Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bookviews - October 2014


My Picks of the Month

The Obama administration’s foreign relations policies have significantly weakened America and The Russia-China Axis: The New Cold War and America’s Crisis of Leadership ($27.99, Encounter books) by Douglas E. Schoen and Melik Kaylan reveals how these two nations, in league with Iran, North Korea and other nations, have drawn closer together as they have initiated massive military buildups of conventional and nuclear forces. The Obama “reset” with Russia has proven to be just one of many failures to realize how its policies are endangering America’s role as a superpower to which other nations have looked for protection. Russia’s and China’s trade and economic policies, along with their support for Iran’s ability to create its own nuclear weapons and their aggressive actions to expand territorial claims are in violation of UN norms. The annexation of Crimea by Russia is just the tip of the iceberg, as are China’s actions in international waters reveal their true intentions, but the U.S. response has not just been weak, but its reduction of the U.S. military to levels that existed before WWII are a danger to national security. Both nations have been facilitating rogue regimes like North Korea, Iran, and Syria, as well as militant Islamic groups. Both are engaged in massive cyber theft and espionage directed against the U.S. It is significant that Schoen, one of the most influential Democratic campaign consultants for more than thirty years, is so critical of the Obama regime. Kaylan is a leading authority on international politics. Together they have written a book that anyone and everyone concerned about current events and their future potential that should be “must” reading. They have documented a very scary future for America.

As Americans continue to try to understand what is occurring in the Middle East, Donald Liebich has provided some answers in his excellent look at the region and America’s involvement there. Fault Lines: The Layman’s Guide to Understanding America’s Role in the Ever-Changing Middle East ($16.99, Elevate, Boise Idaho, softcover) is both filled with history and other facts about the region and its importance to our lives. The author is not a career diplomat or a think tank expert, but instead has been in the U.S. Navy, followed by a career with a corporation and as a consultant to business enterprises. It included many trips to the Middle East over the past ten years that included meeting many of the key players as well as the common people. His extensive knowledge is shared with the reader in ways you may not read in newspapers or other U.S. media. Liebich explores why the U.S. got involved—ensuring the oil we needed as a rising power in the wake of both world wars—and why President’s 41 and 43 felt the need to force Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, then to invade Afghanistan in response to 9/11 and later to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein. He explains why the “Arab Spring” failed and why the U.S. has lost much of the influence it once had. This book is “must” reading for anyone trying to make sense of the headlines and reports.

As Americans face the likelihood of having to return to the Middle East to attack and destroy the Islamic State, many questions about the waging of war will arise and the perfect book to respond to them is Prof. Benjamin Ginsberg’s The Worth of War ($24.00, Prometheus Books) in which the historian and scholar lays out how and why war over the centuries has produced the modern world thanks to the development of the bureaucracies to wage them, the financial developments to fund them, and the emergence of the concept of the citizen soldier to fight them. While war is terrible and brutal, it has also advanced the world in many ways as nations realized they needed strong economies to wage and win wars, developed the propaganda techniques to justify them, and have seen the spread of knowledge to both the winners and losers from the days of the Greek and Roman Empires to the present era. This is an interesting, thought-provoking book for anyone interested in history and the role that war has played throughout. Throughout our history, policies have been introduced in Congress that their supporters thought would benefit Americans only to discover that they created problems that had to be corrected or modified at some point. That’s the subject of Thomas E. Hall’s new book, Aftermath: The Unintended Consequences of Public Policies ($15.95, Cato Institute). I would recommend it to anyone studying political science at the university level or who is interested in U.S. history in general. A professor of economics at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, he has written a number of books that demonstrate his capacity to do a lot of research and explain the complexity of events like the Great Depression or the causes of economic fluctuations. This book is particularly timely insofar as the debacle of Obamacare has demonstrated once again that government interference with the marketplace often results in a disaster. The book demonstrates that when the government imposes new taxes, rules, or regulations, the outcome can produce consequences so severe they render the intent a failure. Prohibition is one example he examines, alone with cigarette taxes, both of which created crime empires. The concept of a minimum wages can leave a younger generation jobless. And the income tax has led to a giant federal government, the exact opposite of what the Founders laid out in the Constitution. 

