Month: March 2015

Review of ‘Fifty Years of U.S. Africa Policy’

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In 1958, the U.S. Department of State created the Bureau of African Affairs. It joined the other geographic bureaus within the department which are charged with managing day-to-day diplomatic affairs with various parts of the world, marking the first time that relations with African countries were handled directly rather than through colonial capitals in Europe.

Fifty Years of U.S. African Policy edited by Claudia E. Anyaso, a former State Department official, uses files from the archives of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) and essays from former State Department officials dealing with African affairs to give the history of the first 50 years of US foreign policy relating to the African continent. I received a free copy of this book from the editor.

The essays, many from those who served as Assistant Secretaries of State for African Affairs – officials responsible for day-to-day policy for the region – show the ups and downs of American official attitudes toward Africa, ranging from the early days when many senior officials in Washington, in the administration and congress, had more sympathy for white regimes in Africa than the fledgling independent black states, to the turmoil of having to deal with disease, poverty and violence – and during the past two decades, terrorism – that plague too many African countries.

This is not, as one might assume from the title, a scholarly book. It is a view from the trenches by the senior Foreign Service Officers and political appointees who were charged with managing affairs directly, often having to deal with opposition within our own government as they strived to conduct diplomacy. In some cases, as in the case of our ambassador to Kenya in 1998, having to conduct diplomacy and deal with a tone deaf Washington bureaucracy as her embassy was blown up by terrorists, readers will get an intensely personal look at what it’s like to represent the world’s greatest power in a region that is little understood by the powers that be in our capital.

This is a book that is highly recommended for anyone who wants to understand how U.S. foreign policy is carried out in those areas of the world that seldom make the front page of American newspapers, and only appear on the evening news when there is a crisis.

I give this four stars.

Best Fan Fiction Award – Love Shots Contest: ‘Elementary, My Dear’

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My short story, Elementary, My Dear won the Best Fan Fiction Award in round 4 of the Love Shots contest on Wattpad. The story is included in a volume called Cryptic Tales of Love and can be read at http://www.wattpad.com/106280844-cryptic-tales-of-love-love-shots-contest.

Review of ‘Mission Creep: The Militarization of US Foreign Policy’

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Since World War II, when Franklin Roosevelt sidelined the State Department in favor of the War Department to facilitate the defeat of the Axis, the US military has assumed an ever increasing role in the conduct of non-military missions abroad that were once the purview of the Department of State. There are a number of reasons for this – institutional, political, and cultural – that are examined in Mission Creep: The Militarization of US Foreign Policy? edited by Gordon Adams and Shoon Murray. In a series of essays by senior American diplomats and academics, this growing trend is analyzed.

I received a copy of this book for review. Looking at it from the perspective of someone with 20 years military experience and 30 years in the US Foreign Service as a diplomat, I commend the editors and contributors for tackling a complex and controversial subject with the degree of detachment and objectivity they have. While some justify the tendency to use the military in non-core tasks abroad (building bridges, communicating with foreign audiences, and a host of tasks traditionally reserved for diplomats and civilian development specialists), the fact is that this quick-fix mentality can, as the authors point out, have long term negative consequences. They make it quite clear that the military undertakes these tasks for ‘show’ primarily – that is, they’re aimed to facilitate military operations, and their long term viability and contributions to the countries in which they’re undertaken are often ignored. In addition, the military, for all its training, gung-ho attitude, and funds, lacks the expertise and cultural sensitivity to conduct such missions properly, and there is often ‘blowback’ that our diplomats have to go in and clean up.

This is a good book for anyone interested in international affairs, though not one that I’d recommend for light reading. Some of the recommendations offered by the authors have about as much chance of being implemented by our political leadership as a snowball going through hell without losing weight, but they are to be commended for having the courage to ‘think the unthinkable.’

I give Mission Creep four stars.

