Friday, May 31, 2013

Bookviews - June 2013

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

It is said that you cannot understand the present unless you understand history and Charles Emmerson has made an excellent contribution to history with his new book, 1913: In Search of the World Before the Great World ($30.00, Public Affairs). In 1913, few if any anticipated that World War I would break out the next year and Americans resisted being drawn into it until 1917. Structured by taking the reader to the world’s great cities in 1913, what emerges from its pages how much that year resembles our own today. It was a year when globalization was occurring with the ease of worldwide travel and communication with much commerce between nations; a world in which the peoples of Europe traveled easily among its nations and one in which all manner of change and innovation was occurring in the arts, sciences, and politics. Royalty in Germany and Russia still played a major role in their nation’s lives, but in America the nation’s economy was booming thanks to immigration from the Old World to the new. Emmerson lets the reader visit Europe’s capitals, to Bombay, Tokyo, St. Petersburg, Peking, and of course, America’s great cities from New York to Los Angeles. It is a big book, exceeding 500 pages, but learning of the world in that world is an exhilarating reading experience and one that will transform your view of that year.

Though it is early in the year, I am inclined to believe that one of the best new books about U.S. history will be Thomas Fleming’s A Disease in the Public Mind: A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War ($26.99, Da Capo Press). Fleming has already established himself as one of the nation’s leading historians. His new book provides an insight that few others about the Civil War have done. Fleming examines how the Founders in writing the Constitution had to compromise with the southern slave-holding states and thus established a republic that declared that all men were equal, but in fact created a nation that accepted slavery as a compromise to secure its ratification. Though the Founders owned slaves, they understood that the issue slavery could eventually tear the nation apart. At the heart of his book is the fact that “Few people criticized or objected to slavery; it was one of the world’s oldest social institutions…” From its earliest days, prior to the Revolution, slavery was a part of life in America both in the north and the south. “By 1750, there were a half million slaves in the American colonies.” By 1790, there were only six slave states, but the great wealth generated by growing cotton created a new for greater numbers of slaves. Moreover, the states before and after the Revolution were hardly “united” as most regarded themselves as sovereign entities and cooperated in a fitful fashion. As the black population grew, vastly outnumbered white southerners grew fearful of them and events such as Nat Turner’s rebellion that slaughtered whites and the bloodshed in Haiti only deepened those fears. By the time of the Civil War there were four million slaves, most in the south. The rise of the abolition movement created discord and hatred between the north and south until in 1860 the election of Lincoln led to secession. I heartily recommend reading this book to understand what led to the Civil War—a long process—and the failed compromises that could not deter it.

The History of the Renaissance World by Susan Bauer ($35.00, W.W. Norton) represents two factors I favor, one is history and the second is a big, fat book filled with all manner of information that continues to surprise me. At 768 pages, this book, beginning in the days just before the First Crusade, is a chronicle of the many changes occurring around the world at that time. A Christian empire was stopped short at the walls of Constantinople, the wisdom of the Greeks was revived, the claims of monarchy were challenged, the early signs of an Islamic threat to Europe emerged, along with that of Mongols. It was a time in which the mini-ice age occurred, a great famine killed millions, and the Black Death still more. We tend to think we are living in dangerous times, but this book demonstrates the history of civilization is always about dangerous times, as well as innovation, discoveries, and progress.

Trying to figure out what is happening in the world and why is a constant challenge. That’s why books like Deepak Lal’s are so helpful. Poverty and Progress: Realities and Myths about Global Poverty ($24.95, hardcover, $11.95 softcover, and $9.99 digital, Cato Institute) informs us that the greatest reduction of mass poverty in human history has occurred during the current era of globalization. The number of the world’s poor is shrinking and their lives—health, education, and life spans—are improving. Lal is an economist who brings fifty years of experience around the globe to this book that describes developing-nation realities and corrects mistaken notions about economic progress. He says that the rapid spread of economic progress over the last three decades is “one of mankind’s most amazing achievements.” It’s nice to read some good news for a change and to discover, as the author documents, that much of what we’ve been told is not true. You will come away with a new and better understanding of what is occurring in the worldwide economy, especially as it affects its poor.