Not everything is or should be taken as seriously as war and thank goodness for that! Some books are written just to entertain and can be read for that reason. A perfect example of that is 1,399 Quite Interesting Facts to Make Your Jaw Drop by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, James Harkin, and the QI Elves ($15.95, W.W. Norton). The authors are the brains behind the award-winning BBC quiz show, QI. The book lives up to its name. For example, the human nose can distinguish between over 10,000 smells and humpback whales can sing non-stop for 20 hours. Your brains makes a million new connections every second and Chopin only performed 30 concerts in his entire life. Suffice to say, every page has four facts that will manage to inform and entertain you at the same time. I loved it. For sheer fun if you are the parent of a new baby or know someone who is, pick up a copy of How to Make Your Baby an Internet Celebrity: Guiding Your Child to Success and Fulfillment by Rick Chillot with photography by Dustin Fenstermacher ($12.95, Quirk Books, softcover). Suffice to say this is satire, a pure tongue in cheek “guide” for all those parents who love posting the latest photo or video of their child on their blog or some site like YouTube where fame is instant.

For anyone who loves animals, Daisy to the Rescue: True Stories of Daring Dogs, Paramedic Parrots, and other Animal Heroes by Jeff Campbell ($17.99, Zest Books, softcover) is sure to please. As his book demonstrates, animals are not only our companions, but become in many cases, true lifesavers as well. The book is enhanced by original illustrations by Ramsey Beyer that illuminate more than 50 amazing stories of how animals can not only make our lives better, but even save them on occasion. You will enjoy stories of bottlenose dolphins rescuing surfers from a great white shark, lions protecting a kidnapped girl, and a pig stopping traffic to get help for a heart attack victim. Great fun to read. Judy: The Unforgettable Story of a Dog Who Went to War and Became a True Hero by Damien Lewis ($24.99, Quercus, softcover) will cheer and inspire any lover of dogs with its story of an English pointer, born in Shanghai, China in 1936 who became the mascot for the English gunboat, HMS Gnat.  When war broke out , the crew was redeployed to Singapore and Judy had a keen sense of when an attack would occur. She and her shipmates were taken prisoner by the Japanese where they endured horrible conditions. The camp commandant gave her recognition as a POW, protecting her from harm. She helped maintain her fellow POW’s morale.

Reading History

I love reading history. It never fails to provide an understanding of what is occurring in the present times or provide a glimpse into the lives of those who helped shape it in some fashion.

It would surprise most people to learn that Walt Whitman, one of America’s great poets, was living in the basement of his mother’s home at age 40 or so, having published two editions of “Leaves of Grass” to virtually no sales and few reviews, most of which were unfavorable. This and the story of one of America’s first gathering place for writers, poets, artists, actors, and other free spirits on the eve of the Civil War is told in Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s First Bohemians ($27.99, Da Capo Press) by Justin Martin. The book focuses on a New York saloon, Pfaff’s, in a Broadway area that was filled with restaurants, art galleries, bookstores, and other places that made it a favorite place for the city dwellers. Pfaff’s, was overseen by Henry Clapp, Jr. who had returned from several years living in Paris with the aim of recreating the atmosphere he enjoyed in nightspots that catered to creative folk. It would attract a group of people, most of whom did not achieve Whitman’s later fame, but were widely published and known in their own time. Though we may think of the 1850s, lacking electric lights and other modern conveniences, as a bit ancient, intellectually and artistically, it represented much of what we regard as modern culture. Indeed, politically it reflects our present times. “Congress was simply nonfunctional. The Presidents of the era were generally bunglers until Lincoln was elected. By the late 1850s, there didn’t exist a single official U.S. institution that wasn’t in crisis,” notes Martin, who writes that “A common stance among Clapp’s set was a kind of sly cynicism. Every aspect of American society seemed so eroded, so diminished; drinking, carousing, and trading witty barbs in a subterranean bar—what else even made sense?”  For anyone who loves history and wishes to understand Whitman’s times, his life and work, this book is a real treat! Whitman lived long after the Civil War was over, but many of his contemporaries at Pfaff’s did not, burning out before they reached much beyond age 30. In all this is a book that is a fascinating look at the era in which the most famed of American poets found his unique voice.

