Monday, June 28, 2010

Bookviews - July 2010

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

If you read no other book this year, you must read Killing Wealth, Freeing Wealth: How to Save America’s Economy…and your Own ($24.95, WND Books) by Floyd Brown and Lee Troxler. Together they reveal what has been done and is being done to the nation’s economy by the Obama administration. It can only lead to total collapse if not reversed. They explain the long succession of financial “bubbles” that have come and gone, stripping wealth from investors, and why U.S. taxes will inevitably soon rise to 50% or more of the wealth of those who pay taxes. Some forty percent of the population no longer does and gets a “tax credit” check from the government consisting of other people’s money. This book describes why any sign of “recovery” is a false hope in a society where the government is nationalizing huge pieces of the economy, taking over healthcare, the auto industry, and trying to do the same with banking. The policy of “monetizing the debt” will only lead to a dollar worth about 40 cents. The authors bring excellent credentials to their investigation and do not frame their book terms of the Left versus the Right, Red States versus Blue States, although they do spell out the differences, explaining why many who can leave high tax states for those offering a friendlier place to do business and live. This extraordinary book strips away all the lies the public is told and explains why the politics of hope is not match for the reality of economics, nationally and globally.

Timing is everything and Tim Bowers, the author of Oil: Money, Politics, and Power in the 2lst Century, ($26.95, Grand Central Publishing) has had the good fortune to have his book published just when the eyes of the world are on the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Bower has thoroughly researched the history of the oil industry over the past thirty years. From $7 a barrel twenty years ago to $148 in 2008, the price of this global commodity has moved up and down dramatically as oil companies spend billions in a search for oil in places where it is still permitted to be extracted. In the late 1970s a windfall tax on oil companies caused them to stop exploring for domestic sources and thereafter restrictions on drilling in Alaska’s ANWR and on 85% of our coastal offshore areas drove them to drill in ever deeper waters. Bowers provides a narrative of the conflicting forces of politics, economics, and advances in technology for a dramatic story of oil, the lifeblood of industrialized nations and all other nations around the world. Best of all, he brings the many people, the movers and shakers in the world of oil, to life. We see them as the world’s greatest risk-takers as they seek the global commodity that drives modern civilization.

A professor of mine once said that no nation is more than two weeks away from revolution if it cannot feed its people. I really looked forward to reading Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations, ($27.00, Free Press), but I discovered within its first pages that its authors, Evan D.G. Fraser and Andrew Rimas, have a dim view of everything modern, whether it is a dam to provide irrigation, fertilizers that yield more crops or modern cities, transportation, et cetera. As far as they’re concerned, farming simply “depletes” the land. The fact that modern agronomy feeds six billion people is an affront to their delicate environmental senses. The authors rely on the debunked theories about global warming, now called climate change. The book is less history, than polemic. From ancient Egypt, to the Roman Empire, to the Mayans, and down through history to modern times, the role that food plays in peace and war is worth examining, but this book is more propaganda than a useful examination of the role of food throughout history. By contrast, Alice Albinia’s Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River ($16.95, W.W. Norton, softcover) won the Somerset Maugham Award among others for its story of one of the longest rivers in the world, the Indus that rises in Tibet, flows west across India, and south through Pakistan. The rivers of the world shaped mankind’s history and this is true of the Indus. The author follows the river upstream and back in time on a voyage of two thousand miles of geography and five millennia of history. Anyone who loves history will thoroughly enjoy this book and, at the same time, gain insights regarding today’s headlines as well.

At a time when many Americans are despairing for our future, Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century by Michael Hiltzik, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, revisits a feat of engineering that shaped, not only the American West, but the American century. It was done in the heart of the Great Depression when spirits were at an all-time low in the 1930s. The construction of the Hoover Dam was a monumental achievement that required new equipment and construction methods that were applied in a very inhospitable environment. Hiltzik argues that it wreaked havoc on the geology of the West, claiming it has caused earthquakes and droughts, at the same time it created the electricity, the power, essential to the development of Western states. This is, in fact, not a very positive view of an extraordinary and transformative event that contributed to the growth of the agricultural and industrial economy.

