“Blood Will Out”, by Lauren Stoker – Review

Blood Will Out (With the Proper Solvent) is dedicated to Terry Pratchett’s memory, which sets quite a high bar for author Lauren Stoker. I’ve read most, if not all, of Pratchett’s published works – many more than once. This book is a difficult read for the first quarter, dangling plot points and stranded characters. Once that deep into the story it gets a lot easier as things settle down.

The characters aren’t as well developed as I would like, and I didn’t grow attached to any of them. Also, the forces of “good” are massively over-powered which reduces some of the potential for the story arc. The last part of the book gets a bit preachy as well. People who read this for entertainment aren’t looking for an eco-sermon. It’s like going to the Salvation Army shelter for dinner.

The interior formatting is excellent, top-notch.  It is a distinct pleasure to turn each page (I bought the hardback). The cover doesn’t reach the same standard.

I rate the book a 3.5, based on the FCP book review standard. Priced under $20 on Amazon or at your local bookstore, it’s available only in paperback or hardcover, and is a fair entertainment value.

Image by ana carla from Pixabay

Online Dating

I’ve been struck by the similar nature of local profiles, almost as if the women had all attended the same seminar on how to build an online dating profile. In fairness, maybe the male profiles are similar as well, I can’t really tell because I don’t get to easily see those.

In Colorado, the archetype profile has a photo of the woman holding a just-caught fish. The surface message is that she enjoys outdoor activities which a prospective match might enjoy. However, digging deeper, isn’t she really saying she has no problem holding onto something slimy and gross with her bare hands? Now that is definitely a positive quality for all the prospective males regardless of their sporting preferences!

*****

Another commonality is the fact that most mature (age 45+) female profiles are looking for a man with a graduate degree, regardless of their own educational level. It makes sense from a hypergamy perspective, but completely ignores the potential relationship problems of mismatched educational levels. It’s possible that a woman with a high school degree reads extensively and can carry an informed conversation on a wide range of topics (being an autodidact is a good proxy for higher education). However it is not probable. This type of mismatch works best when both are young, as building a family together can enhance shared experiences. Mature male daters aren’t looking for a mature someone to build a family with, they already have one if it was wanted. No, mature male daters want someone for companionship in all of its forms. The sex can be spectacular, but sooner or later talking is going to be on the menu. Women with high school degrees seem to instinctively understand it too, as their profiles tend to spend more time on their sexual attraction attributes. Women with Masters or PhD degrees spend much less profile space on their sexual attraction, instead highlighting accomplishments and intellectual pursuits. Sexual attributes are part of what’s on the table, but they don’t lead with it.

*****

One of the shared attributes of many educated liberal dating profiles is the reference to the fact they read the New York Times. In context, it’s usually stated where they are emphasizing their intellectual prowess.

“I believe virtually everything I read, and I think that is what makes me more of a selective human than someone who doesn’t believe anything.” David St. Hubbins – Spinal Tap

If they are truly intellectuals, they read from a wide range of perspectives – too many to cite within a profile. Citing a specific publication is mere virtue signaling, “Look what a dedicated liberal (or conservative) I am, you’d better be too.” As a selection criterion, it’s a valid distinction but probably better expressed directly, “Not interested in Trumpers (or people who don’t support …)”

At the risk of being trite, I’ll cite one of my own sayings.

“I tend to doubt the virtue of those who signal it.” Dan M. Kalin

*****

One woman expressed interest in a phone call, so we exchanged numbers for a chat later that evening. Her profile had a long rambling section about the things she was seeking and even more. I frankly confess to not having read it all (more than a thousand words). She had a PhD in some unspecified discipline (usually that means liberal arts), was Jewish, and owned a small business where she served as its CEO. First, if a person has a small business with less than 5 employees, calling themselves a CEO is ridiculous. Correctly they should be a President or Owner. Regardless, I decided to look up her business and it turns out her company helps children of well-heeled parents get into prestigious colleges by managing the application process. I had to smile remembering recent news stories about some issues in that vocation (e.g. Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin). I resolved to bring it up if it turned out she had a sense of humor.

We get on the phone, and it turns out she doesn’t have a sense of humor. She starts with, “I specifically stated in my profile that only Jewish men should message me. Are you Jewish?”

I stated I was not and apologized, saying I hadn’t noticed the requirement. In the meantime I pull up her profile and sure enough, buried at the end of her long screed is a sentence to that effect. I apologized again for wasting her time and wished her well on her search.

Then she backpedals, saying maybe we should continue talking since we were already on the phone. Fine, I had nothing else going on, it was during the lockdown of COVID – and we chatted pleasantly for a couple of hours.

