A long way gone,, Memories of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beach

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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is a memoir written by Ishmael Beah. The story starts while he is living with his father, stepmother and brother. The book starts with Ishmael Beah, his older brother Junior, and their friend Talloi traveling from their village of Mogbwemo to Mattru Jong in order to perform in a talent show. Ishmael, Junior, and their friend love rap music and sing and dance to it.  

While away on their trip their village is attacked by rebels and at the age of 12, he is left on his own separated from his family. The think that their parents fled to a small village on the Sierra Leone coast and they try to try to go there. They don’t find their parents but are forced to join an army unit where is given plenty of drugs and brainwashing and trained to kill. Ishmael lives this life of a boy soldier until he is 16 when UNICEF gets him released from the army to be put in a rehabilitation program.

The process of making a young boy capable and able to be a ruthless killer is something this book will likely cause many to never forget. Also, the goodness and needs of the boy as he is rehabilitated and eventually finds a place that he can consider his family is also well done.

An important book, well done.

Quotes

“In the sky there are always answers and explanations for everything: every pain, every suffering, joy and confusion.” ...

“When I was young, my father used to say, 'If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen.“

“Some nights the sky wept stars that quickly floated and disappeared into the darkness before our wishes could meet them. ”

“...children have the resilience to outlive their sufferings, if given a chance.”

“I joined the army to avenge the deaths of my family and to survive, but I've come to learn that if I am going to take revenge, in that process I will kill another person whose family will want revenge; then revenge and revenge and revenge will never come to an end...”

The Institute by Stephen King

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When they kidnap 12-year-old Luke Ellis for his minor telekinetic ability they overlook the power of his very significant intellect. Luke is brilliant and that power is something the evil Institute people had not expected. 

Luke wakes up in a room that looks just like his bedroom back home. The door opens onto a hallway decorated with posters of romping children with mottos like “JUST ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE” and “I CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY!” Of course, the Institute is not a paradise it destroys its victims. It also destroys the “moral compass” of those who work there too long.

Luke teaches a group of traumatized kids to understand and utilize their own abilities, and to turn those abilities against their captors. In creating human “weapons” of the minds of the kids to be used against perceived enemies, the Institute created a weapon to be used against itself. Luke’s intellect with the linked mental efforts of the children, and with significant help from a powerful 10-year-old psychic named Avery Dixon the balance of power shifts and Luke escapes making his way to DuPray, South Carolina, where he meets up with S.C., Tim Jamieson, a former policeman.

Is this really one of the scariest of King’s novels? I don’t think so. In some ways it seemed to be less gory and horrifying but it was well done with a plot that took some unexpected turns. It was what you would expect of Steven King and worth the read.

Quotes

“this life we think we’re living isn’t real. It’s just a shadow play, and I for one will be glad when the lights go out on it. In the dark, all the shadows disappear.”

“Back in the main corridor—what Luke now understood to be the residents’ wing—the little girls, Gerda and Greta, were standing and watching with wide, frightened eyes. They were holding hands and clutching dolls as identical as they were. They reminded Luke of twins in some old horror movie.”

“Between midnight and four, everyone should have permission to speak freely.”

“He wanted to tell Luke that he loved him. But there were no words, and maybe no need of them. Or telepathy. Sometimes a hug was telepathy.”

The Institute: A Novel
By Stephen King

Nothing To Lose, A Jack Reacher Novel, by Lee Child

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In Colorado the towns of Hope and Despair are separated by twelve miles of empty road. Jack Reacher arrives in Despair and all he wants is a cup of coffee but only finds trouble. The town folks just ignore him in the only diner in town and then order him to leave.  

Despair is a company town owned by a powerful, wealthy, ultra-religious businessman and everyone works in this man’s scrap metal recycling plant.  This only adds to Reacher’s suspicions that the town is hiding something.

After being kicked out of Despair Reacher goes back to the town o Hope. He gains the interest and help of a local police lady. He learns more about Despair finding out that each night a small plane takes off like clockwork returning 7 hours later while a small well-armed group of military cops stand guard around the scrape metal plant.

He returns to investigate and learns of two men who have disappeared and of a connection to a distant war that's killing Americans by the thousand.

The conflict quickly becomes one between the man who owns the town and Reacher and of course Reacher doesn’t lose.

Another exciting Jack Reacher story well worth the read.

Quotes

“No, I'm a man with a rule. People leave me alone, I leave them alone. If they don't, I don't.”

“A person less fortunate than yourself deserves the best you can give. Because of duty, and honor, and service. You understand those words? You should do your job right, and you should do it well, simply because you can, without looking for notice or reward.”

