Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bookviews - February 2011

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

Have you ever wondered why we have all lived through two decades of talk about global warming only to learn that it was a complete fiction? That the science behind it was bogus? And then wondered why the federal government became so involved in this hoax that it wasted $50 billion on “research” to support it and is presently engaged in schemes involving millions more for “alternative” energy such as wind and solar power? Or electric cars? The answers can be found in Climate Coup: Global Warming’s Invasion of Our Government and Our lives ($24.95, Cato Institute) will come off the presses official in April, but I suggest that you put in your order now if you want to learn the extraordinary role the federal government has played in misleading Americans to believe a hoax discredited in 2009 by the release of thousands of emails between the handful of its perpetrators on behalf of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Edited by Patrick J. Michaels, it reveals how corrosive this massive hoax, international in scope, corrupted the U.S. government and endangered our lives. It continues to do so to this day.

The news is filled with coverage of Iran as well it should be given the threat of a prison nation under the control of fanatical ayatollahs, but there is much more to know and William R. Polk has written Understanding Iran ($17.00, Palgrave Macmillan, softcover), subtitled “Everything you need to know, from Persia to the Islamic Republic, from Cyrus to Ahmadinejad.” It is a very comprehensive examination of Iran’s history and the role it played in the rise of civilization. The author was a professor of history at the University of Chicago and established the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He has been active as an advisor to the Kennedy and LBJ administrations. Anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the history and modern events in Iran will find this book an excellent education on the subject. An older generation recalls the perils of the Cold War with the then-Soviet Union. Communism was understood to be a despotism, but a younger generation may not grasp this central fact and an entertaining and informative book about life under communism provides vivid insights. Slavenka Drakulic has authored a group of fables in A Guided Tour Through the Museum of Communism ($14.00, Penguin Books, softcover) in some ways reflects George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, a story in which animals represent the humans living with despotism. In this book, a mouse, a parrot, a bear, a cat, a mole, a pig, a dog and a raven tell their stories of life in the Balkins under communist rule. I would recommend it to younger readers in particular, but it works just as well for older ones. Most of the world’s inhabitants life in prison nations and we need to remind and inform ourselves what that truly means.

For a spotlight on science, three new books from Prometheus Books will provide some interesting reading. They are The Genesis of Science: The Story of Greek Imagination by Stephen Bertman ($27.00) who notes that, while historians often look to ancient Greece as the wellspring of Western civilization, perhaps the most significant achievement, other than democracy, was the early development of the sciences. The names of many of science’s branches have their roots in Greek words that first defined these disciplines. This is an excellent history. Science in America was of widespread interest to many of the Founding Fathers and, along with Franklin, one of the greatest, most inquiring minds was that of Thomas Jefferson. In A Professor, a President and a Meteor: The Birth of American Science, Cathryn J. Prince tells the story of a meteor crash in 1807 sparked the interest of a young chemistry professor at Yale College. His rigorous investigation of the event started a chain of events that lifted American science to international importance, unfortunately pitting him against then President Jefferson who took issue with it. It’s a lively story worth reading. Lastly, there’s The Wonder of Genetics: The Creepy, the Curious, and the Commonplace by Richard V. Knowles ($25.00) that provides a layman’s introduction and explanation of genetics, discussing its importance and scope. The author is an acclaimed geneticist who devotes chapter after chapter of a genuinely fascinating topic, discussing topics as diverse as genetically modified crops, cloning, genetic therapy, and how genes are related to many diseases, psychological disturbances, and possibly other behaviors. In short, you are your DNA! Finally, Quantum Physics for Poets by Leon M. Lederman, a Nobel Laureate, and Christopher T. Hill ($28.00) have taken on the job of explaining the heart of contemporary physics, the basis for understanding matter in its tiniest dimensions and the vastness of the universe, and they have succeeded. They have transformed what is an enigma for most people into a highly entertaining, lucid and informative book. If you have always been curious about it, this is the book to read!

