Friday, August 1, 2014

Bookviews - August 2014

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

One of the most interesting new books is Patrick J. Buchanan’s The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority ($28.00, Crown Forum). A large part of the population today was born after Nixon’s era and, if he is remembered or known for anything by them it is the Watergate scandal that forced his resignation in his second term. Even though I lived through the Nixon years, I knew relatively little about the man and Buchanan who was one of his political team, now a respected commentator and author, provides a fascinating history of a President who was a canny politician, a pragmatic conservative, and a very popular leader in his time. He served from 1969 to 1972, finally bringing the unpopular Vietnam War to an end and opening diplomacy with China. After suffering stinging defeats in the 1960 presidential election against John F. Kennedy and in the 1962 California gubernatorial election, the Washington press and politicians declared his political career over. Yet on January 20, 1969 he took the oath as the 37th President. Buchanan’s book tells how he resurrected his reputation and reunited a shattered and fractured Republican Party. The book begins in January 1966 as a firsthand account of Nixon’s remarkable return during a decade marked by civil rights protests, the assassinations of JFK, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King. I recall the riots, campus anarchy, and the rise of the New Left. Anyone interested in U.S. history will want to read this book.

 
Fans of Jay Leno will enjoy Dave Berg’s Behind the Curtain: An Insider’s View of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show ($24.95, Pelican Publishing). Berg was one of the show’s producers, active in booking many of its guests from the world of show business, sports, and politics. For Berg, what was not seen by the viewing audience, the reality of dealing with guests from former presidents, candidates for the job, and even Barack Obama whom he spotted years before he as a national figure, was just as exciting and interesting as how well they performed on air. He makes it clear that he and other producers looked at the “numbers” of how many viewed the night before and how well the guest segments did, play an important role in producing the show. It was in competition with the David Letterman Show and they all wanted to be number one. Leno would in time achieve that goal and hold onto it. Berg provides an entertaining, but generally serious look at a wide range of guests from Jerry Seinfeld to John F. Kennedy, Jr. If you are into celebrities, the book is filled with them.  Readers will also discover a different Jay Leno than appeared on camera all those years. The show, other than his marriage and passion for classic cars, was his life from when he woke until he went to bed. He was totally absorbed and devoted to it. His monologues were always entertaining. His comedic talent and his devotion to the show made it a hit. That was quite an achievement considering he was following in the footsteps of Johnny Carson. Despite rubbing elbows by the biggest names of the day, he remained the guy who could have lived next door. In many ways, he was.

Pelican Publishing is based in Gretna, Louisiana and publishes many books that celebrate the state, its cuisine and comparable topics. People who have visited New Orleans are often so taken with its unique architecture, restaurants and other pleasures they return again and again. For them, I recommend Let’s Walk the French Quarter: A Visual Tour by Kerri McCaffety ($19.95, Pelican, softcover) a photographer and writer who has authored several books about the city. If you have been there, it is a reminder of favorite places and an invitation to visit those you missed. If you have always just wondered what this famed section of the city looks like, you will find it celebrated from Rampart Street to Jackson Square. Little wonder she has received a Gold Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers. It’s a wonderful book.

If you are a fan of weirdness, you will love Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Reality Shock! ($28.95, Ripley Publishing), a large format collection of items that are a mix of can’t bear to look and can’t look away, jammed packed with images and stories of people such as the wolf-man, Werner Freund, who lives with a pack of wolves or the grandma that has 18-inch long fingernails; they haven’t been cut in 20 years. There are women with scarily tiny waists and a guy who owns 2,000 Barbie and Ken dolls. Every page has something to make you wonder, gasp, or just feast your eyes on the antics and creations of people. This kind of books makes a great gift for the person who “has everything.”

To Your Health

I have always enjoyed good health; as my doctor succinctly put it, “Good genes.”  That and eating moderately, but well, plus a daily batch of vitamins and minerals to start the day, and getting a good night’s sleep, have served me well over the years. One thing is for sure, there is no end of books on health topics.
 