“I have to warn you. I promised my mother, a long time ago. She said I had to give folks a chance to walk away.”

“Where are the deputies?'
'On their way up to the first-aid post.'
'What happened to them?'
'I did.”

“That should be your town motto. It's all I ever hear. Like: New Hampshire, Live Free or Die. It should be: Despair, You Need To Leave Now.”

“Because deep down to the army a wounded soldier that can’t fight anymore is garbage. So we depend on civilians, and civilians don’t care either.”

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

 

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Blake Crouch’s novel, Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch is a science fiction, mind bending, multiverse thriller. The story begins with the main character, Jason, at a family dinner with his wife Daniela and their son Charile. Jason tells us at the beginning of chapter one: “I love Thursday nights. They have a feel to them that’s outside of time. It’s our tradition, just the three of us-family night.” Everything soon changes.

The premise is that some other version of the multiverse exists, and in one of them Jason2 has built a way to cross over. Jason1 becomes lost in another universe and experiences take him to many alternate realities where his main goal is to get home to his wife and son.

The story in a unique answer to the question: If you had a chance to go back and change a decision in your life, would you do it?

A key time in the plot happened years before the story starts when Jason Desson girlfriend Daniela learned she was pregnant. Jason gives up his very successful studies on superposition, becoming a teacher and devoted family man. Daniela gives up her own very successful life as an artist and they focus their lives on family.

The plot takes us to the day when Jason is forced to face what that life might have been like when he is kidnapped by a strange man who asks if he is happy with his life.

This book was one I didn’t want to put down. What was obviously a complicated story became even more complicated by the end.  I enjoyed the book.

Quotes

“No one tells you it’s all about to change, to be taken away. There’s no proximity alert, no indication that you’re standing on the precipice. And maybe that’s what makes tragedy so tragic. Not just what happens, but how it happens: a sucker punch that comes at you out of nowhere, when you’re least expecting it. No time to flinch or brace.”

“It's terrifying when you consider that every thought we have, every choice we could possibly make, branches off into a new world.”

“Imagine you’re a fish, swimming in a pond. You can move forward and back, side to side, but never up out of the water. If someone were standing beside the pond, watching you, you’d have no idea they were there. To you, that little pond is an entire universe. Now imagine that someone reaches down and lifts you out of the pond. You see that what you thought was the entire world is only a small pool. You see other ponds. Trees. The sky above. You realize you’re a part of a much larger and more mysterious reality than you had ever dreamed of.”

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Dark Matter: A Novel
By Blake Crouch

“Why Life Stories Change: As You Look At Your Own Life Story You See Yourself Differently”

Ok, I admit it. I am reviewing my own book. Please forgive me and read on. For one thing I am not offering any rating on the book. Maybe in reality this isn’t really a review anyway but a announcement.

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I liked how it came out but I will have to wait and see what type of ratings it does get. The title “Why Life Stories Change: As You Look At Your Own Life Story You See Yourself Differently” isn’t an original idea but the way I came to this conclusion is part of my own life story as well as many of the other life shaping experiences.

Do experiences from someone mostly unknown to you have any value? Well why not? At least you don’t have the bias about what you know about the author filtering into the message. So please look for this book either in the “My Book” section of this blog or on Amazon where the book can be ordered. Paperback or Kindle E Book

https://www.amazon.com/Brent-M-Jones/e/B07WTRSLC1/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_2

Lady In The Lake by Laura Lippman

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Novelist Laura Lippman’s Inspiration for her latest crime novel, Lady in the Lake, came from two real-life disappearances in Baltimore in the 1960s when the body of Shirley Lee Wigeon Parker, a black 35-year-old divorcee, was found in a fountain in one of the city’s parks. That same year in September, Esther Lebowitz, an 11-year-old Jewish girl, was beaten to death inside a fish store,  a gruesome killing that profoundly impacted Baltimore’s Jewish community.

Lippman’s main character is Maddie Schwartz a beautiful, bored, 37-year-old housewife who decides one day to leave her husband and become a crime reporter because she wanted to live a life that mattered.

Maddie Schwartz finds the body of schoolgirl young Tessie Fine. She needs a job and uses the details she learns about Tessie to get herself hired at the Baltimore Sun hoping to turn that into a reporter job.  

After she is hired by the newspaper, she becomes obsessed with the disappearance and drowning of Cleo Sherwood and her focus is intense as she tries to find out what really happened.