While it is trendy to be pessimistic about the future of the human race, given the present financial problems facing nations including our own, Ronald G. Havelock, PhD, has looked at history that includes the two world wars of the last century and trends in nuclear proliferation and population growth worldwide, and come up with a different, more optimistic trend that he describes in Acceleration: The Forces Driving Human Progress ($28.00, Prometheus Books). He reviews the extraordinary pace of the scientific revolution of the last two centuries, the explosive growth of knowledge, not just from generation to generation, but across cultural lines via the Internet, and other trends. Despite periodic setbacks, Havelock describes how progress is actually accelerating to positively affect the human experience and views fears of failure as wildly exaggerated. Grounded in a wealth of research, this book says humans are fully capable of solving even ore most challenging problems. An interesting companion book, The Art of Invention: The Creative Process of Discovery and Design by Steven J. Paley ($20.00, Prometheus Books, softcover) explores the process of invention and how it applies from something as simple as the paper clip to more complex inventions. The book concludes with an in-depth look at the business of invention and the typical inventor’s toolkit. It is filled with insight and advice for anyone with an innovative idea.

I am particularly fond of any book that can not only make me laugh, but make me think at the same time, occasionally actually teaching me something new as well. This is a perfect description of You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News from the editors of Cracked.com ($14.00, Plume, softcover). It is a compendium of truly astonishing scientific and other facts that taken individually or as a whole will blow a big hole in many of your cherished beliefs or just tell you something astonishing, but true. Enjoy the book and visit the website. Prepare to laugh. A lot. There are plenty of laughs to be had in The Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year, 2011 Edition ($14.95, Pelican Publishing Company, softcover). Edited by Charles Brooks, it is testimony to the way political cartoonists have the gift of capturing the absurdities and events in ways that makes us both think and laugh. It was not a particularly good year for President Obama, the object of many of the cartoons, along with the economy, the Tea Party movement, the Ground Zero Mosque, environment, the courts, and other issues of the past year.

We all take for granted, reading and writing. How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One by Stanley Fish ($19.99, Harper) explores the way we externalize our thoughts through the creation of sentences and Fish is an aficionado of the finely wrought sentence. His book offers a literary tour of great writers throughout history and the way they captured their reader’s attention and imagination. I would go so far to say that anyone who wishes to write well should definitely read this book and, for that matter, anyone who loves literature should do so as well.

History Well Told

Everybody knows of the Tea Party movement that arose spontaneously in the first year of the Obama administration to oppose Obamacare and other initiatives, but I suspect that few know much about the original tea party that sparked the American Revolution. That has been remedied by American Tempest, ($26.00, Da Capo Press) written by Harlow Giles Unger, the author of more than seventeen books about the Founding Fathers and the Revolution. On December 15, 1773, an estimated seven dozen men, many dressed as Indians who were then a symbol of freedom, dumped more than 300 chests of tea worth the equivalent of $1 million today, into the Boston Harbor to protest British taxes, mostly levied to pay for its wars with France. This is a fascinating story considering they were taking on the greatest power of its time. I love reading history and especially American history, so you can imagine how pleased I was to receive The War of the Revolution by Christopher War ($19.95, Skyhorse Publishing, softcover) which is a complete history of the battles that resulted in the achievement of independence. From the first musket shot at Lexington and Concord to the final battle at Yorktown, this book brings the long effort to life with stories of those who participated, maps, and the realization that it took unbelievable tenacity to wage the war over six long years against tremendous odds and against what was, at the time, the greatest empire of the age. The way the Revolution is taught in our schools hardly begins to reveal how much we owe to Washington and his troops. This 1,000-page book has long been regarded as a classic and now, happily, it is available in an affordable softcover.