Anyone who has to fly regularly on business, to visit relatives, or take a vacation knows that flying these days can be an unpleasant experience. Mark Gerchick explains why in Full Upright and Locked Position ($24.95, W.W. Norton). Gerchick is a former FAA chief counsel and an aviation consultant with twenty years’ experience to draw upon as he guides readers through what it means to board a plane today. His book is not a diatribe, but rather an entertaining explanation thanks to his sense of humor as he explains why travelers are nickel-and-dimed by the airlines, why bags are mishandled, why the fares keep rising, and all the other factors that too often make flying a stressful experience. It is a portrait of as multi-billion-dollar business that has undergone profound changes over the past decade and he explains why the constant demand for efficiency, cost-cutting, and new sources of revenue have brought the industry and its passengers to the present state of affairs. This is also a history of air travel from the 1970s deregulation as well as the challenges currently affecting the industry. It is a fact-filled look at the industry and one that is full of surprises. For those for whom flying is a regular or occasional part of their lives, this book is well worth reading.

One might think that a book devoted to a history of the Harvard Lampoon from the 1960s would be very entertaining. One might be wrong. Ellin Stein has written a book that extends to 445 pages. That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick ($27.95, W.W. Norton) is filled with the names of the generation of funny men and women who reshaped humor in America, many of whom got their start writing for the Harvard Lampoon. In time, two of them would begin to publish The National Lampoon to great success. Stein has laboriously reported about the key players and that is the main problem of the book. In real life, many were simply not that interesting. Many seemed to be engaged in adolescent rebellion not uncommon to that age cohort, but around them the 1960s was exploding in actual rebellion on college campuses and in the streets of the nation. There is no question they and others created an irreverent brand of comedy that includes Saturday Night Live, The Onion, the Daily Show, South Park, and others, but the book’s dissection of the people and factors that led to this is too labored to hold one’s attention.

Books By and About Real People

It is the strangest thing to read a memoir by someone who you’ve known a very long time, only to discover they had this whole life about which you were oblivious. In the 1970s when we were both members of the Society of Magazine Writers (later to become the Society of Authors and Journalists), I met Tania Grossinger who was already a very successful public relations professional as well as freelance travel writer. One of her PR clients was the famed feminist, Betty Friedan, the author of “The Feminine Mystique.” Tania would help launch the book that would eventually selling four million copies. Betty had mellowed by the time I met her, but I recall I instantly liking Tania who was blessed with one of those personalities that is welcoming and warm. So, when I sat down to read Memoir of an Independent Woman: An Unconventional Life Well Lived ($24.95, Skyhorse Publishing) I did not put it down until the last page. Tania’s PR career was at its peak in the one of the most exciting times in our recent history. She knew all the major personalities in radio and television who hosted talk shows. She did PR for the Playboy Clubs, handled some the most famous authors of that era such as Ayn Rand. She either knew or dealt with iconic names, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Hugh Hefner, and others she names. If her name has a familiar ring, she was a member of the family that operated the famed Grossinger’s resort in the Catskills and, even at a very early age, she came to know “celebrities” as real people. She was especially blessed to have the friendship of Jackie Robinson of baseball fame. Though her life sounds glamorous (and it was), there were elements of sadness she unsparingly shares as well. I am delighted to call her a friend and astonished to have read her moving, entertaining memoir. She did, indeed, live an unconventional life and she did it very well! I want to keep her around for many more years.

Learning to Listen: A Life Caring for Children ($24.99, Da Capo Press) is a memoir by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., covering eight decades that has led him to be respected as “America’s pediatrician.” His books on child-rearing in the earliest years of life have helped thousands of parents understand what they need to know to be better parents. His Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale is used in hospitals worldwide as a way for doctors and parents to interpret the behavior of babies. He began his medical career in the late 1940s, a time when physicians were beginning to shed old practices and develop medicine as it exists today. His observations revolutionized the way pediatricians practice infant care and how parents parent. He is the author of more than thirty books on child development and is a professor emeritus of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. This is a most interesting memoir to read.

