weren't even a gleam in their daddy's eye back when I first wandered the streets of Tunfair.

Though Garrett would much prefer to avoid the gazes of the dangerous and powerful, it's gotten a little tougher since being affianced to one of the most powerful sorceresses in the city. Her daddy and grandmother have decided they need Garrett to use his skills to find out more about the contest known as the Tournament of Swords, which threatens to kill off many of the children of the magical families of the kingdom, and by implication to put a stop to it, as well.

Then, someone kills his fiancee,Strafa, and all bets are off. Once the shock is over, he relentlessly pursues the identity of the killer(s), with the help of all of his friends whom we have come to know over a dozen or so books, as well as the resources of one of the powerful wizarding houses, since he is now considered to be family by the denizens of The Hill.

The downside to this novel is that it takes a long and winding road to discover the truth about who is behind the resurrection of the tournament and Strafa's murder, and Garrett stumbles like a drunken bull through it all, only the steadfast support of his friends keeping him from a dire fate on his own. There was almost an element of french farce to the whole thing, as Garrett repeatedly tracked down the usual suspects, hauled them off to be questioned by the Dead Man or to his friends in the Algarda or Relway's guard, then they would escape or be turned loose, and he'd end up tracking them down all over again for a new round of questioning.

Glad I pushed on to the end for a nice surprise twist.

Friday, August 7, 2015

True Enough by Farhad Manjoo

Manjoo seems to have set a new record for how quickly I grew disgusted with the premise of a book. Far from being an unbiased study of fragmentation of our news media, his premise immediately veered to the left, explaining why conservatives and Republicans believe all of the lies that come from Fox News, while the progressives and Democrats live in a fact-based world.

I'm sorry, this book was not "true enough".

The Power of No by James Altucher

I must have read an interesting article by Altucher somewhere which prompted me to put his book on reserve at the library. If that article was an excerpt from this book, it must have been the best thing he wrote, as the rest of it is a confusing, anecdotal gallimaufry of stale ideas about self fulfillment and success in life. I kept trying to push on and finish it, but I simply couldn't relate to what James and his wife, Claudia, had to say.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Spider's Trap by Jennifer Estep

While attempting to untangle a dispute between a pair of minor mob bosses at a meeting hosted on her friend's riverboat, Gin - now the reluctant leader of the Ashland underworld - contends with more of a blowup than anticipated when a mysterious stranger detonates a bomb on the boat. It takes Gin a while to determine who the real target of the attack was, and when she does, it brings back flashbacks aplenty from her days training with Fletcher.

As has become the routine in these tales, Gin doesn't really want to get too involved in pursuing the attacker until one of her friends gets hurt. In this case, it's bf Owen, who narrowly escapes death at the hands of a vengeance-minded metal elemental.

Ok, so I've wondered occasionally why the all powerful and all knowing assassin, the Spider, with all of her friends and resources, never seems to spend any time just thinking about her craft, and how to do things better. It seems like she was more effective in the earlier stories, actually.

One of the key plot devices in most of the conflicts is the use of elemental magic. Why don't any of her allies sit here down and just do a brainstorming session about what possible attacks and defenses a fire elemental, ice elemental, stone elemental, metal elemental, water elemental (you get the drift?) would be most likely to use, or have been seen to have used, let alone come up with some novel ideas for how to attack or defend against one? Fletcher was supposed to have been one of the most feared and respected assassins in the history of Ashland, and Gin has access to all of his files, but he never wrote down anything he had learned about how to kill elementals? If he kept files at all, they ought to have been useful stuff, right, not just gossip and reminiscences. Of course, in the first place, what self-respecting assassin would ever keep paper files laying around his home for anyone to stumble across. Really?

So, once again, Gin gets surprised by how tricky and powerful and nasty her latest foe turns out to be, and nearly dies several times, before finally doing something desperate enough to work.

Time for Gin to step up her game.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Man Who Knew Too Much

Once upon a time, in my youth, I was the quintessential math nerd. Who am I kidding? I was a geek through and through in STEM fields. My life was a cross between That 70s Show and The Big Bang Theory and if you mind-melded together the characters of Eric and Leonard, it would pretty much describe my life. This book about mathematician Alan Turing stirred up a lot of old memories of fun times solving math problems. No, that's not an oxymoron, people!