The plot moves with a strong backdrop of the racism of the Sixties. Maddie has an affair with Ferdie, a black police officer, who isn’t allowed to use a patrol car but borrows one at night to visit her.  The one-time Maddie and Ferdie goes out in public it is to a baseball game and she pretends not to know him acting like they just accidently sat by each other. The never talk of marriage but Maddie mentions that Interracial marriage was not legal in the United States. (Not until 1967)

Maddie evolves from a woman whose main skill is the ability to get men to like her to a woman who has learned she’s going to have to fight her own battle.

Lady in the Lake is a great newspaper novel and captures much of the feelings of the 1960s.

Quotes

“A woman dies young, it’s man trouble.”

“How could 1906 and 1966 be part of the same century? In 1906, there had been no world wars, most people didn’t have telephones and cars. In 1906, women couldn’t vote and black men could by law, but not in practice.”

“Kindness could be so much more painful than cruelty.”

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Lady in the Lake: A Novel
By Laura Lippman

Picasso, by Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein's was born in 1874 in Pennsylvania and raised in Oakland California. She moved to Paris in 1903. She associated with Hemingway, Picasso and other famous artists and writers. Her book tells us about Picasso and his life as a great painter.  

In 1904, Picasso rented a studio in an old, dilapidated building in Paris filled with artists and poets located at 13 Rue Ravignan in Paris. Picasso painted Stein between 1905 and 1906 in a style foreshadowing of his adoption of Cubism—and portrays her face like a mask with heavy lidded eyes.

Picasso was one of the innovators of Cubist artwork where objects are analyzed by breaking them up and reassembling them in an abstracted form and Steins seems compelled to defend the art form in this book and mentions that in 1909 when Picasso had completed the Cubist paintings Horta de Ebro and Maison sur la Colline that she was shown the photographs that inspired the paintings.

We learn from Stein’s writing how much Picasso’s home in Spain shaped his approach to art which was considered ahead of its time or avant-garde. She was one of the first Americans to claim that about his work.

Stein's close relationship with Picasso provided her with a unique vantage point to the man and his approaches.

Quotes from Gertrude Stein

Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.

We are always the same age inside.

America is my country and Paris is my hometown.

“One must dare to be happy. ”

“We are always the same age inside. ”

“It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much, doing nothing, really doing nothing.”

“Everybody knows if you are too careful you are so occupied in being careful that you are sure to stumble over something. ”

Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer, by C.S. Lewis

Reflections on the Dialogue Between Man and God

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C.S. Lewis presents fictional letters written to a close friend Malcolm, who seems very real, that discuss things that are puzzling about having a dialogue with God. ‘For example, one question he asks is “If God is omniscient, why do we give Him information?” Lewis is skilled at explaining difficult questions, and this book considers many giving easy to understand answers.

The book starts out discussing "corporate prayer", praying with others, and private prayer discussing "when to pray and where, ready-made prayer, petitionary prayer, prayer as worship, penitential prayer, and prayer for the dead".  Of corporate prayer it is clear he has a negative opinion when he says in a letter: “If you were thinking of corporate prayer, I won’t play. There is no subject in the world (always excepting, sport) of which I have less to say than liturgiology. (the system of church rituals and their symbolism}

The book concludes with Lewis looking into the subjects of the soul and the resurrection and then summing up how he feels by saying “If we were perfected, prayer would not be a duty, it would be a delight. Someday, please God, it will be.”

Quotes

"You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending."

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

"Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties."

"Don't shine so that others can see you. Shine so that through you, others can see HIM."

See more C.S. Lewis books and the Authors Page click here

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The Red and the Black, by Stendhal

 

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The Red and the Black was Stendhal’s major work when it was published in 1830. The book is a character study of Julien Sorel, a carpenter’s son and an ambitious young man who uses seduction as a tool for advancement. He does not see any path for success in the military despite his admiration for Napoleon. That just leaves the church because in Sorel’s time that is the best way to gain power.

The army is symbolized in the novel by the color red and the church by the color black. The novel examines careerism, political opportunism, the climate of fear and denunciation of materialistic values in the Restoration of France.

Sorel is employed as a tutor for the mayor’s wife, Mme de Renal. At the same time, he is training to become a priest and he decides to seduce the mayor's wife, because he thinks that it is his duty.

M. Chélan, the town priest and Julien's mentor, sends him to the Besançon seminary to avoid any further scandal. The director of the seminary, M. Pirard, likes Julien and encourages him to become a great priest. Julien does very well at the seminary, but only because he wants to make a fortune and succeed in French society.

He then goes to Paris where he seduces the aristocratic Mathilde who is the daughter of his second employer. The book ends with Sorel’s execution for the attempted murder of Mme de Rênal after she had jeopardized his projected marriage to Mathilde

See Review of Stendhal’s book Love

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Stendhal Quotes

“A good book is an event in my life.” ...