My late father was born in 1901, was two young for World War I and deemed too old to serve in WWII. Although I served in the U.S. Army, I was fortunate to do so in one of those rare periods of peace that did not require my being in combat. I have read much about wars, but still cannot imagine what it must have been like until I read Stories in Uniform: A Look at the Heroics, Sacrifices, and Triumphs of Our Soldiers ($15.00, Readers Digest), a splendid collection in which the realities of war leap off the page as told by some excellent writers. How such heroism and sacrifice can exist in our present times is testimony to the same grit and determination of George Washington’s soldiers, often unpaid, lacking even shoes, and enduring terrible conditions, but following him into battle after battle until we had an independent United States of America. A whole new generation of warriors will earn your admiration when you read this book.

May This Be the Best Year of Your Life: A Memoir by Sandra Bornstein ($12.99, Create Space, softcover) is the story of “a 50-something-year-old woman who faced a decision to teach English and social studies to fifth graders at a prestigious international boarding school in Bangalore, India. It would mean leaving her husband and soul mate, and three of her four sons behind, and traveling well out of her comfort zone, She would be on her own  The opportunity, however, was intriguing Her memoir tells of the many sights, sounds and discoveries she made during her year; learning about the extensive poverty, the squalor that many children lived in, and the lack of safety in Bangalore. The principal of the school said, “This is going to be the best year of your life” and you can read this memoir to see if that was true or not.

Sometimes dealing with a personal tragedy involves setting it down on paper. This is part of the memoir, Swimming with Maya: A Mother’s Story by Eleanor Vincent ($14.95, Dream of Things, softcover) that begins when 19-year-old Maya does in a fatal horseback accident. She was celebrating with friends here scholarship to the UCLA Theatre Arts program. Her mother shares the intimate details of her tragedy and the healing process which included the decision to donate Maya’s organs to help others. In 2011, only one-fourth of the people in the nation on an organ waiting list received the life-giving transplant. On average eighteen die each day. After her decision, Eleanor Vincent could hear her daughter’s heart beating in its recipient’s chest and she corresponds with the person who received Maya’s liver.  This is a powerful memoir and a please for the donation of organs to save live.

Some people just know how to get the most out of life and do so with gusto and the kind of courage most of us to not possess. One of them is Sonya Klein, the author of “Honk If You Married Sonja” and now her latest book, Roundtrip from Texas ($15.95, Ambush Publishing, Barksdale, Texas, softcover) continues with more accounts from a life spent as a fifth generation rancher in between going off to all parts of the world. She married four men—hence the title of her first book—but it is her attitude and knowledge, especially of food, that will capture your interest and admiration. Musician Lyle Lovett is a cousin and recalls that “When I was a boy, Sonja was one of the first grown-ups in my life to show me it was okay to have fun. She was pretty, wore cool clothes, drove fast cars, and raced motorcycles.” They spirit infuses the book, along with a keen eye and enjoyment of food as she describes meals in exotic places in loving detail, from sea bass in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Peking duck in Beijing. You may never visit these places, but you will feel like you have when you read this delightful book.
When I was growing up the music of Gary U.S. Bonds could be heard, from “New Orleans” and “School is Out” in the 1960s to “This Little Girl in 1981 and many more hits still being played these days. He will be celebrating his 74th birthday as a published author with an autobiography, By U.S. Bonds—That’s My Story ($30.00, Wheatley Press, L.L.C.) written with Stephen Cooper. Suffice to say his life spans the early days of R&B and rock music to the present. He was an influence on Bruce Springsteen and a member of the E Street Band, Steven Van Zandt, has written a forward to it. Bonds shares memories of traveling with B.B. King and Sam Cooke, his big break on the Dick Clark show, and a raft of stories that will entertain anyone who enjoyed his music and that of his illustrious contemporaries. Bonds did not fall prey to many of the temptations of the music industry, remaining true to his beloved wife and daughter. There are life lessons about perseverance and the support derived from friends and family.

