Star Trek and Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant— a brief review

Okay, I am a sucker for a good title, and this book has a good title and a good cover. Win-win! And it is about Star Trek, which I like quite a lot. But it is rather deep at times, so I wouldn’t rate it five stars, but fans of Trek who have some knowledge of philosophy might award it a solid four, perhaps.

What is between the covers is a collection of essays edited by Jason T. Eberl and Kevin S. Decker. These essays use Star Trek’s various television shows and movies to explore philosophical issues, and it helps quite a lot if the reader is familiar with all forms of Trek. Since I never watched all of DS9 or Enterprise, I was sometimes a bit lost.

The first essay is a nifty one, as it is based upon a Next Generation episode, “Darmok.” Both the essay and the episode dealt with the difficulty of translating a totally alien language. Throughout most of the Trek episodes there was a “universal translator” which was a bit like Google Translate, but it depended upon languages having some commonalities. Of course, communication via such means can go astray quite easily, but what about an alien species that doesn’t communicate the way we do? The issues would be far beyond going from English to Chinese, and I understand that can be difficult.

As the essays in this book are by different authors, the tone and topics vary quite a lot. For me, it was a book to nibble at, but not a cover to cover read. I’ve always viewed Star Trek as more intellectual than Star Wars, but this book takes it to an even higher plane. For fans of all things Trek, there are some really delicious ideas to examine in this collection, so if that describes you, go for it!

Blood on The Tracks— a quick review

This is the first entry in the Sydney Parnell mystery series. I’m a fan of mystery stories, but prefer that there be something that makes the character(s) or setting stand apart from the other umpty dozen mystery novels published at the same time. Blood on the Tracks has both! The main character is a railway detective, which made me think historical, but nope, this is a contemporary novel, set in the western part of the U.S., during winter. Our heroine is also a veteran, and she is dealing with lots of baggage from her former occupation. And there’s a dog.

The plot is reasonably suspenseful, the characters fairly well drawn, and the author kept me turning the pages, despite quite a few plot twists and turns. Fans of mystery novels, military fiction, and dogs should like Blood on the Tracks. I did.

By Pamela/Pilar Posted in writing

Winter’s Bone— review and commentary

Winter's BoneAs the film Winter’s Bone is based upon a novel, let me be clear— I am discussing the film, not the book. Hubby and I watched it via Amazon Prime, due to seeing it listed as one of the best films available via streaming, and it stars a young (pre Hunger Games) Jennifer Lawrence. I knew little else about it, other than the brief description on Amazon.

Honestly, it is a haunting movie, but is isn’t a horror story. This film is a polar opposite of a action adventure. Not that it isn’t interesting, because it is, but this is a window into a world that will be foreign to many of us, but maybe not as foreign as we’d like, because drug users, abusers, and dealers are an ever growing aspect of modern America.

Basically, the story follows the efforts of seventeen-year-old Ree Dolly (Lawrence) to find her missing father, after a bail bondsman informs her that if her dad doesn’t show up for his trial, the family home is forfeit. The setting is in the Ozark Mountains, within the past few years, based on the cars. The father manufactures meth, and this is apparently no secret. Jessup Dolly hasn’t been around for a while, and there is little to eat, for the family or their animals. Ree is also burdened with younger siblings who rely upon her, because the mother is a mentally ill mute. As Ree goes from person to person, asking for news of her father, the viewer learns much about the poverty and other issues that inhabitants of this community endure.

When I was a youngster, I remember reading Oliver Twist and thinking that if one more bad thing happened to that kid, I was going to return the book to the library, unfinished. More misfortunes did befall young Oliver, so I didn’t finish the novel. A few years later I saw the musical Oliver on school field trip, so I did finally learn what happened to the characters. And while Winter’s Bone has little in common with Oliver Twist, the relentless despair with only a small germ of hope is similar.