For those who enjoy a hefty volume, you will not be disappointed by Donald L. Miller’s Supreme City: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America ($37.50, Simon and Schuster) which, at just over 750 pages, cover the topic extensively and entertainingly. The central figure of the Roaring Twenties era was Jimmy Walker, New York’s dashing Mayor. It was during this time that midtown Manhattan was the center of a construction boom that changed the character of the city as the area around Grand Central Terminal became home to the tallest skyscrapers on earth as well as the fabled residences of the wealthy along Park Avenue. Times Square was America’s movie mecca and home to bustling theatres. New York became the headquarters for national radio and the site of influential magazines like The New Yorker.  The city was becoming the center for a whole new universe of culture and enterprise that included now legendary names like Florenz Ziegfeld, David Sarnoff, William Paley, Duke Ellington, and others like the speakeasy owner, Texas Guinan. Jack Dempsey and Babe Ruth were sporting giants of the decade. Everything about the city and the times was about size and excess. The Crash of 1929 brought an end to the era captured lovingly in Miller’s book, one well worth reading.

In our fast-paced world, one can be forgiven for having forgotten the uproar in 2005 when a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, published a number of cartoons about Islam, including one drawn by artist Kurt Westergaard that depicted Muhammad with a bomb wrapped in his turban. In The Tyranny of Silence ($24.95, Cato Institute, softcover) Fleming tells the story of the “cartoon crisis” that followed as Muslims in Europe and around the world erupted in protest. Danish embassies were attacked and more than 200 deaths were attributed to the protests. Rose came to symbolize one of the defining issues of our era; the tension between respect for cultural diversity and the protection of freedom—particularly freedom of the press and of free expression. Fleming tells of what he had to confront in the aftermath of the outcry. This is his personal account of an event that has shaped the debate about what it means to be a citizen in a democracy at the same time that more than a billion Muslims take offense at any criticism of their religion.
 
Another Cato Institute book worth reading is Bootleggers & Baptists: How Economic Forces and Moral Persuasion Interact to Shape Regulatory Politics ($24.95) by Adam Smith and Bruce Yandle. It reflects our era of “crony capitalism” in which businesses engage the government to enhance their bottom lines. Throughout our history, the government has been a good place to sell one’s goods and to manipulate the marketplace to one’s benefit. Yandle’s theory asserts that regulatory “bootleggers” are parties taking political action in pursuit of economic gain. His book examines major regulatory activities such as Obamacare, the recent financial bailouts, climate change regulation, and rules governing “sinful” substances. The burden of regulations, some of which are deemed “significant” because their effect on the economy is estimated at $100 million or more each year they are in force, is being felt in all areas of the nation’s economy.

With Islam in the news as a threat to everything including secular Muslims, It’s All About Muhammad: A Biography of the World’s Most Notorious Prophet by F.W. ($16.95, Zenga Books, softcover) is very timely and very scary. What emerges from F.W. Burleigh’s intensively researched book is the portrait of a deeply disturbed, extremely violent individual and one whose life is venerated by over a billion Muslims as a guide to how they should live theirs. It is a religion Muhammad put together, thinking his epileptic seizures were a communication with God whom he called Allah. He cobbled together the faith he created, borrowing from Judaism and Christianity, but ultimately rejecting them and all others as he dictated the Koran. Muhammad literally declared war on all other faiths. Fleeing those who saw him as a danger, he built Islam through a history of assassinations, banditry, kidnappings, and beheadings that made Islam feared in his own time. Fourteen centuries later, Islam is still feared and it should be. This book will answer all your questions, but will not be available for sale until October 15 when you can purchase it via Amazon.com.