“One can acquire everything in solitude except character.” ...

“There are as many styles of beauty as there are visions of happiness.” ...

“I love her beauty, but I fear her mind.” ...

“A novel is a mirror walking along a main road.

“A melancholy air can never be the right thing; what you want is a bored air. If you are melancholy, it must be because you want something, there is something in which you have not succeeded.
It is shewing your inferiority. If you are bored, on the other hand, it is the person who has tried in vain to please you who is inferior.”


“A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love.”


“After moral poisoning, one requires physical remedies and a bottle of champagne

 

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The Nanny Diaries, A Novel, by McLaughlin & Kraus

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The writers were students at New York University, and both had worked as Nannies for a number of wealthy families on the Upper East Side, where the book is set.

The book starts off with Nanny telling us: “Every season of my nanny career kicked off with a round of interviews so surreally similar that I’d often wonder if the mothers were slipped a secret manual at the Parents League to guide them through.”  This is an early tipoff of predictability that follows in this Nanny’s experience in the summer ahead.

 Nanny is an NYU student in her senior year and she takes part-time job as Nanny for a Grayer X the 4-year old son of Mr. and Mrs. X.  She cares a great deal about the boy and is concerned about the lack of any relationship that he has with his parents. She picks him up at school, makes sure he goes to the activities that are arranged for him, and in addition works at being a personal assistant to his self-centered not very good mother.

Nanny meets a young man who goes to Harvard living in the same building and has a relationship with him. Nanny’s other life is of some interest but her experiences with the X family are funny, sort of, and predictable

Quotes from the Book

“And he doesn't care what you're wearing or what you've brought him. He just wants you there. Wanting him. And time is running out. He won't love you unconditionally that much longer. And soon he won't love you at all.”

“There are people─ in your home─ human beings─ drowning in their desire for you to look them in the eye. You made this family. And all you have to do is to show up and like them. It's called 'relating'. So get over whatever totally-absent-buying-your-affection parenting that you received and get here, man─ because this is your LIFE and you're just pissing it away.”

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The Nanny Diaries: A Novel
By Emma McLaughlin, Nicola Kraus

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

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Austin Kleon tells us in his new book, “Show Your Work!, 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered”, and then how to do it. Each of the ways listed is expounded on. He tells us that the key is a process, not a product and that we should share something everyday.

Kleon says it is about being find-able, about using a network instead of wasting time networking.

The book is a next step from his prior two books, “Steal Like an Artist, and Keep Going”. He says the key is that you do good work. It has to be worth stealing.

The 10 ways to share your creativity and get discovered are:

  1. You don’t have to be a genius.

  2. Think process, not product.

  3. Share something small every day.

  4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities.

  5. Tell good stories.

  6. Teach what you know.

  7. Don’t turn into human spam.

  8. Learn to take a punch.

  9. Sell out.

  10. Stick Around


Click below to go to Past Review


Quotes from this Book

“the worst troll is the one that lives in your head.”

“Forget about being an expert or a professional, and wear your amateurism (your heart, your love) on your sleeve. Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.”


“Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff. It’s that simple.”

“But now I realize that the only way to find your voice is to use it. It’s hardwired, built into you. Talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow.”


“the worst troll is the one that lives in your head.”

“Don't think of your website as a self-promotion machine, think of it as a self-invention machine.”


“Don’t try to be hip or cool. Being open and honest about what you like is the best way to connect with people who like those things, too.”




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Show Your Work!
By Austin Kleon

Turn of the Screw, by Henry James

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In the Turn of the Screw by Henry James, the Bachelor is responsible for his niece and nephew after the death of their parents and he hires a woman, the Governess, to take care of his niece and nephew. The story is written as if it happened to the Governess and as she tells the story as if it happened to her.

When she arrives to begin taking care of Flora and Miles, the bachelor’s niece and nephew, the governess immediately starts seeing ghosts and learns from the maid that the ghosts are Peter Quint and Miss Jessel who were former employees of the estate.

We wonder if the governess has really seen the ghosts or is experiencing an inner battle of conscience  is affecting her perception of reality because she has fallen in love with a boy much younger than herself. she believes she is justified in pursuing her desires through unconscious means.

Flora and Miles won’t admit to seeing the ghosts but the governess fears for them.  After more sightings she writes a letter to the Bachelor, but it is stolen before it can be mailed. Flora gets sick and Mrs. Grose takes her away leaving the governess alone with Miles who then admits that he stole her letter.