I loved the title of Eminent Gangsters which is subtitled “Immigrants and the Birth of Organized Crime in America” ($57.00, University Press of America). At a time when Americans are grappling with the issue of massive numbers of illegal aliens coming across the nation’s southern border or just visiting and over-staying their visas, this is a fascinating look at the way a handful of earlier immigrants, Italians, Jews and later the Irish, became the Five Families of the New York Mafia to include the Capone gang in Chicago, and others who cooperated to an extent that dominated crime from the days of Prohibition onward until exposed. Starting in the 1920s, these were men in a hurry to cash in on the American dream. From its origins in Sicily, the Mafia would control crime in New York, Chicago, and New Orleans, eventually spawning a vast war in which the families emerged victorious. The ban on liquor, transport and sale was a bonanza for these criminals and laid the groundwork for the Mafia’s infiltration of many elements of American society. On a lighter note, I greatly enjoyed A Dangerous Woman: The Life, Lovers, and Scandals of Adah Isaacs Menkin, 1835-1868 by Barbara and Michael Foster ($24.95, Globe Pequot). Who is she? How about “the mother of theatrical and film nudity”? Adah drew overflow audiences from Broadway to Paris as her front-page scandals and under-the-counter nude photos made her an erotic sensation in the midst of the Victorian era. She married five times and her lovers included Alexandre Dumas and Algernon Swinburne, among others. She bedazzled a young reporter, Mark Twain, with her performance in gold rush San Francisco. He deemed her a magnificent spectacle.” If one was to create her as a character in a novel, even fiction could not compete with her real life. The daughter of a beautiful Creole mother, father unknown, with a series of step-fathers, one who endowed her with the Jewish faith, Adah grew up in Texas where she became a trick rider in the circus and then became an actress where, in New York, she performed comedy, tragedy, along with song and dance; in short, immensely talented and possessed of real intellect. Not until Marilyn Monroe, did any performer so captivate and titillate audiences.

God Sleeps in Rwanda: A Journey of Transformation by Joseph Sebarenzi ($15.00, Atria Books, softcover) with Laura Ann Mullane, is the story of how this native Rwandan lost his parents, seven siblings, and most of his relatives in the savage 1994 genocide of Tutsi tribal members by Hutu tribesmen. It is a tragic story, but the author would rise to become Speaker of the Rwandan parliament, intent on healing his nation. It is a reminder that humans are still capable of horrendous acts of mass murder just fifty years after gaining independence. The history of African nations for the past half century and more suggest they have a long way to go before they adopt Western values. For most, democracy is still just a charade.

To Your Health!

If you have your health, all your other problems in life can be solved. So, as we ease into the new year, let’s look at some books that address health and diet issues.

One of the great miracles of life is birth and two physicians, Michael F. Roizen, MD, and Mehmet C. Oz, MD, have gotten together to write YOU Having A Baby: The Owner’s Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy ($18.00, Free Press, imprint of Simon and Schuster, softcover) that is a large compendium of information that will prepare anyone for the birth of a child. This is truly an A-to-Z treasure of information on topics that range from the biology of pregnancy to the fundamentals of child rearing. Together, they have answered most of the questions any new parent might want to ask. Parents often encounter two common ailments in their children and there’s a book to help when they do. Allergies and Asthma: What Every Parent Needs to Know, edited by Dr. Michael J. Welch ($14.95, American Academy of Pediatrics, softcover) is now in its second edition this month. Allergies and asthma often start in childhood and continue throughout life. Asthma currently affects around 6.2 million Americans under age 18. These young people often also have allergies. This book, written in easily comprehensible language, provides the latest findings on food allergies and treatments, as well as new approaches for monitoring asthma control. It’s the real deal.

At the other end of the age spectrum is Dr. Marc Agronin’s How We Age ($25.00, Da Capo Press). A geriatric psychiatrist, the author is currently the medical director for Mental health and Clinical Research at Miami Jewish Health Systems. Out of his experience working with older folks, he has gained interesting insights regarding aging today. The result is that, while aging includes some inevitable decline, it can also be a period of vitality, wisdom, creativity, and hope. For anyone with aging parents or who is aging, this book can provide some comforting information. I personally had parents that both lived into their 90s and, despite some physical problems, remained mentally alert and involved to the end.

Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life by Claudia Welch ($17.95, Da Capo Press, softcover) is not officially due off the press until March 15. Directed to women in the workforce who must cope with the stresses of work and family life, the book is devoted to Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, and Western science. The author explores the counterbalancing effects of sex and stress hormones, and provides easy-to-follow strategies for self care to combat stress-induced medical problems that can include painful periods, mood swings, fatigue and insomnia, among other physical problems. If these problems and others describe you or someone you know, make a note to pick up a copy of this interesting book. Somewhat along the same lines is The Mind-Body Mood Solution by Jeffrey Rossman, PhD ($25.99, Rodale Books) that offers a non-drug program for relief from depression. Reportedly, depression is ten times more prevalent today than in 1960 and the rate is doubling every decade. As new technologies and other life-enhancing conveniences have occurred, it may well be they are the cause of this phenomenon. Dr. Rossman is a clinical psychologist believes many of these changes in the way we live, eat, travel and work are creating mood disorders. His book describes how one can regain control of your life. Dividing the book into sections devoted to the mind and to the body, it is filled with advice that might work for you, from diet to exercise changes. The Solution: Conquer Your Fear, Control Your Future by Lucinda Bassett ($22.95, Sterling Publishing) addresses how one can control negative thoughts and behaviors that are linked to anxiety and stress. It offers a positive program for doing so through her stories of personal experience, inspiration, and proactive action. Instead of being fearful, uncertain and insecure, the book demonstrates how to turn one’s life around by turning around one’s thought processes and perceptions. As we have seen with the Tucson tragedy, depression and other mental illnesses can play a role in some tragic outcomes. Leo J. Battenhausen, a counselor, looks at the way depression can be overcome in Defeating Depression: The Calm and Sense Way to Find Happiness and Satisfaction ($14.95, New Horizon Press, softcover). We live in depressing times and it can take over our lives, affecting our relationships, work, social situations, and our health. This book spells out the way to cope with setbacks without turning a medications or bad choices such as alcohol or illegal drugs. He discusses how to rid the mind of negative thoughts, get past emotional pain, and how to gain control and find emotional peace. Though some will need professional help, many can overcome depression on their own and this book is surely a step in the right direction.

All healing begins with the body’s immune system. Dr. H. Robert Silverstein, MD, FACC, has written Maximum Healing ($16.95, North Atlantic Books, softcover) that takes the reader on a tour of antioxidants, minerals, healing foods, herbs and supplements, exercise and stress reduction. That a lot for a very affordable price and since I have taken vitamins and minerals for a very long time, I can testify to the way they ward off the common cold and other problems. If you or someone you know needs to heal from an injury or illness, this would be a great book to read as well as for its information on immune-related disorders such as allergies, asthma, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, and rheumatoid arthritis, among others. This is the real deal. Return to Fitness: Getting Back in Shape after Injury, Illness, or Prolonged Inactivity is one of those titles that fully describe this book’s content. Written by Bill Katovsky ($16.95, Da Capo Press, softcover) founder of Tri-Athlete Magazine, he shares his own story of reclaiming his health after a decade-long period of illness and injury-laden inactivity. Katovsky discusses how our bodies age, provides nutritional advice, and advice on exercise, including information on the treatment and prevention of injuries. One of the most unusual books I have seen of late is just off the press. When Sex Hurts: A Woman’s Guide to Banishing Sexual Pain has three authors, two MDs and one PhD ($15.95, Da Capo Press). It is estimated that twenty million women experience some pain during sexual intercourse and as many as 40% will not seek medical care to relief it. The embarrassment of the experience and reluctance to address it is widespread to the extent that many doctors are in the dark regarding it. The commentary is supported by diagrams, lists of resources, and psychological exercises to help women get to the root of their pain and begin treatment. This is an authoritative, practical, and comprehensive guide.

There are many diet books that advise eating more fruits and vegetables, but Dr. Andrew Iverson, MD, says that your favorite fruit could be contributing to your growing waistline and even putting your at risk for diabetes and heart disease! Nature’s Diet ($24.95, Trilium Health Press, Tacoma, WA) explores the way what you eat can affect your energy, your memory, your mood, and even how you think. Certain foods can even make a child behave poorly and lose focus in school. This book explains why many of today’s most common health problems can be remedied. After seeing chronically ill patients every day in his practice, Dr. Iverson advises how to correctly feed yourself and detoxify from chemical waste to achieve amazing improvements in your health. Appetite for Reduction: 125 Fast and Filling Low-Fat Vegan Recipes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz ($19.95, Da Capo Press, softcover) is hot of the press demonstrates that a vegan diet can also be a very tasty one while also being low-fat and low-calorie. As she says, healthy vegan food can be so good that it appeals to a meat-eater. Editor's Note: One caveat, though. If you examine one’s teeth, you will note that some are specific to meat-eating, suggesting that we humans need both meat and vegetables.