Those who enjoy reading about the Civil War will surely enjoy S.C. Gwynne’s excellent biography of Stonewall Jackson, Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson ($35.00, Scribner) that brings to life the story of one of the Confederacy’s greatest generals. Like Gen. Robert E. Lee, Jackson, while he had won plaudits and promotion during an earlier war with Mexico, had led a generally undistinguished life, not much filled with success or the portents of their close cooperation during the Civil War that held off a far larger Union army and defeated it in several major battles. Jackson virtually invented the concept of swiftly moving large numbers of troops while keeping the Union unaware of their movement. He was a taciturn man and paid little heed to his attire. Far more than just an account of battles, Gwynne delves into his personal life that included the loss of his beloved first wife. During the course of the war he emerged as a man of legend, dying of a wartime wound in May 1863, uttering as his last words, “Let us cross the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”

Bill O’Reilly of Fox News has made a separate reputation as the author of books about the killing of noted figures, the latest being “Killing Jesus” which has been on the bestseller list for weeks. Robert M. Price, a New Testament scholar has authored several books on Christian matters and his latest is Killing History: Jesus in the No-Spin Zone ($18.00, Prometheus Books, softcover). O’Reilly claims that his book is a purely historical account of the events in the life of Jesus leading up to his crucifixion, but Price regards it as the number one source of misinformation on Jesus today that ignores the past century’s New Testament scholarship, interpretations, and findings. He makes his case that O’Reilly’s books is little more than historic fiction.

To Your Health

I miss seeing more cookbooks that offer a range of tempting and tasty items to eat. So many are “health” oriented and that’s okay, but my Mother was a cookbook author and taught gourmet cooking for several decades. Dinner at our house was always a treat and, frankly, we ate everything…with gusto!

Tasting the Seasons: Inspired, In-Season Cuisine That’s Easy, Healthy, Fresh and Fun by Kerry Dunnington ($19.95, Artichoke Publishers, softcover) is happily filled with some 250 recipes that reflect the season’s bounty with a section on meat and chicken dishes, but if you prefer vegetables than you will find many more dishes that featured plums, mangos, tomatoes, and others such items. The author is a culinary consultant and caterer who specializes in “healthy” eating and entertaining. You will learn a lot from this book which offers some surprising ways to turn ordinary dishes likes pancakes and waffles into a health-related event using salba, teff, millet and flax seeds! I come from the old school of ordinary pancakes with butter melting on top of a stack and plenty of maple syrup. Even so, there is no doubt that anyone with health in mind will greatly enjoy this book and its wide range of recipes. In a similar fashion, The Forks Over Knives Plan: A 4-week Meal-by-Meal Makeover ($24.99, Touchstone, an imprint of Simon and Schuster) by Alona Puide, MD, and Methew Lederman, MD, with Marah Stets and Brian Wendel, and recipes by Darshana Thacker and Del Srouga offers itself as a guide on “how to transition to the life-saving, whole-food, plant-based diet.”  It asserts that various diseases can be reversed by leaving meat, dairy, and highly refined foods off the plate. This is a serious effort to help people who may be experiencing health problems due to their current diet of foods that most of us enjoy without having to give any thought to them. The back cover is filled with endorsements by physicians and others, but the bottom line is whether you want or need to switch to a diet that may not challenge your taste buds as you dine on navy bean hummus and mixed vegetable pita pockets.

Apparently I have a sugar addiction because a day without chocolate or ice cream is unthinkable to me. That said, the issue for many people is one of moderation. And a lot of them are fat because of eating too many sweets. The Sugar Savvy Solution ($24.99. Reader’s Digest) will teach you how to “kick your sugar addition for life and get healthy.” Written by "High Voltage" with a foreword by Katie Couric it offers a eating plan that, over a six-week period promises to “rewire” your brain chemistry and retain your taste buds to break your addition to sugar, as well as “excess salt, bad fats, and enriched white flour.” It is more than just a diet, but it has helped readers to lose weight over the weeks you engage it, using its recipes and advice.

For the three million Americans with celiac disease, avoiding gluten can be the difference between life and death. If you add in those with nonceliac gluten sensitivity, the number of people experiencing gluten issues triples in number. They are the people who should pick up a copy of The Complete Guide to Living Well Gluten Free by Beth Hillson ($17.99, Da Capo Press, softcover.)  The author is the food editor of the magazine, Gluten Free & More, and she knows this topic from A-t0-Z. As she points out, gluten hides in everything from food to commonplace household items. For those sensitive to it, it can cause gastrointestinal distress, rashes, anemia, depression, and in the long term, cancer, infertility, and organ failure. That’s reason enough to read her book if you or someone you know are incurring these symptoms. The book is filled with practical, comprehensive advice on all the aspects of living from a child who is allergic to Play-Doh to gluten-free dining. The author is the president of the American Celiac Disease Alliance and her book could be life-saving for anyone with the disease or troubled by gluten-related health problems.