Review of ‘Scarlet Envy’

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After FBI probationary analyst Caycee Scarlet helped catch the serial killer Omega, but let the Baseball Bomber, Carl Hicks, get away, she was ordered to take psychiatric counseling. Ever the nonconformist, Scarlet gives her shrink fits, frustrates her boss, and lover, Gil Graham, and makes the FBI think seriously about whether or not she’s a good fit for the bureau. But then, Hicks reenters her life. He sends her a ‘love’ letter warning her that she’s in danger, which sets off a frantic search for Hicks’ estranged wife Siobhan, who Caycee learns has been stalking her for a long time. The FBI wants Hicks, but they find that their main target is Siobhan, who is obsessed with her search for a ‘Killer Gene,’ and the Zodiac killer – and Scarlet finds herself at the center of both searches.

Scarlet Envy by Ann McGinnis is a riveting continuation of Caycee Scarlet’s search for answers to many things from her past – key among them, the answer to her grandmother’s murder, she believes at the hand of Zodiac. The tension starts on a high note and soars to stratospheric heights as Scarlet, Graham and Hicks follow Siobhan’s trail from Washington, DC to San Francisco, with enough red herrings and narrow escapes to satisfy even the most jaded reader. The reader is shown the story from Scarlet’s point of view, which increases the uncertainty because we can only know what she knows and thinks, but McGinnis handles it masterfully.

I only have one very, very small carp with the book. Early on, when Hicks helps Scarlet evade an FBI agent guarding her in a fleabag hotel and Siobhan who appears to have arrived to kill her, the terms ‘repel’ and ‘repelling’ were used several times, when the author clearly meant ‘rappel’ and ‘rappelling.’ As a mystery writer, though, I can only wish that my own stories only had such small faults. This is a book that I can promise you – once you start reading, you will not be able to put it down until you reach the surprising conclusion.

I received a free copy of Scarlet Envy in exchange for my review, and I have only one thing further to say about it—don’t let it be the last. Caycee Scarlet’s adventures are not to be missed. This was even better than Scarlet Revenge, and gets five stars from me.

Support Indie Filmmaker’s Project to Make Movie About Bass Reeves

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Help indie filmmaker Josey Wells bring the story of Deputy US Marshal Bass Reeves to the silver screen. He’s raising funds to make the film ‘The Deadline – 200 Marshals,’ which chronicles the adventures of one of America’s most fascinating, but little known lawmen.

Go to https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-deadline–4/x/10033849 and give your support to this film.

Review of ‘Chimera: Universe Eventual, Book I’

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Chimera – Universe Eventual: Book I by three authors writing as N.J. Tanger is the story of the young colonists who are part of the Selection process to man Chimera. Theo James Puck, an easy going young man who is not good at taking tests, but can ‘talk’ to artificial intelligence devices, hacks the Selection list and adds his name, in the process losing the confidence of his friend, Meghan Ziczek, also on the list. Meghan’s life, along with Theo’s sister Liddy, is in danger when he encounters Marcus Locke, a young man with sociopathic tendencies and a terrible secret. Selena Samuelson, a descendant of one of the original pilots of Chimera, works with her father in the Rim, avoiding Stephen’s Point if at all possible, comes to the attention of the authorities when she pilots his mining ship out of near disaster – illegally.

The lives of these four young people intersect as the Selection process proceeds, and the tension is at a fever pitch in this riveting science fiction novel of the distant future. You’ll find yourself riveted as their parallel lives veer closer and closer, leading to an explosive encounter as launch day nears.

I received an advance copy of this book for review, and once I started reading I found it impossible to put it down until I reached the end. Once there, I am now awaiting books II and III with eager anticipation. An outstanding five-star book!

About TSRA

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About TSRA. A really good introduction to Chris the Story Reading Ape.

Review of ‘To the Gallows’

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Cole Winter is an African-American cowboy, who also happens to be a U.S. marshal, one of the first of his race in the Indian Territory. Fast with a gun and incorruptible, he accepts a warrant to bring in Joseph Two Guns, who just happens to be his brother-in-law.

Cole finds Joseph and has to break him out of jail ahead of a lynch mob. At the same time, he frees Jessie Wainwright who has falsely been accused of murder. Together, the three must stay one step ahead of corrupt sheriffs, lynch mobs, and Clement Fournier, a bounty hunter who is on Cole’s trail, as Cole tries to get Joseph to safety and rescue Jessie’s sister, Kaye..