Maximum job performance is the focus of Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People by Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, MD, ($26.95, Harvard Business Review Press). The author has been a guest on many television shows discussing his philosophy and offers a five-step process to apply to any business culture. Though primarily a business-oriented book for managers, the advice can apply to many fields of endeavor. Though I am not and have never been a vegan, someone who avoids eating meat, there’s no denying that there have been many books advocating this life style in recent years. Your Mind at its Best ($13.99, Revell, softcover) has three authors who share forty activities and behavioral changes that scientific research has shown can support optimal brain health if they become part of your daily routine. Among the recommends is keeping one’s home free from carbon monoxide by checking for any gas leaks. Going to church is good for one’s brain as well as surfing the Internet to find things that interest and engage you. Making sure you give your heart a workout is yet another way to ensure brain health. In sum, this is an interesting, useful book. The same can be said of Be Excellent at Anything: The Four keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Life by Tony Schwartz ($16.00, Free Press, softcover) that debunks common myths about great performance such as the view that great performers get by on less sleep. Not so, they really average 8 ½ hours a night. The other myth is that a little anxiety helps motivate us when facing tough deadlines. False. The better we feel, the better we perform. My favorite is the myth of multitasking when, in fact, juggling multiple activities reduces the time to get one task done well. If you’re still in need of some motivation, try Tapping the Source by William Gladstone, Richard Greninger, and John Selby ($17.95, Sterling Publishing) that offers a practical daily process for changing one’s life for the better. It offers a system for improving one’s life and one’s opportunities using ancient meditative techniques and other methods.

How to Love: Choosing Well at Every Stage of Life by Gordon Livingston, MD ($12.95, Da Capo Press, softcover) takes note of the difficulties in finding life in a world of speed-dating and Internet match-up sites. He explores how to choose a partner and the types of hurtful personalities and behaviors to avoid. This is common sense advice that some people do not receive for one reason or another. If you or someone you know is encountering problems finding the right person, this book will prove helpful. One stage of life that is often filled with problems is the teen years and Rick Johnson has written That’s My Teenage Son: How Moms can Influence their Boys to Become Good Men ($12.99, Revell, softcover) in which he discusses the great influence a boy’s mother has on how well he sees himself as a man and interacts with the world as an adult. For any mother of a teenage son, this book is filled with a wealth of information on the way a boy’s maturing mind, body and emotions are affected during this years and how these changes influence their behavior and needs. It’s a critical time to teach self-discipline, help them develop a healthy emotion life, and prepare them to be healthy adults. These are the years, too, when many young men and women go off to college and Alex Chediak has written Thriving at College ($14.99, Tyndale House Publishers, softcover) to help the generation entering college. With the economy in the tank, it is no surprise that seven in ten graduates do not have a job lined up and many must move back in with mom and dad, often with large debt. Written from a Christian point of view, Chediak notes that at least a quarter of college professors are atheists, compared with just 4% of the U.S. population. Some 70% of young adults will stop attending church. Some useful advice is provided to cope with these and other problems encountered at this critical point in young lives.

Books for Younger Readers

There is a deluge of books for younger readers, particularly pre-teens and teenagers, so it is always a treat when one comes along that is just so thoroughly delightful you want to tell the whole world about it. That’s the case with Saltwater Taffy by Erick Delabarre, as illustrated by R.C. Nason ($15.95, Seven Publishing, distributed by Perseus Books). To date it has been endorsed by nine Teachers of the Year, Delabarre is an award-winning Hollywood director/writer of “Law & Order” fame. The illustrator is equally distinguished. Set in the seaside town of Port Townsend, Washington, the novel follows the lives of five friends as they uncover the secrets of a treasure map that once belonged to the New Orleans pirate, Jean Lafitte. It is one adventure after another as they try to outwit and out-maneuver everyone who wants to intimidate them and/or get their hands on the treasure. It is so well written that one does not want to put it down until the last page. Officially for “middle grade” students, it will please anyone of any age, including me!

A series for younger readers, “I See the Sun”, is a great way to introduce early readers, five to seven years, to the world. The second addition is I See the Sun in Nepal written by Dedie King and illustrated by Judith Inglese ($12.95, Satya House Publications, Hardwick, MA, softcover) It is bilingual, written in English and Nepalese, and it portrays the essential cultural elements of Nepal through the eyes of a child. It is an excellent way to introduce a child to the way the world is made up of different nations, cultures, languages, and such. Coming in 2011 are others in the series devoted to Afghanistan, Russia, and India. The exotic State of Hawaii is the setting for Aloha, Kanani by Lisa Yee ($6.95, American Girl, softcover) that debuted in January, kicking off American Girl’s 25th birthday celebration. Kanani Akina is the 2011 Girl of the Year. She is a warm and cheerful girl, blessed to grow up in Hawaii and sharing the “aloha spirit.” Girls from the middle to later years of elementary school will enjoy this one as Kanani welcomes her cousin from New York, helps to rescue a baby Hawaiian monk seal, or assists older people in her community. Also on the same them from American Girl, is Lend a Hand: Girl-Sized Ways of Helping Others ($9.95, softcover) that offers all kinds of ways to help friends, family, animals, and neighbors for the pre-teen set. You can learn more about it and other titles at www.americangirl.com.

