Billions and Billions

Can Finance Ever Be Truly Fascinating?

I’ve been binge-watching Showtime’s in house series, Billions. with Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis. For my money it’s the best thing on TV. Of course I’m an accounting and finance geek, so there is probably a lot of stuff in it that appeals to me but leaves people who are easily bored with such matters cold.

I know they’re out there. Econophobics. The kind of people who get a headache when conversation turns to interest rate swaps or in-substance defeasance of advance refunding bond issues. In fact, I’m pretty sure our president is one, but he has people for that stuff. (Not that he would ever listen to them.) I can’t say it’s their fault. I mean, really, that’s pretty arcane territory for anyone but a financial savant. Continue reading

Book Review – From A to Zoe

From A to ZoeFrom A to Zoe by Marie-Jo Fortis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this little book. It lacks pretension. It’s self-aware without being self-absorbed—artsy without the fartsy. It’s beautiful with a healthy dose of the real—like Mona Lisa with a gap-tooth grin or The Birth of Venus with a mastectomy scar.

Zoe Zimmerman is a modern girl, a writer trying to slip the bonds of her small-town past in the middle of a seedy Manhattan that just doesn’t give a damn, except sporadically, and then just enough to keep our girl plodding on. I’ve known Zoes in my life. Mostly I try to avoid them. They are, in the parlance of my adopted Southland, hot messes. They are hard to live with, but easy to love. They are too interesting for their own good. Continue reading

Book Review: Dispatches by Michael Herr

DispatchesDispatches by Michael Herr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this and two other books about the U.S. experience in Vietnam by way of research for a novel I am writing. I was looking for firsthand experience of slogging through the muck, both physical and figurative, to execute the failed strategies of our involvement. Dispatches delivers on all fronts.

War is not just hell. It is a ridiculous one fueled by its own kind of stupidity: “When the commander heard that [we were correspondents,] he wanted to throw a spontaneous operation for us, crank up his whole brigade and get some people killed. We had to get out on the next chopper to keep him from going ahead with it, amazing what some of them would do for a little ink.” Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: A Falling Body by Anders Kermod

A Falling BodyA Falling Body by Anders Kermod
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from the author in exchange for an objective review.

A Falling Body is the story of a young Englishwoman, Andrea Williams, who agrees to a technological implant which allows wealthy, aged, and infirm businessman, Claude LeGrande, near total access to her thoughts, sensory experiences, and emotions. The arrangement quickly veers from Andrea’s expectations, and she finds herself over her head in dangerous waters. It becomes evident that LeGrande can not only read her thoughts and anticipate her moves, he also has the power to influence her circumstances from outside. She struggles to extricate herself, in vain it seems, as events confine her options to an increasingly limited range of possibilities. Continue reading

Book Review: THE BLACK DAHLIA by James Ellroy

The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet, #1)The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Black Dahlia is a fictionalized account of the investigation into the real life torture, mutilation, and murder of Elizabeth Short in 1947. It is appropriately dark and deeply disturbing. On balance, I thought it was quite well done. It was consistently engaging and sufficiently challenging throughout. It is not loads of fun unless you really embrace the darkness. Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: 251 Things To Do in Tofino

Tofino CoverParadise Found?

More . . . As Promised

Yesterday, in my post about the likely outcomes of last night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I mentioned Tofino, BC in Canada as one of the places I would choose to live should we end up with an orange U.S. president. Thankfully, Trump did not acquit himself very well in the debate, so the likelihood of his getting himself elected is somewhat diminished. Even so, Tofino seems to me to be an altogether lovely place in which to live. I think this because of this charming little book—a travel guide that succeeded in making me want to travel . . . to Tofino . . . and to stay there . . . indefinitely. Continue reading

2 out of 5 Stars for Moby Dick??

humpback whale underwater blueThe Book Review: Bane or Boon?

I’ve been looking for book bloggers and reviewers to give me objective reviews of A Cup of Pending. Reviews are a numbers game for indie authors like me – the more reviews and ratings we get, the more readers we are likely to attract. It’s a snowball effect. It’s the on-line equivalent of word of mouth recommendations.

To this end, I have been trolling review groups on Goodreads. You’d think this would be a fairly straightforward process: find a post by a potential reviewer looking for books to read, reach out, and, if they’re interested, send them a book. There’s more to this than meets the eye, however. For example, you probably don’t want to send your military action adventure story to a millennial fan of paranormal romance. You are not likely to find an open mind in such an exchange. Of course, the reverse is also true.

With this in mind, I try to vet potential reviewers before I approach them. It just makes sense to get a sense of the kind of treatment I can expect before I put the future of my life’s work into someone else’s hands. Frankly, I have been stymied by this process. Continue reading

Review: The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

Book Cover - The Last PolicemanThe Last Policeman

Ben H. Winters

I knew just a few pages into the first chapter that I was going to give this gem 5 stars. It has everything I like in a book. It is unassuming but self-assured, well crafted but without artifice, engaging but not easy. It gets categorized as science fiction, and I suppose it qualifies on a superficial level. There is some science, but it is not set in a futuristic or post apocalyptic universe full of imagined technological wonders. Nothing in it is unfamiliar. It takes place in contemporary New England. The only thing that sets it apart from the world we know is that the world in the book is about to end from impact with a large asteroid.

Concord Police Detective, Henry Palace, catches a new case: an apparent suicide in a MacDonald’s restaurant men’s room. The crime scene doesn’t add up for Palace, but he’s new at his job. The more experienced detectives and the prosecutor’s office all want to call it suicide and get back to worrying about the approaching cataclysm. Palace plods doggedly through the evidence in a world gone mad over its shortened future. The work, the puzzle, the mystery of it, keep him sane, at least until it seems rather to be making him a little crazy. Continue reading