I am very fond of what I call “useful books” and two recent arrivals fit that description. Real Man’s Guide to Fixin’ Stuff: How to Repair Anything You Need to Know How to Fix by Nick Harper ($12.99, Source Books, softcover) is one of those titles that tell you everything you need to know. The book is, in fact, filled with brief descriptions and accompanying illustrations that will make any man (and woman) look brilliant in the course of fixing dead remote controls, weak vacuum cleaners, sharpen knives and scissors, and dozens of commonplace problems. Rachel Singer Gordon has written Point, Click, and Save: Mashup Mom’s Guide to Saving and Making Money Online ($19.95, Cyber Age Books, softcover). Gordon, a work-at-home mom has gathered a following for her blog, MashupMom.com. “As a former librarian, I’m all about sharing information” says Gordon and the information she shares is particularly useful in tough economic times. The book is devoted to Internet-based money-saving tips for all types of products for everyday life, from groceries to gas and much more. It’s also about making money on the Web and, from cover to cover, filled with some great advice.

Some books don’t fit neatly into any category. Some are just fun like Overrated: The 50 Most Overhyped Things in History by Mark Juddery ($13.95, Perigee, an imprint of Berkley Publishing Group, softcover) wherein the author picks apart everything from princesses to Superman, bra burning to the Grand Canyon. An amusing cynic, the author devotes short chapters to the brontosaurus as the most overrated animal, “Titanic” as an overrated film, Star Trek as the most overrated television show, and the Oscar as the most overrated honor. It’s just pure malicious fun by an Australian-based writer. Another book promises to banish boredom forever. The Telephone Doodle Book ($13.00, Gotham Books, softcover) provides more than 150 doodles to complete while you are on hold on the telephone. Illustrator Andrew Pinder provides doodles to help unleash your inner cartoonist when you fill in the missing parts. They’re funny and they’re fun.

It has taken three decades to finally burst the “science” behind “global warming” to reveal it as one of the greatest hoaxes in history. Two books explain the real science and explore the politics that have distorted entire economies in the effort to reduce carbon dioxide as its “cause.” My friend, Robert M, Carter has authored Climate: The Counter Consensus and Christian Gerondue has written Climate: The Grand Delusion: A Study of the Climatic, Economic, and Political Unrealities, both published as part of the “independent minds” series of Stacey International, London. Carter is an internationally known paleoclimatologist, a man who has studied climate cycles dating back thousands of years. Like others who disputed “global warming”, the assertion that the Earth was overheating, he was labeled a “denier” and “skeptic.” Well, today thousands of scientists are openly skeptical and recent revelations about how the data was “cooked” by a handful of renegade scientists has begun to undue the damage down by a hoax that has cost nations billions of dollars. Gerondeau is a major figure in French science and engineering circles. These two books deserve as wide an audience of readers as possible and are particularly timely as the current U.S. administration tries to steer the economy away from traditional sources of energy to a fictional wonderland of “green” alternatives while still insisting that global warming is real.

Serendipitously, Stanton T. Friedman and Kathleen Marson have just had their book, Science Was Wrong ($16.99, New Page Books, softcover) published. It is about scientific theories that were initially disparaged, but later proved true. There were, for example, many scientists who declared that heavier-than-air machines could never fly, but the Wright brothers were right and they were wrong. Germ theory was first advanced in ancient Sanskrit texts thousands of years, but was not widely accepted until late in the 19th century. Space travel was yet another theory that was called by some “utter bilge.” This book is a fascinating collection of stories about the pioneers who created or thought up “impossible” cures, theories, and inventions that were widely regarded at the time as untenable. Ultimately, science that is proven true or false cannot be denied.

Another instance where the science is wrong is the frequently stated view that wind power can replace coal, natural gas, and nuclear power to provide electricity. Combined with solar power, it represents barely three percent of the electricity generated in the United States. Charles S. Opaleck, a professional engineer, has written Wind Power Fraud: Why Wind Won’t Work ($19.70, www.lulu.com, softcover) and the title says it all. If you want to learn the specifics of why, this book examines the realities behind the claims. This is not light reading, but rather a documented review of the specifics involved. Simply stated, the wind does not blow all the time. The turbines must be hooked to an external source of power to keep the blades turning to avoid malfunctions. There has to be a reliable backup in the form of tradition power generation sources when the fields of turbines fail to generate even a minimum required. Need it be said this applies to solar power as well?