As I do hope readers of Visions and Revisions will take a look at the film, I’m avoiding spoilers. Certainly, Jennifer Lawrence is amazing in this film, but the rest of the cast is excellent, too. The filmmaker did a fabulous job of showing the situation but not telling the viewer what to believe.

I have to agree that Winter’s Bone is an excellent film, and it brings a simple yet sophisticated treatment to the problems associated with the drug culture in rural America.

Quick reads from the past few months

I read a lot of digital material these days, and all too often, it is via “Apple News” or some other platform, and thus, I don’t comment or critique it in any way. However, I also enjoy books via the Kindle app, and some of those I have reviewed on Amazon, so here are some of those reviews and/or comments from the last six or seven months.


Exercise and MentalI saw this “book” entitled Exercise and Mental Health featured on a site called “Deal News” as a freebie. I am loathe to pan a free book, but it is not really a book at all. Instead, this little 27 page document is like a course outline. While I saw no overt problems, the content might be best as a prompt to do further research, rather than an actual source of information.

After reading it, I did use Galileo, a database of articles available via libraries in Georgia, to do some research, so it was somewhat helpful.

 

More than HappyUnfortunately, several aspects of “modern” life have helped create a culture of spoiled and unpleasant children. Hubby and I have spent lots of money on everything from computers and video game consoles to therapists, and our kids are not happy people. That is just plain sad, but it is largely true. So, when I saw this book (at a local discount store) I was intrigued. When the title says that these children are More than Happy, I was thinking that I’d take sorta happy. So, my initial reading began with a question: Can my grandchildren be happier than my own children? Perhaps.

Authors Miller and Stutzman have done a remarkable job of breaking down the core differences between the way that Amish children are brought up and the way that “modern” people rear their children. Occasionally, stories or concepts are repeated, but for the most part this book offers sound wisdom on every page. While there are some religious concepts in the book, it isn’t overly preachy. Instead, it is filled with observations and common sense.

Actually, I just ordered two more copies of this book to share with others because I think it is that important and that worthy. Hopefully, the recipients will take the time to read it, because there are a lot of children who can benefit from the suggestions in this practical guide to simpler lives and happier kids.


DoubtI must say that it has been a while since I read Doubt, but I do remember enjoying it. For those who are not “Amazon Prime” members, one of the benefits of that is a program called “Kindle First” which offers a choice of a freebie each month. I picked this one. Here’s what I wrote on Amazon:

The main character is a winner, for sure. Readers enjoy being able to identify with the protagonist, and Caroline’s first job as a lawyer is a successful blend of nerves and hope. Other characters are not as engaging, but work well enough. The plot is good and moves swiftly along.

I really liked this novel. Hope to read others in the series.


Black RainBlack Rain is a novel featured via the Kindle First program’s science fiction genre.

This book does and does not remind me of Robert Heinlein’s Friday, in which the sci fit grand master took on genetic engineering and some of the associated ethical quandaries that will no doubt emerge as that technology matures. But Heinlein had a lot more hope (and occasional humor) in his story. In Black Rain, there is also a distinct distopian slant to the plot, as in the Hunger Games trilogy. Fans of science fiction, especially near future cautionary takes will really like this tale. It is well written, suspense filled, and the characters are reasonably well drawn. The setting makes great use of New York City, which would make it a sound basis for a film in the Urban Fantasy genre.


Beacon 23I’m not entirely sure where I first heard of Hugh Howey, but he is one of those independent science fiction authors who is successful without the assistance of a publishing house. I love to support such endeavors, and it is easy to recommend Beacon 23. Here’s my super brief Amazon review:

After being in battle, a war hero just wants to be alone. So he takes the job of minding Beacon 23. Mostly, he is alone with his thoughts. But…with a back story like this protagonist’s, those thoughts are not quiet.

I like psychological novels, and I love sci fi. This serialized novel blends those two remarkably well.

What happened to pamelajdodd.com?