I asked why she isn’t primarily searching on JDate rather than Match, if that is a critical issue. Her response was that the men on JDate, while Jewish, were also too nebbish. We didn’t remain in contact throughout the pandemic, but the conversation stayed with me. My profile stated I wasn’t looking for anyone too religious, so it wouldn’t have worked out regardless.

Takeaway, read the whole profile – no matter how tedious.

Image by Erika Wittlieb

Random Quote

“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone, it’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.”
Robin Williams

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Online Dating

During COVID, I met a lady at an online dating site and we seemed to hit it off with text messages so we exchanged telephone numbers. Her bio said she was a stockbroker, living in the Florida area where I resided at the time. So we arranged to have a phone conversation one Friday night.

The first thing she tells me is that she is currently in Los Angeles visiting her son. She sent some spectacular photos of the beach from her son’s penthouse apartment. Then she mentions her current job is walking dogs, as the stock brokerage business declined somewhat after she had lost her license. Her real vocation, however, is within the medical field, healing holistically through the use of special crystals.

“In fact,” she said, “You would be amazed at some of the famous people I’ve treated with my practice.”

Now, I’m thinking there can’t be that many of them if she is scraping by on dog-walking, but I’m always curious so I asked if I would have heard of any of them.

“An associate and I successfully treated a former President of the United States for a very personal issue.”

“Really? Not Jimmy Carter!” I said.

“No it was Bill Clinton. We helped straighten his curved penis into a better position through the healing power of our crystals.”

“Really? Did it involve more than a laying-on of your hands?” I asked with a slight giggle. I’m laughing at my own joke, which I thought was pretty good, but she fails to see any humor. We sputtered on for a few more minutes and finally said good night. Thank goodness she lost my number.

*****

I met an attractive woman online, widow, who really was a rocket scientist. Having spent time in the commercial space business myself, she knew many of the same people I did. So as we’re comparing notes, we’ve lived in the same neighborhood for over a year and had never met. Now, I walk my dogs every day past her home and had never seen her during the entire year she had been there. Why? Because due to COVID, she had not left her house the entire time! She works remotely as a consultant to most of the commercial space firms and never left her house. At night, she couldn’t sleep much, so also volunteers as a resource for a suicide prevention hotline.

OK, no problem there from my perspective. A little odd, but when you get to a certain IQ level things do get odd from a normal perspective. I, on the other hand, left my house every day to walk dogs, do swimming workouts at the gym, and the usual grocery shop excursions. I’m not one to judge other people’s phobias for the most part; and the phobias or sleep patterns of attractive women even more so. It’s part of what makes them interesting.

We become friends on Facebook, start talking every evening, and seemed destined to at least go on a date or two after the pandemic dust cleared, until one fateful evening. I had even agreed to take care of her dogs in the event she passed away (as she had no living family).

“Dan, I’m privy to some classified data on COVID and things are about to get worse! You need to stop leaving your home so you’ll survive it!”

Swimming is my sanity and I am loath to forgo doing it as often as I can. Walking is my dog’s sanity, and she isn’t going to be amused if I stopped. Going to the grocery store was the only way to get the products I need at a reasonable price. As a retired person on a fixed income (I love saying that), it’s important to be mindful of wasteful spending. So I regretfully refused to hole up within my home.

She dumped me like a hot rock, which is probably for the best. As far as I know, she might still be sitting at home, worried about her exposure to contagion. I’d still take care of her dogs, though, if the situation arose as it’s not their fault Momma isn’t all there.

*****

I had a short online dating acquaintance with a psychologist, we seemed to match up well conversationally until I made a major faux pas by being truthful. Her profile said she was spiritual, but I’m a coexist type when it comes to those types of belief systems. The particular platform where we met didn’t provide any options to explain my views other than “agnostic”. She asked for my views and I replied I didn’t have enough faith to be an atheist, but was probably closest to that view. I think I also mentioned something about not needing to engage in magical thinking when I don’t understand something about the universe.

She comes back with the verdict we weren’t  a match due to the issue. No big deal, it happens and is likely mutual. What was interesting is what she said next to support her views.

She cites the 1st Law of Thermodynamics to support her contentions about energy-based spiritual evolution. Aren’t liberal arts majors cute when they use hard science to support their faith-based spiritual views? Besides completely ignoring the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, which guts her thesis, it’s similar to a Bible-belt Christian using geologic data to support the Biblical account of the Flood.

Whew, many bullets dodged with this one!

Image by Erika Wittlieb

“They Laughed at Me”, by David Kempf — Review

I found They Laughed at Me to be a dark and disturbing story, but in a good way. It was easy to believe an alcoholic under house arrest for DUI could harbor dark impulses to murder his ex-wife, as well as to kill while performing at open mike nights like The Unknown Comic. David Kempf has delivered a very well written book which, though short enough to read in an afternoon, punches above its weight. In the end, was the result due to Jack Lively’s general incompetence, or a self-destructive mindset? Hard to tell, and that is part of the story’s charm.