To the Gallows by G. S. Luckett is the legend of Cole Winters, a fictional tale of an African-American lawman in the American West. Filled with gun and knife fights, and plenty of fisticuffs, Gallows is loosely – very loosely – based on a real-life lawman, Bass Reeves. Unlike the real thing, Cole Winter is literate and a Civil War veteran. And, unlike Reeves, who used his wits more than his gun, Cole is not at all hesitant to put a bullet into a bad man.

For fans of classic shoot ‘em ups, this is a book that will please. You’ll be kept entertained and thrilled as Cole and Joseph work out some serious family difficulties, and cheer when another evil-doer bites the dust. I would have liked to see Cole’s character more fully developed, but I’m probably alone in that, as most western fans want to see the action, and the author gives plenty of that. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. I give it three and a half stars. With a few fewer typos and errors (e.g., sawn off shotgun rather than sawed off shotgun), I would bump that up to a solid four stars.

Review of ‘Fire and Dust’

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In the Fall of 1863, despite Lee’s loss at Gettysburg and Grant taking Vicksburg and gaining control of the Mississippi River, cutting the Confederacy in half, there was still a chance of preventing a Union victory. Jefferson Davis had sent one of Lee’s most trusted commanders, General James Longstreet with two Virginia divisions, west to join General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee to attack Union forces at Chickamauga.

The Battle of Chickamauga was a critical event for the Confederacy, squandered due to Bragg’s incompetence. In Christopher Datta’s Fire and Dust, Book 2 in his Fire Trilogy about the Civil War, the reader is plunged headlong into the horror of war and the backroom maneuverings of massive egos and poor decisions of those charged with managing the war for the South.

Based solidly on historical documents, this is a story of war and the men and women caught up in it, in all their glory and shame. Told both from the strategic point of view of the generals and from the ‘in the trenches’ view of those who had to fight and die. This epic tale is mainly seen through the eyes of Sergeant Sam Davis, a veteran of the Mexican War, and Harry Kolb, a young farm boy who thought fighting the war would be a ‘fun’ thing to do. Both men are also mired in emotional relationships that eventually shape their view of war in ways that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The horror and the inhumanity of one of America’s most devastating conflicts is brought vividly to life in a book that should be required reading for anyone who wants to better understand one of the events that irrevocably shaped the path America has taken since the 1860s. History and fiction are blended smoothly in a way that makes it hard to know which is which—and it hardly matters, the story is told so well. I received a free copy of Fire and Dust in exchange for my review, and I can hardly wait for Book 3, which is sure to be a fascinating read. An easy five stars.

Review of ‘Voyage of the Dead’

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On April 1, the world as most people knew it came to a violent and bloody end. A virus related to the rabies virus somehow spread worldwide in a matter of weeks and infected millions, turning them into ravenous, flesh-eating zombies. Their victims also became zombies, and the world’s cities were turned into charnel houses, with only pockets of uninfected survivors, such as Carl Stiller, hanging on for dear life against what appear to be insurmountable odds.

One small group, 107 passengers on Scott Allen’s luxury cruise ship, Sovereign Spirit, a thousand miles off the Pacific Coast and heading for Cabo San Lucas when Armageddon struck, is untouched by the virus. Under Allen’s leadership, the group must find a way to survive the epidemic and contend with the surviving government bureaucracy.

If you’re a fan of zombie apocalypse stories, you’ll love Voyage of the Dead by David P. Forsyth. Filled with action and suspense, the story switches back and forth between Carl Stiller’s efforts to survive in a besieged Los Angeles and Scott Allen’s attempt to retain control and order aboard his vessel. The author paints a chilling picture of human society in the midst of crisis, with fairly fully-fleshed characters as they deal with life-or-death situations. The premise, that a virus could spread globally in a short period of time, but somehow skip a ship at sea, is a bit light – but, probably no different than the zombie movies that fail to explain how so many people in an area become zombies while others are uninfected. In that sense, the book is more thriller than science fiction – despite a pretty good use of modern day technology and social media.

