Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bookviews - October 2014


My Picks of the Month

The Obama administration’s foreign relations policies have significantly weakened America and The Russia-China Axis: The New Cold War and America’s Crisis of Leadership ($27.99, Encounter books) by Douglas E. Schoen and Melik Kaylan reveals how these two nations, in league with Iran, North Korea and other nations, have drawn closer together as they have initiated massive military buildups of conventional and nuclear forces. The Obama “reset” with Russia has proven to be just one of many failures to realize how its policies are endangering America’s role as a superpower to which other nations have looked for protection. Russia’s and China’s trade and economic policies, along with their support for Iran’s ability to create its own nuclear weapons and their aggressive actions to expand territorial claims are in violation of UN norms. The annexation of Crimea by Russia is just the tip of the iceberg, as are China’s actions in international waters reveal their true intentions, but the U.S. response has not just been weak, but its reduction of the U.S. military to levels that existed before WWII are a danger to national security. Both nations have been facilitating rogue regimes like North Korea, Iran, and Syria, as well as militant Islamic groups. Both are engaged in massive cyber theft and espionage directed against the U.S. It is significant that Schoen, one of the most influential Democratic campaign consultants for more than thirty years, is so critical of the Obama regime. Kaylan is a leading authority on international politics. Together they have written a book that anyone and everyone concerned about current events and their future potential that should be “must” reading. They have documented a very scary future for America.

As Americans continue to try to understand what is occurring in the Middle East, Donald Liebich has provided some answers in his excellent look at the region and America’s involvement there. Fault Lines: The Layman’s Guide to Understanding America’s Role in the Ever-Changing Middle East ($16.99, Elevate, Boise Idaho, softcover) is both filled with history and other facts about the region and its importance to our lives. The author is not a career diplomat or a think tank expert, but instead has been in the U.S. Navy, followed by a career with a corporation and as a consultant to business enterprises. It included many trips to the Middle East over the past ten years that included meeting many of the key players as well as the common people. His extensive knowledge is shared with the reader in ways you may not read in newspapers or other U.S. media. Liebich explores why the U.S. got involved—ensuring the oil we needed as a rising power in the wake of both world wars—and why President’s 41 and 43 felt the need to force Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, then to invade Afghanistan in response to 9/11 and later to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein. He explains why the “Arab Spring” failed and why the U.S. has lost much of the influence it once had. This book is “must” reading for anyone trying to make sense of the headlines and reports.

As Americans face the likelihood of having to return to the Middle East to attack and destroy the Islamic State, many questions about the waging of war will arise and the perfect book to respond to them is Prof. Benjamin Ginsberg’s The Worth of War ($24.00, Prometheus Books) in which the historian and scholar lays out how and why war over the centuries has produced the modern world thanks to the development of the bureaucracies to wage them, the financial developments to fund them, and the emergence of the concept of the citizen soldier to fight them. While war is terrible and brutal, it has also advanced the world in many ways as nations realized they needed strong economies to wage and win wars, developed the propaganda techniques to justify them, and have seen the spread of knowledge to both the winners and losers from the days of the Greek and Roman Empires to the present era. This is an interesting, thought-provoking book for anyone interested in history and the role that war has played throughout. Throughout our history, policies have been introduced in Congress that their supporters thought would benefit Americans only to discover that they created problems that had to be corrected or modified at some point. That’s the subject of Thomas E. Hall’s new book, Aftermath: The Unintended Consequences of Public Policies ($15.95, Cato Institute). I would recommend it to anyone studying political science at the university level or who is interested in U.S. history in general. A professor of economics at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, he has written a number of books that demonstrate his capacity to do a lot of research and explain the complexity of events like the Great Depression or the causes of economic fluctuations. This book is particularly timely insofar as the debacle of Obamacare has demonstrated once again that government interference with the marketplace often results in a disaster. The book demonstrates that when the government imposes new taxes, rules, or regulations, the outcome can produce consequences so severe they render the intent a failure. Prohibition is one example he examines, alone with cigarette taxes, both of which created crime empires. The concept of a minimum wages can leave a younger generation jobless. And the income tax has led to a giant federal government, the exact opposite of what the Founders laid out in the Constitution. 

Not everything is or should be taken as seriously as war and thank goodness for that! Some books are written just to entertain and can be read for that reason. A perfect example of that is 1,399 Quite Interesting Facts to Make Your Jaw Drop by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, James Harkin, and the QI Elves ($15.95, W.W. Norton). The authors are the brains behind the award-winning BBC quiz show, QI. The book lives up to its name. For example, the human nose can distinguish between over 10,000 smells and humpback whales can sing non-stop for 20 hours. Your brains makes a million new connections every second and Chopin only performed 30 concerts in his entire life. Suffice to say, every page has four facts that will manage to inform and entertain you at the same time. I loved it. For sheer fun if you are the parent of a new baby or know someone who is, pick up a copy of How to Make Your Baby an Internet Celebrity: Guiding Your Child to Success and Fulfillment by Rick Chillot with photography by Dustin Fenstermacher ($12.95, Quirk Books, softcover). Suffice to say this is satire, a pure tongue in cheek “guide” for all those parents who love posting the latest photo or video of their child on their blog or some site like YouTube where fame is instant.

For anyone who loves animals, Daisy to the Rescue: True Stories of Daring Dogs, Paramedic Parrots, and other Animal Heroes by Jeff Campbell ($17.99, Zest Books, softcover) is sure to please. As his book demonstrates, animals are not only our companions, but become in many cases, true lifesavers as well. The book is enhanced by original illustrations by Ramsey Beyer that illuminate more than 50 amazing stories of how animals can not only make our lives better, but even save them on occasion. You will enjoy stories of bottlenose dolphins rescuing surfers from a great white shark, lions protecting a kidnapped girl, and a pig stopping traffic to get help for a heart attack victim. Great fun to read. Judy: The Unforgettable Story of a Dog Who Went to War and Became a True Hero by Damien Lewis ($24.99, Quercus, softcover) will cheer and inspire any lover of dogs with its story of an English pointer, born in Shanghai, China in 1936 who became the mascot for the English gunboat, HMS Gnat.  When war broke out , the crew was redeployed to Singapore and Judy had a keen sense of when an attack would occur. She and her shipmates were taken prisoner by the Japanese where they endured horrible conditions. The camp commandant gave her recognition as a POW, protecting her from harm. She helped maintain her fellow POW’s morale.

Reading History

I love reading history. It never fails to provide an understanding of what is occurring in the present times or provide a glimpse into the lives of those who helped shape it in some fashion.

It would surprise most people to learn that Walt Whitman, one of America’s great poets, was living in the basement of his mother’s home at age 40 or so, having published two editions of “Leaves of Grass” to virtually no sales and few reviews, most of which were unfavorable. This and the story of one of America’s first gathering place for writers, poets, artists, actors, and other free spirits on the eve of the Civil War is told in Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s First Bohemians ($27.99, Da Capo Press) by Justin Martin. The book focuses on a New York saloon, Pfaff’s, in a Broadway area that was filled with restaurants, art galleries, bookstores, and other places that made it a favorite place for the city dwellers. Pfaff’s, was overseen by Henry Clapp, Jr. who had returned from several years living in Paris with the aim of recreating the atmosphere he enjoyed in nightspots that catered to creative folk. It would attract a group of people, most of whom did not achieve Whitman’s later fame, but were widely published and known in their own time. Though we may think of the 1850s, lacking electric lights and other modern conveniences, as a bit ancient, intellectually and artistically, it represented much of what we regard as modern culture. Indeed, politically it reflects our present times. “Congress was simply nonfunctional. The Presidents of the era were generally bunglers until Lincoln was elected. By the late 1850s, there didn’t exist a single official U.S. institution that wasn’t in crisis,” notes Martin, who writes that “A common stance among Clapp’s set was a kind of sly cynicism. Every aspect of American society seemed so eroded, so diminished; drinking, carousing, and trading witty barbs in a subterranean bar—what else even made sense?”  For anyone who loves history and wishes to understand Whitman’s times, his life and work, this book is a real treat! Whitman lived long after the Civil War was over, but many of his contemporaries at Pfaff’s did not, burning out before they reached much beyond age 30. In all this is a book that is a fascinating look at the era in which the most famed of American poets found his unique voice.

For those who enjoy a hefty volume, you will not be disappointed by Donald L. Miller’s Supreme City: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America ($37.50, Simon and Schuster) which, at just over 750 pages, cover the topic extensively and entertainingly. The central figure of the Roaring Twenties era was Jimmy Walker, New York’s dashing Mayor. It was during this time that midtown Manhattan was the center of a construction boom that changed the character of the city as the area around Grand Central Terminal became home to the tallest skyscrapers on earth as well as the fabled residences of the wealthy along Park Avenue. Times Square was America’s movie mecca and home to bustling theatres. New York became the headquarters for national radio and the site of influential magazines like The New Yorker.  The city was becoming the center for a whole new universe of culture and enterprise that included now legendary names like Florenz Ziegfeld, David Sarnoff, William Paley, Duke Ellington, and others like the speakeasy owner, Texas Guinan. Jack Dempsey and Babe Ruth were sporting giants of the decade. Everything about the city and the times was about size and excess. The Crash of 1929 brought an end to the era captured lovingly in Miller’s book, one well worth reading.

