Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Paying Guests (Sarah Waters)

Like the Energizer Bunny, Sarah Waters's The Paying Guests just keeps going and going and going. I usually enjoy this author's books a lot, and that was especially true of The Little Stranger and the mindboggling Fingersmith. Unfortunately, The Paying Guests is just not on the same level.

Frances and her mother are living in London in 1922 after the war. Financial difficulties cause them to have to take in two lodgers, Leonard and Lillian Barber. Frances soon finds herself deeply caught up in this couple's troubles, with tragic consequences she never saw coming.

The Paying Guests should work on paper. It has all the elements that make a story page-turning: beautiful writing (what Waters is known for), interesting characters, a love affair or two, a serious crime, and deception. However, if I'm going to commit to 564 pages, I need some sort of payoff at the end. I didn't feel any sense of satisfaction when I finished this one; what I felt was that the author left me hanging.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Is Capitalism Obsolete? (Giacomo Corneo)

Giacomo Corneo's Is Capitalism Obsolete? is a journey through various economic systems to figure out if there is a better one than capitalism. Corneo places this discussion in the context of Europe, and much of his book focuses on European economics. This means if you are looking for a thorough discussion of American economic policy, don't expect a very deep dive into those waters. However, you will find a discussion that is relevant to the broader global discussion of globalism, us versus them, Brexit, and other hot political topics and how economic and financial inequality fuels much of the current landscape.

Corneo's book discusses several different economic philosophies, much of which is wrapped in political theory as well as economic, coming to the conclusion that the faults of each of these various systems are greater than the faults of modern capitalism. Landing back at capitalism, Corneo suggests various political and economic reforms to "fix" the broken system. Some of the fixes (transparency in politics) make a lot of sense; others (greater usage of direct democracy) likely would need some discussion given referendums and voter initiatives have left a mixed legacy in many locations. He also suggests some government involvement in corporations, including ownership in stock, as a means to help ease economic inequality, tying in universal dividends to citizens as a means of providing additional income. Corneo breezes through corporate power and influence in government without suggesting fixes to curb and limit the lobbyist influence, which is a several billion dollar industry in America. The book's European focus lends much to the outcomes and suggestions he offers.

Is Capitalism Obsolete? is an interesting read. I don't agree with all of the fixes or suggestions, but there is a fair amount of evidence and data to back up the suggestions that Corneo makes. It also isn't a book that will provide a heavy dose of reform in American circles, but for those looking at what is going on elsewhere, it will provide a useful commentary.


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Red Queen (Victoria Aveyard)

In May 2018, Victoria Aveyard concluded her Red Queen series with the publication of War Storm. I don't usually read the young adult genre, but I kept hearing about this series so I took Book #1 (Red Queen) on vacation. I definitely had mixed feelings about it; however, I seem to be in the minority here because of its plethora of young (and older) fans.

Main character Mare Barrow lives in a nightmare world. She is a Red (due to the color of her blood), living in the poverty-stricken Stilts with her family. The Reds are ruled by the Silvers, who each have superpowers such as reading minds and creating fire. One day, Mare is called to the Silver Palace and discovers that she has a superpower of her own. This fact causes much chaos, many secrets, and ultimately, dark tragedy as she enters the world of the Silver Royals.

At times, Red Queen is a real page-turner and had me completely enthralled. But there were quite a few parts that I felt went on endlessly. The writing is very well done, so I will certainly give this book a higher rating on my scale. However, I didn't quite care enough about the characters to continue on with the series.