Turing was one of the key figures in Great Britain's WWII effort to decrypt the secret communications of the German armed forces using the Enigma device. There's a pretty good description of the strategies employed and the counter-strategies that the Germans attempted to stay one step ahead of their foes.

One of the interesting things the British did to help them decipher the code was to plant mines in particular locations specifically chosen so that the Germans found them easily. Then, when the Germans sent messages back to headquarters to report the discoveries, the British knew what the content had to include (locations), and were able to use these as a key to decipher the rest of the message.

Turing was a homosexual, back in the times when that was still a criminal act in England, and he eventually may have committed suicide after being convicted of unnatural acts, chemically castrated by the government, and denied permission to work for the government in any capacity from that point forward due to security concerns. The book spends an awful lot of time interpreting nearly everything that Turing wrote, spoke or accomplished in terms of his sexuality, but if you ignore most of that, it's still an interesting, though tragic, story.

Fun quote:

"In Newman's laboratory, the walls were covered with brown tiles in what F.C. Williams, his partner in the project, called, a 'late lavatorial' style."

One of Turing's early creations, a computer called "Baby" was set to the initial task of testing Mersenne primes, a task which involved many man hours of calculations. Turing envisioned a time when his machines would become almost human, but I don't think he really had any concept of what the computer revolution would accomplish, and even though Siri sounds almost human at times, computers still have not evolved consciousness, nor have they become inventive or creative.

He also had the odd idea that computers could be taught by  method similar to the one we often use to raise children, with both reward and punishment.

I've certainly been tempted to punish mine...but I think it's got the upper hand.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Around the Web

Funniest thing I've heard today, at According to Hoyt,
"I made entire friendships based on how many books this person had to lend."

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Regrets

It's been over a week since I actually finished a book and got a review posted. Summertime is making it very difficult to find the time to read, but I AM having lots of fun.

More when I get 'em.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The One-Page Financial Plan by Carl Richards

I really enjoyed Carl Richards' The Behavior Gap, both the book and his web site, and so I looked forward to reading his new book about financial planning. For me, however, there wasn't anything really new to learn here. I can see how it would be good for a person who was feeling intimidated by the magnitude of the financial planning task, but I really didn't have a lot of takeaways here.

He starts with goal setting concepts, and builds on a very simple framework of just doing the right things a piece at at time to accomplish those goals. What he really tries to do is to make a scary process seem folksy and conversational. You might buy this book for one of your kids who is just getting through college. 

Nothing bad to say about the book, but it didn't really float my boat.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Black Widow by Jennifer Estep

At least in this installment of the Spider's story, we get to return to a more deadly villain, as Gin finally gets the confrontation she's been expecting ever since Mab Monroe's daughter, Madeline M Monroe, arrived in Ashland. Madeline uses all of her connections around the city to launch a simultaneous group of attacks on Gin's friends and family. Finn is served with a lawsuit, Rosalyn gets cut off by her liquor distributor, one of Owen's big contracts falls through, while his sister Eva is suspended from college for cheating, and Jo-Jo's salon may be designated a historical landmark and deemed unsuitable to operate a business.

Then, horror of horrors, the health inspector arrives at the Pork Pit!

Accompanied by a posse of crooked cops, the barbecue joint is judged wanting and will be shut down. When Sophia trips the head cop, she is arrested for assault, and when Gin and her lawyer, Silvio, try to bail her out, Gin gets arrested, which was M. M.'s point all along. They immediately lock her away in "the Bull Pen", where prisoners get to fight each other to the death for the amusement of the crooked police force. Faced with five deadly opponents at once, Gin uses her mad fighting skills and elemental magic to not only defeat the thugs but to escape custody and take it on the lam.

Run to ground at the Pork Pit, the villainess surrounds the building with cops, then tosses Molatov cocktails inside, making sure that Gin cannot escape the flames.

Gin dies, her funeral is held and life in Ashland goes back to business as usual.