One unusual book that arrived is Losing Patience: The Problems, Alarms and Psychological Issues of Shaken Baby Syndrome by James Peinkofer ($15.95, New Horizon Press, softcover), a child abuse consultant with more than 18 years of experience in medical and mental health clinical social work. It only takes two or three violent shakes in as little as five seconds, by an angry parent or caregiver to punish or quiet a crying child to inflict a lot of harm. The author says that it is the leading cause of abuse-related deaths among infants with as high as 80% of survivors suffering permanent brain damage. If there are expectant parents in your family in which one or both have anger management problems—a bad temper—this would be a good book to give them. It also offers good advice as to what to look for in a perspective caregiver and what a family should do if they suspect shaken baby syndrome. Consider the harm that can be done to an infant this is a book that should receive wider media coverage. It’s due off the press in October.

A strong, healthy heart should surely be a priority and Joe Petreycik, RN, an ASCM certified clinical exercise specialist, has spent the last six years writing a book that helps those who have had a heart attack and those trying to avoid it. Pump It Up! Exercising Your Heart to Health ($19.95, Take Exercise to Heart, LCC, Stratford, CT, softcover) According to the World Health Organization, 17.3 million people die from heart attacks and strokes every year. Illustrated with dozens of photographs to illustrate the exercises that Petreycik recommends, anyone with concerns in this area will surely benefit from reading this book. If you come from a family with a history of heart attacks and strokes, order it today!

Useful Advice

Got a problem? There are many books filled with advice on how to solve it. Here are four new ones.

Parenting on the Go: Birth to Six, A to Z by Dr. David Elkind, PhD ($14.99, Da Capo Press, softcover) covers a wide range of subjects and offers solutions to run-of-the-mill concerns as well as the more multifaceted issues, like the right amount of computer times, that are pertinent to today’s information-age parents. Drawing on his extensive experience in child psychology and development, as well as the most up-to-date research on parenting, Dr. Elkind gives 500-word answers to more than a hundred of the most common questions parents ask.

Getting a Life with Asperger’s: Lessons Learned on the Bumpy Road to Adulthood by Jesse A. Saperstein ($15.00, Perigee, softcover) is a useful book even if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Asperger’s, a disorder that interferes with being able to pick up the clues that other people’s behavior that most of us easily read. It is an aspect of autism. “Growing up and becoming a reasonably functioning adult is difficult in the best of circumstances,” says Saperstein, but those with Asperger’s encounter greater problems. Studies show that between 80% and 90% are chronically unemployed because they miss the social clues and sometimes exhibit inappropriate behavior. The book is a self-help guide filled with good advice on dealing with family, romance, college, job interviews, and the crippling baggage of being bullied. Filled with wit and self-deprecating humor, it will help anyone live a “normal” life.

Put More Time on Your Side: How to Manage Your Life in a Digital World by Jan Yager, Ph.D, ($20.95, Hannacroix Creek Press, softcover) is her fifth book about productivity, among her 39 to date. This one is for anyone who wants to get more done in less time. It is full of good advice on topics such as coping with time wasters like over-scheduling, procrastination or perfectionism. There’s advice on how to master office relationships and politics to save time, and lots more. Time is our most valuable resource and knowing how to get the most out of it in business and at home is why this book is worth reading.

Master Your Money in 7 Days by Dale Gibbons ($11.69, softcover) will be a big help to anyone encountering money problems these days and that’s just about everyone. It is an easy to read book that reveals the secrets of simply money management that you can learn more about at www.masteryourmoneybook.com. Do you run out of money before the end of the month? Worry how to afford the important things for your family? Have an overdrawn account? This is about getting the control you need to put your financial life on a smooth path.

Books for Kids and Teens

One of the best things you can do for your kids this summer is to provide them with interesting and entertaining books to read. Good reading skills and habits are essential to their success later in life.

For the very young, early readers, there are books from the We Do Listen Foundation featuring Howard B. Wigglesworth, a rabbit character, and the 14th in its series is Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns We Can All Get Along ($15.00) aimed at those aged 4 to 8 with a message on how to live in harmony with everyone around them. Howard begins to learn why always wanting his own way is a sure fire way to not make friends. The text is an easy read and the illustrations are delightful. The series has many such books to help learning good attitudes.
 