As the story line unfolds we see suggestions that the governess is highly influenced by her imagination and emotions and that the ghosts are scapegoats created to take the blame for what has happened.

The governess sees the ghost of Peter Quint out the window and when Miles looks and sees the ghost he dies from fright.

Quotes from Turn of a Screw

“No, no—there are depths, depths! The more I go over it, the more I see in it, and the more I see in it, the more I fear. I don’t know what I don’t see—what I don’t fear!”

“Of course I was under the spell, and the wonderful part is that, even at the time, I perfectly knew I was. But I gave myself up to it; it was an antidote to any pain, and I had more pains than one.”

“He was there or was not there: not there if I didn't see him.”

“Of course I was under the spell, and the wonderful part is that, even at the time, I perfectly knew I was.”

“The summer had turned, the summer had gone; the autumn had dropped upon Bly and had blown out half our lights. The place, with its gray sky and withered garlands, its bared spaces and scattered dead leaves, was like a theater after the performance--all strewn with crumpled playbills.”

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The Turn of the Screw
Starring Michelle Dockery, Dan Stevens, Nicola Walker, Eva Sayer

The Pelican Brief, by John Grisham

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Two Supreme Court justices have been assassinated and a young law student named Darby who prepares a legal brief about a “fictional” assassination, but it rings too true and makes its way to the FBI, CIA, and even the White House. She finds that she is being targeted by the killer and her lover, a constitutional-law professor, is blown up in a car-bomb attack that was meant for Darby.  She then realizes for certain that she had been correct in her brief and goes underground. The only person she can trust is a journalist who helps her figure out what is happening. They soon see a conspiracy involving people in the government that includes the President and his Chief of Staff who want to cover up the White House's connection to this with the coming President's re-election plans.

Derby's runs but the web of killers closes on her. She continues trying to help Washington Post reporter Gray Grantham get the goods on the baddies in a news-break bigger than Watergate.

Grisham had a challenge with the success of his first two legal suspense thrillers, A Time to Kill and The Firm but The Pelican Brief published in 1992 was a success and Grisham’s special genre became expected.

Quotes From The Book

What kind of name is Siler-Spence? I mean, what's wrong with these women who use hyphens? What if her name was Skowinski and she married a guy named Levondowski? Would her little liberated soul insist she go through life as F.Gwendolin Skowinski- Levondowski?”

“He was neutral on prayer, skeptical of free speech, sympathetic to tax protestors, indifferent to Indians, afraid of blacks, tough on pornographers, soft on criminals, and fairly consistent in his protection of the environment”

Quotes by John Grisham

I can't change overnight into a serious literary author. You can't compare apples to oranges. William Faulkner was a great literary genius. I am not.

I don't want to force my politics on my readers.


"In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth. Each of you is an original. Each of you has a distinctive voice. When you find it, your story will be told. You will be heard."


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The Pelican Brief: A Novel
By John Grisham

The Winner, by David Baldacci

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LuAnn Tyler is 20 years old, a single parent, living in a beat-up trailer, striving to escape a life of poverty. She is lead to the local mall to meet with a Mr. Jackson who she assumes will offer her a job. Instead he offers her a guarantee that she can be the winner of the coming $100 million lottery.  The offer has conditions attached, one of which would require her to leave the country. LuAnn doesn’t want to do it and takes a few days to think about.  Jackson plans to kill her if she backs out.

While she considers the offer, she finds herself running from a false murder charge Less than twenty-four hours later, she is fighting for her life and Jackson’s offer seems her only hope.

Ten years later LuAnn has lived all over the world and learned a great deal. She is one of the wealthiest women in the world and she secretly returns with her daughter Lisa to the United States. She meets Matthew Riggs and falls in love with him. Rigg’s past is also full of mystery.  

A reporter who has been investigating the lottery system for years becomes aware of LuAnn’s return as have both the FBI and Jackson. Matt Riggs seems to be the only person who can help her.

The twisting plot holds our attention right to the last page.

See More About David Baldacci at Favorite Authors Section click here

Quotes

“America was full of opportunity, everybody said. You just had to unlock it. Only they forgot to give out keys for LuAnn’s kind. Or maybe they didn’t forget at all. Maybe it was intentional”

“Nothing, absolutely nothing, was above corruption so long as human beings were involved.”

“Half truths were a wonderful way to inspire credibility.”

“Assumptions are dangerous things. I like facts a lot better.”

“Human beings are infinitely fallible, completely unreliable. Science is not. Science is absolute. Under strict principles, if you do A and B, then C will occur. This rarely happens if you inject the inefficiences of humanity into the process.”

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The Winner
By David Baldacci