There are people who love the outdoors and I am not one of them. That said, I can still recommend Majestic and Wild: True Stories of Faith and Adventure in the Great Outdoors by Murray Pura ($13.99, Baker Books, softcover and ebook). An award-winning novelist, Pura has long been an avid outdoorsman who has loved hiking, hunting, and more. Amidst the stories he tells of his experiences, he shares his belief in the value of getting out of the pew and into the outdoors to be closer to God. This is, as you might imagine, a book intended to be enjoyed by Christians. Pura is an ordained minister, has served five churches, and has written fifteen books. You can find him these days living in the Rocky Mountains near Calgary, Alberta.

Getting Down to Business Books

With fewer jobs available, many have had to improve their interview and other skills to secure one. Martin Yates has just added to his list of excellent books on how to write resumes and other secrets of success in a job search and career management. This time he addresses the beginner in Knock’em Dead Secrets & Strategies for First-Time Job Seekers ($15.95, Adams Media, softcover) that provides a wealth of information and insight regarding how to make one’s resume discoverable in databases, how to build and leverage social networks, and how to turn job interviews into job offers, among other related topics. This would make a great gift for any young person graduating from college this month.

An interesting book by a retired U.S. Navy Captain, L. David Marquet, Turn the Ship Around: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders ($25.95, Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin) is the story of how he challenged the U.S. Navy’s traditional leader-follower approach as captain of the USS Santa Fe, a nuclear-powered submarine. Turning the old paradigm on its head, Capt. Maquet took his ship from worst to first in its fleet by pushing for leadership at every level. Instead of issuing orders, he delegated control to officers and men in the ship’s various departments, building a crew that was fully engaged in what they did. The Santa Fe began to winning awards and promoting a large number of offices to submarine command. Fortune magazine calls this book “The best how-to- manual anywhere for managers on delegating, training and driving flawless execution.”   A U.S. Naval Academy graduate, the author currently teaches graduate level leadership at Columbia University.

There used to be and probably still is something called “the old boy’s network”, but Pamela Ryckman has put the world on notice about the Stiletto Network: Inside the Women’s Power Circles that are Changing the Face of Business ($22.95, Amacom). Rather ironically, she dedicated the book “about girls to my boys” whom she names and thanks for their love, patience, and support. The author has written for the leading financial publications and comes to this book with excellent story-telling skills as she sheds light on how women in the world of business and finance are banding together to help one another. This was, perhaps, inevitable as more and more women sought success on terms formerly reserved for men. The book chronicles the stories of a number of women who have achieved extraordinary success and the groups, formal and informal, that aided them along the way. These are new networks that are reshaping the business world and one suspects that men, as well as women, will read this book to learn about them. Getting It Done: How to Achieve Results and Accomplish Fulfillment in Work & Life ($16.95, Mill City Press, softcover) by Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf is a fairly slim book that represents their thirty years of experience as personal and organizational development consults, coaches, and boardroom confidants. Co-founders of Beyond, they live alternately in France and the Netherlands. Their book is a personal and professional guide in two parts. The first pulls the reader into a leading role in a fictional adventure where they discover how attitude and interaction affect every result. The second part gives pointed direction on how to mindfully create the best possible personal experience and professional outcome. You are very likely to find yourself in its pages.

From Smart to Wise: Acting and Leading with Wisdom by Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou ($27.95, Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint), is by two men who have been studying the concept of wise leadership since 1989 as a CEO coach and a strategy consultant. They have worked with hundreds of executives in global Fortune 500 companies, as well as entrepreneurial ventures. Their book is unique in that they believe that just intelligence (being smart) alone won’t be sufficient to deal effectively with the increasing complexity of the 21st century. They argue persuasively that what leaders need is “practical wisdom” that includes qualities like prudence, humility, ethics, and a desire to serve the common good. There is “functional smart” and “business smart” in which the former excel in one field or function while the latter are “big picture thinkers, visionaries, and risk takers with a competitive drive.” Both styles have great strengths and serious limitations. Suffice to say this book will get you thinking about your own strengths and weaknesses, how to improve them, and how to apply them to achieve success.

Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing: The Promise and Peril of a Machine that Can Make (Almost) Anything ($27.95, John Wiley and Sons, softcover) by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman explores a technology that is so far above my pay grade that I won’t even pretend to understand it. For those in the business world, however, it provides an informative and comprehensive exploration of the world of 3D printing. According to the authors he promise of this technology is that businesses will be liberated from the tyrannies of economics of scale, factories and global supply chains will shrink, putting them closer to their customers. The whole process reminds me of the science fiction shows like Star Trek where a machine materializes anything one wanted to eat or drink in the ship’s cafeteria. Suffice to say, it is likely the next wave of the future, so you may want to pick up a copy!

Thinking About Thinking

Blind Spot: Why We Fail to See the Solution Right in Front of Us ($27.99, Harper One) by Gordon Rugg with Joseph D’Agnese answers the question that we tend to ask in retrospect. If the answer was so obvious, why didn’t we see it? In 2004 Gordon Rugg made international news by deciphering a 16th century text called the Voynich Manuscript that had a worldwide cult following. It had defied code-crackers for almost a century. Rugg declared it a hoax and his book demonstrates the surprising ways in which all people tend to make the same sorts of mistakes, no matter their level of intelligence. With often much dependent on those decisions, this book provides insight into what motivates us and why we fail to ask the questions that will provide the answers we’re seeking. His approach is based on the 7-step Verifier Method that can be applied to any situation. This book will help you avoid logical errors, false conclusions, and selective perception to arrive at good answers based on actual facts.

In Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe by Lee Smolin ($28.00, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), the theoretical physicist, a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, named one of the world’s top hundred public intellectuals by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines, take the reader on a journey that will set your intellectual synapses ablaze. Smolin believes that thinkers from Plato to Newton, to Einstein, defined the concept of time incorrectly. The nature of time, he says, has broader implications beyond physics in the realms of religion, ethics, economics and law. If the laws of physics could change the future, what does that imply about why they exist and why they currently allow for a human-friendly universe? Good question and one which the author asks and seeks to answer. A warning, however. Smolin has fallen into the “climate change” trap and wonders into economics and the social sciences. This reader concluded that Smolin should stick to physics.

Prometheus Books has carved out a niche for itself, publishing many books about atheism, humanism, and similar “enlightened” topics that toss out belief in God (or gods) and rely instead on science—almost as a new religion in itself. I am a great fan of science, but I also believe that humans are hardwired spiritually to find a larger reason for their existence and that of the universe. A number of the newest books from Prometheus include The Enlightenment Vision: Science, Reason, and the Promise of a Better Future by Stuart Jordan ($26.00); The Science of Miracles: Investigating the Incredible by Joe Nickell ($18.00, softcover); God and the Atom: From Democritus to the Higgs Boson—the Story of a Triumphant Idea by Victor J. Stenger ($25.00); and The Turbulent Universe by the late Paul Kurtz ($20.00, softcover).

The common theme in these books is a reliance on reason and science to the exclusion of any spiritual explanation of how the universe works. For anyone who is comfortable with this, any of these books will prove quite informative, but I personally suspect that religion does more good than harm (with the exception of the death-obsessed Islam), providing direction to leading a moral life and comfort when one must face its challenges.

There’s a lot of “big thinking” going on in these books. There are views that believe in the potential of humanity to accept universal human rights and recognize our similarities over our differences. History, however, tends to argue against that. The Stenger book reminds us that as far back as ancient Greek philosophers, the concept of the atom as the building block of everything was already being advanced. He concludes that between atoms and the void  that is all that exists. Nickell has devoted his time to debunking such things as the Shroud of Turin, “weeping” icons, and miracle healings, among other spiritually-based claims. These things matter if you want to disprove the role of belief, spirituality, in our lives, but why bother? Jordan, a physicist, looks at the progress humanity has made since the Enlightenment, but notes too that we have inherited some problems such as the persistence of widespread ignorance, the disparity between prosperous and impoverished nations, and the existence of weapons of mass destruction. He is concerned about over-population, nuclear proliferation, and climate change. Since the Earth currently sustains a population of seven billion and we can do nothing about the 5.4 billion years of natural climate change, we’d best pay attention to things we can actually do something about

Novels, Novels, Novels

The novels keep flooding in so here’s a look at some of the latest to arrive.

Karen White already has a huge fan base of women based on her softcover novels and The Time Between is her first as a hardcover ($25.95, New American Library) just out this month. Set in South Carolina low country, it is a beautifully written, compelling story about the complicated bond between sisters, the enduring legacy of family, and the power of forgiveness. The main character, 34-year-old Eleanor Murray is consumed with guilt for causing the accident that paralyzed her sister and for falling in love with her sister’s husband. When she is offered a part-time job caring for an elderly woman, Helena, she accepts in the hope that this good deed will atone for her mistakes in life. The two bond over their mutual love of music and, as she learns of Helena’s past, she learns the key to healing her relationship with her sister. This hardly does justice to the depth of the characters and their lives as revealed in this novel, but it surely advances the author’s career as an excellent novelist. Another new hardcover is Elizabeth Kelly’s The Last Summer of the Camper-Towns ($25.95, Liveright Publishing, a division of W.W. Norton & Company). Filled with dark plot twists and the author’s talent for authentic dialogue, the novel  is set in Cape Cod and the year is 1972 as a twelve-year-old girl named in honor of Jimmy Hoffa (!), Riddle James Camperdown, is the daughter of a labor organizer and a retired starlet. She just wants to enjoy a quiet summer amidst the dunes and the horse farms out of earshot of her bickering parents. This is a coming of age novel filled with questions for Riddle and, after she witnesses something potentially criminal, she decides to keep it to herself despite its being crucial evidence in the disappearance of a local boy. It will, however, unveil carefully constructed secrets within her family and their extended relationships. It’s one of those novels that are impossible to put down once you begin.

The bulk of the novels I receive are softcover (and thus affordable), so let’s wade through the stacks, many of which debut this month.

There’s a new erotic thriller, Vengeance is Now, by Scott D. Roberts ($17.95, 3L Publishing, Sacramento, CA) that is an action-packed story about a disgraced former police detective and private investigator, Tate Holloway, who has taken to drowning his sorrows in Tequila, smoking weed, and turning tricks with wealthy women to make a living; a secret he keeps from his girlfriend. His life really takes a turn for the sores when he’s set up, framed, and forced to go on the run for unspeakable crimes. He has to find the real killer and each revelation uncovers departmental and political corruption that leaders to a heart-pounding final showdown. The author is a writer, producer, and co-director with a career that spans twenty years. There are plenty of plot twists in Patrick M. Garry’s novel, Saving Faith, ($14.00, Kenrik Books), not to be confused with David Baldacci’s novel of the same name. It raises a whole number of philosophical questions as its narrator, a 20-year-old Jack Fenian, finds himself drawn into the life of a former journalist, Ev Sorin, whose car he has had mistakenly repossessed for a car dealership. While in court they watch a hearing on whether to keep alive a comatose patient whose identity is unknown and who Clare, a party to the case, is trying to save. Suffice to say this is a very complex story of people seeking to find meaning in their lives and grapple with the big questions of life. The novel follows four characters and their various motivations as they come together to save the patient. This is Garry’s eighth novel, many of which have won awards over the years. It is not light reading, but it is a story that will draw you in and keep you engrossed.

The Replacement Son ($16.95, Two Harbors Press) by W.S. Culpepper is a psychological drama framed within an epic adventure story that begins in Depression-era New Orleans, moves on to World War Two, and then to the devastation following Hurricane Katrina. Harry McChesney was seven years old when he learned of his brother who had died young and left his family in misery. He becomes the replacement son of the title and a man who seeks to rescue his family from the aftermath of his brother’s death, requiring a lifetime of labors. Along the way he gets help from a trusted family servant, a powerful talisman, and a bizarre set of twins. Harry is an unlikely hero and this novel has the feel of a classic tale that stretches over a long period of time. Another character seeking redemption is at the center of Wake the Dawn by Lauraine Snelling ($15.00, Faith Words, a Hachette Book Group imprint). For those of a spiritual nature, this book delivers the goods as the main character, Esther, runs a clinic in a small Minnesota town bordering Canada, an act of atonement following a hit and run accident years before. When a storm ravages the town she must deal with the reality of her past and learn to forgive herself. She is joined in this quest by a border patrol agent who lost the love of his life in a tragedy and never finished grieving. When Ben finds a young child along in the woods as the storm rolls in, Ben and Esther are brought together by this opportunity to change, redeem their lives, and grow. Another novel with a Christian core is Billy Coffey’s When Mockingbirds Sing ($15.95, Thomas Nelson). It is about childlike faith, a mysterious Rainbow Man, and a sleepy town divided between those who see a small child’s visions as prophetic and those who are afraid of that they perceive as the danger she represents. The story is based on his own daughter’s conversations with God. Coffey is a gifted writer and the book will please believers.

Set in World War Two, I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan ($15.95, Harlequin) is about two women who have never met strike up an inspiring correspondence and forge an extraordinary friendship that sustains each of them while their loved ones are risking their lives on the front lines. Neither of the co-authors has ever met in person, giving the novel a unique sense of authenticity. The year is January 1943 and Glory Whitehall has randomly pulled Rita Vincenzo’s name out of a hat at her 4H meeting and begins to write to a perfect stranger. It is an unconventional friendship that carries them through the uncertainties, dreadful loneliness, and temptations of tending to home fires while the men they love are fighting a world away.

A very different story is told in Hazardous Material by Kurt Kamm ($14.95, MCM Publishing) that explores the life of a firefighter with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Bucky Dawson, who is awakened at 1:45 AM and it is a real page-turner that tells of the gritty world of outlaw motorcycle gangs and the meth labs in the heart of the Mojave Desert. When his task force is called out to support a sheriff’s raid on a meth lab, Bucky witnesses his estranged sister standing at the door of a double-wide trailer just before it explodes. Divorced, lonely, and struggling with a painkiller addiction, his life plunges into chaos after her death. There is plenty of drama and danger in this story. I reviewed Mike Resnick’s previous novel, “Dog in the Manger” his first Eli Paxton mystery. He’s back with The Trojan Colt ($15.95, Seventh Street Books, an imprint of Prometheus Books) when the down-on-his-luck private eye is on a routine security assignment to guard the high-priced yearlings of “Trojan”, a recently retired classic winner in Lexington, Kentucky. He is no sooner on the job when he must respond to a fracas in the horse born where he arrived just in time to thwart a vicious attack on a young groom. The assailants get away. When he doesn’t show up the next day, Paxton is assigned to investigate his disappearance and it turns out that two other staff members have disappeared in the past couple of months. Paxton has stumbled upon a multi-million-dollar plot that the perpetrator will kill to keep secret. Resnick knows how to plot a face-paced, intriguing mystery and you will enjoy this one.

If you enjoy short stories, you will enjoy Alana Cash’s How You Leave Texas ($8.00, Hacienda Press) that is comprised of three short stories and a novella by a native Texan, who tells the stories of four young women who leave Midland, Austin, Fort Worth and Mayville, Texas, for lives in New York, California, Jakarta, and, in one instance, jail. They are seeking to escape boredom and sorrow and find that you can leave Texas, but one’s life follows you around wherever you go. These are stories that women will relate to from their own lives and the fourth, “Frying Your Burger” is autobiographical, based on the author’s experiences in a year at Universal Studios and the people she met there. All four stories are very entertaining.

That’s it for June! Come back next month and, in the meantime, tell your friends, family, and coworkers who love to read about There’s a whole lot of summer reading ahead and you won’t want to miss out on the great new fiction and non-fiction that is waiting for you.