Among the recommendations in Prescription for Life: Three Simple Strategies to Live Younger Longer ($19.99, Revell) by Dr. Richard Furman are “six foods you should never eat again” and “why lack of exercise is killing you.”  The author is a vascular surgeon who says that while aging is inevitable, a variety of diseases associated with it are not. The preface to his book says you should consider it as a letter from a friend who is a doctor “explaining in straightforward terms what is happening to you as you count the days to another birthday.” Among the foods he recommends you avoid are a juicy steak, cheese, and a variety of other things we all commonly eat. The fact is, however, we all need meat in our diet for its protein and other benefits, so the author may be overstating his case in this area. My feeling is that this is a book for people overly concerned about aging. The medically-oriented advice the author offers is worth considering, but the rest is just widely known common sense.

Un-Agoraphobic: Overcome Anxiety, Panic Attacks, and Agoraphobia for Good by Hal Mathew ($18.95, Conari Press, softcover) is one of those titles that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the book. The author, a journalist, was plagued by panic disorder and agoraphobia, the fear of open, public places, but overcame his disorders twenty years ago and has since become an expert on the topic. If you or someone you know experiences these problems, I would surely recommend you read his book. He recommends putting a structure in your daily life so you know what you intend to do and do it each day. He gives tips on choosing a therapist to help. His style is easy to read and I have no doubt that this book will help anyone seeking to overcome these disorders.

A Caregiver’s Guide to Dementia by Laura N. Gitlin, Ph.D. and Catherine Verrier Piersol, Ph.D., ($22.00, Camino Books, softcover) addresses the common challenges encountered by individuals and families caring for someone with dementia. This is an easy-to-read guide designed to help at-home caregivers navigate the daily challenges with clear and proven strategies that can enhance the quality of life for those with dementia—a condition for which there is no medical cure.

Advice about Your Life

At various points in our lives we all need and can benefit from good advice. We seek it from family and friends, but there are books that provide it as well and have the advantage of being non-judgmental.

Have a Happy Family by Friday by Dr. Kevin Leman ($17.99, Revell) is the latest of some forty books this internationally known psychologist and media personality has written. It is part of a series of series using “Have…by Friday”, advising how to have a new you, a new teenagers, a new husband, etc. Suffice to say he is extremely prolific, but he has a world of knowledge about marriage and family issues that have benefited many readers. He stresses good communications with family members and then provides tips on navigating the problems that occur with toddlers, teenagers, and all ages. What he wants is for Mom to be Mom and Dad to be Dad. They are different each in their own way. And it applies to single parents as well. I must confess I was intrigued by the title of Seth Adam Smith’s book, Your Life Isn’t For You: A Selfish Person’s Guide to Being Selfless ($12.95, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, softcover). Turns out that Smith is writing from experience as someone who was seriously self-obsessed and the harm it inflicted on his life and his marriage, one that included addiction and depression. The book is distinguished by his candor and by the lessons he drew from the hard-earned lessons he learned. He tells you that your life is about being of service to others in countless ways and thus the title becomes clear. If you feel you’re encountering problems because of your own selfish attitudes or behavior, I strongly recommend you read his book.

In our present times, many people are inclined to dismiss any religion in their lives, but I have noticed that those who do embrace faith seem to have an easier, happier life. Sarah Jakes is the daughter of Bishop T. D. Jakes and she oversees the woman’s ministry at The Potter’s House of Dallas, a church led by her parents. She is the author of “Lost and Found” and now a new book for women that shares the hope-filled legacy of Ruth, Colliding with Destiny, ($24.99, Bethany House). The life of Ruth, as told in the Old Testament, is one in which she went from being a widow to a wife with a secure, protected future, one that paved the way from the birth of King David. Ruth never let her past define here and the message for any woman that reads this inspiring book is full of good things.