Dog lovers will love Ted Kerasote’s Pukka: The Pup After Merle, the author’s previous dog about whom he wrote “Merle’s Door.” ($18.95, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Pukka more than fills the hole in Ted’s life after Merle passed away. Filled with color photos from beginning to end, the book is told through Pukka’s eyes as he grows up and discovers the world with his human companions. Any child, aged seven to ten who reads this book will surely want a Pukka in his or her life and, if there is a dog in the family, it will provide many insights regarding the way to raise them and enjoy them.

For the teenager who’s into “texting” there is the more serious problem called “sexting” that can lead to all kinds of trouble. The harsh realities of this are explored in a young adult novel, Never Been Kissed, by Melody Carlson ($9.99, Revell, softcover). All Elise wants is her first kiss before she turns 16, but when a friend’s poor advice and modern communications technology combine, she finds herself on a dangerous path. Accused of “sexting”, she gets kicked out of school. This novel shows teen girls the impact of their choices when it comes to respecting themselves. Revell is famed for practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life and the author has penned more than two hundred books. Check it out at http://www.revellbooks.com/. For the same young adult crowd, there’s The Princess of Las Pulgas by C. Lee McKenzie ($16.95, WestSide Books, Lodi, NJ). This is a gritty story of a girl’s life after her father’s death forces her mother to sell their oceanfront home and move to Las Pulgas, the site of a tough urban high school where Carlie is dubbed the princess for her aloof ways. This is a novel about a difficult process of transition and is timely in difficult economic times. It tells of a challenging learning experience as Carlie learns that not everything is as it seems. The eighth book in the Good Girlz series, Drama Queens, by Reshonda Tate Billingsley ($11.00, Gallery Books, softcover) is all about friendship. The Black Christian national booksellers list ranks the author number one on the list. In this novel, high school is coming to a close for the Good Girlz and Camille, Angel, Alexis, and Jasmine are ecstatic to discover they’ve all been accepted to the same Texas University, Prairie View A&M. Need it be said that changes, many unanticipated, lay ahead? The girls learn a lot about relying on their faith and each other when facing life’s tough decision.

Novels, Novels, Novels

World War II continues to provide the background for novels today and Honor Knows No Borders by John Sharer (iUniverse, softcover) asks a philosophical question of about enemies in war. A dangerous and often fatal pursuit, collecting pieces of bombs is a prime activity for boys in London during WWII in the early 1940s. Young Tom Sloan is no exception. While investigating one ravaged building, he finds more than he expects, an injured German pilot, Hauptman Heinrich Leuzinger, who had ejected from his plane. Leuzinger begs Tom not to turn him in to authorities, but rather to help him see his wife and children again. Tom understands this is a dangerous dilemma for which there could be serious consequences. More than a thousand miles away in the North African desert, the boy's father, Major Bernie Sloan, a British officer and the commandant of a German and Italian POW camp, meets captured German Colonel Hans Dieter Reichmann who tells an unbelievable story. Sloan, a Jew, harbors a deep hatred for Germany and its people. Sloan finds it difficult to believe that Reichmann may have actually saved a Jewish family by smuggling them out of Germany. Both father and son are about to discover that in war, as in life, things are not always as they appear, and people can't always be judged by the uniforms they wear. Rising Tides – Destroyermen: Book Five by Taylor Anderson ($25.95, New American Library) adds a parallel universe to a World War II drama, billed as an “alternative history” series. Apparently military science fiction is a new and popular genre. In this case it involves Lt. Commander Matthew Reddy and the crew of the U.S.S. Walker. As you might imagine, the first four novels in the series did quite well. This one is filled with drama and adventure, plus the extra element of a non-human species that gets involved in the conflict on the high seas.