No? Well, you'll have to read the book to find out.

My only nitpick about this book was that it seemed a little rushed. The situations facing Gin's friends weren't really allowed enough time to become serious threats and concern us. A really good evil opponent would have allowed some time for despair to set in before the final blow falls.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Stonewalled by Sheryl Attkisson

After reading Sheryl Attkisson's book, I think I feel a great deal as does she, frustrated by my inability to get to the root truths of a number of recent political scandals of the Obama administration. Some of what she wrote filled in details about Fast & Furious, Benghazi, the (Un)Affordable Care Act, and the horrible waste of taxpayer dollars given to "Green" companies whose owners were donors. But the key questions still remain unanswered. How high in the administration are the people responsible, and are these stories all simply the result of incompetence or something more sinister? I knew before, and Attkission confirms, that the media is in deep with progressive interests as well as big business, and for the most part cannot be trusted to do old-fashioned investigative reporting which speaks truth to power.

"What did we really tell America on this night that they didn't already know?
My own network is passing up stories on the crumbling Affordable Care Act; an exclusive investigation I offered about a significant military controversy; an investigation uncovering a history of troubles surrounding Boeing's beleauguered Dreamliner; and massive government waste, fraud, and abuse. Largely untouched are countless stories about pharmaceutical dangers affecting millions of Americans, privacy infringement, the debate over President Obama's use of executive orders, the FDA monitoring of employee email, the steady expansion of terrorism, the student loan crisis, the confounding explosion in entitlements, the heartbreaking fallout from the Haiti earthquake, continuing disaster for government-subsidized green energy initiatives, the terrorist influences behind 'Arab Spring', various congressional ethics investigations and violations, the governments' infringement of and restrictions on the press, escalating violence on the Mexican border, the debt crisis, the Fed's role and its secrecy, to name just a few."

After the election, President Obama issued orders to all Federal agency heads, directing them he was "commited to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government."

But what was the reality?

"But barely into his second term, the Obama administration finds itself making history instead for its secrecy and assaults on the press. I, and other investigative reporters who are fully experienced in the indelicate art of prying public information from the tight grip of the government's hands, have now begun comparing notes about the daunting challenges this administration poses. There's delay, denial, obstruction, intimidation, retaliation, bullying, surveillance, and the possible threat of criminal prosecution. In my view, and that of other national reporters, this is proving to be the least transparent administration we've covered."

No time to go into an in depth description of all of the problems with the current administration, the bureaucracy and the incestuous relationship between big business and government today. Just go read the book.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

This is one of those books which is difficult to classify. It fits more into the horror genre than urban fantasy, but isn't quite spooky enough to raise the hackles and cause insomnia. The whole thing is an abrupt change of pace for McGuire, but still enjoyable, though perhaps not as a steady diet - for me, anyway.

This is the story of Rose, the ghostly prom date who appears alongside the roads and byways of rural America, hoping for a ride home. She was killed on Sparrow Hill Road in a car crash on prom night, and has been doomed to an afterlife of rides with strangers.

One of the premises is that if a living human being offers her their coat to keep warm, she becomes solid to the touch and lives until the stroke of midnight causes her to become insubstantial once more. While she's "real", she can eat meals at truck stops and diners, enjoy warmth rather than the coldness of death, and even have sex.

One of her "jobs" is to help those whom the road also claims as victims to come to terms with their new existence, either to join the wandering ghosts of the road or to pass on to whatever heaven or hell awaits them.

The story is told in a series of vignettes and flashbacks, yet moves steadily forward to the resolution of a conflict with the man responsible for her death.

As I said, not my usual fare, but a pretty and dark yarn by McGuire.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Infinity Bell by Devon Monk

Meh.

Matilda and her co-conspirators are being hunted by nearly all the houses, from one end of the continent to the other. Her brother has concluded that the world as they know it is about to come to an end, and they must find their grandmother's diary which will give them the clues they need to travel back in time to the Wings of Mercury event, and re-ring the bell which created the Immortals. I got about  third of the way into this book and realized that, as I suspected by the end of House Immortal, I simply didn't care what happened any more.