For those who like to delve deep into the philosophical questions about life, Edward O. Wilson, biologist and naturalist, author of more than twenty books, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, and a professor emeritus at Harvard University, is back in his 85th year with The Meaning of Human Existence ($26.95, Liveright Publishing, a division of W.W. Norton). The book consists of fifteen tightly interlinked essays broken into five parts—the meaning of meaning, science and the humanities, other life forms, the developed mind, and our collective future. Essentially, he believes that the human species is at its best when it functions as a team and, of course, we see many expressions of this in sports and industry, among other ways we come together, For those who ascribe to beliefs regarding the environment and what we are allegedly doing to it, this book will confirm them and is thus not for everyone. 

Getting Down to Business (Books)

Thinking of investing? Wall Street seems to be saying we’re out of the Great Recession and the troubles occurring around the world will not affect profits here at home. The Handy Investing Answer Book by Paul A. Tucci ($21.95, Visible Ink, softcover) is ideal for the investing novice or whether you think you have spotted a trend. Tucci covers the whole investment marketplace from stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, tax strategies, to retirement planning.  In plain English he explains the basics while giving tips on how to avoid poor returns and unnecessary risk. In 2011 he authored The Handy Personal Finance Answer Book and been an investor for more than three decades, a former global information and publishing manager, a business owner and partner in an innovative IT services and software development firm. His book pretty much answers all the questions you would ask a financial advisor and much more.

Street Smart Selling: How to Be a Sales Superstar is the kind of title you would expect from Daniel Milstein ($17.05, Gold Star Publishing, softcover) and, for anyone starting out in sales it is a treasure of various guidelines to use for the ambitious beginner as well as established professionals who want to improve to a higher level of success. Much of the book has a message of self-improvement for motivated individuals. Milstein comes from a background in which his family in the Ukraine narrowly escaped the Soviet Union and made their journey to America. His is the classic American story of success, from sweeping restrooms in a fast food restaurant to becoming the CEO of one of the nation’s most successful mortgage brokerage firms. Happily for the reader, Milstein shares what he has learned about making sales and this could just be the only book you will need to read for your own successful sales career.

Kid Stuff

The Best Part of the Day by Sarah Ban Breathnach and beautifully illustrated by Wendy Edelson ($16.99, Regnery Kids) is a wonderful way to create a daily tradition of focusing on the small pleasures of daily life that often get lost in our busy, disconnected lives. It teaches young children aged 4 to 10, how to enjoy the little things that make life sweet. As the author says, “Gratitude is often thought of as an intellectual concept, when gratitude is really a small seed planted in the heart that is nourished through acknowledging all the good that surrounds us. Good that can be discovered through the reassuring comfort of family customs, rituals, and traditions, and restoring a sense of rhythm in our daily round and through the changing seasons.” It celebrates the changing seasons and the joy of simple pleasures such as feeding birds or tending a garden. Parents and their children will rediscover and learn why common experiences are to be valued and enjoyed to the fullest. I loved it and you and your young children will too.

Teaching children ages 4 to 8 how to value money is the theme of Alex’s Ten-Dollar Adventure ($15.95, Three Bean Press) by Wendy Bailey and wonderfully illustrated by Ernie D’Elia. It begins with a birthday gift for Alex from his grandparents, five dollars. Alex is very excited but his mom leads him to understand that many things he wants cost more and Alex checks out his bank to discover he has enough for ten dollars. He wants to spend it all and finds ways to do it, learning along the way how swiftly the ten becomes less with every purchase. In the end, mom encourages him to put back five dollars to save for what he wants, a new toy. As the son of a CPA, I can celebrate this delightful way to teach fundamental lessons about spending and saving.

A young adult novel that is sure to please is Bonnie S. Calhoun’s Thunder ($16.99, Revell) that begins in a post-apocalyptic world and society where the landscape is littered with the hopes and ruins of past generations. Every is struggling to survive and one of them is Salah Chavez whose family of bounty hunters, live off the reward they earn with each capture of the Landers, a mysterious people from a land across the big water. As she turns 18 with nothing to look forward to then being traded as a bride to a neighboring clan, she discovers secrets that will tear her world apart. What follows will keep the pages turning. They will do the same with Unmarked by Kami Garcia ($18.00, Little Brown Books for Young Readers), her eagerly anticipated sequel to “Unbreakable”, a novel leading off her “Beautiful Creatures” serials that was published in fifty countries and translated into 36 languages! In the sequal, Kennedy Waters lives in a world where vengeance spirits kill, ghosts keep secrets, and a demon walks among us—one she accidently set free.  Now she and the other Legion members have to hunt him down. They are on the run, outcasts who each possess a unique skill. This one is a powerful fantasy like the first.

