Monday, May 27, 2019

Moneyland (Oliver Bullough)

Oliver Bullough’s Moneyland is a journey into a place that exists not on a map, nor in an app, nor in some virtual reality scene. This book is about the inside story of the highest of high net worth individuals who conceal large chunks of their wealth to avoid taxes or to hide their criminal affairs.

Bullough takes readers on a jet-set trip across the world to the Caribbean, London, the Channel Islands, the Sahel, the Ukraine, Russia, and the United States. Each of these locations is a willing or unknowing participant in setting up financial shelters for the super rich. Some of those super rich earned their money through completely legal manners and are looking for the best return on their assets at the lowest tax rate. Others obtained their money through illegal means. Bullough’s Moneyland is a place without borders and reflects the flow of money around the world, seeking out the best and easiest way to protect its value and those who have a lot of wealth.

The author goes through a detailed review of how the so-described “Moneyland” came to be, between loopholes in global financial arrangements, to various nations selling their citizenship for a price, to the development of layered corporations as tax shelters. All of this occurs to hide and make it near impossible to figure out just who owns that expensive condo or that business venture. Of course, given modern events, current political players and their surrogates take a willful role in the “Moneyland” stage.

Bullough’s book is a great read if you are interested in finance and curious to know how some of the one-tenth of one percent flaunt law, taxation, and decency all in order to hoard more of their wealth. Bullough offers pointed suggestions to bring about Moneyland’s demise, including better vigilance from politicians and voters alike.


Friday, May 24, 2019

Inspection (Josh Malerman)

When an author comes up with such an original concept as Josh Malerman's Inspection, it's just plain refreshing to read. There are only so many times I can read about secrets in marriages and the like before I start to get bored with the same old topic again and again. It's nice when you can say as a reader that you've read NOTHING like a particular book. That's not to say I loved Inspection, but it definitely had its positives.

If you want characters with actual names, you better turn elsewhere. The story revolves around the "Alphabet Boys," who are students in a school deep within a forest. They know nothing about reality. All they know is what D.A.D. and the Parenthood have told them, namely that they came from trees and need to be careful not to get fake diseases. Oh yeah, they also do not have a clue that a species called "girls" exists either.

We are told their story through the eyes of "J." J begins to have some suspicions, and these suspicious are increased a hundredfold when he meets "K," a girl. Where did K come from? What secrets about the world are being kept from all of them, and how will they react when they find out they have been deceived?

Other readers have commented that they found the plot slow and the ending great. I, however, am completely the opposite, which is why I couldn't rate this a 4. Unfortunately, I can't reveal much about the ending lest I give it away, except to say that I just found it way too much. But major props go out to Malerman for creating something here that we really haven't seen before.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng)

The opening lines of Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You shocks you from the very beginning: "Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet." Based on these lines, the reader obviously assumes that this book is some type of mystery. But what Ng surprisingly does instead is make what happened to Lydia the secondary part of the story. Instead, this is a book about a family in turmoil, both before Lydia died and after.

Set in the 70s, Everything I Never Told You is about Marilyn and James Lee and their children, a Chinese American family living in a small town. Even though she has two other children, Marilyn's attention is focused on Lydia, making sure she has the opportunities (whether or not she even wants them is beside the point) that Marilyn never had. The family struggles to overcome the hardships in their lives until one day, Lydia goes missing.

This is a page-turner at the beginning, but I found the last quarter of the book dull and even confusing. However, Ng does create here a profoundly moving narrative of a family trying to understand each other and wondering if it's too late to mend its connections.