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 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, @ 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 ( 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.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bookviews - July 2014

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

I have written about energy issues for decades and yet The Fracking Truth by Chris Faulkner ($21.95, Platform Press) was so filled with hard data and informed opinion that I found myself being educated all over again on what is likely the most important factor of life in America and around the world, the provision of affordable energy. What I have known prior to reading this book is that “fracking”, the short term for hydraulic fracturing, has widespread opposition by some environmental groups and others who have bought into the lies being told about a technology that is over a half century in use and which has unlocked America’s vast reserves of natural gas and oil to transform our prospects for being energy independent as well as a major exporter, generating needed revenue for a nation $17 trillion in debt. The author is the founder, president and CEO of Breitling Energy Corporation and become over the years a trusted source of information for Washington lawmakers, journalists, and policy analysts from respected think tanks. America is home to people who simply do not like “fossil fuels”, but have no idea how dependent we are upon them, nor that they represent a better life, a stronger economy, and benefits we take for granted, not the least of which is the electricity on which we all depend. This is one of the best books on energy I have read in a while and I recommend you read it too. Learn more by visiting

June marked the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act and, a year later, the Voting Rights Act. Many Americans, both black and white, felt that the nation had moved on passed the ills of the past and that a bright future of opportunity for Afro-Americans existed. For a relatively small part of the black population that was true, but for too many, it was not. Jason L. Riley, a black member of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, has written Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make it Harder for Blacks to Succeed ($23.99, Encounter Books) and I cannot recommend it highly enough because the statistical data on which it is based clearly demonstrates that, rather than external restrictions as existed prior to 1964, it is black culture combined with government programs that undermine the family structure and diminish the desire to work hard that have proven to be the cause of why so many blacks remain not just unemployed, but unemployable due to a widespread indifference to education and other factors that such as violence that leads to crimes, mostly against other blacks, and extraordinary high rates of incarceration. As is too frequently the case, when one turns to government to solve problems, it fails because only individuals and private groups can effectively address what is happening in the streets and neighborhoods of America.

If often seems that politicians invent issues around which to create laws. Thomas E. Hall, a professor of economics at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, takes a look at “the unintended consequences of public policies” in his book Aftermath ($24.95/12.99, Cato Institute, hardcover and digital). What emerges is a look at the way ideas that seemed necessary at the time turned out to impact life in America, as often as not for the worse. The result has been the creation of a vast welfare state, organized crime, and a scarcity of jobs for teenagers and the working poor. The creation of the income tax provided a source of money to grow government because politicians cannot wait to spend it. Hall takes a look at the creation of federal income taxes, taxes on cigarettes that generate criminal activity, the minimum wage that increases unemployment for teens, and what occurred as the result of Prohibition which took a constitutional amendment to repeal. The history of the economic impact of these programs is a graphic example of unintended consequences.

The scandal at the Veterans Administration puts the lie to all the talk we hear from politicians about the value they put on the lives of those who put their lives on the line to defend our nation. The VA management problems have been known for years and the current administration is only one among others who have not addressed them. When a government agency gets too big, it is the individual veteran that too often pays the price. That’s why, in part, Mark Lee Greenblatt’s Valor: Unsung Heroes from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front ($22.95/$11.99, Rowman & Littlefield, hardcover and ebook) is so timely and so needed at a time the Middle East is in turmoil to remind us of those who volunteered to serve their nation. This book takes you to the battlefield as seen through the eyes of individual soldiers, sailors, and Marines as they faced fearful decisions and overcame enormous odds. They all heroes and we duly honored, but unknown to the public. America has always been blessed with men of this stature and courage. It’s good to read about them.

Those who love to read often enjoy exploring the historical aspects of literature and Truth’s Ragged Edge; The Rise of the American Novel by Philip D. Gura ($16.00, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, softcover) looks at a portion of literary history in America largely overlooked and unknown, but interesting in its own right. A cultural historian, Gura reveals that the American novel has its roots in “the fundamental religiosity of American Life”, an aspect of our history that many try to ignore in the secular present. From the time of the nation’s first novel, The Power of Sympathy in 1789 to the start of the Civil War in 1860, writers were more interested in serving up tales about morality while nurturing broad cultural shifts from broader social concerns to individualism and from faith in a distant God to faith in oneself. In doing so we are taken back to the worlds of Hawthorne and Melville, along with others who have faded into history.

Money, Money, Money

Income inequality has become a political theme among Democrats; yet another way to divide Americans, but the fact is that there has always been income inequality and the best way to address it is by encouraging entrepreneurism, creating more jobs, and keeping the economy growing. Money Sucks: A Memoir on Why Too Much or Too Little Can Ruin You by Michael Baughman ($16.95, Skyhorse Publishing) The author has enjoyed and experienced both wealth and poverty. His book offers words of advice for his college bound grandson as he tries to instill an informed attitude about money and, specifically, the value of money and the way Americans pursue it with vigor. He asks the question, how much is enough?  Happily, it is not filled with boring graphs. Instead it is, as its title says, a memoir in which the author draws on his life and time spent with his grandson to share what he has learned about the pursuit and, ultimately, the value of money as we make our way through our lives. As such, it is a good read for anyone at any stage of life.

Did the Government Write Your Will? By Eric Gullotta ($14.99, Gullotta Law Group, softcover) addresses a surprising situation. Half of all Americans with children do not have wills indicating where their money and possessions should go after they die. This allows the government to come in and control it by tying it up in years of legal red tape, and determine what it goes to the point where the deceased’s family might never get what is rightfully theirs. As the author, and attorney and CPA, notes, “When you die without a will or trust, that’s called dying intestate” and that puts the state in which you die in charge of your assets—not you. A California attorney, he focuses on that state’s laws, but the advice put forth in his book applies elsewhere as well. He has written a short book whose advice will ensure that your loved ones and others will receive what you have worked hard to accumulate, not the state in which you die.

Coping, Coping, Coping

We spend most of our lives coping with changes, some good, some not.

Jennifer K. Crittenden, the author of “The Discreet Guide for Executive Women”, which I reviewed and liked, has written You, Not I: Exceptional Presence—Through the Eyes of Others, ($12.95, Whistling Rabbit Press, San Diego, CA, softcover). This book is written for women as well and it asks if you’re feeling stuck at work, if you suspect you don’t come across well, but don’t know why, and need to modify your behavior to manage others’ perceptions. Once you gain insight to who you are, how others perceive you, how to successfully fit into various situations, and how to stand out to further your career, you will discover how true the advice the author provides. Best of all, she does not just hand out broad generalizations, getting down to specifics in topics like “Some Really Good Ways to Irritate People”  and “The Magic of Common Courtesy.” What Ms. Crittenden knows is that many grow up and go out in the work world without having acquired the most basic skills for successful interaction with others. Her book provides what you may have missed along the way. I rate this one as excellent.

According to The Cancer Journal, the divorce rate for cancer-stricken wives is approximately 21% as compared to 3% when husbands get ill. When Fiona Finn was five months into her long battle with stage III colon cancer, her husband left her on Father’s Day; leaving her and her three children penniless. What ever happened to the “in sickness and in health” part of the marital vows, eh? She tells her story in Raw: One Woman’s Journey Through Love, Loss, and Cancer ($15.00, Mind Trip Productions, softcover). She is blessed, not only with a strong character, but also a strong sense of humor, and her aim is to save others from the sense of hopelessness that she endured and conquered. She does not hide the fact that she made some bad decisions along the way, including two failed marriages, but hers is the story of a survivor and one that will help others who encounter cancer. A very helpful book and a challenging one as well.


Some books don’t fit into neat categories, so here are a few that deserve attention for just that reason.

If you are a lawyer or just enjoy reading about the legal system, you will surely enjoy Law and Disorder: Absurdly Funny Moments from the Courts by Charles M. Sevilla ($14.95, W.W. Norton, softcover). While courtrooms are generally places where all manner of unhappy events or disagreements get sorted out in a serious fashion, they are, as this delightful book relates, places where there are humorous moments. Sevilla is, as you might have guessed, a lawyer and one who is perennially named to the “Best Lawyers in America” list. His friends helped with the book by sending transcripts of those unexpected moments. This book would make a great gift for any lawyer in your life or just to keep handy for a quick laugh.

Wild Connection: What Animal Courtship and Mating Tell Us about Human Relationships by Jennifer L. Verdolin ($18.95/$11.99, Prometheus Books, softcover and ebook) is a reminder that we too are animals like a lot of other species. The author takes a look at a variety of species and provides some interesting connections between the way ours selects mates and the fact that others often demonstrate similar characteristics. Or is it the other way around? Verdolin is an expert in animal behavior and currently a research scientist affiliated with the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center at Duke University. In ten chapters she covers topics such as first impressions and the role they play for us and other species. She writes about the role that size and strength has for the selection of mates in other species as well as our own. Indeed from beginning to end, you will find yourself being both entertained and surprised by the many ways we display behavior that resembles many of the other species with whom we share this planet. From the same publisher comes William E. Burrows’ book about The Asteroid Threat: Defending Our Planet from Deadly Near-Earth Objects ($19.95, Prometheus Books). This kind of thing is often the theme of science fiction, but the threat is very real and the explosion of a large meteor over Chelybinsk, Siberia, in February 2013 is just the latest reminder of the Earth’s vulnerability in a galaxy that is filled with asteroids and other objects flying around with us. Burrows, a veteran aerospace writer, explains what we can do in the future to avoid serious impact from “near-Earth objects” as they are called in the planetary defense community. The good news is that a powerful space surveillance system is capable of spotting a threat at least 25 years in advance and, if they existed, a space craft “nudge” could throw an asteroid off course.

If history is an interest of yours, you will likely enjoy Andrew Young’s The Lost Book of Alexander The Great ($26.00, Westholme Publishing). “Alexander the Great is well known as one of the first great empire builders of the ancient world. Among those fellow Macedonian officers who accompanied Alexander in his epic conquests from Greece to India was Ptolemy Lagides. Ptolemy served alongside Alexander from the Persian defeat at the Battle of Issus in modern-day Turkey and the journey to find the oracle that proclaimed Alexander to be Zeus incarnate, to the Battle of the Hydaspes River in 326 BC that opened India to the West. Following Alexander's death, Ptolemy gained control of Egypt where he founded the dynasty in his name, created the great library of Alexandria, and was patron of the mathematician Euclid. Sometime during his rule in Egypt, Ptolemy wrote a history of Alexander's conquests. Although it is probable that Ptolemy enhanced his own importance, sources indicate that it was regarded as an accurate and even-handed account of the campaigns of Alexander. However, Ptolemy's book was lost—perhaps with the destruction of the library he founded—and not even an original fragment has survived. His book, however, was acknowledged as a primary source of information for later Roman historians.” The Roman Search for Wisdom by Michael K. Kellogg ($28.95, Prometheus Books) provides a look at the Roman Empire that is not the usual accounts of its wars, conquests, and decline. Kellogg disputes the notion that it the Romans were just a weak comparison with the Greeks. There were in fact many Roman poets, historians, and philosophers that included Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Tacitus, Plutarch and others. I read and enjoyed Kellogg’s previous “The Greek Search for Wisdom” and this book is a worthy sequel.

Did your mom tell you to eat your vegetables? Sure she did and now you can enjoy them by reading Salad Samurai by Terry Hope Romero ($19.99, Da Capo Press, softcover), a collection of 100 “cutting edge, ultra-hearty, easy-to-make salads.”  From the classic Caesar salad to exotic ones like avocado amaranth bhel puri chaat, this book will have you eager to sample a world of salads you never knew existed, but which look very delicious. People have all manner of hobbies and crafts provide a lot of fun for them. Sticky Fingers: DIY Duct Tape Projects by Sophie Maletsky ($16.99, Zest Books, softcover) is devoted to making items from duct tape. It offers detailed instructions and, happily, lots of photos so anyone can develop their skills with more than 70 projects from cell phone holders to room dividers, backpacks, jewelry, bags, wallets and lots more. How popular is this? It’s the rare prom that does not feature a couple wearing clothes made entirely from duct tape. What has made this possible are the many new colors and designs in which duct tape is available these days. This book will appeal to the young, age 12 and up, but once into it, it’s a craft that is likely to be pursued for a long time.

Novels, Novels, Novels

Summer is traditionally a time for enjoying a good book while at the beach or anywhere else we choose to relax and escape into the worlds of fiction. This summer is no exception, given a large number of novels whose various themes will provide hours of diversion for everyone.

Brad Thor’s name dominates the cover of his newest novel, Act of War, ($27.99, Atria Books) because it is his thirteenth thriller featuring Navy SEAL turned covert counterterrorism operati8ve, Scot Harvath. The first dozen were bestsellers and this one will be too. Thor is known for his trademark “faction” in which he blends both fact and fiction in action-packed thrillers and this new novel will keep readers turning the pages as it looks at an enemy of America who knows it cannot be defeated on the battlefield, but, using unconventional devious attacks, could be. I guarantee you will be hooked within the first five pages. When a CIA agent mysteriously dies overseas, his top asset surfaces with a startling claim, but no one knows if she can be trusted. Then a succession of events occur that suggest something more than chance is at work. Six exchange students go missing, two airplane passengers trade places, and a political-asylum seeker is arrested. Facing an imminent and devastating attack, the nation’s new president turns to Harvath to undertake two top secret operations, either of which, if discovered would be an act of war, but are vital to thwarting the covert war being waged against America.

From Seventh Street Books, an imprint of Prometheus Books, comes two novels for those who love a good mystery. In Lori Rader-Day’s The Black Hour ($15.95, softcover) a Chicago sociology professor, Amelia Emmet, is a researcher whose topic is violence. It gets very real when a student she’d never met shows up and shoots her and then shoots himself. After surgery, she returns to campus with a growing problem with painkillers and the question, why? She wants to return to a normal life, but now hobbles with a cane. Enter Nathaniel Barber, a graduate student obsessed with Chicago’s violent history. Assigned as Amelia’s teaching assistant, he takes on the investigative legwork Amelia cannot. Together and occasionally at cross-purposes, they stumble toward a truth about the attack and which takes them both through the darkest hours of their lives.

In No Stone Unturned ($15.95, softcover), James W. Ziskin introduces Ellie Stone, a 24-year-old journalist for a small local daily in upstate New York. On Thanksgiving 1990, a girl is found dead in the woods. There are three oil spots on the dirt road and a Dr. Pepper bottle cap in the shallow grave found by a local hunter. Ellie is the first reporter on the scene and the story may rescue her drowning career. All leads though lead nowhere until she takes a daring change that unleashes unintended chaos as she strives to unravel a dangle of small town secrets.

Two books from Quirk Books offer a serving, one of suspense and second a bit of fun. I enjoyed Ben H. Winters’ 2012 novel, “The Last Policeman”, a pre-apocalyptic story set six months before a massive asteroid is expected to collide with Earth. It is the first of a trilogy and part two was “Countdown City.” The third is World of Trouble: The Last Policeman Book III out this monthly ($14.95, softcover). Suffice to say that the first received an Edgar Award and was translated into six languages and the second has been nominated for a Philip K. Dick Award and named an NPR Best Book of 2013, so you can be sure this one will prove as enjoyable. It is just 14 days before the asteroid is expected to make contact and America is in chaos. Detective Hank Palace has found a peaceful farm to live out his last days, but there is one last case for him to solve and this time it is personal. He goes in search of his sister, Nico, and finds himself at a deserted police station in Ohio where he uncovers evidence of a brutal crime. He is determined to solve the puzzle before times runs out for everyone.
A very different change of pace is offered in Ian Doescher’s parody of Star Wars in William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return ($14.95, softcover) the third in a trilogy in which Luke Skywalker and his rebel band must seek fresh allies in their quest to thwart construction of a new Imperial Death Star. This is a hilarious way to enjoy the original story as told by a very funny parodist.

Confessions of a Self-Help Writer: A Journal of Michael Enzo by Benjamin W. Dehaven ($22.95, Lagniappe Publishing), is strictly for grownups, as much a comedy as a tragedy, as it tells the story of Enzo, a ghostwriter for the rich and famous, and the author of successful self-help books in his own right who faces having to write another to pay his debts. He may be able to tell others how to cope, but his own life has been filled with all manner of misdeeds that include depravity, substance abuse, and emotional complexity. This is a difficult book to describe because it seems so real, but it is never boring.  A very different story is told by Rich Marcello in The Big Wide Calm ($15.99, Langdon Street Press, softcover). Paige Plant has dreams of being becoming a rock star, saving the world and inspire revolutions with her songs. She sets out to do this with a perfect album. She has talent, ambition, and mega-musical skills. All she needs is a big break. Enter John Bustin, a mysterious former singer/songwriter who offers Paige one year of free room and board at his recording studio. With her help, he confronts the dark secrets of his past that rock the foundation of their relationship. It is a story of trust and the complexities of love seen through the eyes of the young and old. For anyone who is looking for a good romantic story, this is one to read.

Historical fiction is well served in Amy Belding Brown’s Flight of the Sparrow ($15.00, New American Library, softcover). It is, in fact, based on the amazing true story of Mary Rowlandson’s capture in 1675 and depicts a monumental moment in our nation’s history. After a long-feared Native American attack, Mary is sold to a female tribal leader who puts her to work but allows her a generous and surprising amount of freedom. She becomes conflicted as she develops an uncomfortable attraction toward an English-speaking Native American, James Printer who seemingly straddles both worlds, becoming her friend and protector. When she is eventually ransomed and returns to her surviving family, she finds re-entry into the restrictive Puritan culture a challenge. The author’s knowledge of this lesser known time in our history makes for interesting reading. In Cynthia Lang’s novel, Preservation ($14.95, Mill City Press, softcover) the year is 1987 and, after the sudden disappearance of her husband, Lee Baldwin resolves to escape Manhattan by moving to Limmington Mills, a town described as one where no one goes and nothing ever happens. She wants solitude but soon discovers that life has other plans for her. Narrated by Lee, the novel tells the story of the lost past she cherishes and the changes that happen for her and the town as she finds herself caught up in the dramas of others around her. For those who recall simpler times before the instant communications of our times, this story will prove especially interesting.
Lauren Grodstein, the author of The Explanation of Everything ($14.95, Algonquin Books, softcover), bases her novel on the premise that most of us want an explanation for life on earth and a clear account of our role in the grand scheme of things. It is a story, said Family Circle of “wayward souls search for forgiveness, healing, and personal truth.” It is a deeply felt story of love, loss, hope, and the healing powers of forgiveness that takes on the contentious debate over the origins of life as biologist Andy Waite struggles to make sense of his life. He’s about to make tenure, beginning to understand his daughters, and finally overcome the loss of his wife. When a young, tenacious student shows up at his office, he gradually loses sight of his personal and professional boundaries, as well as his moral grounding, but there is also the possibility of faith. This is a complex, demanding story that will draw the reader in as it explores the salvation that love can offer.

Lastly, there’s a novella by Jerome O. Brown, Calves in the Mud Room ($6.74, available from, softcover). Colorado teenager Wade Summers wants nothing more than to go on his date tonight with high school hottie Glory Schoonover, but a fierce February blizzard has blown in and a couple of first-time heifers and calving early. He’s never delivered a calf on his own but has been shown how to do it by his grandfather. He is a very conflicted teenager who must confront the abuse of his shady stepfather and a betrayal by his somewhat disengaged mother. The novella captures the pains and pleasures of teen romance and escaping his dysfunctional parents while growing up in an agricultural community. Well worth reading.

That’s it for July! Tell your book-loving friends, family and co-workers about where new fiction and non-fiction that may not get the attention they deserve can be found every month.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Bookviews - June 2014

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

The world is a very complex place and that is true of the issues that directly and indirectly affect our lives. There is, in addition, a legion of people and groups eager to lie to us about those issues in order to achieve their goals. That is why books like Robert Bryce’s Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper ($27.99, Public Affairs) are “must” reading if we are to gain any understanding. I first encountered Bryce through his writings about energy. He knows the subject from A-to-Z. His book, “Power Hungary”, is well worth reading and his latest expands to define the true agenda of all those people telling us that we are destroying the Earth. “Their outlook rejects innovation and modern forms of energy, It rejects business and capitalism. Whether the message is explicit or implicit, the message coming from many of the “greens” is an anti-corporate, anti-capitalist stance that is rooted in the nation that any large business is one to be feared.” Bryce’s book takes the reader through the transitions from mankind’s earliest history through to the present showing how the development of the various forms of power, from the use of oxen to plow, to water power, to steam, to coal and oil, have all contributed to the remarkable world we share and why the use of fertilizers and genetically modified crops are feeding an extraordinary seven billion people on the planet. The enemies of mankind include those who preach a return to “a simpler life” when life expectancy in the past was often little more than age 35. These are the people who are forever crying out against the use of coal, oil and natural gas, as well as nuclear power. These are the people who insist organic food is better than that produced on modern farms. It is not better and, indeed, may be less safe to eat. If you want to shake loose of all the lies we’re being told about the climate and about modern life, you must read this remarkable book.

A lot of people complain that there is no difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties and they are right when it comes to the growth of Big Government. Both bear responsibility for it no matter who was President. As regards the Republican Party, Richard A. Viguerie, often called one of the fathers of the conservative movement, has written a fascinating book, Takeover, ($27.95, WND Books), subtitled “The 100-year war for the soul of the GOP and how conservatives can finally win it.”  This is a very lively, entertaining, and never boring history of how, more than a century ago, Teddy Roosevelt abandoned the Republican Party to advance his progressive political viewpoint that became the philosophy of the party’s establishment, thereby condemning the Party to being largely out of power for a half century until over fifty years ago, conservatives began to battle for control of the Party. When the establishment is in control, you get candidates like Dole, McCain, and Romney, all of whom lost elections. And, while Goldwater, the first to really challenge the GOP establishment did not win, he set in motion the election of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Viguerie notes, too, that while Nixon, Bush 41 and 43 won with conservative messages, their agendas were compatible with those of the Democratic Party. Anyone with an interest in politics will find this a lively, fascinating look at the past and a prediction of what is to come.

In February 2013, Dr. Ben Carson gave a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast that warned about the dangers facing the nation and called for a return to the principles that made America great. It caused quite a stir, perhaps because President Obama was at the head table. Since then Dr. Carson has even been spoken of as a possible candidate for President, but he is more interested in sharing his concerns. He does that in One Nation; What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future ($25.95, Sentinal, a Penguin Book imprint). “We are the pinnacle nation in the world right now, but if the examples of Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Great Britain teach us anything, it is that pinnacle nations are not guaranteed their place forever. If we fail to rediscover the basic principles of common sense, manners, and morality, we will go the same way they did.” He shares his life as he shares his views and, by any measure, a black boy living in poverty with an illiterate mother should not have risen to attend Harvard and become a leading neurosurgeon. Except, of course, in America where merit counts the most. If you share fears of the future, you will find this book of interest.

Parenting must be one of the greatest challenges anyone encounters. I had two wonderful parents who provided me with a happy youth and all the years thereafter. I was always encouraged to pursue my interests and always supported in doing so. That’s why Alfie Kohn’s The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom about Children and Parenting ($25.99, Da Capo Press) caught my eye. One hears so much about today’s kids being spoiled that it was enlightening and pleasurable to read a book that says it’s just not true. Kohn challenges the assertion that education and quality child-rearing are in decline, saying that claim has been made about every prior generation. Well, it is definitely true that education in America is not turning out students with the same body of knowledge their predecessors had.  Kohn also doesn’t believe there is too much over-or-under parenting going on and says that being an involved parent is far better than being a detached or dictatorial one. Kohn has written a book he hopes will serve the interests of both liberal and conservative minded parents. My Mother took the view that children are guests in the adult’s world and that there are rules for both to respect. They’re not new and include showing respect, being honest, the value of work, etc. For the parent who needs a bit of advice, this book will prove helpful.

If you are one of those people who lives, breaths and dreams about baseball, you will find Down to the Last Pitch: How the 1991 Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves Gave Us the Best World Series of All Time by Tim Wendel ($25.99, Da Capo Press) as he recalls the series game-by-game, rehashing the defining moments and reach back into baseball history to show the reader just what made those moments great. Wendel feels that the 1991 series was on the cusp of a new era for baseball. A founding editor of USA Today Baseball Weekly, Wendel is the author of ten books about the game and is currently a writer-in-residence at John Hopkins University. The 1991 series was the first time a last place team climbed its way to the top—both teams were cellar-dwellers in 1990. Five of the seven games were decided by a single run with four by the last at bat. Here’s the story of two teams that took risks, followed their guts, and play from beginning to end with integrity and heart.

Business, Finance, Etc

As students graduate from college and grapple with choosing a career, find a great job, or start a business, there’s a new book by Ben Carpenter that will prove very helpful. It’s The Bigs ($25.00, John Wiley and Sons) and is about “the secrets nobody tells students and young professionals” about to begin an important stage in their lives. Carpenter’s career has been in the world of finance, much of it spent in Greenwich Capital which became a respected, profitable firm on Wall Street. He went from being a salesman to being its co-CEO. These days he is the vice chairman of CRT Capital Group. I cited this because he has written a common sense, up to date book that is filled with the kind of advice you would want your son or daughter to know as they enter the workforce. The book benefits as well from being very readable. For the generation trying to plan for their later years, Ric Edelman has written The Truth About Retirement Plans and IRAs ($15.00, Simon and Schuster, softcover), a step-by-step guide to making the most of one’s retirement plans and assuring long-term financial security. In these times, this is a critical matter in an economy that has been stagnating now since the 2008 financial crisis and two terms of the current administration. Edelman is a familiar voice to those of us in the tri-state area because his commercials air daily along with his radio and television shows. Edelman Financial Services provides planning and investment management to more than 23,000 clients and has more than $12 billion in assets under its management. As Edelman says, “Unlike members of past generations who were able to rely on their employers or the government to provide financial security in retirement, your success will be determined almost entirely by you.”

For those in management positions, Robert Bruce Shaw has authored Leadership Blindspots subtitled “How successful leaders identify and overcome weaknesses that matter” ($35.00, Jossey-Bass). The book is filled with detailed case studies that examine how blindspots operate and cites examples from firms like Apple, Amazon, Hewlet-Packard and others. If not corrected they can lead to devastating mistakes. These are often common problems that result from factors such as over-confidence in one’s own judgment, the complexity of large organizations, and being surrounded by yes-men. Changes in the marketplace seem to be happening at an accelerated pace these days, so this book can help anyone at the top or on his way there.

People, People, People

What we most enjoying reading about is other people. Their real lives often tell us things about ourselves or provide insights into the values we share (or not) with them.

For anyone who cannot get enough of the late singer, Michael Jackson, they are in for a treat. Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days ($26.00, Weinstein Books) is by the two men who spent 24/7 with him throughout his final years, protecting him and ensuring he had the privacy he desperately wanted. Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard have written their story with Tanner Colby. Jackson’s final years were spent moving from city to city, living with his three children in virtual seclusion. Whitfield, a former cop and veteran of the security profession was joined by a brash rookie, Beard, both of whom were single fathers as well. This is likely the only first-person account of those final years you are likely to need or read if you are a fan. Jackson was struggling to live a normal life under extraordinary circumstances after having been driven from his Neverland sanctuary by the tabloid media. Imagine having crowds screaming your name every time word got out wherever he was. Hardly a normal life and, at the end, not a particularly happy one.

I was looking forward to reading The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames by Pulitzer Prize winner, Kai Bird ($26.00, Crown Publishers) who had written some very well regarded biographies of men like J. Robert Oppenheimer. Ames was a CIA officer who was killed in April 1983 when our embassy there was bombed by Islamic terrorists. Bird had known Ames as an older neighbor while he a teenager living in Saudi Arabia with his family. As a secret agent Ames job was to befriend those who could provide useful information for the agency and, while the CIA never responded to his requests, more than forty retired CIA and Mossad officers shared their memories of Ames. He was universally liked by all who worked with him. As for his Arab contacts, it helped that he spoke their language fluently and Ali Hassan Salameh, Yasir Arafat’s intelligence chief, enjoyed a clandestine relationship with him that became the seed of the Oslo peace process. For those following events in the Middle East the biography has value, but the portrait of Ames is so dominated by the author’s admiration that it fairly rapidly become rather cloying to read. That is a personal reaction and others might well disagree.

Americans understandably became weary of the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed in the wake of 9/11. On that day, however, two Naval Academy roommates vowed to defend America and four weeks after Navy SEALs had killed Osama bin Laden, President Obama, on the Memorial Day that followed the event, was in Arlington National Cemetery to honor the nation’s fallen where Travis Manion, a fallen U.S. Marine, and Brendan Looney, a fallen U.S. Navy SEAL, killed three years apart, lay buried. Their story is told in Brothers Forever by Tom Sileo and Col. Tom Manion, Travis’s father ($16.95, Da Capo Press) It is the story of their bond and ultimate sacrifice for the nation. It is the story of real people engaged in real combat and seeing their comrades die. Sileo is a nationally syndicated columnist and editor of The Unknown Soldiers blog and, as noted, Col. Manion was Travis’s father and retired Marine. Together, the two men defined a small segment of their generation’s sacrifice who put their nation’s defense first and foremost.

Jerry Sandusky, arrested and found guilty of child molestation, has ruined the name Sandusky for others who share it. One of them is Gerry Sandusky, the sports director at WBAL in Baltimore and the radio play-by-play voice of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. His book is a tribute to his father, Jon Sandusky, a former player for the Browns and Green Bay Packers who went onto become head coach of the Baltimore Colts, as well as assistant coach under legendary Don Shula at the Miami Dolphins. Jon’s life was about family and football, so it is not surprising that his son chose a career path with the game. Forgotten Sundays: A Son’s Story of Life, Loss, and Love from the Sidelines of the NFL ($25.00, Running Press) will please anyone who loves football and, in particular, was a fan of the teams with which Sandusky was associated. Gerry grow up spending his summers observing his father in NFL training camps and his Sundays with superstars, Hall of Fame players, and coaches from Johnny United to Dan Marino, Don McCafferty to Tom Landry. He saw the glory days and he watched his father face a losing battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. This is a heartfelt story told with intelligence and humor that explores a father-son relationship and the legacy of values and enthusiasms his dad left him.

We all wonder what it would be like to be caught in in avalanches, shipwrecks, or the wake of tornadoes where life and death hangs in the balance. Alive is a compilation of such stories ($15.99) by Readers Digest editors. We all hope our will to survive will kick in when we need it and the stories provide fascinating examples from a mountain climber who has to crawl out of a crevasse on Mt. McKinley and must drag himself to safety, knowing his partner did not survive. There’s hiker Larry Bishop’s harrowing 48 hours clinging to the side of a mountain waiting to be rescued. There are two women who were being mauled by a grizzly and had to defy death. It is a reminder that Mother Nature doesn’t much care if you live or die, even if you do! Interesting reading for sure. Center of Gravity by Geva Salerno ($12.95, Levity Press, softcover) is the true account of how a woman changed her entire life in one year and found her personal power. She conducted an experiment in which she gave up dating for a year so she could focus on her transformation and, in the process, make some discoveries that can impact other women who are overworked, divorced, and obsessed with society’s vision of the perfect life. It’s a leap of faith on her part. She tells of dismantling her false life and building a new authentic one. She has since become an advocate for women’s empowerment.

We have a way of turning outlaws like Billy the Kid and the Sundance Kid into American icons and this is particularly true of the Mafia that became the subjects of movies and television series. C. Alexander Hortis has written “the hidden history of how the Mafia captured New York” in The Mob and the City ($24.95, Prometheus Books) and it is a fascinating look at the Sicilian gangs in the 1930s evolved into the Mafia families that gained power as Prohibition became the law and as drugs became widely used, dominating crime through to the 1950s. This is a thorough and authentic history unlike “The Godfather” and countless other books. As such it is filled with surprises, based on primary sources and even secret files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act; as always, the truth is often more interesting than the fiction. The author is an attorney and an authority on the Mafia.

To Your Health

Americans may be the most health conscious people on Earth, despite the obvious fact that many are overweight and enjoy smoking and other things that we are constantly reminded will kill us.

I have been told that meditation is good for one’s mental health and I received Janet Nima Taylor’s Meditation for Non Meditators: Learn to Meditate in Five Minutes ($15.00, available from, softcover). Having spent 20 years as a corporate executive, her passion has been to help people change their behavior to create positive habits. Following her corporate career she became an American Buddhist monk and is now the director of the Temple Buddhist Center in Kansas City and executive director of the Dzogchen Foundation, a national non-profit Buddhist and meditation organization. The thing I liked about this book is that it does not require you to sit on the floor, close your eyes, or do it as a religious exercise. Instead, it is a pragmatic manual on how focusing on your breathing can help lower stress and create a sense of peace and well-being no matter what your religious beliefs may be or whether you even have any. A short way of describing this is that you will learn how to hit the pause button and rest in the present moment. That strikes me as a very good idea and this book is a way to learn to do it.

Since my Mother taught gourmet cooking for three decades I concluded that you are what you eat. That’s why The Power of Food: Enhancing Stem Cell Growth and Decreasing Inflammation by Bonnie Raffel, R.D., ($29.95, Langdon Street Press) caught my eye. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001, the author discovered she was allergic to the drug prescribed to slow the disease’s neurologic deterioration. As a registered dietitian, Raffel search for a way to combat the disease through nutrition and the result is her book that combines original recipes and nutritional advice to help MS patients and anyone seeking a natural, healthier lifestyle. The New Greenmarket Cookbook by Gabrielle Langholtz ($24.99, Da Capo Press, softcover) combines healthy eating with good health as it offers recipes by New York’s top chefs to take advantage of the produce available from farmers markets. It’s one thing to have access to freshly picked vegetables and fruits, and another to know how to take advantage of them with delicious salads and other delightful dishes that include fish, lamb, and other delectables. It helps if you live in New York, but these markets exist in most big cities.

Athlete, Not Food Addict: Wellspring’s Seven Steps to Weight Loss ($15.95, New Horizon Press, softcover by Daniel S. Kirschenbaum, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, shatters widespread beliefs about the addictive nature of food and offers an empowering method for effective weight loss. It is his view that overweight problems are caused by resistant biological forces within us, our culture, and a lack of knowledge about how to manage and overcome these challenges. He wants the reader to be a “weight-controller athlete” and learn how to use their brains to mold their bodies in a healthy direction, just as athlete’s do. One might say it is mind over platter, instead of mind over matter. For women athletes there’s The Pregnant Athlete by Brandi and Steven Dion with Joel Heller, MD, and Perry McIntosh ($17.99, Da Capo Press, softcover). The book says there is no reason that someone used to a high level of physical activity should continue her training through a normal, healthy pregnancy. It charts the changes a woman can expect in her strength, agility, and stamina each month and includes lots of good advice. Brandi is the mother of two, so this book is author-tested.

For Younger Readers

Getting children accustomed to reading books early on is the key to their success later in life. We’re fortunate to have so many books written for the pre-school, early readers, and teens.

Time for Kids is a publisher of some really excellent books for younger readers. They are particularly educational, but distinguished as well by extraordinary use of photos that make every page exciting. Among the latest are Big Book of When ($19.95) that makes history come alive answering questions such as “When did a human first travel in space?” and “When did the Egyptians build the pyramids of Giza?”  There are 801 such questions covering many topics that will interest any younger reader. Time for Kids also has a series, “Book of Why”, smaller, shorter softcover that also pose and answer many questions ($4.99 each) that include “Really Cool People and Places”, “Awesome Animal Kingdom”, “Amazing Sports and Science”, and “Stellar Space.”  Children tend to lose some of the knowledge they learn during the school year so these books, particularly during the summer, increase their knowledge and deepen their need to keep learning.

Aimed at those kids age 3 to 6, Early Birdy Gets the Worm created by Bruce Lansky and illustrated by Bill Bolton ($15.99, Meadowbrook Press) is a book without text so that the story is told entirely by its illustrations. It is the 2014 Gold Winner in Children’s Picture Books from the Mom’s Choice Awards. In effect, the children “read” the pictures of Early Birdy learning how to catch a worm after watching Mother Bird. It is a very funny adventure and a great way to introduce a child to the joy a book can offer. Others in this series include Polar Brrr’s Big Adventure and Monkey See, Monkey Do.  Next step are books with a text.

From Ideals Children’s Books, Nashville, TN, comes a new series, “Shine Bright Kids”, ( the creation of Christy Ziglar, the daughter of famed motivator, Zig Ziglar. A mother of twins and a certified financial planner, she wanted to publish books that will help younger readers develop good money management skills. Must-Have Marvin! ($14.99) will ring a bell for any parent whose child wants to have the latest new things he or she learns about and is, in fact, the second in the series which began in 2013 with Can’t-Wait Willow ($14.99) about a little girl who spends all her time and money on things she doesn’t really want or need. Both are written by Christy Ziglar and are illustrated by Luanne Marten. Both impart valuable lessons from Willow’s need to learn how to delay instant gratification and Marvin’s need to learn that people matter more than things. For early readers, 5 and up, the texts are easy and entertaining, benefitting from the artwork. For parents, they teach good lessons in life in ways that just explaining them might not.

I’m a fan of a series, “When I Grow Up I Want to Be” from Wigu Publishing ( of Laguna Beach, California. I recommend you visit their websites because you are likely to find a title that fits your child’s interest. The latest is devoted to being In the U.S. Navy ($12.95) that features young Noah who dreams of being in the Navy just like his grandfather who is taking him to tour a real aircraft carrier. Noah’s little sister is coming along as well and as they discover how interesting the carrier is with its crew and different decks, the readers will too. For the early readers of this series, doors open up thanks to the useful, accurate information they provide.

Young adults will enjoy Pandemic by Yvonne Ventresca ($`6.95, Sky Pony Press/Skyhorse Publishing), the story of Lilianna Snyder’s sudden change from a model student to a withdrawn pessimist who worries about all kinds of disasters. One arrives in the form of quick-spreading illness that doctors are unable to treat. With her parents away on business, she finds herself on her own when the bird flu pandemic arrives and friends and neighbors begin dying around her. She must find a way to survive the deadly outbreak and, at the same time, deal with her personal demons, the result of a teacher’s sexual assault. If this sounds very grownup, it is. Also for young adults and for those who like a bit of magic in their fiction, there’s Dangerous Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl whose previous book, “Beautiful Creatures” is now a motion picture. This novel is part of a series by them and is a tale of love and magic in which a woman with magical capabilities, Ridley Duchannes, and her wannabe rocker boyfriend, Wesley “Link” Lincoln leave Stonewall Jackson High School and their adolescence behind as they head to New York City, each for their own reasons. Ridley is accustomed to using her powers to control Mortals, but her overconfidence has cost her and now she has debts to settle in the city. Link has dreams to become a rock star and joins a band comprised of “Dark Supernaturals.” It’s hard to describe this novel, but that is not to say it will prove entertaining to younger adult readers.

Novels, Novels, Novels

The flow of new novels into my office reflects the even greater number of novels being published these days by large and small publishers as well as self-published. The best I can do is to select from the many I receive and take notice of them for your consideration.

Dodendal: Valley of Dreams by Jim Holmgren ($14.95, softcover) is a good example of a self-published book. The author has created a fictional future of the United States, one very different from the present where we continue to have faith in our Constitution. By tweaking some current trends, his novel suggests the importance of protecting the freedoms we often take for granted. It is fifty years hence and the action takes place over the course of one fateful weekend during the celebrating the tricentennial of the “former” U.S, one bankrupted after Mideast oil wars in the 2030s and missing four states including California after the Second Mexican-American War. The nation is now run by a corporation that has imposed a totalitarian society. Dissenters tend to disappear. You can learn more at A debut novel by Jeff Critser, Cold Shadows, ($16.95, Dark Matters Press, softcover) has a similar feel to it. It is a techno-thriller that reflects the public’s distrust in government and activities taken outside of any oversight, something in the news as we read of concerns about the National Security Agency. Playing off those concerns, the novel explores themes of smuggling and murder, all committed in the name of an undefined and ill-conceived “greater good.”  When Philip Kurchow, the IT manager for a transportation company in Munich, aware of a smuggling operation in Eastern Europe is murdered, his friend Kip Michelson tries to find out why and how it happened only to find himself ensnared in a dark world of betrayal. A lethal virus, stolen from Russian vaults, is up for sale and Kip is recruited by the FBI to uncover the smuggling. Secretly, the CIA is trying to intercept the technology for clandestine research. Kip finds himself being stalked and must race to expose what is occurring. You won’t put this one down until you’ve read it cover to cover.

Lovers of thriller novels will enjoy The Argentine Triangle ($16.95, Select Books, softcover)  by Allan Topol, the author of “The Russian Endgame” that hit the bestseller lists. Topol has authored nine novels of international intrigue and, in this novel former CIA director Craig Page is enjoying a new, exhilarating life racing cars across Europe. When an old friend goes missing during a covert mission in Argentina, he gets involved. It takes him undercover into the glamorous world of Buenos Aires’ wealthy elite and the plans of two colonels that requires him to implement his experience and skills to expose their plot for a cataclysmic future for South America. This is a classic espionage novel and international thriller with villains and exotic locales. Two Soldiers by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom ($26.99, Quercus) takes you to Stockholm, Sweden where it was originally published and into the life of Jose Pereira, a police officer who heads up the department’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, who must find two ruthless young criminals. It is a look at the dark and dangerous world where gang life is the only place that boys from broken, impoverished families can find acceptance and from which there is no escape. The novel has been called an “unsettling portrait of the gangland cycle of violence, desperation, and hope.” It is all that and a very compelling read as well.

A High Price to Pay is a Madeline Dawkins novel by Cynthia Hamilton ( I enjoyed her last book, “Spouse Trap”, and in this one Madeline’s dual professions as event coordinator and private investigator cross paths during the most lavish affair of her career—a weekend-long fortieth birthday extravaganza for the wife of a famous film director. A simple background check after the disappearance of some family jewels quickly turns into a murder investigation, and before Madeline and Mike can put the pieces together, another body turns up. As the Santa Barbara police and sheriff’s departments search for clues, the Mad Dog P.I.’s use their own methods to untangle the crimes, discovering some unsavory truths behind the glittering fa├žade of their clients. To add to Madeline’s already overflowing plate, the D.A. informs her that Rick Yeoman, one of the men who had abducted her three years earlier, has been prematurely released from prison after cutting a deal with the Feds. Besides fearing reprisals from the man she helped to convict, his parole also triggers the reappearance of soulless Lionel Usherwood, lured out his hideaway by the call of revenge. When Yeoman’s body surfaces in Lake Cachuma, Usherwood moves on to the next target: Madeline.

The Never Never Sisters by L. Alison Heller ($15.00, New American Library, softcover) is a story of a woman who just needs to get away and relax. Paige Reinhardt, a hardworking marriage counselor, is looking forward to reconnecting with his busy husband for a summer in the Hamptons, but a mysterious emergency at work ruins their travel plans and everything begins to unravel. As Paige tries to figure out what is really going on in her own marriage, her sister suddenly returns after twenty years and Paige discovers that she may not know her family as well as she thought as she digs into her husband’s work crisis. She must figure out if it is worth it to find herself at the risk of losing her most precious relationships. This is about the complicated bond between sisters and the secrets kept to protect the ones we love. The author is a divorce lawyer and this brings a special level of insight to the story.

That’s it for June! Be sure to come back in July and, in the meantime, tell your friends, family and coworkers who enjoy reading about