Novels, Novels, Novels

Jay Brandon has written a novel that taps into the belief that the U.S. is actually run by a secretive group and the result is a lot of fun to read. In Shadow Knight’s Mate ($16.95, Wings Press, softcover). After all, he’s written fifteen previous novels! In this one, Jack Driscoll is a member of a shadowy group known as The Circle. Its members have stealthily shaped America’s foreign and domestic policies for more than two centuries even though they do not hope office, nor are famed corporate leaders. They operate through suggestion and subtle influence, but now the Circle has been broken as the nation comes under a bizarre nanotech attack and the question is from whom? And what will be the outcome? 

By the Breath of the People, Gil Bean makes his debut with part one of “The Last River series” ($19.99, Langdon Street Press, softcover). It is a meticulously research work of fiction that intertwines the stories of two men living on the same land three centuries apart. One is a young Lenape Indian coming of age as his people are being driven from their native lands by European settles. The other is a father and grandfather building a retreat for his family on a bluff high above the river. Though they come from very different backgrounds and times, the two men are connected by the land of the Delaware River Valley. This is deeply felt history as lived by the people who call the land home. I have lived in the area where the Leni Lenape Indians lived and some of the major roads of my home were formerly trails they blazed, so I felt a special attachment to the novel.

Lawyers seem to have a particular knack for writing fiction. In the case of Larry S. Kaplan, a practicing trial attorney since 1975 and author of When the Past Came Calling ($10.56, available from Amazon.com and as an ebook) his novel begins in 1989 and a key government scientists has gone missing. He has made a genetic discovery that turns Darwinism on its ear and could pose a threat to world security should it land in the wrong hands. Personal injury lawer, David Miller, is the FBI’s unlikely recruit to help solve the disappearance. When he was just 16, he had falling in love with a girl whose father is the FBI’s prime suspect, a cult leader named Philip Montgomery, but his trail has gone cold. The FBI wants to know what David can recall of the girl and his bizarre father. As he delves into old memories, revising people and places left behind long ago, a new riddle confronts him and it involves the assassination of JFK and his girlfriend’s conviction that Lee Harvey Oswald wasn’t acting alone. Ah, circles within circles and sure to please.

Lee Kronert is a chiropractor and a math teacher as well as an advocate for divorced men’s rights. When he isn’t tend to those other things, he writes and his two latest—yes, two—novels published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson, are Don’t Blame the Messenger ($13.95, softcover) and Mental Cruelty ($19.95, softover). In his fictional narratives, he merges fact and fiction to paint a realistic picture of the controversial educational and judicial systems with which we all must cope. In the former novel, he taps his experiences as a teacher to take on school policies, state Department of Education leadership, bullying, and his view that a teacher’s tenure should be maintained. If these issues ring a bell with you, this might be a novel to read. In the latter, Kronert uses his characters to relay the turmoil he experienced as his marriage dissolved into a painful divorce. Through the life of his main character, he speaks out on behalf of all fathers in opposition to the legal system. I tend to take a pass on novels that have an agenda, but I admire the author’s hard work in the writing of these two novels.

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens ($15.95, Seventh Street Books, softcover) is a very creative idea involving Joe Talbert who has been given a writing assignment for an English class. He is to interview and write a brief biography of a stranger and, with deadlines looming, he visits a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, a dying Vietnam veteran—and a convicted murderer! With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to the nursing home after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder. As Joe writers about Carl’s life, especially his valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism with the despicable acts that followed. And Joe has his own problems at home as he unravels the story of Carl’s conviction, but by the time he discovers the truth, it is too late to escape the fallout. This is a very compelling novel and I recommend it.

That’s it for October! You’ve got November and December to pick out some great books to give as gifts. Tell your family, friends and coworkers about Bookviews.com so they can find the perfect book for someone special or for themselves! And come back in November.

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