Another book that addresses this is Stewie Boomstein Starts School by Christine Bronstein and illustrated by Karen Young ($28.99/$9.99, hard and softcover, @ www.NothingButTheTruth.com) for kids aged 3 to 6. Stewie has a very bad first day at school because he doesn’t like following rules and wants to do what he wants, not what the teachers does. Another problem kids encounter in school is bullying and Laura S. Fox’s Stan the Timid Turtle: Helping Children Cope with Fears About School Violence ($9.95, New Horizon Press, softcover) for those in the early school grades. Many children have many fears about a world the TV demonstrates is filled with violence. This book will help them deal with those fears and Stan the turtle becomes fearful when a violent event happens at a nearby school and several young turtles are hurt. With help, he learns it is okay to be afraid, but not to let fear rule his life. Another new book from this publisher is Siggy’s Parade: Helping Kids with Disabilities Find Their Strength by Blanche R. Duddly, EdD ($9.95, softcover) about Siggy, a mockingbird who only has one wing and who rallies his friend to celebrate and appreciate their unique disabilities. Written for those in the early school grades, it is upbeat and delightful. Using the alphabet, Keeping Fit from A to Z by Stephanie Maze ($15.95, Moonstone Press) is due out next month and is unique in that it provides its text for the very young reader, age 3 and up, in both English and Spanish. Extensively illustrated with many color photos, it will teach them the importance of getting out and engaging in sports and other activities. This is an early encouragement to not sit in from of the television or just play video games. It’s a very good investment in one’s child’s health.

One of the best publishers in Time for Kids which has two wonderful new books out. For ages 7 and up, there’s Snakeopedia ($19.95) that is filled with 180 full color pages with 400 photos, images and facts from Discovery experts and a herpetologist that combines fun for young readers, many of whom find snakes fascinating. They can read about the twelve families of snakes as well as other members of the reptile family such as lizards, turtles, and crocodiles. In his youth my older brother was permitted to have a black snake as a pet and it was a great learning experience for both of us. Also just published is Time for Kids’ Robots ($14.95) that is filled with photos and a great text that teaches how robots are having an increasing role in the way we all live, from helpers to robo cops. From their early history to the robots we have sent to explore Mars, this one will keep any young reader turning the pages and returning to enjoy it again and again.

My Mother was not just a great cook, but she taught gourmet cooking for three decades in the adult schools of our hometown and others. Learning how to cook is a great skills to have and The Green Teen Cookbook: Recipes for all Seasons – Written by Teens, for Teens ($14.95, Zest Books, softcover) by Laurane Marchive and Pam McElroy is filled with advice on how to navigate the kitchen and other skills involved with cooking such as shopping on a budget and eating healthier. It has more than 70 recipes and cooking is something every young person should learn.

Getting pre-teens and teens to turn off the television and discover the pleasure of a good story is well served by several need books written for this age group. A young-adult fantasy novel, The Adventures of Horace, George and Ingle—The Rise of the Black knight by Hugh Cumming (FriesenPress.com) is available as a hardcover, softcover, and ebook. Three brothers aged 15-17 are growing up in relative calm in a land once dominated by great battles in a kingdom that stretches as far as the eye can see. When a raging storm causes fires in their village, King Reynold makes the unusual choice to appoint his son, Ingle, to assit in the investigate the scene of the fires. It addresses the bond of siblings, the challenges of coming of age and dealing with unforeseen complexities of the adult world, and the age-old battle between good and evil. Another novel also uses fantasy and science fiction. Flight of the Akero: The Book of Milo (Bablefish Press, softcover) is by Douglas Lieblein, a writer and producer for Universal, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, The Disney Channel, and Nickelodean. It is book one in a series, a fiction tale that is comic, action-packet, and quirky. Milo Wolfe is the tallest third grader at his school but his problem is that he has been put in sixth grade where he is the shortest, weakest, wimpiest and by far the least popular student. Looking forward to no school, Milo wants to do as little as possible, but he is forced to embark on an unexpected journal to find a father he’s never met. It is filled with surprises.