You’re looking at it. Sort of, anyway.

This is rather embarrassing, but I seldom look at my own posts online. (I don’t take “selfies” either.) Anyway, when I began a break from my teaching schedule, I decided to do some site updates to my personal author site (pamelajdodd.com) and was offered some interesting pills to enhance a body part I do not possess. Um. Big problem, pun intended.

Okay, I called the web host, who offered to try to extract the malware, but as it was time to pay for another year of hosting, I decided to spend my dollars to upgrade this WordPress site and to forgo having a separate website. Thus, I have added a couple of pages (one devoted to each of the novels I have published as Pamela J. Dodd) and will be adding a bit more information as I have the time. I’m not entirely sure how this consolidation of sites works, but hopefully I can make this site more secure, as well as useful to readers.

Some of the materials I had posted on my old site made a swift journey to cyber heaven, such as a few book reviews, but I plan to add some of the more memorable ones via a “quick reads” post or two, based on my Amazon reviews.

Anyway, while the other problem was a bit annoying, as well as embarrassing, it is now a part of cyber history, and I’ll devote myself to updating this site, as well as my other non-de-plume’s web presence.

By Pamela/Pilar Posted in writing

Honour Bound— a quick review

Honour BoundSome time back, I got a bit more serious about writing reviews on Amazon, and I bought several products and did indeed review most of them. Along with light bulbs, measuring cups, and a backpack, I stocked up on Kindle books, too.

One of those is Honour Bound (Lawmen of the Republic Book 2) by M.A. Grant. Y’all, this is a pretty nifty book. Briefly, this story begins with two people, Natalia, a prisoner in a camp on a distant planet, and Alex Cade, the young Lawman lieutenant, who rescues her. The story takes its time unfolding, so I would not term it high suspense, but it held my attention. And, it is a full length novel. I’ve noticed that the definition of novel does differ from author to author these days, with lots of eBooks being closer to novellas than actual novels. All those electronic pages mean that this is a good deal at the current price of $2.72. Apparently, Ms. Grant has other novels available with more in the works. Here’s my quick review for Amazon:

This novel delivers plenty of action in a science fiction setting. I’m a fan of sci fi romance, and while there is a romantic sub-plot, this is primarily a military story. The main characters are well drawn, but the minor ones are…well…minor. Still, I really enjoyed this book and will read others by the author.

And, here’s a link to her site: M.A. Grant Author if you’d like to know more.

By Pamela/Pilar Posted in writing

Disaster? Get prepared!

One of my sisters lives in an area that has had several occasions when hurricanes made life difficult for a few days. She recounts a story of a couple who went nine days without utilities, and how her husband (an engineer by trade) took a home generator to the couple’s home and restored basic power. They are still fast friends, and that began with coping with a small scale disaster. My sister has put in a good bit of planning for such times into her current home. For instance, she has a gas cooktop, a propane grill, and she heats with fuel oil that lives in an absolutely huge tank. And, her pantry stays full. I have a full pantry and a swimming pool that I could tap for wash water and that’s about it. So, I wanted to know more about how to be prepared.

Now, I am not advocating being a “prepper” with $4K of freeze dried food stored in the basement. But, sometimes disasters happen, and the government’s recommendation of 72 hours worth of supplies might not be enough. To learn more about practical ways to be prepared, I recently read Tony Nestor’s book on the topic. He is a survival training expert, who makes a living teaching others how to survive in the wilderness or in more urban settings. His short book on this topic is impressive. I read When The Grid Goes Down: Disaster Preparations and Survival Gear For Making Your Home Self-Reliant in a couple of evenings. Nestor does not burden his book with lots of anecdotal tales; instead he gets right to the point and stays there. He discusses the differences between surviving in the city and in the country (not much different, actually) and then takes people’s needs, such as water, food, and shelter, topic by topic, and addresses how to prepare and cope with a disaster, should one occur. There is a bounty of useful information in this book, but I found the lists especially helpful. He also mentions other resources that I intend to purchase, such as a book for times when there is no doctor. Also helpful is the resources section in the back, which lists other books and DVDs, but it also has links to websites to purchase some of the items he recommends. And, no, he does not recommend tubs of food that lasts 25 years in storage. Nestor says he doesn’t eat that way now, and would not be happy eating that way in a disaster. Instead he recommends cans and packages of dry beans and rice that can be rotated for freshness. Oh, and he does recommend a firearm and lots of ammo. But he says that trapping and fishing are more efficient ways of securing animal protein. Again, this is practical advice!