In our fast-paced world, one can be forgiven for having forgotten the uproar in 2005 when a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, published a number of cartoons about Islam, including one drawn by artist Kurt Westergaard that depicted Muhammad with a bomb wrapped in his turban. In The Tyranny of Silence ($24.95, Cato Institute, softcover) Fleming tells the story of the “cartoon crisis” that followed as Muslims in Europe and around the world erupted in protest. Danish embassies were attacked and more than 200 deaths were attributed to the protests. Rose came to symbolize one of the defining issues of our era; the tension between respect for cultural diversity and the protection of freedom—particularly freedom of the press and of free expression. Fleming tells of what he had to confront in the aftermath of the outcry. This is his personal account of an event that has shaped the debate about what it means to be a citizen in a democracy at the same time that more than a billion Muslims take offense at any criticism of their religion.
 
Another Cato Institute book worth reading is Bootleggers & Baptists: How Economic Forces and Moral Persuasion Interact to Shape Regulatory Politics ($24.95) by Adam Smith and Bruce Yandle. It reflects our era of “crony capitalism” in which businesses engage the government to enhance their bottom lines. Throughout our history, the government has been a good place to sell one’s goods and to manipulate the marketplace to one’s benefit. Yandle’s theory asserts that regulatory “bootleggers” are parties taking political action in pursuit of economic gain. His book examines major regulatory activities such as Obamacare, the recent financial bailouts, climate change regulation, and rules governing “sinful” substances. The burden of regulations, some of which are deemed “significant” because their effect on the economy is estimated at $100 million or more each year they are in force, is being felt in all areas of the nation’s economy.

With Islam in the news as a threat to everything including secular Muslims, It’s All About Muhammad: A Biography of the World’s Most Notorious Prophet by F.W. ($16.95, Zenga Books, softcover) is very timely and very scary. What emerges from F.W. Burleigh’s intensively researched book is the portrait of a deeply disturbed, extremely violent individual and one whose life is venerated by over a billion Muslims as a guide to how they should live theirs. It is a religion Muhammad put together, thinking his epileptic seizures were a communication with God whom he called Allah. He cobbled together the faith he created, borrowing from Judaism and Christianity, but ultimately rejecting them and all others as he dictated the Koran. Muhammad literally declared war on all other faiths. Fleeing those who saw him as a danger, he built Islam through a history of assassinations, banditry, kidnappings, and beheadings that made Islam feared in his own time. Fourteen centuries later, Islam is still feared and it should be. This book will answer all your questions, but will not be available for sale until October 15 when you can purchase it via Amazon.com.

Those who enjoy reading about the Civil War will surely enjoy S.C. Gwynne’s excellent biography of Stonewall Jackson, Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson ($35.00, Scribner) that brings to life the story of one of the Confederacy’s greatest generals. Like Gen. Robert E. Lee, Jackson, while he had won plaudits and promotion during an earlier war with Mexico, had led a generally undistinguished life, not much filled with success or the portents of their close cooperation during the Civil War that held off a far larger Union army and defeated it in several major battles. Jackson virtually invented the concept of swiftly moving large numbers of troops while keeping the Union unaware of their movement. He was a taciturn man and paid little heed to his attire. Far more than just an account of battles, Gwynne delves into his personal life that included the loss of his beloved first wife. During the course of the war he emerged as a man of legend, dying of a wartime wound in May 1863, uttering as his last words, “Let us cross the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”

Bill O’Reilly of Fox News has made a separate reputation as the author of books about the killing of noted figures, the latest being “Killing Jesus” which has been on the bestseller list for weeks. Robert M. Price, a New Testament scholar has authored several books on Christian matters and his latest is Killing History: Jesus in the No-Spin Zone ($18.00, Prometheus Books, softcover). O’Reilly claims that his book is a purely historical account of the events in the life of Jesus leading up to his crucifixion, but Price regards it as the number one source of misinformation on Jesus today that ignores the past century’s New Testament scholarship, interpretations, and findings. He makes his case that O’Reilly’s books is little more than historic fiction.

To Your Health

I miss seeing more cookbooks that offer a range of tempting and tasty items to eat. So many are “health” oriented and that’s okay, but my Mother was a cookbook author and taught gourmet cooking for several decades. Dinner at our house was always a treat and, frankly, we ate everything…with gusto!

Tasting the Seasons: Inspired, In-Season Cuisine That’s Easy, Healthy, Fresh and Fun by Kerry Dunnington ($19.95, Artichoke Publishers, softcover) is happily filled with some 250 recipes that reflect the season’s bounty with a section on meat and chicken dishes, but if you prefer vegetables than you will find many more dishes that featured plums, mangos, tomatoes, and others such items. The author is a culinary consultant and caterer who specializes in “healthy” eating and entertaining. You will learn a lot from this book which offers some surprising ways to turn ordinary dishes likes pancakes and waffles into a health-related event using salba, teff, millet and flax seeds! I come from the old school of ordinary pancakes with butter melting on top of a stack and plenty of maple syrup. Even so, there is no doubt that anyone with health in mind will greatly enjoy this book and its wide range of recipes. In a similar fashion, The Forks Over Knives Plan: A 4-week Meal-by-Meal Makeover ($24.99, Touchstone, an imprint of Simon and Schuster) by Alona Puide, MD, and Methew Lederman, MD, with Marah Stets and Brian Wendel, and recipes by Darshana Thacker and Del Srouga offers itself as a guide on “how to transition to the life-saving, whole-food, plant-based diet.”  It asserts that various diseases can be reversed by leaving meat, dairy, and highly refined foods off the plate. This is a serious effort to help people who may be experiencing health problems due to their current diet of foods that most of us enjoy without having to give any thought to them. The back cover is filled with endorsements by physicians and others, but the bottom line is whether you want or need to switch to a diet that may not challenge your taste buds as you dine on navy bean hummus and mixed vegetable pita pockets.

Apparently I have a sugar addiction because a day without chocolate or ice cream is unthinkable to me. That said, the issue for many people is one of moderation. And a lot of them are fat because of eating too many sweets. The Sugar Savvy Solution ($24.99. Reader’s Digest) will teach you how to “kick your sugar addition for life and get healthy.” Written by "High Voltage" with a foreword by Katie Couric it offers a eating plan that, over a six-week period promises to “rewire” your brain chemistry and retain your taste buds to break your addition to sugar, as well as “excess salt, bad fats, and enriched white flour.” It is more than just a diet, but it has helped readers to lose weight over the weeks you engage it, using its recipes and advice.

For the three million Americans with celiac disease, avoiding gluten can be the difference between life and death. If you add in those with nonceliac gluten sensitivity, the number of people experiencing gluten issues triples in number. They are the people who should pick up a copy of The Complete Guide to Living Well Gluten Free by Beth Hillson ($17.99, Da Capo Press, softcover.)  The author is the food editor of the magazine, Gluten Free & More, and she knows this topic from A-t0-Z. As she points out, gluten hides in everything from food to commonplace household items. For those sensitive to it, it can cause gastrointestinal distress, rashes, anemia, depression, and in the long term, cancer, infertility, and organ failure. That’s reason enough to read her book if you or someone you know are incurring these symptoms. The book is filled with practical, comprehensive advice on all the aspects of living from a child who is allergic to Play-Doh to gluten-free dining. The author is the president of the American Celiac Disease Alliance and her book could be life-saving for anyone with the disease or troubled by gluten-related health problems.

Among the recommendations in Prescription for Life: Three Simple Strategies to Live Younger Longer ($19.99, Revell) by Dr. Richard Furman are “six foods you should never eat again” and “why lack of exercise is killing you.”  The author is a vascular surgeon who says that while aging is inevitable, a variety of diseases associated with it are not. The preface to his book says you should consider it as a letter from a friend who is a doctor “explaining in straightforward terms what is happening to you as you count the days to another birthday.” Among the foods he recommends you avoid are a juicy steak, cheese, and a variety of other things we all commonly eat. The fact is, however, we all need meat in our diet for its protein and other benefits, so the author may be overstating his case in this area. My feeling is that this is a book for people overly concerned about aging. The medically-oriented advice the author offers is worth considering, but the rest is just widely known common sense.

Un-Agoraphobic: Overcome Anxiety, Panic Attacks, and Agoraphobia for Good by Hal Mathew ($18.95, Conari Press, softcover) is one of those titles that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the book. The author, a journalist, was plagued by panic disorder and agoraphobia, the fear of open, public places, but overcame his disorders twenty years ago and has since become an expert on the topic. If you or someone you know experiences these problems, I would surely recommend you read his book. He recommends putting a structure in your daily life so you know what you intend to do and do it each day. He gives tips on choosing a therapist to help. His style is easy to read and I have no doubt that this book will help anyone seeking to overcome these disorders.

A Caregiver’s Guide to Dementia by Laura N. Gitlin, Ph.D. and Catherine Verrier Piersol, Ph.D., ($22.00, Camino Books, softcover) addresses the common challenges encountered by individuals and families caring for someone with dementia. This is an easy-to-read guide designed to help at-home caregivers navigate the daily challenges with clear and proven strategies that can enhance the quality of life for those with dementia—a condition for which there is no medical cure.

Advice about Your Life

At various points in our lives we all need and can benefit from good advice. We seek it from family and friends, but there are books that provide it as well and have the advantage of being non-judgmental.

Have a Happy Family by Friday by Dr. Kevin Leman ($17.99, Revell) is the latest of some forty books this internationally known psychologist and media personality has written. It is part of a series of series using “Have…by Friday”, advising how to have a new you, a new teenagers, a new husband, etc. Suffice to say he is extremely prolific, but he has a world of knowledge about marriage and family issues that have benefited many readers. He stresses good communications with family members and then provides tips on navigating the problems that occur with toddlers, teenagers, and all ages. What he wants is for Mom to be Mom and Dad to be Dad. They are different each in their own way. And it applies to single parents as well. I must confess I was intrigued by the title of Seth Adam Smith’s book, Your Life Isn’t For You: A Selfish Person’s Guide to Being Selfless ($12.95, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, softcover). Turns out that Smith is writing from experience as someone who was seriously self-obsessed and the harm it inflicted on his life and his marriage, one that included addiction and depression. The book is distinguished by his candor and by the lessons he drew from the hard-earned lessons he learned. He tells you that your life is about being of service to others in countless ways and thus the title becomes clear. If you feel you’re encountering problems because of your own selfish attitudes or behavior, I strongly recommend you read his book.

In our present times, many people are inclined to dismiss any religion in their lives, but I have noticed that those who do embrace faith seem to have an easier, happier life. Sarah Jakes is the daughter of Bishop T. D. Jakes and she oversees the woman’s ministry at The Potter’s House of Dallas, a church led by her parents. She is the author of “Lost and Found” and now a new book for women that shares the hope-filled legacy of Ruth, Colliding with Destiny, ($24.99, Bethany House). The life of Ruth, as told in the Old Testament, is one in which she went from being a widow to a wife with a secure, protected future, one that paved the way from the birth of King David. Ruth never let her past define here and the message for any woman that reads this inspiring book is full of good things.

For those who like to delve deep into the philosophical questions about life, Edward O. Wilson, biologist and naturalist, author of more than twenty books, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, and a professor emeritus at Harvard University, is back in his 85th year with The Meaning of Human Existence ($26.95, Liveright Publishing, a division of W.W. Norton). The book consists of fifteen tightly interlinked essays broken into five parts—the meaning of meaning, science and the humanities, other life forms, the developed mind, and our collective future. Essentially, he believes that the human species is at its best when it functions as a team and, of course, we see many expressions of this in sports and industry, among other ways we come together, For those who ascribe to beliefs regarding the environment and what we are allegedly doing to it, this book will confirm them and is thus not for everyone. 

Getting Down to Business (Books)

Thinking of investing? Wall Street seems to be saying we’re out of the Great Recession and the troubles occurring around the world will not affect profits here at home. The Handy Investing Answer Book by Paul A. Tucci ($21.95, Visible Ink, softcover) is ideal for the investing novice or whether you think you have spotted a trend. Tucci covers the whole investment marketplace from stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, tax strategies, to retirement planning.  In plain English he explains the basics while giving tips on how to avoid poor returns and unnecessary risk. In 2011 he authored The Handy Personal Finance Answer Book and been an investor for more than three decades, a former global information and publishing manager, a business owner and partner in an innovative IT services and software development firm. His book pretty much answers all the questions you would ask a financial advisor and much more.

Street Smart Selling: How to Be a Sales Superstar is the kind of title you would expect from Daniel Milstein ($17.05, Gold Star Publishing, softcover) and, for anyone starting out in sales it is a treasure of various guidelines to use for the ambitious beginner as well as established professionals who want to improve to a higher level of success. Much of the book has a message of self-improvement for motivated individuals. Milstein comes from a background in which his family in the Ukraine narrowly escaped the Soviet Union and made their journey to America. His is the classic American story of success, from sweeping restrooms in a fast food restaurant to becoming the CEO of one of the nation’s most successful mortgage brokerage firms. Happily for the reader, Milstein shares what he has learned about making sales and this could just be the only book you will need to read for your own successful sales career.

Kid Stuff

The Best Part of the Day by Sarah Ban Breathnach and beautifully illustrated by Wendy Edelson ($16.99, Regnery Kids) is a wonderful way to create a daily tradition of focusing on the small pleasures of daily life that often get lost in our busy, disconnected lives. It teaches young children aged 4 to 10, how to enjoy the little things that make life sweet. As the author says, “Gratitude is often thought of as an intellectual concept, when gratitude is really a small seed planted in the heart that is nourished through acknowledging all the good that surrounds us. Good that can be discovered through the reassuring comfort of family customs, rituals, and traditions, and restoring a sense of rhythm in our daily round and through the changing seasons.” It celebrates the changing seasons and the joy of simple pleasures such as feeding birds or tending a garden. Parents and their children will rediscover and learn why common experiences are to be valued and enjoyed to the fullest. I loved it and you and your young children will too.

Teaching children ages 4 to 8 how to value money is the theme of Alex’s Ten-Dollar Adventure ($15.95, Three Bean Press) by Wendy Bailey and wonderfully illustrated by Ernie D’Elia. It begins with a birthday gift for Alex from his grandparents, five dollars. Alex is very excited but his mom leads him to understand that many things he wants cost more and Alex checks out his bank to discover he has enough for ten dollars. He wants to spend it all and finds ways to do it, learning along the way how swiftly the ten becomes less with every purchase. In the end, mom encourages him to put back five dollars to save for what he wants, a new toy. As the son of a CPA, I can celebrate this delightful way to teach fundamental lessons about spending and saving.

A young adult novel that is sure to please is Bonnie S. Calhoun’s Thunder ($16.99, Revell) that begins in a post-apocalyptic world and society where the landscape is littered with the hopes and ruins of past generations. Every is struggling to survive and one of them is Salah Chavez whose family of bounty hunters, live off the reward they earn with each capture of the Landers, a mysterious people from a land across the big water. As she turns 18 with nothing to look forward to then being traded as a bride to a neighboring clan, she discovers secrets that will tear her world apart. What follows will keep the pages turning. They will do the same with Unmarked by Kami Garcia ($18.00, Little Brown Books for Young Readers), her eagerly anticipated sequel to “Unbreakable”, a novel leading off her “Beautiful Creatures” serials that was published in fifty countries and translated into 36 languages! In the sequal, Kennedy Waters lives in a world where vengeance spirits kill, ghosts keep secrets, and a demon walks among us—one she accidently set free.  Now she and the other Legion members have to hunt him down. They are on the run, outcasts who each possess a unique skill. This one is a powerful fantasy like the first.

Novels, Novels, Novels

Jay Brandon has written a novel that taps into the belief that the U.S. is actually run by a secretive group and the result is a lot of fun to read. In Shadow Knight’s Mate ($16.95, Wings Press, softcover). After all, he’s written fifteen previous novels! In this one, Jack Driscoll is a member of a shadowy group known as The Circle. Its members have stealthily shaped America’s foreign and domestic policies for more than two centuries even though they do not hope office, nor are famed corporate leaders. They operate through suggestion and subtle influence, but now the Circle has been broken as the nation comes under a bizarre nanotech attack and the question is from whom? And what will be the outcome? 

By the Breath of the People, Gil Bean makes his debut with part one of “The Last River series” ($19.99, Langdon Street Press, softcover). It is a meticulously research work of fiction that intertwines the stories of two men living on the same land three centuries apart. One is a young Lenape Indian coming of age as his people are being driven from their native lands by European settles. The other is a father and grandfather building a retreat for his family on a bluff high above the river. Though they come from very different backgrounds and times, the two men are connected by the land of the Delaware River Valley. This is deeply felt history as lived by the people who call the land home. I have lived in the area where the Leni Lenape Indians lived and some of the major roads of my home were formerly trails they blazed, so I felt a special attachment to the novel.

Lawyers seem to have a particular knack for writing fiction. In the case of Larry S. Kaplan, a practicing trial attorney since 1975 and author of When the Past Came Calling ($10.56, available from Amazon.com and as an ebook) his novel begins in 1989 and a key government scientists has gone missing. He has made a genetic discovery that turns Darwinism on its ear and could pose a threat to world security should it land in the wrong hands. Personal injury lawer, David Miller, is the FBI’s unlikely recruit to help solve the disappearance. When he was just 16, he had falling in love with a girl whose father is the FBI’s prime suspect, a cult leader named Philip Montgomery, but his trail has gone cold. The FBI wants to know what David can recall of the girl and his bizarre father. As he delves into old memories, revising people and places left behind long ago, a new riddle confronts him and it involves the assassination of JFK and his girlfriend’s conviction that Lee Harvey Oswald wasn’t acting alone. Ah, circles within circles and sure to please.

Lee Kronert is a chiropractor and a math teacher as well as an advocate for divorced men’s rights. When he isn’t tend to those other things, he writes and his two latest—yes, two—novels published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson, are Don’t Blame the Messenger ($13.95, softcover) and Mental Cruelty ($19.95, softover). In his fictional narratives, he merges fact and fiction to paint a realistic picture of the controversial educational and judicial systems with which we all must cope. In the former novel, he taps his experiences as a teacher to take on school policies, state Department of Education leadership, bullying, and his view that a teacher’s tenure should be maintained. If these issues ring a bell with you, this might be a novel to read. In the latter, Kronert uses his characters to relay the turmoil he experienced as his marriage dissolved into a painful divorce. Through the life of his main character, he speaks out on behalf of all fathers in opposition to the legal system. I tend to take a pass on novels that have an agenda, but I admire the author’s hard work in the writing of these two novels.

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens ($15.95, Seventh Street Books, softcover) is a very creative idea involving Joe Talbert who has been given a writing assignment for an English class. He is to interview and write a brief biography of a stranger and, with deadlines looming, he visits a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, a dying Vietnam veteran—and a convicted murderer! With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to the nursing home after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder. As Joe writers about Carl’s life, especially his valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism with the despicable acts that followed. And Joe has his own problems at home as he unravels the story of Carl’s conviction, but by the time he discovers the truth, it is too late to escape the fallout. This is a very compelling novel and I recommend it.

That’s it for October! You’ve got November and December to pick out some great books to give as gifts. Tell your family, friends and coworkers about Bookviews.com so they can find the perfect book for someone special or for themselves! And come back in November.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bookviews - September 2014

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

We are besieged with advice on what to eat and the government has long been involved in steering everyone toward certain choices. Much of the advice it has given out over the years has been erroneous and for anyone who has a serious interest in this, there’s Nina Teicholz’s new book, The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Health Diet ($28.00, Simon & Schuster) that debunks the dogma about the evils of disease-causing fats that are part of the official dietary guidelines and the advice of diet books gurus and other experts. They also are put forth by the multibillion dollar industry of low-fat foods. Teicholz researched this book for six years and her thick volume which includes more than a hundred pages of detailed notes details how a single flawed study by a scientist who devoted his life to convincing influential organizations like the American Heart Association to point to the eating of fat as the cause of strokes and heart attacks. Tons of literature has been written about cholesterol, but it is a vital component of everyone’s body. All this and more is established with the evidence in this book that exposes a hoax that still influences the choices we make. Dr. David Perlmutter, MD, hailed this book saying the author “reveals the disturbing underpinnings of the profoundly misguided dietary recommendations that have permeated modern society, culminating in our overall health decline.” Frankly, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

If you want to understand how Obamacare has destroyed the best health system in the world, you should read Sandeep Jauhar’s Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician ($26.00, Farrar, Straus and Giroux). In the wake of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Dr. Jauhar reports on the deep loss of morale among physicians today who cannot practice medicine in the way they would prefer because they are forced to see many more patients for far less time than they want because they are paid far less than in the past. They have to practice a defensive, self-protective kind of medicine because of malpractice suits. A single patient might see fifteen specialists in a single hospital stay. The sharp downturn in payments to physicians and hospitals has forced them to devote less time to patients. “There is no more wasteful entity in medicine than a rushed doctor,” says the author of this profoundly revealing and disturbing book. It should be read by every member of Congress, but it is a message to all Americans that Obamacare should be repealed. Another book provides an insight to the problems encountered by those seeking treatment. Misdiagnosed: One Woman’s Tour of—and Escape from—Healthcareland by Jody Berger ($14.00, Sourcebooks, softcover) is her story of having doubted the advice offered by the physicians she consulted after being told she had multiple sclerosis when in fact she had a sensitivity to gluten. One question, “What are you eating?” unlocked the truth of minor tingling sensations she had in her hands and feet. Berger, a journalist and marathoner, was skeptical of her treatment options and the diagnosis and, after a year dealing with physicians, she found one who examined her entire medical history and provided a completely different conclusion. This book is well worth reading in an era in which physicians, thanks to Obamacare, are forced to see many more patients in order to make a living.

For anyone who is concerned about the role of money in politics, there is no doubt cause when a candidate for President must raise a billion dollars and a Senate candidate must raise at least ten million. Much of that money comes from corporations and the impact of it is addressed in Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution by Timothy K. Kuhner ($90.00/$27.00, Stanford University Press). Yes, the book comes with a hefty price tag, but so does our government these days. Kuhner is an associate professor of law at Georgia State University College of Law who lectures here and abroad. “European audiences can’t believe that the U.S. Supreme Court has issued official state justifications for an unregulated open political market, the sovereignty of donors and spenders, and the demise of political equality.” The relationship of money and politics, along with the rights of corporations in our constitutional democracy is vigorously examined in this book. 

Advice

If you have a problem in any aspect of your life, I guarantee you that there’s a book out there to help you solve it. Here are a few that have recently arrived.

The Power of Positive Confrontation by Barbara Pachter with Susan Magee ($16.99, Da Capo Press, softcover) is subtitled “The skills you need to handle conflicts at work, at home, online, and in life.”  As the author points out, there’s always someone out there who is annoying you in some fashion, failing to show respect or courtesy. It’s tempting to respond by expressing your anger or just bottling up your frustration and ignoring the person, but as the author notes, that doesn’t solve anything. This book is being issued for its 15th anniversary which means it has been around a long time, successfully providing a practical guide to interpersonal problem-solving. It is filled with good advice, starting with how you handle yourself and what kind of confrontational style you employ or avoid. Being polite and powerful is the essence of this books message, but mostly how to avoid the common problem of dealing with others who think they don’t have to show you the respect you should receive.

Do you ever feel stuck in a monotonous life built around a routine? Many do and Jamie George was one of them. He was a reluctant pastor in a downward spiraling marriage and he was finding it difficult to look past his circumstances and really embrace life. If this describes you in some respect then the good news is that Love Well: Living Life Unrehearsed and Unstuck may just be the book for you ($14.99, David Cook, softcover). It will help if you are Christian and have a sense of the spiritual in your life, but the book shares many deeply personal stories on the author’s journey from being stuck to his new life based on forming meaningful, deep relationships, and living a life of purpose. Today George is the pastor of The Journey Church in Franklin, Tennessee which he founded in 2006 as a safe haven for artists and the “religiously wounded.” Stuck? Read this book!


Messy Beautiful Love by Darlene Schacht ($15.99, Thomas Nelson, softcover) addresses the problems that marriages face such as financial problems, sickness, aging parents, and a chronically unhappy spouse. In a world where divorce is a family word and marriage is simply tossed aside, many women are asking, “Is there hope for my marriage?”  The author, married for more than 25 years, understands the temptations and struggles many women face and, coming from a place of brokenness, grace, and redemption, she candidly shares her personal testimony of infidelity and a message of hope with a guide through Scripture. It helps to have a spiritual orientation to benefit from this book.


Were you a fan of Gilligan’s Island, the TV show that debuted in 1964 and is still being seen in reruns by whole new generations? One of its characters was Mary Ann Summers, a sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice Midwest girl played by Dawn Wells. She was the good girl stranded with the other characters on an island. In What Would Mary Ann Do? A Guide to Life Wells makes it clear that good girls can and do finish first ($16.95, Taylor Publishing, softcover) in a book written with Steve Stinson that is part memoir, part humor, and a dose of classic TV nostalgia. Its twelve chapters exploring everything from how Mary Ann would respond to changes in today’s culture to addressing issues confronting single women and mothers. Dawn found success in the 1960s, appearing in shows such as 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, Bonanza, and Hawaiian Eye before being cast in Gilligan Island. Since then she has continued acting on the stage and screen, produced films, and been active in a number of charities. Women will find this book worth reading.


A major concern of parents is to ensure that their children do not fall into the trap of taking drugs. Joseph A. Califano, Jr., who served Presidents Johnson and Carter, the latter as the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, as written How To Raise A Drug-Free Kid: The Straight Dope for Parents ($15.99, Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, softcover). It is a guide to keeping children substance-free through the formative pre-teen, teen, and college years. As the founder of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, this has been a long interest of Califano’s. The book addresses when and how to talk to a child about drugs and alcohol, what circumstances put a child most at risk, how binge drinking and marijuana use threaten the development of a teen’s brain, how to address the glamorization of drinking and drug use on social media, the Internet and in films and on television, including how to find the right program if one’s child needs treatment. Raising a child comes with many challenges and this book will make this one easier to deal with.

 Memoirs and Bios

There is no end to memoirs and biographies, many of which provide information and insight regarding those we admire and others which tell us the stories of people we have never heard of before.

In Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh ($37.95, W.W. Norton) one may be inclined to feel that John Lahr has told us more about the legendary playwright than we really want to know. There have been some forty biographies of Williams, but this one plumbs deeply into his sex life, his alcoholism, and the way his warring dysfunctional family and youth informed his greatest plays, “The Glass Menagerie”, “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” that transformed the theatre of his day, all of which were made into films that made him famed to a vast audience. Lahr, a prolific author and a regular contributor to The New Yorker where, for two decades, he was the magazine’s senior drama critic, has penned over 750 pages with footnotes. It is enhanced with nearly one hundred photos. In person, Williams was a difficult person to be around in ways that only someone of his talent and personal traumas can be. I once met him and commented on how much I had enjoyed his book of poetry, In The Winter of Cities, and he was delighted someone had read it. The biography is a disturbing account of a disturbed and disturbing man. Only someone seeking to know the man behind the dramas will want to read this biography. Men of such talent are often seem more frail, more self-absorbed, and more troubled when their lives are examined in the depth this biography offers. This book is likely to be regarded as William’s most definitive biography and it well deserves to be.

I doubt there is anyone who has not heard of the Beatles and, for the U.S. their astounding fame began in the summer of 1964. The Beatles and Me on Tour by Ivor Davis ($15.99, Cockney Kid Publishing, softcover) who was the only British newspaper writer invited on the entire tour. Over the course of 34 days and 24 cities, Davis watched them make rock history while enjoying unrestricted access to the four lads from Liverpool, from hotel suites to backstage to their private jet. He waited fifty years to write the book because the years in between were filled with other events that he also witnessed, from the assassination of Robert Kennedy to the Los Angeles Watts riots. In the 1970s he was just as busy covering Angela Davis and Daniel Ellsberg, and other figures of the era. In this book he recounts in frank and amusing fashion the adventures of the now legendary band. Fans of the Beatles will surely enjoy it. Ain’t It Time We Said Goodbye: The Rolling Stones on the Road to Exile by Robert Greenfield ($25.99, Da Capo Press) Written by a former associate editor for Rolling Stone magazine’s London Bureau, who was a mere 25 years old when he followed the most iconic band of the British invasion during their farewell tour of their home country. Watching from the wings from Newcastle to Los Angeles, Greenfield chronicles the group during the ten days before their leave England in tax exile. The story is punctuated by Greenfield’s analysis of the seething tensions between Mick and Keith on the cusp of their heyday.

He wasn’t President for long before his assassination, but John F. Kennedy did have a many-layered relationship with a fellow mid-20th century leader, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan of Great Britain. Based on previously unquoted papers and private letters between them and their families, Christopher Sandford tells the story of that relationship in Harold and Jack: The Remarkable Friendship of Prime Minister Macmillan and President Kennedy ($25.95, Prometheus Books) which had to deal with Kennedy’s disastrous Bay of Pigs episode in Cuba, the Soviet act of building the Berlin Wall, and serious disagreements over the Skybolt nuclear deterrent, that cause a major rift in US-British relations. Anyone with an interest in history will enjoy this slice of it.

I frankly had never heard of or read the works of Earle Birney and Al Purdy, two Canadian poets, but their correspondence over forty years from 1947 to 1987 will surely appeal to anyone who enjoys a look at the creative process at work. We Go Far Back in Time ($39.95, Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, British Columbia) are their letters, edited by Nicholas Bradley, an associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Victoria. Purdy is often considered Canada’s “unofficial poet laureate” and Birney was a celebrated poet and novelist who received the Governor General’s Award twice for his poetry. Canadians understandably will find this of greater interest, but these two literary figures also reflect their times in which they lives and the inherent issues of the creative process. Both, however, were incredibly prolific, producing many books. By contrast, no one would know of Susan Blumberg-Kason if she had not written a biographical account of her cross-cultural experience in Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair with China Gone Wrong ($14.99, Sourcebooks, softcover). The author is an American who had a fascination with China and, while attending graduate school in Hong Kong fell for what she thought was the Chinese man of her dreams. They married and she believed her intercultural marriage would play out like an exotic fairy tale. It quickly turned into a nightmare as she examines the values of marriage and family in contemporary China and America. As her husband Cai Kason becomes increasingly controlling and abusive, the author is forced to forgo her own Midwestern values to save the relationship and protect her newborn son. When Cai threatens to take Jake back to China for good, she has to stand up for herself, her son and their future. I think women in particular will find this book of interest, but anyone interested in current Chinese culture will as well.

Math and Science

Prometheus Books is a highly prolific publisher. One of its specialties are books about math and science topics. For those who are interested in these topics, it has four recent books. It Started with Copernicus: Vital Questions about Science by Keith Parsons ($19.95) tackles questions such as can science meet the challenges of skeptics? Should science address questions traditionally reserved for philosophy and religion? The corruption of science is on the minds of many these days as, for example, we learn of how climatology has been used to advance the global warming/climate change agenda when, in fact, the Earth has been in a cooling cycle for seventeen years. This and other examples have troubled scientists. Parsons has written a jargon-free examination of areas such as evolutionary theory, paleontology, and astronomy, and others that have generated controversies.




Those interested in the history of science will enjoy The Chemistry of Alchemy: From Dragon’s Blood to Donkey Dung, How Chemistry was Forged ($24.95) by Cathy Cobb, Monty Fetterolf, and Harold Goldwhite.  These three veteran chemists show that the alchemist’s quest—often to turn ordinary metals into gold—involved real science and recounts the stories of the sages who performed strange experiments by separating and purifying materials by fire to reconstitute them. Despite their objectives, by trial, by design, and by persistence, the alchemists discovered acids, alkalis, alcohols, salts and other elements. It is a fascinating story.


Lovers of math will enjoy Mathematical Curiousities: A Treasure Trove of Unexpected Entertainments by Alfred S. Posamentier and Ingmar Lehmann ($19.95, softcover) who demonstrate that math can be enjoyable as well as an important skill on which much depends. Exploring our galaxy has been a quest that goes back to early scientists. Curiousity: An Inside Look at the Mars Rover Mission and the People Who Made It Happen by Rod Pyle (19.95, softcover) is a behind-the-scenes look at the recent mission of Curiousity, the unmanned rover whose journey of discovery is providing researchers with unprecedented information about Mars. The author provides stunning insights into how the enthusiastic team of diverse individuals uses a revolutionary onboard laboratory of chemistry, geology, and physics instruments to unravel the secrets of the red planet. The story of the most advanced machine ever sent to another planet makes for fascinating reading.

Kid Stuff

By far one of the most unique and entertaining books for young readers age four and up is Lori Scott Stewart’s Grandma, Aren’t You Glad the World’s Finally in Color Today! ($19.95, Palmar Press), but it is really for all the generations from grandparents, parents, and grandchildren. Told in rhyming verse, it is a tribute to those generations who came well before the technology today’s kids take for granted and tells the story, replete with black-and-white photos on pages facing those filled with color photos, of how those earlier generations lived through events that preceded and included the Great Depression and World War Two, before television, air conditioning, computers and all of the conveniences of our times. I had the pleasure of recommending Ms. Stewart’s debut book, “If I Had as Many Grandchildren as You” that went on to receive a 2013 Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award and Family Choice Awards. This book is sure to win a lot of award as well. It is a delight to the eye, the ear, and the soul as it takes one from those early photos to those that capture the world in full color today.

As the school year begins many parents encounter a child who is afraid to go and Ylleya Fields has written a clever book, Princess Cupcake Won’t Go to School delightfully illustrated by Michael LaDuca ($15.95, Belle Publshing, Cleveland, OH). Young readers, age 5 to 7, will enjoy the many excuses Cupcake makes to avoid that first day of school and recognize them if they have tried them out. In the end, Cupcake does go and discovers that school is a place to make new friends.


It’s football season and a great way to combine encouraging one’s children to be active in some sport and to enjoy, in this case, football, is Sports Illustrated for Kids “Football—Then to Wow! ($19.95, Time Home Entertainment) which has the added benefit of encouraging them to read. Telling the history of the game that was born in 1869, it takes the younger readers, ages 10 and up, on a journey through time, explaining how the game developed—such as the way the shape of the ball came to be the one we recognize today, how protective shoulder pads were introduced as well as the history of helmets, the building of stadiums for the game, and tons of information about its legendary players in various positions. There’s much more and by the time the reader gets to the end of this book, they will be a football whiz, enjoying it on a level well above others. Also from Sports Illustrated for Kids is What Are the Chances? The Wildest Plays in Sports ($14.95, Time Home Entertainment). It will be a big hit with any younger reader who is into sports and, typical of the SI books, it is extensively illustrated and has a lively text devoted to the rare achievements by stars as they scored points to save a game, threw or caught a ball that decided the outcome, The sports highlighted are baseball, football, and basketball. Christmas is not that far off, so if you have a youngster that loves these sports, you might want to put this one on the gift list.

I’m of a mixed mind about Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince ($15.99, Zest Books, softcover). Growing up, Liz Prince was a tomboy and she tells the story of her transition to recognizing what it meant to be female, doing so with humor, honesty, poignancy and a straight forward account of the physical and emotional changes that occurred as she matured. She goes from a girl who hated dresses, preferred boys clothes and being with them. Her teen years would change that and, being a graphic novel, each page is like a comic strip rather than just text. For young girls who share her early preferences, this will be a useful book as they too must make adjustments in adolescence. This is a “graphic” book as well in the language it employs and sensitive topics it addresses. Hence my concern.

Novels, Novels, Novels

Fans of the internationally bestselling novelist Ken Follett who have been waiting for the third book in his “century trilogy” will be pleased to know that Edge of Eternity ($36.00, Dutton) is now available. In 2010 he embarked on an ambitious project, a historical epic that spans the twentieth century. It began with “Fall of Giants” which was followed by “Winter of the World in 2012.”  The trilogy follows the fortunes of five intertwined families—American, German, Russian, English and Welsh—as they make their way through the upheavals of the twentieth century. Each book follows the next generation. The new novel covers the tumultuous era of the 1960s through to today, taking in civil rights, the Vietnam War, the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK’s assassination, presidential impeachment, revolution, and rock and roll. The copy I received was 1,098 pages! So prepare yourself for a lengthy, but fascinating reading experience. Follett’s trilogy is a real achievement, capturing the last century in a way that people can relate to through the lives of the characters.

An interesting novel by Bruce Holbert, The Hour of Lead, ($25.00, Counterpoint Press) follows his 2012 novel, “Lonesome Animals”, which was named the Best Book of the Year by both the Seattle Times and Slate. This one is set in the scabland farms and desert brush of Eastern Washington. The story follows Matt Lawson, a 14-year-old boy who is forced to take over his family’s ranch after losing both his twin brother and father in the great snowstorm of 1918. His mother disappears into grief and drinking the local moonshine and Matt realizes that he is on his own. The work gives him some relief from his feelings of loneliness, but when his relationship with Wendy, the daughter of a local grocer, goes sour, Matt sets out on a journey across the nation by way of finding himself. His mother opens her ranch home to Wendy, a local widowed teacher, and her bastard son, Lucky. It takes decades for Matt to return and his long journey will forever change the life of those around him. Stan Yocum always wanted to be a writer, but he took off 30 years to be a businessman. Now, though, he is establishing himself as a writer of indie-suspense novels and his latest is Unrelenting Nightmare ($20.95, iUniverse) that follows Stuart Garrison, a virtual reality software developer on the cusp of industry domination, as he navigates a deadly cat-and-mouse game with an international assassin hired by his fierce competitor. Garrison must outwit the killer at the same time he is releasing the new technology to the world. You will be hard pressed to put this novel down as it explores the prevalence of violence and the impact of virtual reality on youth.

In no particular order there are three novels that offer entertainment. The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen by Tosca Lee ($23.00, Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster) retells a torrid love affair and the after-effects between two of the most famous monarchs in history. Based on extensive research into the life and times of Makeda, the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, the novel reflects one of biblical history’s most unknown tales and brings the world of ancient Israel to life. In the 10th century BC, the Queen has inherited her father’s throne and all its riches at great personal cost. Her realm stretches west across the Red Sea, but it is new alliances to the north that threaten the trade routes which are the lifeblood of her nation. Solomon is the brash new king of Israel, already famed for his wealth and wisdom. The Queen must test and win his support, but neither rule has anticipated the clash of agendas and passion that threatens to ignore and ruin them both.




Fast forward to present times and The Wishing Tide by Barbara Davis ($15.00, NAL Accent, the Penguin Group, softcover). This is her second novel and the author lives in North Carolina, the setting for the story of Lane Kramer who moved to Starry Point, North Carolina, with the hopes that the quaint island village might be a perfect place to start fresh. She is now the owner of a charming seaside inn, having put aside her hopes of being a novelist and finding love again. When an English professor, Michael Forester appears on her doorstep in the middle of a storm, his familiarity with the island has her wondering if he is quite what he appears. Meanwhile, she has developed a friendship with an older woman who possesses a special brand of wisdom, but a fragile mind with a tenuous grip on reality. Put the three together and a decades-old secret, stir vigorously, and you have an interesting story.


Seventh Street Books has four softcover novels to offer, all available as ebooks as well. The Sun is God by Adrian McKinty ($15.99) involves a small group of mostly German nudists living an extreme back-to-nature existence, worshipping the sun on the remote island of Kabakon. When one of their members, Max Lutzow, dies it is assumed to be from malaria, but an autopsy in the nearby capital of Herbertshohe raises suspicions of foul play. Retired British military police officer Will Prior is recruited to investigate the circumstance of the death and, while the group seems friendly and willing to cooperate, Prior is convinced they are hiding something. The tension grows steadily and the climax is worth waiting for. Cat on a Cold Tin Roof—An Eli Paxton Mystery by Mike Resnick ($15.95) begins as hard luck private investigator, Eli Paxton, is hired to find a missing cat. It is a very important one because its collar is studded with diamonds worth a small fortune. What starts as a routine search of animal shelters soon becomes a perilous journey through a murky underworld. Turns out that the woman who hired Paxton is the wealthy widow of a recently murdered financial adviser with an alias and mobster ties. Eli finds the cat by not the collar. Suffice to say an intricate plot unfolds into a treacherous maze that Eli hopes to survive.


Blind Moon Alley—A Jersey Leo Novel by John Florio ($15.95) takes the reader back to the days of Prohibition. It’s Philadelphia and Jersey Leo doesn’t fit in. He tends bar at a speakeasy the locals call the Ink Well. When his old grade school buddy calls from death row and asks one last favor, all hell breaks loose for Jersey who finds himself running from a band of crooked cops, hiding an escaped convict in the Ink Well, and reuniting with his grammar school crush, the sultry Myra Banks. Intrigued? You will be when you read this delightful novel filled with some great characters. And lastly there’s The Button Man—A Hugo Marston Novel by Mark Pryor ($15.95) in which a former FBI profiler, Hugo Marston, has just become head of security at the U.S. embassy in London. He’s asked to protect a famous movie-star couple, Dayton Harper and Ginny Ferro who, while filming a movie in rural England, have killed a local man in a hit and run. It is a disaster from the beginning because, before he even meets them, he discovers that Ferro has disappeared and her body has been found hanging from an oak tree in a London cemetery. Hours later, a distraught Harper gives Hugo the slip. Putting the connections together with the help of a cast of characters, he must elude a serial killer after more bodies show up. Yes, it is another suspenseful, well told gripping tale.


That’s It for September

Lots of good books, fiction and non-fiction, this month as you can see. With the advent of autumn, the publishing world kicks into a high gear, producing many more. Come back in October and don’t forget to tell your book loving friends, family and coworkers about Bookviews.com where you will find the work of authors who deserve attention.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Bookviews - August 2014

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

One of the most interesting new books is Patrick J. Buchanan’s The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority ($28.00, Crown Forum). A large part of the population today was born after Nixon’s era and, if he is remembered or known for anything by them it is the Watergate scandal that forced his resignation in his second term. Even though I lived through the Nixon years, I knew relatively little about the man and Buchanan who was one of his political team, now a respected commentator and author, provides a fascinating history of a President who was a canny politician, a pragmatic conservative, and a very popular leader in his time. He served from 1969 to 1972, finally bringing the unpopular Vietnam War to an end and opening diplomacy with China. After suffering stinging defeats in the 1960 presidential election against John F. Kennedy and in the 1962 California gubernatorial election, the Washington press and politicians declared his political career over. Yet on January 20, 1969 he took the oath as the 37th President. Buchanan’s book tells how he resurrected his reputation and reunited a shattered and fractured Republican Party. The book begins in January 1966 as a firsthand account of Nixon’s remarkable return during a decade marked by civil rights protests, the assassinations of JFK, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King. I recall the riots, campus anarchy, and the rise of the New Left. Anyone interested in U.S. history will want to read this book.

 
Fans of Jay Leno will enjoy Dave Berg’s Behind the Curtain: An Insider’s View of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show ($24.95, Pelican Publishing). Berg was one of the show’s producers, active in booking many of its guests from the world of show business, sports, and politics. For Berg, what was not seen by the viewing audience, the reality of dealing with guests from former presidents, candidates for the job, and even Barack Obama whom he spotted years before he as a national figure, was just as exciting and interesting as how well they performed on air. He makes it clear that he and other producers looked at the “numbers” of how many viewed the night before and how well the guest segments did, play an important role in producing the show. It was in competition with the David Letterman Show and they all wanted to be number one. Leno would in time achieve that goal and hold onto it. Berg provides an entertaining, but generally serious look at a wide range of guests from Jerry Seinfeld to John F. Kennedy, Jr. If you are into celebrities, the book is filled with them.  Readers will also discover a different Jay Leno than appeared on camera all those years. The show, other than his marriage and passion for classic cars, was his life from when he woke until he went to bed. He was totally absorbed and devoted to it. His monologues were always entertaining. His comedic talent and his devotion to the show made it a hit. That was quite an achievement considering he was following in the footsteps of Johnny Carson. Despite rubbing elbows by the biggest names of the day, he remained the guy who could have lived next door. In many ways, he was.