Cookbooks, Mostly Vegan

Years ago my Mother wrote a book filled with recipes from the earliest days of American history so naturally I found Andrew Beahrs book of interest. Twain’s Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens ($25.95, Penguin Press) will delight fellow “foodies” that uses Twain’s life and extensive travels as the platform for an exploration of what our ancestors ate before the age of fast-food, refrigeration, and other modern advances. Early Americans could make a meal of possum and enjoyed oysters and Philadelphia terrapin; once abundant wildlife could be found on the dinner plates of Americans. A world traveler, Twain once paused during a tour of Europe to compose a fantasy menu of American dishes he missed the most. For anyone who loves both history and food, this is the perfect combination of topics.

I am not a vegetarian or vegan, having grown up in a home where Mother, a teacher of haute cuisine, served up fabulous dinners, but she did believe in the importance of vegetables in one’s diet. And every nation has their own approach to preparing them. Terry Hope Romero has written, Viva Vegan! ($18.95, Da Capo Press, softcover). She has collected 200 authentic recipes for Latin food lovers that will make you drool as you read how diverse herbs, spices, vegetable, legumes and fruits come together as enchiladas, green tomatillo sauce. taquitos, and flans. The book is divided into two sections, both of which are accessible to professional chefs as well as beginners. It’s all here, from how to peel a mango to where to purchase parchment paper for tomales. It includes sixteen pages of full-color photos as well. Or perhaps you prefer the tastes of Asia? The 30-Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray ($18.95, Da Capo Press, softcover) serves up 150 “Asian inspired” recipes that adapt some of the tastiest food on Earth to the vegan lifestyle.

Dr. Neal Barnard, MD, and Chef Robyn Webb weigh in with The Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook ($18.95, Da Capo Press, softcover) offering 125 recipes intended to “jump-start weight loss” and provide other health benefits. They note that recent studies indicate that a healthy vegan lifestyle can effectively control type 2 diabetes. There’s plenty of diversity among the recipes that include green chile and oyster mushroom crepes, sweet potato soup, and even snacks. All recipes are low in fat. If you’re new to the vegan lifestyle, this book will appear intriguing, but it provides the usual fare. I cannot speak for the effectiveness of the regimen this book offers, but the book has a tone that suggests vegetarians regard themselves as superior to the rest of us.

Marriage and Parenting

Reviewers often get books well in advance of their release date and this is the case of When You Have Outgrown Him: Whether to Stay or Go by Dr. Kimberly Ventus-Darks ($14.95, New Horizon Press, softcover) that will be available in October. It is a truism that some marriages fail because one partner has matured or changed in ways that put strains on the marriage. In this book, the issue of women that outgrow their mate is directly addressed and advice is offered on whether to stay or to go. The author has academic credentials and addresses the way today’s wives often have jobs in addition to families. This requires a husband who will pitch in around the house and devote time to the kids while the wife is working on her career. A multitude of problems arise even if the husband is a loving father, good family man, and a hard worker. Even so, many wives say they are seeking more maturity and other forms of support. In fairness, men often encounter comparable problems in their wives. Little wonder that half of all marriages end in divorce. Any woman wrestling with this problem would do herself a favor by reading this book. Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and Renewal by Vikki Stark ($16.95, Green Light Press) offers advice to women who come home to discover that her husband leaves without having been told that he has been unhappy in the marriage. Not infrequently he moves in with a girlfriend, but whatever the circumstances, the experience is devastating. The author has twenty-five years experience as a family therapist and educator so she has seen this enough to regard it as familiar situation. She lays out the elements of it as the wife tries to understand how her husband has become an angry stranger, how to transition using seven steps to move ahead, while getting relief from feelings of hurt and anger by coping effectively. She writes from experience because her husband left her. She began the “Sudden Wife Abandonment Project” in which more than four hundred women shared their stories and strategies,

Great Parents, Lousy Lovers by Dr. Gary Smalley and Ted Cunningham ($17.99, Tyndale House Publishers, softcover) is another one of those books that will not be officially released until September. Dr. Smalley has authored sixteen books on family relationships and Cunningham is a pastor who co-authored three of them with him. Both have been guests on leading radio and television shows, sharing their expertise. Filled with wit, wisdom, and practical advice, the good news is that partners can be great parents and still maintain a healthy love life to ensure a happy marriage which they regard as essential to good parenting. Readers will learn how to maintain a proper balance and to avoid or deal with the frustration and fatigue that the demands of parenting often impose. If this describes your marriage, put this book on your reading list. Momology: A Mom’s Guide to Shaping Great Kids by Shelly Radic ($13.99, Revell, softcover) is the result of the author’s research into successful parenting, identifying four areas that most significantly influence a woman’s mothering success. These include self-knowledge and acceptance, understanding the limits on her time and energy, knowing who she can count on for support, and, having a strong spiritual life. Being a mom is a constantly changing learning experience as children grow, but those early years can be very demanding and this book provides lots of good advice.

Biographies, Memoirs, and Stories

Three books from the Free Press provide great reading and a look at the people who built this nation. Abigail Adams by Woody Holton ($ 18.00, Free Press, softcover) was the wife of the second president of the United States and the mother of the sixth. She is rightly remembered as one of the most outstanding and influential women of the Founding Era. She led the fight for equality and she demonstrated extraordinary strength, permitting John Adams to lead the fight for independence and shape the new nation. This is a first class biography that examines how she coped with unexpected pregnancies and untimely deaths. Three of her five children died before she did. Their marriage was one of enduring love, tested by the most dramatic times in the nation’s history and what emerges is two brilliant people who often disagreed on a host of issues, but throughout it all, she managed the family farm, raised her children while often alone for long stretches of time. In many ways, she was a financial wizard. Anyone who loves history will enjoy this excellent biography. You will find a most unusual memoir, My River Chronicles: Rediscovering the Work that Built America by Jessica DuLong ($16.00, Free Press, softcover), the story of how this Stanford University graduate and former dot-com content provider got laid off her job joined the restoration team on a retired New York City fireboat and spent ten years learning the complex machinery that had been built decades before the advent of computers. She not only helped bring the boat back to life and discovered a passion for hands-on work, but became one of a very few women fireboat engineers. The story takes place on the Hudson River, the birthplace of American industry. This is a tribute to a nation of innovators and doers, craftspeople who make things, and of workers who toil, sweat, and labor with their hands. In The Wisdom of the Last Farmer: Harvesting Legacies from the Land, David Mas Masumoto ($14.00, Free Press, softcover) connects the reader with farm life in a part memoir, part inspirational book about reconnecting with the land. He came from a family that had labored in the fields for decades and he relates the story of what it took to grow flavorful heirloom peaches. “Most organic farmers don’t do what we do for the money,” says Masumoto. When his father suffered a stroke, the author nursed him back to health, having learned his wisdom, and acquiring his own as well. It is a transformative story of revitalization and redemption.

Hemingway: So Far from Simple by Donald F. Bouchard ($19.00, Prometheus Books, softcover) combines literary criticism with a look at the life of one of the most honored novelists of the modern era. Hemingway earned both a Nobel Prize for literature and the Pulitzer Prize. His writings were subject, nonetheless, to much criticism for his machismo and for topics that included warfare, bullfighting, and hunting. Bouchard takes one through his long career and Hemingway’s self-conscious focus on his career as a writer and the ways he addressed critical responses to his works. A Portrait of Hemingway as a Young Man: Romping Through Paris in the 1920s is by a fellow member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Jerome Tuccille ($13.95, Blue Mustang Press, softcover), the author of more than twenty-five books including bestselling biographies of Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch, and the Hunts of Texas. A vice president at T. Rowe Price, a financial services firm, he is surely a man of prodigious energy as well as talent. This slim volume is a partly satirical and partly serious homage to Hemingway and those men and women who emerged as literary giants of their era. Hemingway and his first wife lived in Paris from 1922 to 1930 where they met and associated with other expatriate writers that included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and John Dos Passos. Suffice to say, he cut a bold figure at six foot tall, the very image of a writer and one that both men and women wanted to meet. It’s a short read, but a totally engaging one.

He is the most listened-to radio talk show host in America, so it is no surprise that he is finally the subject of an unauthorized biography. Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One by Zev Chafets ($25.95, Sentinel, an imprint of Penguin Group) will please those who enjoy his unique style and, of course, his political point of view. Behind the bluster is a very sharp mind, largely self-educated, with role models that include Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley, and even Muhammed Ali. It is a rollicking story that begins in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He now influences national policy in many ways and he has been doing it to growing success for more than two decades. He is utterly fearless. His shocking comment in January 2009 regarding Barack Obama, “I hope he fails”, is proving to be prescient and influences the Republican agenda, setting the stage for what well may be a major victory in the 2010 midterm elections. Simply stated, love him or hate him, this is a very entertaining biography.

One of my favorite comedians was the late George Carlin who passed away in 2008. He was far more than just a funny man. He was a philosopher and a debunker of bombast no matter the source. He told us the truth about ourselves and the world, and he made us laugh in the process. Seven Dirty Words: The Life and Crimes of George Carlin by James Sullivan ($26.00, Da Capo Press) chronicles a career that covered fifty years of humor based on language, politics, and American culture. In doing so he provides an inside look at Carlin’s unique views as well as his personal battles with addiction, his scrapes with the law, and comedic routines that pulled back the curtain of political correctness to make audiences confront life as he saw it. No topic was off limits. There was a reason for his success and it was his brilliant mind, his courage, and his bountiful talent. If you love show business, there’s Hollywood Stories by Stephen Schochet ($24.95, Hollywood Stories Publishing) that is filled with stories about those stars that have become household names such as John Wayne, Charlie Chaplin, Shirley Temple, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Errol Flynn and the animator, Walt Disney. It’s a blend of biography, history, and the lore of Hollywood, full of humorous tales that often have an unexpected ending. Schochet is a professional tour guide with two decades of research that ensure he is one of the best storytellers. The book is great fun to read on many levels.

I confess I had never heard of Albert Ellis, a psychologist who created Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Ellis was in practice for over sixty years, counseling families, addressing issues of marriage and sex. He wrote more than 75 books! Some of them were bestsellers such as “The Myth of Self-Esteem”. If psychology interests you, you will find All Out! An Autobiography by Ellis ($30.98, Prometheus Books) of interest, not just for his contributions to the field, but for its candor as he discusses a life well-lived, but filled as well with the same problems as those who came to him for help. His widow wrote the final chapter. Ellis was a preeminent thinker as his many books suggest, but he like everyone else was also fallible, a principle that informed his work.

If you would prefer to listen to people’s lives, Hachette Audio has three interesting memoirs to offer. They include Queen Latifah’s Put on Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom ($22.98, 4 CDs), Jerry Weintraub’s When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead ($29.98, 8 CDs), and Christopher Hitchen’s Hitch 22: A Memoir ($34.98, 15 CDs). Queen Latifah is a Grammy-winning entertainer as well as an Oscar-nominated actress. It wasn’t an easy, straight path, but she summoned her inner strengths and says you can too. Weintraub is a Hollywood producer, a deal maker and friends to politicians and stars. He is known for producing “The Karate Kid” and “Ocean’s Eleven” among other hits. Hitchens is a public intellectual. A contributing editor to Vanity Fair and a visiting professor of liberal studies at the New School, he has authored many books. He is never boring.

War and Rumors of War

As speculation rises as to when the Israelis perforce must bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities or anywhere else where the usual belligerency manifests itself, war remains a favorite topic for authors and nowhere is this more active than Zenith Press of the Quayside Publishing Group.

Here are some of their recent books that chronicle World War II. While Americans resisted being drawn into another European conflict, the Battle of Britain raged on. Stephen Bungay has written a large format book, filled with photos, The Most Dangerous Enemy; An Illustrated History of the Battle of Britain ($40.00) that brings to life the story of the Spitfires, Merlins and Hurricanes that fought to protect Britain’s skies and cities. The success of the RAF was critical to saving England from an invasion by Germany. Michael Green and James D. Brown have authored War Stories of the Battle of the Bulge ($28.00). The battle was triggered by a major German counteroffensive operation against the American First Army in the early morning hours of December 16, 1944. It became the greatest single extended land battle of World War Two. It centered on the Ardennes Forest of Belgium and Luxembourg, ending in January 28, 1945. The Allies lost nearly 80,000 men and all but 1,400 were Americans. The Germans are estimated to have lost between 90,000 and 120,000. Hell Hawks by Robert F. Dorr and Thomas D. Jones ($17.99) is subtitled, “The untold story of the American fliers who savaged Hitler’s Wehrmacht. “ Most of the group of young pilots was barely twenty years old! Fresh from flight training, they risked everything in their P-47 Thunderbolts and it is fair to say that we have never seen anything like them since. They flew in close support of Eisenhower’s ground forces as they advanced across France and into Germany. They took a tremendous toll on Hitler’s air force as well as laying waste to enemy gun emplacements. By the time the war ended on May 8, 1945, they had lost 69 pilots in the fight over the course of 1,241 combat missions.

Switching to the war in the Pacific, Fortress Rabaul: The Battle for the Southwest Pacific January 1942-April 1943 is Bruce Gamble’s account ($28.00) relates how when Japan invaded the Southwest Pacific island of New Britain in early 1942, Rabaul on the northern tip of the island was quickly developed into a major military complex. It became a major operations center for a hundred thousand soldiers and navel personnel. By mid-1943 its air strength was six hundred planes. American and Australian air forces attacked from January 1942 until the end of the war in August 1945. It is a compelling story of military strategy and might, a little told or understood chapter in the history of World War Two. The war was also fought beneath the waves of the Pacific. Tales from a Tin Can: The USS Dale from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay tells the story of the submariners who manned the ship. Michael Keith Olson tells the story of this ship that remarkably received little or no damage for the entire length of the war despite fighting from beginning to end. This is the story of the men and their mission. It is quite remarkable. Finally, from Zenith, is Outnumbered by Cormac O’Brien ($19.99, softcover) is a look back throughout history at some of the most surprising battlefield upsets from Alexander the Great to Robert E. Lee to World War Two; fourteen momentous occasions when a smaller, ostensibly weaker force prevailed in epochal confrontations. Those who enjoy military history will definitely enjoy this book.

Such Men as These by David Sears ($25.00, Da Capo Press) tells the story of the Navy pilots who flew the deadly skies over Korea when, in 1950, the North Koreans invaded South Korea with the intention of annexing that republic to the communist regime. As exhausted as America was, thousands of men set out to fight a war that has received very little attention in our history books. A heroic three-year struggle ensued that ended in a stalemate that exists to this day. The recent sinking of a South Korean military vessel is a reminder that a state of war still exists on the Korean peninsula. Sears brings the story of the Navy pilots to life. There’s the audio book, War, by Sebastian Junger ($29.00, Hachette Audio, 7 CDs) that follows a single platoon based on a remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan. Since this conflict is still in the news, this is a way to gain insight into the truths of combat there, complete with the fear, the honor, and the trust among the men who fought it, Junger is best known for his bestseller A Perfect Storm and this book is a heartfelt and acutely observed depiction of war as young men have lived it for millennia.

The end of World War Two in 1945 set in motion the most extraordinary succession of events and trends for America in its entire history. W.H. Brands, a historian who has taught at Texas A&M University for sixteen years and authored several excellent books, has set his skills and talents to examine American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 ($32.95, The Penguin Press). I promise, if you read this book, you will gain an insight, not only to where we’ve come since then, but to understand what has shaped our present times. Those of us who lived those years look back nostalgically at the nation’s achievements and success and long for a return to the values that underwrote them. The men and women, the domestic and international struggles, are all set forth in a brilliant narrative.

Kid’s Stuff and Teen Reading

New Horizon Press, like many publishing houses, thinks that books for the early reader should be educational as opposed to merely entertaining. Two examples are Cassandra Gets Her Smile Back: Teaching Children to Care for their Teeth and Harry the Happy Caterpillar Grows: Helping Children Adjust to Change. Both retail for $8.95 and are nicely illustrated. The Cassandra book is by a dentist and the Harry book is by a psychotherapist. If you have a child who fears going to the dentist (like me!) or one who has problems adapting to new situation, either of these books could, no doubt, prove helpful. I suspect, however, that even the youngest child can spot the message a mile away.

Teens apparently are a real market for books. I suppose the popularity of the Harry Potter series is proof of that. Publishers continue to publish books intended for this age group, from pre-teens as early as age ten and up to perhaps fifteen or so. After that, they are beginning to read at an adult level. My Life with the Lincolns by Gayle Brandeis ($16.99m Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group) is an excellent example of combining learning with an enjoyable reading experience. It is a laugh-out-loud story of Mina Edelman, a girl with a passion for all things Abraham Lincoln. She is also a hypochondriac and believer in reincarnation. She is convinced her father is the reincarnation of Lincoln and has three months in which to save him from Lincoln’s fate! After her dad begins taking her to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak Mina proceeds toward through the often puzzling experience of growing up during the era of the Civil Rights movement.

The 1930s is the backdrop for Orphan! This was, of course, the period of the Great Depression. Men were hopping freight trains and crisscrossing the nation in search of work. They were called hobos. In this book by John Weber, aimed at those age 14 and up, he tells the story of Homer, a boy who has always expected to take over his family’s farm in rural Iowa, but whose life is turned upside down when his father shocks him with the news that he was adopted and his biological family lives in New York City. Feeling betrayed he decides to grab a train going east and his best friend, Jamie, decides to go along to keep Homer out of trouble. Together they learn about the rules of hobo life. There is much more to this story that I will not reveal, but it is a page-turner and one I think a young reader will enjoy.

Kids love stories about wizards, vampires, and the invaders from outer space. Nocturne by L.D. Harkrader ($9.95, Wizards of the Coast Books for Young Readers) is aimed at those ages 8 to 12 and is a companion to “A Practical Guide to Vampires”, featuring a strong-willed heroine with a talent for magic. If you have a youngster who’s into this genre, pick up Sucks to be Me and Still Sucks to be Me by Kimberly Pauley, the “true confessions” of Mina Hamilton Smith, a teen vampire. Both of the latter have already gained a large following. Parents can check out these and other books at www.DungeonsandDragons.com. Lovers of fantasy can visit www.wizards.com.

Novels, Novels, Novels

Summer is the traditional time for reading a good novel, but in truth any time is a good time.

Silencing Sam by Julie Kramer ($23.99, Atria Books) is a timely and provocative new thriller, just out in June. Using her experience as an award-winning investigative journalist, the author explores the fine line between news and gossip in this era of celebrity journalism. In the novel, TV reporter Riley Spartz is investigating the murder of a newspaper columnist whose gossip about the famous means that a small army of people have a reason to want him dead, including Riley. There’s even a sub-plot about someone who is blowing up wind turbines. Suffice to say, there’s enough here to keep the reader going to the very end. For those with a taste for suspense, Tana French knows how to dish it out. With two novels under her belt, she has made a name for herself writing psychological mysteries. She’s back with Faithful Place ($25.95, Viking). Set against the background of the “troubles” in Ireland, this novel explores the youth of Frank Mackey who, in 1985, is nineteen and growing up poor in Dublin’s inner city. He is in love with his neighbor on Faithful Place, Rosie Daly. Together they hatch a plan to escape to London and put behind them their damaged, dysfunctional families. Except that Rosie does not show up. Twenty-two years later, Frank, now an undercover detective, gets a call from one of his sisters. A suitcase belonging to Rosie has been found and triggers a search to determine what fate befell her.

The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay ($25.95, Viking) has a back story to it insofar as the author, Beverly Jensen, died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 49 and never saw her novel published. Her husband Jay ensured that it would be published and her powerful and vivid writing talent spoke for itself. The novel opens in 1916 in a remote village in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. It is where Avis and Idella Hillock’s childhood is filled with trials, adventures, and loss. Their stories unfold as Idella settles down in Maine, has a family and a philandering husband. Avis leads a devil-may-care life of serial romantic disasters, but the devotion between the two sisters never wavers. What is Left: The Daughter by Howard Norman ($25.00, Houghton Mifflin) will continue to cement his reputation as an excellent storyteller. Originating in World War Two when the parents of 17-year-old Wyatt Hillyer both commit suicide by jumping off two different bridges, the result of an infidelity, Wyatt is suddenly orphaned and must move to a small town to live with his uncle, aunt, and ravishing cousin, Tilda. As the story unfolds, one is drawn into its multi-layered events and characters. The author is a three-time winner of National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and a Lannan Award for fiction. When you read this novel, you will know why. In his new book, Through A Crack, Martin Lubran examines this real life disaster through a fictional dramatization ($19.99, plus $3.99 shipping, Narbul Publishing, Las Vegas). While the names of the real individuals involved have been changed, this fictional account still captures all of the drama and excitement of the real disaster. Set as a mystery novel, private investigator Shawn uncovers pieces of the puzzle as plot twists and turns provide the reader with a thrilling fast paced adventure. Trying to figure out the next development will prove challenging so be prepared to just keep reading. Prepare for a wild ride.

With all eyes on the oil company, BP, Andie Ryan’s novel of corporate intrigue, Shakedown, ($15.95, Lenox Road Publishing, softcover) draws on her experience working in financial services. Taking a cue from the Enron scandal, the author spins a story of how an unscrupulous executive, the interim co-president, Marcus Edison of Sledd Payne Corporation, plans to acquire billions in an illegal trading scheme. Crude and power-hungry, he is the opposite of co-president, Tom Hollister. When he sets out to prove that Marcus is engaging in criminal activity, Marcus engages in a no-holds-barred effort to stop him. It is a suspense thriller, but it is right out of the pages of today’s newspapers. It’s a very timely page-turner. Also very timely is The Hornbrook Prophecy by Robert Wickes ($18.95, Crystal Dreams Publishing, a division of Multi-Media Publications, softcover) a political thriller that poses the question, what would happen if the U.S. government suddenly went bankrupt? When an independent U.S. Senator fights an unscrupulous president, a nationwide tax revolt threatens to plunge the nation into chaos. This is the first novel of the author who has written widely on politics and economic issues. It is such a compelling story that it is easy to blur the line between reality and fiction as the suspense drives an intriguing plot. It is officially due out in August.

Three softcover novels are worth a read this summer. Duplicity ($15.00, Atria/Strebor Books, softcover) tells the story of Parrish Clovis, a motion picture mogul who has it all; a luxurious home, fancy cars, and even an Emmy Award-winning wife. Clovis, however, discovers that everyone in his life is hell bent on his destruction and willing to go to great lengths to engineer his downfall. Suddenly he is accused of the brutal rape of his wife. A horrible con game is in motion and Clovis discovers it, along with the fact that a date rape drug was used to “erase” his memory and cause his blackouts. Solving the plot against him will either win him an Oscar or earn him his own funeral.

The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina by M. Padilla ($14.99, Thomas Dunne Books) is a hilarious, insightful debut novel that captures the comforts, and dangers, of friendship with irreverent, edgy humor and a sharp sense of Southern California culture. Focused on Julia Juarez and Ime Benevides, two Mexican-American women from the barrio, they have risen from humble beginnings in the barrio to brisk, career-oriented lives in the San Fernando Valley. Then both women fall for Julia’s new coworker, Ilario. It disrupts their friendship and nearly ruins Julia’s career. She looks to other friends for support and a full range of characters emerge to entertain you to the very last page. Between the Assassinations is by the Man Booker Prize-winning author, Aravind Adiga. This novel has already received many accolades as it introduces readers to the fictional town of Kittur on India’s southwestern coast. It is a chaotic jumble of Untouchables and Brahmins, Muslins and Christians, where there are the inevitable tensions of caste and religion. The story follows a 12-year-old boy named Ziauddin and is a classic story of temptation into wrongdoing. The many characters that swirl around the boy provide a panorama of life in India, filled with humor, sympathy, and unflinching candor.

For those who enjoying listening to a good novel, Hachette Audio has plenty to offer this summer. Among its heavy hitters are Nelson Demille with The Lion, abridged and unabridged at $29.98/8 CDs and $39.98/14 CDs. Published in January 2000, it was another huge bestseller that looked at the world of international terrorism. Scott Turow’s The Laws of Our Fathers is now available, unabridged at $29.98 on 21 CDs, along with Turow’s Pleading Guilty at $29.98 on 11 CDs. Both of course explore the world of the law and courts. Robert Ludlum’s iconic hero returns in The Bourne Objective, a new Jason Bourne novel by Eric Van Lustbader. Its abridged version is $29.98 on 5 CDs and unabridged, it is $49.98 on12 CDs. Suspense is served up by James Patterson in Private ($34.98/6 CDs) as a private investigator who deals with a case involving a huge gambling scandal and an unsolved murder of 13 teenage girls. For those in search of some stimulating summer listening, there’s Elin Hilderbrand’s The Island ($34.98, 13 CDs), Joshilyn Jackson’s Backseat Saints ($34.98, 11 CDs). Both feature women encountering and dealing with some real challenges.

That’s it for July! Whew! The year is flying by and, happily, it is filled with wonderful fiction and non-fiction books. So, too, is August, so make a note to return next month and, in the meantime, please do tell all your friends, family and coworkers who love to read about Bookviews. There’s no other literary blog like Bookviews!

4 comments:

  1. Thanks, Alan! Some great stuff here. Saw a couple to put on my list.

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