The novel, Soul Mate, by Ronald Weaver ($14.99, QuestFiction Entertainment, Valley Village, CA) tells the story of Claudia de la Rosa, a 26-year-old, starry-eyed innocent who has just arrived in the glamour-charged world of Beverly Hills to become a high school teacher. One of her students is Lance Van Arden, a handsome, worldly-wise teenager from a wealthy family and both begin to connect in ways that go beyond the teacher-student relationship. Their steamy and blissful private world collides with social norms and raises his parent’s suspicions. In real life such liaisons are forbidden and unlawful, but in the book they become modern folk heroes when their story becomes public knowledge. The author is a senior producer for the soap opera, The Bold and the Beautiful. I confess, being a guy, I could appreciate The Black Widow Trainer ($14.95, Emerald Book Co., softcover) by Craig Odanovich because it appeals to what most men fantasize about, a hot woman, hot sex, wealth and swanky places. This is not a deep intellectual experience, but it is a highly entertaining one; the first of a series starring Misty the top trainer at a health club on Maui who becomes an independent fitness trainer to some of the world’s most sophisticated and wealthy men who are willing to pay a lot and go the limit to have Misty get them in shape and get them into her bed. This is just old fashion erotic storytelling.

On a far more realistic and, dare I say, mature level, there’s The Bird House by Kelly Simmons ($14.00, Washington Square Press, softcover) that tells the story of a 70-year-old woman’s slide into dementia and her growing bond with her eight-year-old granddaughter who explore family secrets of both the past and present that have the power to either destroy or heal. When her granddaughter asks for her help to work on a paper about the family, she jumps at the chance, but it will be a journey of discovery for both as classic family and personal problems are reexamined. This is Simmons second novel and she demonstrates again her ability to come to grips with powerful and frightening themes. The Mother Who Stayed is a trio of stories by Laura Furman ($15.00, Free Press, softcover.) They each involve a different set of characters whose lives are connected through family, location, or sheer coincidence. The stories were inspired by 23 diaries written between 1874 and 1902 that Furman found in a house she owned in upstate New York. They are an homage to the timeless, primal bond between mother and child, as well as other relationships. They are poignant, memorable, and inspiring. Furman has earned prestigious awards for previous books and this one demonstrates why.

Weeping Underwater Looks A Lot Like Laughter by Michael J. White ($15.00, Berkley, softcover) will further enhance the author’s reputation as one of Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers for spring 2010. Teenager George Flynn and his family have just moved to Des Moines, Iowa and, on their first night in town, a young woman is murdered at the hotel in which they are staying. Is it an omen of things to come? By turns witty, charming, and heart-wrenching, this is the debut novel about a young man coming of age under the toughest of circumstances. It is a story of first lovers, unrequited emotions, second lovers, family secrets, and the untold truths that lurk in one’s heart years and years after they’re grown. George’s life will be influenced by the Schell sisters. He is immediately smitten with one, Emily, his classmate and peer, and the perfect counterpoint to her sister, Katie, who has been diagnosed with a baffling case of multiple sclerosis. You will want to go along to learn how these three deal with life’s challenges and upheavals. Finally, for sheer laughter and fun, pick up a copy of Blotto, Twinks and the Ex-King’s Daughter by Simon Brett, the first of a series based on two of these characters ($14.95, Felony & Mayhem Press, softcover). Brett is best known for cozy mysteries set in a little English town as one of the grand old men of British mystery since 1975. Set in the 1920s we are introduced to siblings, Blotto, a handsome fellow whose low on brain power, and Twinks, his beautiful and brilliant sister. The result is that rarest of genres, a genuinely funny crime story when the daughter of the exiled king of Mittleleuropa is kidnapped on a visit to Tawcester Towers.

That’s it for February! Do tell all your book-loving friends and family members about Bookviews so they can visit and learn about many books that deserve readers but may not catch the eye of the loftier critics and reviewers. And do come back in March for even more news of the latest and best fiction and nonfiction.

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  3. As Alan Caruba stated of Dr. Marc Agronin's book...HOW WE AGE..."for anyone with aging parents, or who is aging, this book can provide some comforting information." That includes most everyone. This book is a treasured addition to any bookshelf. A great read!

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