Monk has written plenty of better stuff.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Doldrums

I apologize for the lack of posting here. The summer's events and travels have really slowed down my reading. I have three (oops, four) books I'm working on semi-simultaneously, one of which I started over two weeks ago, but can't quite seem to finish any of them.

May have to come up with something new to talk about.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Tor Boycott

You can read all about the Tor Boycott here.

All I have to say at this point is, "I'm in."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Grendel Affair by Lisa Shearin

So, Amazon kept displaying this book for me, based on other books I'd ordered, and being the cautiously frugal sort, I decided to check it out from the local library rather than spend my own dime. This was a pretty good yarn, with a few new twists on the monster hunter theme. Makenna Fraser is a former reporter for an Inquirer-like tabloid who has been recruited by SPI (Supernatural Protection and Investigation) as a seer - she can see beyond the illusions that supernatural creatures wear to pass in the human world.

When a man turns up dismembered in the office of a friend for whom she is doing the favor of capturing a preternatural pest, it is the beginning of a rather more dangerous adventure than any bit of investigative journalism. It turns out to be part of the opening salvo in a war between the supernaturals, including the head of SPI, who believe that they need to remain hidden from humanity, and those who believe they should take their rightful place at the top of the food chain, restoring their glory days when humans hid from the dark.

One of the interesting and unique things Shearin introduces in this novel is the appearance of a breeding pair of grendels, the beasts from the Beowulf saga, who are going to turn a New York Rockin' New Years Eve into a highly visible bloodbath if Agent Fraser and her partner, Ian, and the rest of SPI's heroes don't stop them. The only little quibble I have here is that Grendel was the name of the monster in the saga, and using the term as a generic description of the type is similar to using Pegasus to identify every winged horse in a D&D game.

Light, quick, entertaining read, with a good sense of humor. Might even have to pick up the sequel if the library ever buys a copy.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Angles of Attack by Marko Kloos

I felt almost like there was a missing short story in between the second and third novels in the Frontline series. At the beginning of my last review I mentioned how the Russians, Chinese and Ameriicans were still feuding despite the Lankies attacking all of Earth's colonies.This books jumps right into middle of a joint operation between the Eurasian forces allied with the Americans, fighting their common alien foe. Maybe I've forgotten something.

Anyway, the Earth forces out on ice planet Svalbard are soon approaching a time when they and the civilians on the planet will eat their way through all the supplies, and there has been no resupply or communication from Earth for a long time. So, a daring plan is hatched to run the Lankie blockade of the Solar System to make contact with the Earth forces and to see what can be done about relief. Our old comrades, Sergeants Grayson and Fallons, are along for the duration, and we get to live in interesting times along with them.

When they arrive, the situation is very strange. Mars has been overrun, and the forces orbiting Earth do not seem to trust the returnees, quarantining the and locking down their communications. Things come to a head when they take Andrew in for interrogation, leaving him in need of rescue by some of his bad companions - another day, another mutiny.

With the help of one of Andrew's new Russian friends, Dmitri, they escape the clutches of the powers on Earth (who turn out to be cowards fleeing the solar system) and re-run the blockade in reverse to report on the situation to the remainder of the fleet on Svalbard. After a deal of discussion, it's once more unto the breach for a second voyage back to the home system, where they make contact with the flight school on the Moon, where - Yay! - Andrew's fiancee, Hailey, is a flight instructor.

They "borrow" a bunch of fighter spacecraft and their student pilots and make tracks to attack a Lankie mothership which has made it all the way into Earth orbit. Great mayhem ensues.

I'm not so certain now that this is going to end as a trilogy. It appears Kloos has left room for a sequel or two. I look forward to finding out.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire

It seems like a mistake to call this book Urban Fantasy, since it takes place for the most part in the Outback - not the popular restaurant, either. When the Thirty Six Society, a group of cryptozoologists down under, encounter their first werewolf infestation their leader Riley reaches out to his daughter, Shelby Tanner, and she drags Alex out of his comfort zone at the zoo to help contain the outbreak, all the way across the ocean.