The reader is left hanging a bit at the end – but, this is supposedly the first book in a series, so perhaps the author used a semi-cliffhanger ending to entice people to read the next volume. It was still a relatively satisfying read, so I give it three stars.

The Importance of Being You.

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A bit of sound advice for all writers!

ronovanwrites

We are all different. A bit of an obvious statement but in parts of the world being different isn’t accepted, expected, or tolerated in the slightest. If we were all meant to be the same it would be a very boring and no-point-in-free-will world. improtance-being-you

Each of us is meant to give something to the world as a whole. No, that doesn’t mean I am going to go and invent something that will save the universe from the attack of the space amoebas. (Do I get nerd points for spelling that right the first time?)

However, I may be the person that influences the person that does invent that something. We look at ourselves at times and since we are different from the norm we sometimes turn ourselves into the ultimate anti-norm we can, feeling that is what we are supposed to be. It is our badge of honor somehow. It…

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Ten Things You Need to Know About Arabs

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Useful information.

Strawberry Fields

I found this on the Civil Arab and couldn’t help but share it here:

Whoever coined the term “Ignorance is bliss” is an absolute idiot. Ignorance is not bliss. In fact, ignorance leads to misunderstanding. Misunderstanding leads to fear. Fear leads to bias and hate. So I am here to present to the American public the top 10 things that Arabs want non-Arabs to know about them. If you remember these, then Arabs will not look at you as a “Dumb American.”

1. Not all of us are Muslim

As an Arab Christian myself, I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard, “When did you convert?” I would be a very rich man. About 10% of the Arab population is Christian. Yes, we are a minority, but we are still there and have been Christians for 2,000 years. I’m not sure how good the average American is…

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Review of ‘My Secret Barack: Crowning the King’

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Not since the time of John F. Kennedy’s Camelot has a presidential election so electrified the American public—especially the young—as did the 2008 election when Barack Obama, the junior senator from Illinois made history by becoming the first African-American President of the United States. You have to have been inside a hermetically sealed chamber not to know that his direct appeal to young voters through personal contact and social media, almost as much as dissatisfaction with the direction the previous administration had taken the country, were the keys to his historic victory.

In My Secret Barack: Crowning the King, a memoir by Krista Nelson, an elected Obama delegate for the 2008 election, we see behind the media reports, and get a look at what this election meant from a distinctly human perspective. Nelson, who worked in advertising and marketing before becoming an Obama devotee, takes us through her involvement in this event, up to the inauguration, giving a rare insight into the emotions behind her political choice.

I received a free copy of My Secret Barack in exchange for my review. It’s a short book, easy to read in one sitting, but one that will have a profound effect on anyone who cares about the country and its politics, and who believes that we still have a ways to go in order to truly live up to our dream of a country where ‘all men (and women) are created equal,’ and where we can say after every election that ‘goodness won, goodness had triumphed.’ I give this book five stars.

Daily Post Photo Challenge: Orange

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This Daily Post Photo Challenge is a multi-photo challenge related to the color Orange.  There are many versions of the color orange, from the warmth of an orange sun to the muted brownish-orange of dead grass. Here are a few photos from my files that feature the color orange.

The sun is the largest fire in our solar system.
The sun is the largest fire in our solar system.

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"Sunset near Lake Kariba"
A golden sunset near Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe.

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Congratulations #Authors – One battle won against #Copyright #Infringement – UPDATE…

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Useful information for ALL authors!

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

To keep you posted after my post about CONFIRMED COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT NOTIFICATION yesterday and to let you see that you are NOT ALONE in the battle against it, here are the statistics on the post at the time of writing THIS post:

373 visitors viewed the post published at 20:12 pm last night.

TEN of them re-blogged it, thereby spreading the word FAST.

To see the all responses, look at the comments under the article HERE, however, here is a rough timeline of significant events:

At 21:56 pm, The following comment was received: 

Update: I also sent them a message through Facebook demanding they remove it. They responded:”hi ******, all book grab automatically from many source. we are apologize if your book published in our site. please contact us via http://www.e-bookdownload.net/contact-us/ with your book title list and we will remove it in 1x24hours. thanks” I informed them I…

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