Another new fantasy-adventure story for young adults is found in The Age of Amy: The Thumper Amendment by Bruce Edwards ($9.95, Lambert Hill, softcover) as 16-year-old Amy wants to avenge the sixth grade boy who mistreated her in third grade. She gets her change when she encounters him seven years later during a U.S. presidential campaign for a candidate she supports. But there’s a problem. He has grown into a kindhearted (and cute) young adult and her feelings turn to those of affection. Is she falling in love with her grade school nemesis? This is an intriguing story that is well worth reading. Lastly, for those 12 and up there’s Billy Christmas by Mark A. Pritchard ($16.95, Alan Squire Publishing, softcover) that begins when Billy’s father mysteriously disappears. Then, just twelve days before Christmas, Billy acquires a magical Christmas tree with a dozen ornaments, each of which supposedly holds a clue to finding his father. In order to do so, however, Billy must solve one puzzle a day. This is a young adult fantasy with rich, compelling characters and delightful twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the end, as he and his best friend—and secret crush—Katherine are thrust into a dark, magical world, that has placed them both in grave danger.

Novels, Novels, Novels
 
As Israel defends itself against the terrorist organization, Hamas, attention has been fixed on its invasion of Gaza, an area that Israel gave the Palestinians in 2005 after evicting 8,000 of its own citizens that lived there. Torn Blood by David J. Bain ($17,99, Bo Iti Press, Wyoming) is the result of seven years research and depicts the mortal battle to destroy Jerusalem’s Jewish residents and the right of Jews to their ancient homeland. It does so in a fashion that fans of Tom Clancy’s novels will enjoy because it is an action-packed adventure filled with suspense. This is an ideal summer reading experience as he draws the reader into a story that captures the reader’s minds and hearts as the ultimate fate of Jerusalem and her people reveals itself in an apocalyptic conflagration. This is Bain’s debut novel and I heartily recommend it.

Political corruption is the theme of William Lashner’s Bagman ($14.95, Thomas & Mercer, softcover). Lashner is primarily known for his series of legal thrillers featuring Philadelphia attorney Victor Carl and in this compelling story Carl finds himself working as a bagman for an ambitious congressman. It seems like he might finally be on a trajectory to the top as he traverses the streets of Philadelphia and finds himself associating with the city’s elite, filing his coffers with new-client retainers, and involved with the congressman’s sexy and highly unstable sister. Things become complicated when he becomes the fall guy for murder. With the police, reporters, and a couple of thugs on his trail, Carl turns to a shadowy group of old-time bagmen to find answers and, with their help, he follows the truth—and the money—to a final confrontation with the ultimate symbol of wealth, power, and entitlement known as the Big Butter. It’s a fast-paced, darkly humorous thriller, ideal for a day at the beach.

In Gideon’s Confession Joseph G. Peterson ($15.95, Switchgrass Books, softcover) enhances his reputation as a novelist as he addresses the themes of money, work, success, and the way a young man drifts through life, alienated from his father and two brothers who have gone into the family business. It is his good fortunate that he receives checks from his rich uncle every month and, in exchange, the uncle asks him to come up with a plan for his life, but Gideon Anderson puts that off, spending the money on alcohol, horserace gambling, and useless purchases. His luck continues when he meets a lovely, ambitious woman, Claire, who encourages him to do more with his life and asks him to come to New York with her where her father can set him up in his firm and bankroll a business venture. Gideon’s failure to commit to anything and anyone is at the heart of the novel, one that twenty-somethings in particular should read. At the other end of life, D.D. Lanz addresses what occurs when one dies in Going, Going, Gone ($15.95, Two Harbors, softcover) when John Janne is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He makes plans to end his life before the cancer does. The novel taps into humanity’s universal fear of death and the unknown that follows. Not wanting to have his family watch him die slowly and painfully, he plans a canoe trip in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters where a death by drowning will look like an accident. Before the trip, however, he spends countless hours reading about how different religions and cultures envision the afterlife, but it leaves him confused and uncertain as to whether God or an afterlife even exists. The trip opens his eyes and anyone interested in world religions will find this novel very interesting.