I rate the book a 4.5, based on the FCP book review standard. Priced at $2.99 on Amazon Kindle, it’s a good entertainment value.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Accidental (?) Reader

So when does a healthy appetite for new things to read get out of hand? Easy, when friends and relations start making suggestions.

My friend Rebecca pointed out in her trademark low-key fashion that the biography of Stalin written by E. Radzinsky was depressing, but excellent. OK, normally this would be out of my comfort zone, but an endorsement like that couldn’t be ignored.

In the process of acquiring said book, Amazon (wily temptors that they are) suggested a couple more Robert Massie books. My son John had suggested Dreadnought to me over the holidays and I enjoyed reading all 1,000 pages of it. How did Amazon know? End result, a couple more largish books entered the queue.

My daughter Sarah sent me the Hank Green book as well.

My science fiction jones is being fed by James Cory and Alistair Reynolds. Chaim Potok had a sequel to a book I love and thus another was snagged.

You won’t see much of me in the coming days. Should I stop responding to queries, you might want to send search and rescue. This is the reader part of the equation.

Eudaemonia

“…See you can’t please everyone,
so you got to please yourself…”
Ricky Nelson

In a fit of COVID-confinement boredom, I recently took advantage of a six month membership offer for a popular dating website. Anything but boring. Between Netflix, Starz, and this, my free time has pretty much evaporated.

It’s been a real education for me on a number of levels, having been out of the dating world for more than 23 years. The people watcher in me has had a field day reading all the profiles, which range from desperate appeals to unwarranted arrogance and mirrors I wouldn’t mind owning. The people I’ve corresponded with (pretty much all you can do in the current wait-for-my-vaccine environment) have largely been interesting, accomplished, and attractive; while some few are batshit crazy. Crazy has its own appeal, but you shouldn’t have doubts about waking up around them.

The author sees it as an opportunity to create character profiles for use in upcoming books. No names or attribution, just personalities and physical descriptions. Talk about a dual use upside! Heck, I might even sell a few books as potential dates kick tires and check my teeth.

I’m having way too much fun with this!

“White Trash Warlock”, by David R. Slayton – Review

Author Slayton has written a very entertaining work introducing Adam Binder (the titular warlock). It starts off fairly slow at first, introducing an interesting mix of characters and situations, however the pace soon builds relentlessly to a climactic conclusion. A few threads are left open for the next installment, but the story itself is self-contained. A short work, perfect for weekend reading. I especially enjoyed the nods to Denver, CO landmarks and attractions.

While the plot doesn’t break any truly new ground, priced at $6.29 for Amazon Kindle, it is a fair entertainment value. I rate the book a solid 4.0, based on the FCP book review standard. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

Image by Mustafa Alpaslan from Pixabay

“Black Willows”, by Jill Hand – Review

The Trapnell family is at it again in this sequel to Jill Hand’s White Oaks. (click here for previous review of White Oaks) The offspring of recently-deceased billionaire Blanton Trapnell are still doing their best to inherit their respective portions of the largest estate in Georgia. It’s a terrible thing to be bound by the constraints of a trust fund. One can’t buy a snake-infested Greek island with a mere trust fund! Unfortunately the executor of the estate, oldest daughter Karen, has gone missing. Like most Trapnell problems this one is self-inflicted, as Aimee is pretty sure she successfully killed Karen. My favorite character among the children is the fastidious international arms dealer, Marsh, which tells you pretty much all you need to know about the character of the Trapnells.

Black Willows is another testament to Jill Hand’s skill in weaving an engrossing and humorous tale. I read it pretty much in one sitting, and re-read a week later at a much slower pace. Why? Because there are so many witty and sly cultural references embedded, I’d hate to miss one. It’s always a pleasure to read well-crafted stories without wasted threads. There aren’t many authors who consistently deliver on that score, but Jill Hand has done so repeatedly.

I rate the book a solid 5.0, based on the FCP book review standard. Available for pre-order at https://www.amazon.com/Black-Willows-Trapnell-Thriller-Jill/dp/1684335868, with international general availability October 20, 2020

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JILL HAND is a former crime reporter. She is a member of International Thriller Writers.

White Oaks, the first book in her series about the scheming, free-wheeling Trapnell siblings, won first place for thrillers in the 2019 PenCraft Awards. Her short stories have appeared in many anthologies.

 

 

Website: http://www.jillhandauthor.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jill.hand.5855

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jillhand1_gef

Banner and photography artwork provided courtesy of Black Rose Writing and Jill Hand.