Incidentally, this gives him an opportunity to get to know the family that he's probably going to be a part of someday, when he and Shelby finally tie the knot. Unfortunately, they're not particularly happy to see him, for various reasons, and his time there is fraught with the difficulties of Meet the Parents, as well as using his experience with North American lycanthropes to help them kill or cure the local ones.

He actually gets along better with the local Incryptid population than the humans, which works out well when he is able to enlist their help dealing with the werewolves. Alex turns up some new and startling facts about werewolves that his family did not know, or perhaps simply chose not to relate, which complicate matters.

One little plot piece that I didn't think was all that great was when the main villain of the story tries to "talk Alex to death" much like the Bond villains. Just do what you're gonna do already, buddy. No wonder your side always loses.

A fun little story. Wonder if the POV is going to shift to another sibling now. Maybe even one of Shelby's.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

By the People by Charles Murray

 I'm a big Charles Murray fan, but this one was a little disappointing to me. The first third of the book describes some of the problems he perceives with the out of control growth of government interference in the lives of U.S. citizens, but I thought his prescription for dealing with the regulatory state and perhaps rolling back some of its excesses was a little lame. The last third of the book simply seems to be a rehash of some of the research he's described in other works, such as Coming Apart.

I was surprised to see here that "The American Bar Association's Canons of Professional Ethics explicitly forbade 'stirring up litigation, directly or through agents.'" at one point in time. I can barely remember a time without ambulance chasers and other leeches.

Evidently, at one point in time the purpose of tort law was simply to "make whole" some person who had been harmed by the negligence of another. If no negligence was involved, no compensation was owed. Such cases were few. In 1944, there was a California Supreme Court decision which set the precedent for the situation we have today involving strict liability - a defendant can be forced to pay damages even if no negligence occurred. And the floodgates were opened to all the frivolous and damaging lawsuits of the last half century.

In the matter of the Executive Branch choosing which of Congress' laws to enforce,

"Presidents have been pushing against the limits on their powers since George Washington, and that tendency has increased as the limits on government have loosened over the last seventy years...a broad range of constitutional scholars agree that President Obama's unilateral actions (on changing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act and selectively enforcing immigration laws) are not the thin edge of a wedge. He is merely pounding an existing wedge deeper into constitutional limits on presidential power."

Perhaps the most damning chapter in this book is the one titled A Systematically Corrupt Political System.

"..today's political process has produced politicians who, while keeping within the law, do things that are operationally indistinguishable from the way Third World kleptocrats operate."

Think about these identifying factors.

In a corrupt system:

  • Government Service is a Way to Get Rich
  • You Pay for Access to the Authorities
  • Officials Shake Down Businesses
  • Public Officials Shower Their Friends with Gifts
  • Bribes Produce Results Independently of Political Principle


Think about it a bit.

One of the examples that got me a little hot,

"...the Wireless Tax Fairness Act was expected to come to a vote in the fall of 2011. It was supported by the cell-phone industry, had broad bipartisan support, and was certain to pass. But for months House Speaker John Boehner did not bring the bill to the floor for a vote. FinbVerizon sent checks to members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican."

It's called "tollbooth" charges by author P.eter Schweizer.

Murray's fundamental theory of political corruption.

"Corruption in the political process varies directly with the number and value of things that politicians have to sell."

and his fundamental theory of democratic politics,

"People who receive government benefits tend to vote for people who support those benefits."

This applies equally to middle class Social Security recipients, welfare mothers, farmers with sugar subsidies, and multi-billion dollar defense contractors.

There's a pretty good chapter towards the end of the book about the government shakedown of big businesses in the practice of levying large fines in negotiated "sealed", or secret settlements.

"If the government has been behaving with integrity in this process, and exposure of the sealed settlements would reveal that the companies have behaved badly enough to warrant their multibillion-dollar settlements, then corporations have no choice but to start behaving better. (this is the Progressive position on corporations js) But if it is the government that has been behaving badly, selectively choosing what regulations to enforce against whom so as to yield a large cash windfall (my naturally suspicious libertarian bent makes me believe this more likely js), corporate America will have to start asking itself whether it can coexist peacefully with the regulatory state."