Heaven Sent Rain by Lauraine Snelling ($15.00, Faith Words, softcover) will appeal to women with its story of scientists Dinah Taylor, the CEO of a successful pharmaceutical company. She likes her orderly existence, enjoying her work and her luxury apartment, but one day she encounters Jonah Morgan, a seven-year-old, for whom she buys breakfast. Along with his dog, “Mutt”, they become part of her routine as she becomes the mysterious boy’s main source of refuge. When she gets a call from Jonah asking her to rush his badly injured pet to a clinic run by a handsome veterinarian, Garett Miller, their lives begin to collide and their relationship changes. Snelling is a bestselling author of more than sixty-five books and this latest one is an intriguing look at how people affect one another in ways they don’t anticipate.
 
Finding Flipper Frank by Patrick M. Gary ($9.95, Kendric Books, softcover) tells of Walt Honerman who has just about given up on life in Billings, Montana at age 38, but who embarks on a trip to fulfill a promise made to a dying uncle. Along for the trip is 76-year-old Izzy Dunleavy, a loquacious nursing home resident and Moira Kelly, a young woman who befriended Izzy during his hospitalization. Izzy entertains them with stories about a grand resort he once owned in Crawfish Bay, but when they arrive there, he is arrested on a decades-old embezzlement charge, I don’t want to give away too much about the unraveling of truth and fiction Walter and Moira encounter because it is the heart of this entertaining novel that has a lot to say about the human condition with its flaws and hopes. It is a very good read.

Last summer readers were treated to Stephanie Evanovich’s bestselling debut novel, “Big Girl Panties”, and she is back with The Sweet Spot ($26.99, William Morrow) featuring two of the characters from that novel, Chase Walker, the hunky professional baseball player and his beautiful and exceptionally sassy wife, Amanda. She is a successful levelheaded woman who built her restaurant from scratch. She was not looking for prince charming and when Chase begins to pursue her she pays little attention. She’s used to celebrities and politicians doing at her place, but she just can’t stop staring at Chase and the feeling is mutual. For Amanda their romance is too good to be true, but he has a little kink to his personality. He likes to indulge in a little passionate spanking from time to time. When a tabloid reveals their relationship she must decide whether to give up her single-girl freedom or will Chase’s stardom spell doom for this sexy couple? You will have to read this novel to find out!

For those of a classical turn of mind, there’s Medea by Richard Matturo ($32.00, Livingston Press, University of West Alabama) which is set in Bronze Age Greece. The myth is told in the form of a modern novel, eliminating none of the passion or violence as Medeo, an awkward, introverted daughter of a royal family, growing up in a remote backwater of the Greek world encounters the dashing and feckless Jason, offering an escape from her stifling life. She bears him twin sons and then watches as he falls out of love with her. His announcement that she will be exiled, minus her two boys, so that he can marry the king’s daughter brings on the final catastrophe. Matturo holds a doctorate in English with a specialization in Shakespeare and Greek Mythology. This is his sixth novel. Strong emotional ties is the theme of Jerry Pinto’s Em and the Big Hoom ($16.00, Penguin Original, softcover), originally published by a small press in India, Pinto’s debut novel is suffused with compassion, humor, and hard-won wisdom as he introduces us to Imelda and Augustine whose young narrator calls “Em” and the “Big Hoom.” Most of the time Em smokes “breedis” and sings her way through life, inspiring the love of her husband and children, the narrator and his older sister. However, Em suffers bipolar disorder and when it seizes her she becomes monstrous. The novel charts the ten-year courtship of his parents in the 1960s in Bombay to their efforts to come to terms with the desolation she leaves in her wake.

That’s it for August. Come back next month to enjoy Bookviews’ blend of news about many new fiction and non-fiction books. Tell your book-loving friends, family and co-workers about this unique monthly report.

1 comment:

  1. I could make my tbr pile collapse if I added all the books you listed. There are a few that I cannot live without. The political ones at the top are the ones I will go to first. I recommend one along those lines, about the Kennedy assassination called When The Past Came Calling by Larry Kaplan, larryskaplan.com is his site. He's excellent in the historical fiction dept.

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