Pelican Publishing is based in Gretna, Louisiana and publishes many books that celebrate the state, its cuisine and comparable topics. People who have visited New Orleans are often so taken with its unique architecture, restaurants and other pleasures they return again and again. For them, I recommend Let’s Walk the French Quarter: A Visual Tour by Kerri McCaffety ($19.95, Pelican, softcover) a photographer and writer who has authored several books about the city. If you have been there, it is a reminder of favorite places and an invitation to visit those you missed. If you have always just wondered what this famed section of the city looks like, you will find it celebrated from Rampart Street to Jackson Square. Little wonder she has received a Gold Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers. It’s a wonderful book.

If you are a fan of weirdness, you will love Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Reality Shock! ($28.95, Ripley Publishing), a large format collection of items that are a mix of can’t bear to look and can’t look away, jammed packed with images and stories of people such as the wolf-man, Werner Freund, who lives with a pack of wolves or the grandma that has 18-inch long fingernails; they haven’t been cut in 20 years. There are women with scarily tiny waists and a guy who owns 2,000 Barbie and Ken dolls. Every page has something to make you wonder, gasp, or just feast your eyes on the antics and creations of people. This kind of books makes a great gift for the person who “has everything.”

To Your Health

I have always enjoyed good health; as my doctor succinctly put it, “Good genes.”  That and eating moderately, but well, plus a daily batch of vitamins and minerals to start the day, and getting a good night’s sleep, have served me well over the years. One thing is for sure, there is no end of books on health topics.
 
One unusual book that arrived is Losing Patience: The Problems, Alarms and Psychological Issues of Shaken Baby Syndrome by James Peinkofer ($15.95, New Horizon Press, softcover), a child abuse consultant with more than 18 years of experience in medical and mental health clinical social work. It only takes two or three violent shakes in as little as five seconds, by an angry parent or caregiver to punish or quiet a crying child to inflict a lot of harm. The author says that it is the leading cause of abuse-related deaths among infants with as high as 80% of survivors suffering permanent brain damage. If there are expectant parents in your family in which one or both have anger management problems—a bad temper—this would be a good book to give them. It also offers good advice as to what to look for in a perspective caregiver and what a family should do if they suspect shaken baby syndrome. Consider the harm that can be done to an infant this is a book that should receive wider media coverage. It’s due off the press in October.

A strong, healthy heart should surely be a priority and Joe Petreycik, RN, an ASCM certified clinical exercise specialist, has spent the last six years writing a book that helps those who have had a heart attack and those trying to avoid it. Pump It Up! Exercising Your Heart to Health ($19.95, Take Exercise to Heart, LCC, Stratford, CT, softcover) According to the World Health Organization, 17.3 million people die from heart attacks and strokes every year. Illustrated with dozens of photographs to illustrate the exercises that Petreycik recommends, anyone with concerns in this area will surely benefit from reading this book. If you come from a family with a history of heart attacks and strokes, order it today!

Useful Advice

Got a problem? There are many books filled with advice on how to solve it. Here are four new ones.

Parenting on the Go: Birth to Six, A to Z by Dr. David Elkind, PhD ($14.99, Da Capo Press, softcover) covers a wide range of subjects and offers solutions to run-of-the-mill concerns as well as the more multifaceted issues, like the right amount of computer times, that are pertinent to today’s information-age parents. Drawing on his extensive experience in child psychology and development, as well as the most up-to-date research on parenting, Dr. Elkind gives 500-word answers to more than a hundred of the most common questions parents ask.

Getting a Life with Asperger’s: Lessons Learned on the Bumpy Road to Adulthood by Jesse A. Saperstein ($15.00, Perigee, softcover) is a useful book even if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Asperger’s, a disorder that interferes with being able to pick up the clues that other people’s behavior that most of us easily read. It is an aspect of autism. “Growing up and becoming a reasonably functioning adult is difficult in the best of circumstances,” says Saperstein, but those with Asperger’s encounter greater problems. Studies show that between 80% and 90% are chronically unemployed because they miss the social clues and sometimes exhibit inappropriate behavior. The book is a self-help guide filled with good advice on dealing with family, romance, college, job interviews, and the crippling baggage of being bullied. Filled with wit and self-deprecating humor, it will help anyone live a “normal” life.

Put More Time on Your Side: How to Manage Your Life in a Digital World by Jan Yager, Ph.D, ($20.95, Hannacroix Creek Press, softcover) is her fifth book about productivity, among her 39 to date. This one is for anyone who wants to get more done in less time. It is full of good advice on topics such as coping with time wasters like over-scheduling, procrastination or perfectionism. There’s advice on how to master office relationships and politics to save time, and lots more. Time is our most valuable resource and knowing how to get the most out of it in business and at home is why this book is worth reading.

Master Your Money in 7 Days by Dale Gibbons ($11.69, softcover) will be a big help to anyone encountering money problems these days and that’s just about everyone. It is an easy to read book that reveals the secrets of simply money management that you can learn more about at www.masteryourmoneybook.com. Do you run out of money before the end of the month? Worry how to afford the important things for your family? Have an overdrawn account? This is about getting the control you need to put your financial life on a smooth path.

Books for Kids and Teens

One of the best things you can do for your kids this summer is to provide them with interesting and entertaining books to read. Good reading skills and habits are essential to their success later in life.

For the very young, early readers, there are books from the We Do Listen Foundation featuring Howard B. Wigglesworth, a rabbit character, and the 14th in its series is Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns We Can All Get Along ($15.00) aimed at those aged 4 to 8 with a message on how to live in harmony with everyone around them. Howard begins to learn why always wanting his own way is a sure fire way to not make friends. The text is an easy read and the illustrations are delightful. The series has many such books to help learning good attitudes.
 
Another book that addresses this is Stewie Boomstein Starts School by Christine Bronstein and illustrated by Karen Young ($28.99/$9.99, hard and softcover, @ www.NothingButTheTruth.com) for kids aged 3 to 6. Stewie has a very bad first day at school because he doesn’t like following rules and wants to do what he wants, not what the teachers does. Another problem kids encounter in school is bullying and Laura S. Fox’s Stan the Timid Turtle: Helping Children Cope with Fears About School Violence ($9.95, New Horizon Press, softcover) for those in the early school grades. Many children have many fears about a world the TV demonstrates is filled with violence. This book will help them deal with those fears and Stan the turtle becomes fearful when a violent event happens at a nearby school and several young turtles are hurt. With help, he learns it is okay to be afraid, but not to let fear rule his life. Another new book from this publisher is Siggy’s Parade: Helping Kids with Disabilities Find Their Strength by Blanche R. Duddly, EdD ($9.95, softcover) about Siggy, a mockingbird who only has one wing and who rallies his friend to celebrate and appreciate their unique disabilities. Written for those in the early school grades, it is upbeat and delightful. Using the alphabet, Keeping Fit from A to Z by Stephanie Maze ($15.95, Moonstone Press) is due out next month and is unique in that it provides its text for the very young reader, age 3 and up, in both English and Spanish. Extensively illustrated with many color photos, it will teach them the importance of getting out and engaging in sports and other activities. This is an early encouragement to not sit in from of the television or just play video games. It’s a very good investment in one’s child’s health.

One of the best publishers in Time for Kids which has two wonderful new books out. For ages 7 and up, there’s Snakeopedia ($19.95) that is filled with 180 full color pages with 400 photos, images and facts from Discovery experts and a herpetologist that combines fun for young readers, many of whom find snakes fascinating. They can read about the twelve families of snakes as well as other members of the reptile family such as lizards, turtles, and crocodiles. In his youth my older brother was permitted to have a black snake as a pet and it was a great learning experience for both of us. Also just published is Time for Kids’ Robots ($14.95) that is filled with photos and a great text that teaches how robots are having an increasing role in the way we all live, from helpers to robo cops. From their early history to the robots we have sent to explore Mars, this one will keep any young reader turning the pages and returning to enjoy it again and again.

My Mother was not just a great cook, but she taught gourmet cooking for three decades in the adult schools of our hometown and others. Learning how to cook is a great skills to have and The Green Teen Cookbook: Recipes for all Seasons – Written by Teens, for Teens ($14.95, Zest Books, softcover) by Laurane Marchive and Pam McElroy is filled with advice on how to navigate the kitchen and other skills involved with cooking such as shopping on a budget and eating healthier. It has more than 70 recipes and cooking is something every young person should learn.

Getting pre-teens and teens to turn off the television and discover the pleasure of a good story is well served by several need books written for this age group. A young-adult fantasy novel, The Adventures of Horace, George and Ingle—The Rise of the Black knight by Hugh Cumming (FriesenPress.com) is available as a hardcover, softcover, and ebook. Three brothers aged 15-17 are growing up in relative calm in a land once dominated by great battles in a kingdom that stretches as far as the eye can see. When a raging storm causes fires in their village, King Reynold makes the unusual choice to appoint his son, Ingle, to assit in the investigate the scene of the fires. It addresses the bond of siblings, the challenges of coming of age and dealing with unforeseen complexities of the adult world, and the age-old battle between good and evil. Another novel also uses fantasy and science fiction. Flight of the Akero: The Book of Milo (Bablefish Press, softcover) is by Douglas Lieblein, a writer and producer for Universal, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, The Disney Channel, and Nickelodean. It is book one in a series, a fiction tale that is comic, action-packet, and quirky. Milo Wolfe is the tallest third grader at his school but his problem is that he has been put in sixth grade where he is the shortest, weakest, wimpiest and by far the least popular student. Looking forward to no school, Milo wants to do as little as possible, but he is forced to embark on an unexpected journal to find a father he’s never met. It is filled with surprises.

Another new fantasy-adventure story for young adults is found in The Age of Amy: The Thumper Amendment by Bruce Edwards ($9.95, Lambert Hill, softcover) as 16-year-old Amy wants to avenge the sixth grade boy who mistreated her in third grade. She gets her change when she encounters him seven years later during a U.S. presidential campaign for a candidate she supports. But there’s a problem. He has grown into a kindhearted (and cute) young adult and her feelings turn to those of affection. Is she falling in love with her grade school nemesis? This is an intriguing story that is well worth reading. Lastly, for those 12 and up there’s Billy Christmas by Mark A. Pritchard ($16.95, Alan Squire Publishing, softcover) that begins when Billy’s father mysteriously disappears. Then, just twelve days before Christmas, Billy acquires a magical Christmas tree with a dozen ornaments, each of which supposedly holds a clue to finding his father. In order to do so, however, Billy must solve one puzzle a day. This is a young adult fantasy with rich, compelling characters and delightful twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the end, as he and his best friend—and secret crush—Katherine are thrust into a dark, magical world, that has placed them both in grave danger.

Novels, Novels, Novels
 
As Israel defends itself against the terrorist organization, Hamas, attention has been fixed on its invasion of Gaza, an area that Israel gave the Palestinians in 2005 after evicting 8,000 of its own citizens that lived there. Torn Blood by David J. Bain ($17,99, Bo Iti Press, Wyoming) is the result of seven years research and depicts the mortal battle to destroy Jerusalem’s Jewish residents and the right of Jews to their ancient homeland. It does so in a fashion that fans of Tom Clancy’s novels will enjoy because it is an action-packed adventure filled with suspense. This is an ideal summer reading experience as he draws the reader into a story that captures the reader’s minds and hearts as the ultimate fate of Jerusalem and her people reveals itself in an apocalyptic conflagration. This is Bain’s debut novel and I heartily recommend it.

Political corruption is the theme of William Lashner’s Bagman ($14.95, Thomas & Mercer, softcover). Lashner is primarily known for his series of legal thrillers featuring Philadelphia attorney Victor Carl and in this compelling story Carl finds himself working as a bagman for an ambitious congressman. It seems like he might finally be on a trajectory to the top as he traverses the streets of Philadelphia and finds himself associating with the city’s elite, filing his coffers with new-client retainers, and involved with the congressman’s sexy and highly unstable sister. Things become complicated when he becomes the fall guy for murder. With the police, reporters, and a couple of thugs on his trail, Carl turns to a shadowy group of old-time bagmen to find answers and, with their help, he follows the truth—and the money—to a final confrontation with the ultimate symbol of wealth, power, and entitlement known as the Big Butter. It’s a fast-paced, darkly humorous thriller, ideal for a day at the beach.

In Gideon’s Confession Joseph G. Peterson ($15.95, Switchgrass Books, softcover) enhances his reputation as a novelist as he addresses the themes of money, work, success, and the way a young man drifts through life, alienated from his father and two brothers who have gone into the family business. It is his good fortunate that he receives checks from his rich uncle every month and, in exchange, the uncle asks him to come up with a plan for his life, but Gideon Anderson puts that off, spending the money on alcohol, horserace gambling, and useless purchases. His luck continues when he meets a lovely, ambitious woman, Claire, who encourages him to do more with his life and asks him to come to New York with her where her father can set him up in his firm and bankroll a business venture. Gideon’s failure to commit to anything and anyone is at the heart of the novel, one that twenty-somethings in particular should read. At the other end of life, D.D. Lanz addresses what occurs when one dies in Going, Going, Gone ($15.95, Two Harbors, softcover) when John Janne is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He makes plans to end his life before the cancer does. The novel taps into humanity’s universal fear of death and the unknown that follows. Not wanting to have his family watch him die slowly and painfully, he plans a canoe trip in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters where a death by drowning will look like an accident. Before the trip, however, he spends countless hours reading about how different religions and cultures envision the afterlife, but it leaves him confused and uncertain as to whether God or an afterlife even exists. The trip opens his eyes and anyone interested in world religions will find this novel very interesting.

Heaven Sent Rain by Lauraine Snelling ($15.00, Faith Words, softcover) will appeal to women with its story of scientists Dinah Taylor, the CEO of a successful pharmaceutical company. She likes her orderly existence, enjoying her work and her luxury apartment, but one day she encounters Jonah Morgan, a seven-year-old, for whom she buys breakfast. Along with his dog, “Mutt”, they become part of her routine as she becomes the mysterious boy’s main source of refuge. When she gets a call from Jonah asking her to rush his badly injured pet to a clinic run by a handsome veterinarian, Garett Miller, their lives begin to collide and their relationship changes. Snelling is a bestselling author of more than sixty-five books and this latest one is an intriguing look at how people affect one another in ways they don’t anticipate.
 
Finding Flipper Frank by Patrick M. Gary ($9.95, Kendric Books, softcover) tells of Walt Honerman who has just about given up on life in Billings, Montana at age 38, but who embarks on a trip to fulfill a promise made to a dying uncle. Along for the trip is 76-year-old Izzy Dunleavy, a loquacious nursing home resident and Moira Kelly, a young woman who befriended Izzy during his hospitalization. Izzy entertains them with stories about a grand resort he once owned in Crawfish Bay, but when they arrive there, he is arrested on a decades-old embezzlement charge, I don’t want to give away too much about the unraveling of truth and fiction Walter and Moira encounter because it is the heart of this entertaining novel that has a lot to say about the human condition with its flaws and hopes. It is a very good read.

Last summer readers were treated to Stephanie Evanovich’s bestselling debut novel, “Big Girl Panties”, and she is back with The Sweet Spot ($26.99, William Morrow) featuring two of the characters from that novel, Chase Walker, the hunky professional baseball player and his beautiful and exceptionally sassy wife, Amanda. She is a successful levelheaded woman who built her restaurant from scratch. She was not looking for prince charming and when Chase begins to pursue her she pays little attention. She’s used to celebrities and politicians doing at her place, but she just can’t stop staring at Chase and the feeling is mutual. For Amanda their romance is too good to be true, but he has a little kink to his personality. He likes to indulge in a little passionate spanking from time to time. When a tabloid reveals their relationship she must decide whether to give up her single-girl freedom or will Chase’s stardom spell doom for this sexy couple? You will have to read this novel to find out!

For those of a classical turn of mind, there’s Medea by Richard Matturo ($32.00, Livingston Press, University of West Alabama) which is set in Bronze Age Greece. The myth is told in the form of a modern novel, eliminating none of the passion or violence as Medeo, an awkward, introverted daughter of a royal family, growing up in a remote backwater of the Greek world encounters the dashing and feckless Jason, offering an escape from her stifling life. She bears him twin sons and then watches as he falls out of love with her. His announcement that she will be exiled, minus her two boys, so that he can marry the king’s daughter brings on the final catastrophe. Matturo holds a doctorate in English with a specialization in Shakespeare and Greek Mythology. This is his sixth novel. Strong emotional ties is the theme of Jerry Pinto’s Em and the Big Hoom ($16.00, Penguin Original, softcover), originally published by a small press in India, Pinto’s debut novel is suffused with compassion, humor, and hard-won wisdom as he introduces us to Imelda and Augustine whose young narrator calls “Em” and the “Big Hoom.” Most of the time Em smokes “breedis” and sings her way through life, inspiring the love of her husband and children, the narrator and his older sister. However, Em suffers bipolar disorder and when it seizes her she becomes monstrous. The novel charts the ten-year courtship of his parents in the 1960s in Bombay to their efforts to come to terms with the desolation she leaves in her wake.

That’s it for August. Come back next month to enjoy Bookviews’ blend of news about many new fiction and non-fiction books. Tell your book-loving friends, family and co-workers about this unique monthly report.