The topics addressed here would be useful for a disaster that lasts from days to weeks. If you want to learn to live off the grid permanently, go read another book.

By Pamela/Pilar Posted in writing

Amazon’s Prime Day

As a writer, I’ve seem the dramatic impact that Amazon has had upon the book industry. Now, even if there had been no Amazon, book sales would have begun to move online, and eBooks would have become a factor in book sales and marketing. However, Amazon has relentlessly moved to become America’s favorite online retailer, via many different channels. Amazon is a way for book collectors to flesh out their holdings— I finally finished reading all of the Modesty Blaise books, because I found the missing volumes on Amazon. I’ve also purchased everything from electronics to swimwear there, usually with good prices and good service. And, as a writer, Amazon has been my publisher for a couple of years. As a book seller, Amazon has been my primary means of finding customers. (Pun intended, of course.)

A while back, I took a graduate school class, and I joined Amazon Prime via the student program. Not only did I save a bit on the five textbooks for my class, but I got “free” shipping, videos, and music for half price. When my “student” status expired, I kept the Amazon Prime service due to its value.

Last year, I took advantage of Amazon’s Countdown to Prime Day – Enjoy Prime Day video deals through July 12— a bit like “Black Friday” but it happens in July. If you haven’t yet purchased a prime membership, I encourage you to take a look at it via this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial.

By Pamela/Pilar Posted in writing

Air Force One is Down— review and commentary

I was watching Netflix with hubby, and I saw a British mini-series entitled “Alistair McLean’s Air Force One is Down” as an available title, so we spent a couple of evenings with it. Although this film ended up as a recommendation for me because it has Linda Hamilton (of Terminator and Beauty and the Beast fame,) I chose it because it was supposed to be based on a novel by Alistair McLean. He was a favorite writer of mine when I was in my teens and 20s, and yes, I am fully aware that I am dating myself by mentioning that.

Oh, my gosh, how wonderful were those reads. He wrote twenty something novels, several of which were the basis for films (including The Guns of Navarone, Ice Station Zebra, and Breakheart Pass.) My intro to his work was actually his only sequel (Force 10 from Navarone) but it was stood alone well enough that I wanted to read more from the author.

Alas, hubby and I were disappointed by this film. The cinematography, special effects, score, and cast were all pretty good. The problems were, for the most part, in the writing. In part, plot devices that worked in novels in the 50s and 60s just do not work now. For instance, the dastardly villain has captured our hero and his two compatriots. He places the hero character in a deadly situation, and the hero’s two sidekicks are locked into a pit that rapidly fills with water. Of course, the hero manages a super human feat and the all of them survive. Nowadays, the villain would shoot the hero and his sidekicks and be done with it. This doesn’t happen just once in the two part story; it happens over and over. As hubby said, “This thing has major plot holes.” And it does.

After we finished watching the entire film (at my insistence, as hubby would have bailed during part 1) I looked up the novel. According to that scholarly resource Wikipedia, McLean did not write the novel. Instead, he sketched out some plots for a series of novels which bear his name, but other authors wrote the books. In this case, John Denis is the author of the book that the mini-series is supposed to be based upon.

So… the film is sorta interesting, but I really can’t recommend it. Oh, and as of this post, it is free on YouTube, so here’s a link: