Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bookviews - July 2013

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

I was a mere lad of twenty-two when Fidel Castro successfully overthrew the Cuban dictator, Flugencia Batista, and took control of that island nation. What followed were the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The story behind these events and the assassination of President Kennedy is revealed in William Weyland Turner’s latest book, The Cuban Connection: Nixon, Castro and the Mob ($25.00, Prometheus Books) and it is a real page-turner. Turner, a former FBI agent who became an investigative journalist, has authored a number of books on the subject, but this one pulls together his interviews with Mafia mobsters and with members of the Cuban revolution who became disenchanted with Castro. It demonstrates how little Americans knew about those events and, in particular, the many efforts to assassinate Castro. Fifty-four years later, the truth can be found in this book and I heartily recommend it, particularly in light of the scandals surround the Obama administration. What we did not know then and do not know now that hold the keys to the events since then and what is occurred today.

A group of Australian scientists have combined with a professional cartoonist John Spooner (The Age, Melbourne) to write a new easy-to-read and humorous book on global warming. Lead author Bob Carter is an Australian palaeontologist, marine geologists and an adjunt professionial research fellow in earth sciences at James Cook University, Queensland. For many years he has been on the front lines debunking global warming, based on the claim that carbon dioxide is causing the Earth to warm. Actually, the Earth has been cooling for the last sixteen years. He has written Taxing Air: Facts and Fallacies About Climate Change ($30.00, Kelpie Press, softcover) is filled with the best scientific information on the topic and for anyone who wants to learn the truth, I can highly recommend it. Readers will learn that the sea-level rise is natural and declining in rate; that global ocean temperature is cooling slightly as well; and that no scientist can tell you whether the world will be warmer or cooler than today in 2020 or beyond. More than a hundred basic questions are answered in the book which includes whimsical cartoons and humorous sketches throughout.. A carbon dioxide tax that was recently imposed on Australians has had the effect of raising their costs for energy thereby negatively affected its economy in many ways—which should serve as an object lesson for other nations to not follow suit.

If you are among the half of the population that is concerned with the breakdown of our national culture, the failure of our schools, and other societal problems, and you want to know why everything has changed for the worse, then you will will want to reach Vincent Ryan Ruggiero’s book, Corrupted Culture: Rediscovering America’s Enduring Principles, Values and Common Sense ($19.00, Prometheus Books, $11.99 ebook). A professor of humanities emeritus at the State University of New York, Delhi College, he has authored twenty-one previous books on critical thinking, ethics, education, and communication, among other topics. For a heavy thinker his text takes some effort to tackle, but is worth it as he provides an in-depth historical analysis of cultural trends and tracing their origins to the last century when intellectuals began to conclude that humans are irredeemably stupid and that it was government’s job to tell them how to live their lives. If you wonder why self-esteem replaced self-respect  and why rights and entitlements became more important than responsibilities, among a long list of problems facing the nation, this book explains it.

Just published this month is New Frontiers in Space: From Mars to the Edge of the Universe ($29.95, Time Home Entertainment), a large format, extensively illustrated book that will surely please anyone with an interest in our space program. It looks at the powerful new telescopes that have given scientists the ability to hunt for Earthlike planets in distant star systems and the entrepreneurs who are picking up where the space shuttle left off, developing plans for commercial space travel. It asks questions about the yet unanswered mysteries about the cosmos regarding galaxies such as what matter makes up the universe, and how black holes are formed. There is much more in this handsome coffee-table book that offers hours of reading pleasure.

I have been a business and science writer for some fifty years and had to learn by doing, but for anyone who is into science and wants to pursue it as a professional writer, I can certainly recommend The Science Writer’s Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Pitch, Publish, and Prosper in the Digital Age, edited by Thomas Hayden and Michelle Nijhuis ($17.50, Da Capo Press, softcover). Science writing has become an increasingly popular field, but trying to make a living communicating science can be tough say the editors, especially in an industry that has changed so much in recent years (tell me about it!)  With a combined collective experience of many years, the Writers of Scilance, an online group of science writers, share their knowledge and it can help anyone new to the field or adjusting to the changes.

Reading History

If I had to chose just one category of literature, I would chose history. I find it entertaining in many ways, both for the people and events, and for an insight to past eras that inevitably provide insights to our present one.

Early American history focuses on Washington, Jefferson and Adams among other founders, but it is a quirk of history that others in their company, in the years leading up to and during the Revolution, the problems with the Articles of Confederation and the writing of the Constitution, have gotten short shrift. David Lefer has written The Founding Conservatives: How a Group of Unsung Heroes Saved the American Revolution ($29.95, Sentinel, an imprint of Penguin Publishing) and has saved them from the quasi-oblivion to which other historians have consigned them.  Among them was John Dickinson who drafted the Articles of Confederation to unite the former colonies into states composing the new nation. James Wilson was a staunch free-market capitalist and who was joined by like-minded men to fight off a mob demanding controls on the price of bread. Roger Morris created a stable money supply to finance the Revolution and founded the first national bank of the United States. In an age of monarchs the Americans had developed a very different view of themselves as citizens, not subjects, and their states as individual republics, self governed, and devoted to the welfare of the citizens, not just a class of nobles. As far back as the ancient world, republics were known to be the most prosperous. It is a revelation to read of these and other men who did, indeed, save the American Revolution.

It is a common belief that the Jews of Germany and Europe went passively to their deaths in the concentration camps and surely millions were duped by the Nazis that they were merely being “relocated.” Information about the camps was kept secret from Jew and non-Jew, and often not believed when it leaked out. How the Jews Defeated Hitler by Benjamin Ginsberg ($35.00, Roman & Littlefield Publishers) reveals that it was not whether Jews fought, though poorly armed, outnumbered, and without resourses, but the means they used as participants in the the anti-Nazi resistance units and as soldiers in both the U.S. and Soviet armies, the latter involving engineering skills that contributed to the famed T-34 tank and other weapons. In the U.S. Jewish organizations aided the Roosevelt administration in discrediting the prevailing feeling of isolationism that initially prevented support for Great Britain. Jews also provided the war effort with invaluable assistance with espionage and cryptoanalysis. Their greatest contribution was the development of the atomic bomb that ended the war with Japan and World War II. The author sums up the reaction of European Jews at the time; they could not believe Germans intended to kill them all! A professor of political science, Dr. Ginsberg concludes with a look at the way old enemies of the Jews have mutated into new ones, the most obvious being Muslims worldwide, but also those on the Left seeking an alliance with them. This is a fascinating story that has not been told in its full context until now.

Historian Ian Mortimer loves to time-travel and did so with a previous book, The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England which I read and enjoyed. Lives were short, illness almost always risked death, and it was a brutal and dangerous place. Now he is back with The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England ($27.95, Viking). It was an exciting time to be alive and, of course, the period in which Shakespeare wrote his plays. The British were discovering and settling new worlds beyond their island and some would circumnavigate the globe. Where people in the medieval era saw the sea as a barrier, in Elizabethan times it was recognized as one of its great resources. Using the diaries, letters, books and other writings of the day, Mortimer offers a detailed portrait of daily life, recreating the sights, sounds, and the smells of the streets and homes of 16th century England. He informs us of Elizabethan attitudes towards violance, class, sex, and religion. London was home to 200,000 people at the time and Oxford and Cambridge, home now to famed universities, had about 5,000 each. In the course of Elizabeth’s reign society evolved a new conception of itself, but remained “still violent and charitable, corrupt and courageous, racist and proud.”

Every so often a book comes along that deals with a topic that will intrigue a few readers, but may not attract a wider audience. Strange Medicine: A Shocking History of Real Medical Practices Through the Ages ($16.00. Perigee, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, softcover) by Nathan Belofsky is not for the squeamish as it recounts in a very entertaining fashion the appalling things that physicians from ancient times, through the Middle Ages and right up to the twentieth century believed and did in the name of “curing” the patient. As often as not they inflicted more pain than the ailment. Until relatively modern times they had no idea what germs were or did. In general they preferred to avoid any physical contact with the patient short of taking their pulse. The real bloodwork was left to those ordinary folk who pulled teeth or set bones. Aneshesia was completely unknown. Presidents from Washington to Garfield to Harrison all died more from the treatments than the ailments, although Garfield had taken a bullet. If stories involving medicine interest you, this is definetely the book to read.

The Best Planned City in the World by Francis R. Kowsky ($29.95, University of Massachusetts Press) offers a view of history we tend to overlook. It is hard to imagine any of the world’s major cities without their public parks. Examples include Central Park in New York, London’s Hyde Park, and the Tuileries Garden in Paris, but as the author notes, until the 1850s the concept of a “pastoral environment in the heart of the city available to all classes of society” simply did not exist. The movement for open spaces for the enjoyment of nature required visionary men. In 1868 two of them, Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux set their sights on Buffalo, New York and, in doing so, set in motion the concept of park systems. Published in association with the Library of American Landscape History, this book examines that careful planning that went into parks. The Buffalo park system was to be the first of its kind, a revolutionary urban experiment in what was then one of the busiest ports. Olmstead and Vaux had already made their name with New York’s Central and Prospect Parks, but Buffalo was to have three parks, distinct from one another and linked throughout the city by majestic, tree-canopies boulevards. Extensively illustrated, it is an excellent book on urban history.

On a lighter side, there’s Behind the Burly Q: The Story of Burlesque in America by Leslie Zemeckis ($24.95, Skyhorse Publishing). Given unprecedented access to the performers diaries, letters, albums, and memorabilia, the author has gathered their stories that brings this pre-and-early TV era of entertainment to life, a time when it was the training ground for many entertainers who migrated to Hollywood and television, but it is the strippers that burlesque is most remembered for. Many years ago, when she had written an autobiography, I met Blaze Starr and then reviewed her book. Blaze was famous by then for her affairs with Louisiana’s Governer Earl Long and others. Her contemporaries included Lily St. Cyr, Kitty West, Tempest Storm, and Sally Rand. They made an artform of stripping, providing a bit of sexual fantasy for a generator for whom this adult entertainment was considered a bit racy but acceptable. That is until New York Mayor shut down the city’s burlesque clubs. Other cities would follow suit, but burlesque lives on in places like Las Vegas with its extraordinary shows. This is a piece of show business history that is itself entertaining.

The Handy Art History Answer Book by Madelynn Dickerson ($21.95, Visible Ink Press) joins The Handy History Answer Book and The Handy Science Answer Book as an excellent compendium of information that takes the reader on a walk through history and the world of art. From prehistoric to modern and various cultures, this book puts a world of information between its covers as it traces art history from cave paintings to contemporary works, guiding the reader smoothly through the major art movements, the artists, and the important art pieces from 35,000 B.C.E. to today. While we tend to associate art with the West, this book also demonstrates how other cultures influenced modern artists. Anyone who loves art will want to have this book in their personal library.

Real People in Memoirs, Biographies

Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan—America’s First Female Rocket Scientist by George D. Morgan ($18.00, Prometheus Books, softcover) is an interesting biography on several levels. For one, it was a search for answers by the author about his mother. For another, it is about a moment in history that transformed the space race to create rockets as Mary Sherman, a chemist working for North American Aviation, was given the challenge of developing a fuel that would get a rocket successfully into space. This was in the wake of World War II when a woman chemist was still a rarity. The author tells of how in 1938, his mother, a North Dakota farm girl dreamed of a career in chemistry. The effort would team her with Werner von Braun, but the entire program was so cloaked in secrecy that it took the passage of many years for the author to get at the facts of her life during that time. Life is, indeed, stranger than fiction and this book is proof  again of that.

We often ask how a successful person, someone of achievement, can become addicted to alcohol, illegal or prescription drugs, but it happens all too often. The story by Dr. Sylvester ‘Skip’ Sviokla IIl, From Harvard to Hell…and Back: A Doctor’s Journey through Addiction to Recovery ($16.96, Central Recovery Press, softcover) is not uncommon as many physicians have also become addicted, but the author has so many reasons to avoid it that his story is a cautionary tale. He had wealth and an enviable life until the addiction brought his life crashing down. What makes this story carry more weight is the fact that it is written by this “doctor to the stars” who risked losing everything. It is also worth reading to know one can overcome the addiction. He is now medical director of several methadone clinics and co-owner of a substance abuse clinic.

From time to time we hear of some person who decides to take a close-up look at America and what fun it is to learn what they discovered. Paul Stutzman previous wrote Hiking Through, the story of how, following the death of his wife, left his career as a restaurant manager, to hike the Appalachion Trail in search of peace, healing and freedom. I reviewed it and still recommend it, but I can also recommend his latest book, Biking Across America ($12.99, Revell, softcover) in which he took on another challenge, putting aside his hiking boots for a bike and starting at Neah Bay, Washington to end finally in Key West, Florida. These are the two farthest points in the contiguous United States. Along the way he met hundreds of people, some of whose stories he tells. Through good weather and bad, he peddled on and discovered what so many others have, that America is filled with some very good people. This is a delightful, inspiring story.

To Your Health

Americans are obsessed with their health so, naturally, there are lots of books on the subject. Here are a few new ones that have arrived at Chez Caruba.

Why Can’t My Child Stop Eating? A Guide to Helping Your Child Overcome Emotional Overeating by Debbie Danowsky, PhD ($14.95, Contral Recovery Press, softcover). That’s the kind of title that says it all. Michelle Obama has made every parent of every overweight or obese child give this topic serious thought and this book provides real-world solutions to the social, emotional, and physical problems these children encounter. It is an emotional recovery plan crafted by an author whose own food addiction recovery program produced results. Skinny Smoothies: 101 Delicious Drinks that Help You Detox and Lose Weight by Shell Harris and Elizabeth Johnson ($16.00, Da Capo Press, softcover) provides recipes for low-calorie, nutrient-packed drinks, plus lots of tips to jumpstart and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The authors say that smoothies are a wholesome way to lose weight without feeling like you’re dieting. I have never had a smoothy, but I am willing to take their word for it.

The Sugar Detox by Brooke Alpert, RD, CDN and Patricia Farris, MD, FAAD ($24.99, Da Capo Press) addresses my “problem” and that of many others, a love of sweets. I have never met a cookie or ice cream I did not like. The authors say that the average American consumes more than seventy pounds of sugar each year and that a high-sugar diet can be detrimental to nearly all areas of health and beauty. The side affairs aren’t just weight gain, but include premature aging and increased risk of diabetes, atherosclerosis, heart disease, and even cataracts. This is a serious book that offers a one-month plan to wean readers of their sugar cravings with a four-week schedule of menu plans and fifty recipes.

Blood Pressure Down: The 10-Step Plan to Lower Your Blood Pressure in 4 Weeks Without Prescription Drugs by Janet Bond Brill ($15.00, Three Rivers Press, softcover) is written by a natinally recognized expert in cardiovascular disease prevention, a nutritionist in private practice for many years. Nearly a third of adult Americans, an estimated 78 million people, have been diagnosed with hypertension, and millions more are on their way to this condition. The good news, says the author, is that hypertension is easily treatable and preventable. You can, she says, bring your blood pressure down in just four weeks and you can do it without resorting to prescription medications. I like the sound of that and you will, too.

The New Testosterone Treatment: How You and Your Doctor Can Fight Breast Cancer, Prostate Cancer, and Alzheimer’s ($20.00, Prometheus Books, softcover) is by Dr. Edward Friedman, a leading authority on hormone receptors and prostate cancer. As the title says, it deals with prevention and its focus is on the use of testasterone. It notes that we experience our highest hormone levels during our teen years and it is a time of life when the cancers and, of course, Alzheimer’s are not a threat.  Could bringing hormones back to teen levels be the key to vibrant good health? The book says that the answer is a resounding yes. This book will be of particular interest to medical professionals, but also to anyone concerned with their health.

I confess I have never been much into exercise. When I was in the Army fifty years ago I was required to so a lot of exercise and have not been famous for doing as much since. One form of it has been popular in the orient for centuries and you can read about it in Tai Chi—The Perfect Exercise: Finding Health, Happiness, Balance, and Strength by Arthur Rosenfeld ($19.99, Da Capo Press, softcover) and he makes it look like a lot of fun. Many of us lead fast-paced, often stressful lives and our physical and mental wellbeing often takes a backseat to juggling work and family responsibilies. Like yoga, the art of tai chi provides a refuge as a low-impact exercise among all age groups. If this interests you, this book will open the door for you.

Kid Stuff

A delightful story for those of pre-and-early school age, there is Princess Cupcake Jones and the Missing Tutu by Ylleya Fields and illustrated by Michael LaDuca ($15.95, Belle Publishing). Parents know that children’s rooms are often a colorful managerie of toys here, clothes there, and stuff everywhere. When something is lost, it may take all day to find it. In this entertaining story, Princess Cupcake learns why she should keep her room clean if she wants to easily find her favorite things, among which is a favorite tutu. Her search for it is hilarious—particularly if you are very young.

For those ages 8 to 12, Call Me Amy by Marcia Strykowski will resonate with familiar themes of growing up. The year is 1973 and for Amy Henderson, it has been a lonely one with too many awkward moments to count. When she finds an injured seal pup, she rescues him to rehabilitate him. In the process she forms an unlikely alliance with Craig, a boy around her age, and an older woman in town. With their help she discovers that people aren’t always what they seem despite what others may think of them. This is a story filled with many elements that will appeal to younger readers and I highly recommend it.
The New Horizon Press has two new books for kids with special needs, A Treasure Hunt for Mama and Me: Helping Children Cope with Parental Illness ($9.95) by Renee Le Varrier and Samuel Frank, MD, and Owen Has Burgers and Drum: Helping to Understand and Befriend Kids with Asperger’s Syndrome ($9.95) by Christine M. Shells with Frank R. Pane, MAE, BCBA. When a parent is suffering from a serious disabling or terminal condition, a child is subject to confusion, worry, and grief. The former book helps them to understand that, despite the physical limitations that come with illness, the love of a parent is forever. The latter book addresses the fact that between two and six kids out of every thousand in the world have Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, one that is a part of the popular TV show, Parenthood. The book notes that they learn differently from others, but their friends can learn to understand it and respond appropriately to it. Asperger’s makes it difficult for both youngster’s and grownups to recognize the signals people send regarding their moods and feelings.

Novels, Novels, Novels

Summer is associated with reading a good novel on the beach or patio and this summer those who enjoy fiction—if the stacks of new novels I have received—will have a bounty from which to select. Here are just a few.

A good mystery is always worth reading and Lori Roy’s new novel, Until She Comes Home. ($26.95, Dutton) set in Detroit in the 1950s. It’s a thriller that examines the transformation of a neighborhood. Alder Avenue is a respectable place where the neighbors care for one another, but that changes when two seemingly unrelated events occur; the disappearance of childlike Elizabeth Symanski and the murder of a local African-American woman. As the neighbors search for her, they fear that their world will be changed forever if she is not found. It will leave you reading until the end. The novel has been called “extraordinary”, “compelling”, and “beautifuly, quietly disturbing.” It is all that and more. Jeffrey Deaver delivers again with his series featuring forensic expert Lincoln Rhyme in The Kill Room ($28.00, Grand Central Publishing). A U.S. citizen in the Bahamas is shot by a killer per excellence—a man capable of delivering “a million-dollar bullet” from a mile or more away. As the investigation gets going it is learned that the fiction, Robert Moreno, was known to have strong anti-American sympathies and was assassinated by the U.S. government. A New York assistant district attorney, Nance Laurel, is unwilling to let the rule of law be ignored and brings a criminal case against both the director of the National Intelligence and Operations Service (NIOS) who ordered the killing. Rhymes is assigned to investigate the killing, but the NIOS is not going to permit to succeed. This is a psychological thriller with an intricate plot and arrives just as a succession of scandals involving the government’s surveillance programs have raised some very real fears. Deaver has won sevem Edgar nominations by the Mystery Writers of America, a Nero Award, and other accolades.
A host of softcover novels offer all manner of summer reading fun. The world of show business is featured in two of them. The Star Attraction by Alison Sweeney ($14.99, Hyperion) introduces the reader to Sophie Atwater, a CrackBerry-addicted, coffee-guzzling, sleep-deprived publicist extraordinaire on the rise at Los Angeles’ elite boutique firm, Bennett/Peters. She has an attentive, somewhat conventional boyfriend and she’s just landed the client of a lifetime, Billy Fox, Hollywood’s new ‘golden boy.’ Fox has the brains and brawn that put him in competition with George Clooney and Ryan Gosling. Put in close quarters with Fox, sparks begin to fly and Sophie learns what it is like to be on the arm of a rising movie star. This is a kind of Bridget Jones meets Hollywood Boulevard story, full of fun and is a debut novel for Sweeney who is a host on the NBC series, “The Biggest Loser”, and a role in “Days of Our lives.” How she found time between that, plus being a wife and mother, to write this novel is anyone’s guess, but we’re glad she did. In Primetime Princess, ($14.95, Amazon Publishing) another novelist makes her debut. Former NBC Executive Vice President, Lindy DeKoven, taps into her real-life network television career to write a deliciously scandalous story in the tradition of “The Devil Wears Proda.”  At the center of the novel is Alexa Ross, vice president of comedy development at Hawkeye Broadcasting System who has fought her way passed the boy’s club and after firing Jerry Keller her sleezy ex-boss, Alexis thinks she’s really at the top. Then she learns Keller has been re-hired and is her newest employee. All-out war ensues and Alexa has to wonder if all her efforts have been worth it. You will have to read this entertaining novel to find out.

A most unusual novel, Lady Macbeth On the Couch, ($14.95, Bancroft Press) could only have been written by a psychoanalyst and, indeed, was. Dr. Alma Bond has written twenty books, some about famous folks such as Jackie O and Maria Callas. The character of Lady MacBeth has intrigued many others including Sigmund Freud. In Shakespeare’s play she pushes her husband to commit regicide to acquire the throne and in Dr. Bond’s historical fiction, Lady MacBeth tells her own story of the events of the enduring drama about ambition and dirty deeds. Just as the play takes one on a roller-coaster ride of intrigue, this novelization takes one into the mind and heart of one of theatre’s most compelling characters. William Shakepeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher ($14.95, Quirk Books, hardcover) is an officially licensed retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. Doescher knows his way around iambic pentameter and the story has soliloquies and the clever wordplay one would expect of Shakespeare if he wrote of the wise Jedi knight and the evil Sith lord, of a beautiful princess held captive, and a young hero coming of age. From MacBeth to Star Wars…you cannot make up stuff like this though there are authors who will take on the challenge.

The emerging science of psychiatry plays a role in The Lost Prince by Selden Edwards ($16.00, Plume). It is a follow-up to “The Little Book” and begins in fin de siecle Vienna where Weezie Putnam met and tragically lost the love of her life, Wheeler Burden. She returns to Boston as Eleanor, a newly confident woman armed with the belief that she holds advance knowledge of nearly every major historical event to come during her lifetime. She marrieds, starts a family, hires a physicist to manage her finances, and begins to build relationships with some of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century, including Sigmund Freuds, Carl Jung, and William James. She reconnects with Arnauld Eeterhazy, a young Viennese scholar. When he is sent off to war in 1914, she must decide to allow history to unfold come what may or use her extraordinary gifts to bend it to deliver the life she is meant to have.  

The Last Camelia by Sarah Jio ($15.00, Plume) combines mystery, history, and romance as it follows two American women, Flora and Addison, who are separated by more than fifty years, but connected by the enigmatic Livingston Manor in whose countless rooms the long history of its inhabitant’s sins are kept, upstairs and down. On the eve of the Second World War, the last surviving specimen of a camellia plant known as the Middlebury Pink lies secreted away on the English country estate, an amateur American botanist, is blackmailed by an international ring of flower thieves to infiltrate the household and acquire the covered bloom. To protect her family she travels an ocean away to work as a nanny to the children of the manor. More than half a century later, Manhattan garden designer, Addison, is threatened by a dark figure from her past and takes up residence in Livingston Manor, now owned by the family of her husband, to escape exposure. Does the last camelia bring with it danger? You will have to read the novel!

A very different story is told in Innocence by Louis B. Jones ($14.95, Counterpoint Press). Set in Marin County, it follows John Gregenuber, a former Episcopal priest who has given up his parish for a career in real estate. Born with a cleft palate, he has his life behind the minor disfigurement of a “hare lip” but following corrective plastic surgery, he has been invited to go on a romantic rip to a secluded country estate with Thalia, a young woman who has also undergone the same surgery. It is a story of two intelligent, shy people, both of whom felt unqualified for love, and a weekend that promises happy beginnings, but which includes Thalia’s seven special-needs clients! It is improbable, somewhat absurd, and occasionally harrowing, but never boring!

Throughout his career, Anthony C. Winkler, widely recognized as Jamaica’s great humorist, has been compared to Mark Twain, P.G. Wodehouse, and Kurt Vonnegut. When you read The Family Mansion ($15.95, Akashic Books) you would understand why. It is a wildly funny, satirical, and poignant portrait of a young English gentleman whose best-laid plans derail against the backdrop of 19th century British culture and Jamaica’s luch, but harsh land, a time when English society was based upon the strictist subordination and stratification of the classes. Harley Fudges’ charmed life is marred only by the existance of his brother who stands to inherit everything, leaving him to his own devices. Arranging for his assassination seems the easiest soluion to the problem, but it goes terribly wrong and Hartley heads to Jamaica to start a new life. After a few months falls hopelessly in love with a slave girl named Phibba. It is a clash of cultures that Winkler turns into a romp.  CNN calls Bridget Siegal’s Domestic Affairs ($15.99, Weinstein Books) “The Fifty Shades of Gray of political novels.” Ms. Siegal has worked on many political campaigns and is a political consultant, writer and actor, residing in New York. When a twenty-something political fund-raiser, Olivia Greenley, gets tapped to work on the presidential campaign of George governor Landon Taylor, it’s her dream job. Her best friend is the campaign manager and Taylor is a decent, charismatic idealist. What happens when Campaign Lesson #1, No Kissing the Boss and Lesson #2, Loyalty Above All, go down in flames before the first primary? Is the candidate a true romantic or a political hypocrite? How far can she go to justify her happiness? Told with inside-the-Beltway detail, this novel will entertain anyone with an interest in politics and even if you don’t.

For younger readers, ages 13 and up, I recommend Miss Peregine’s Home for Peculiar Children ($10.99, Quirk Books) now in softcover after its debut in June 2011 by Ransom Riggs took the publishing industry by storm as a #1 New York Times Bestseller. Film rights have been sold to Twentieth Century Fox and foreign rights in more than 35 nations. A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs (which appear in the book) come together in a story in which a horrific family tragedy sets 16-year-old Jacob journying to a remove island off the coast of Wales where he discovers the crumbling ruins. It becomes clear that the children who once lived there—one of whom was his own grandfather—were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been guarantined on the island for a good reason and some may still be alive. For any age, this makes for some great reading.

That’s it for July! Come back in August when there will be many new fiction and non-fiction books well worth reading. Tell your friends, coworkers and family about so they too can enjoy the many new books arriving to inform and entertain.


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