Category Archives: Book Reviews

THE REASON YOU’RE ALIVE

Title: The Reason You’re Alive

Author: Matthew Quick

After sixty-eight-year-old David Granger crashes his BMW, medical tests reveal a brain tumor that he readily attributes to his wartime Agent Orange exposure. He wakes up from surgery repeating a name no one in his civilian life has ever heard–that of a Native American soldier whom he was once ordered to discipline. David decides to return something precious he long ago stole from the man he now calls Clayton Fire Bear. It may be the only way to find closure in a world increasingly at odds with the one he served to protect. It may also help him to finally recover from his wife’s untimely demise.

As David confronts his past to salvage his present, a poignant portrait emerges: that of an opinionated and good-hearted American patriot fighting like hell to stay true to his red, white, and blue heart, even as the country he loves rapidly changes in ways he doesn’t always like or understand. Hanging in the balance are Granger’s distant art-dealing son, Hank; his adoring seven-year-old granddaughter, Ella; and his best friend, Sue, a Vietnamese American who respects David’s fearless sincerity.

Through the controversial, wrenching, wildly honest David Granger, Mathew Quick offers a no-nonsense but ultimately hopeful vies of America’s polarized psyche. By turns irascible and hilarious, insightful and inconvenient, Davie is a complex, wounded, Honorable, and loving man. The Reason You’re Alive examines how the secrets and debts we carry from our past define us; it also challenges us to look beyond our own prejudices and search for the good in us all.

DEMOCRACY

Title: Democracy

Author: Condoleezza Rice

From the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the soviet Union to the ongoing struggle for human rights in the Middle East, Condoleezza Rice has served on the front lines of history. As a child of freedom, when her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, became the epicenter of he civil rights movement for black Americans.

In this book, Rice explains what these epochal events teach us about democracy. At a time when people around the world are wondering whether democracy is in decline, Rice shares insights from her experiences as a policymaker, scholar, and citizen, in order to put democracy’s challenges into perspective.

When the United States was founded, it was the only attempt at self-government in the world. Today more than half of all countries qualify as democracies, and in the long run that number will continue to grow. Yet nothing worthwhile ever comes easily. Using America’s long struggle as a template, Rice draws lessons for democracy around the world–from Russia, Poland, and Ukraine, to Kenya, Colombia, and the Middle East. She finds that no transitions to democracy are the same because every country starts in a different place. Pathways diverge and sometimes circle backward. Time frames for success vary dramatically, and countries often suffer false starts before getting it right. But Rice argues, that does not mean they should not try. While the ideal conditions for democracy are well known in academia, they never exist in the real world. The question is not how to create perfect circumstances but how to move forward under difficult ones.

These same insights apply in overcoming the challenges faced by governments today. The pursuit of democracy is a continuing struggle shared by people around the world, whether they are opposing authoritarian regimes, establishing new democratic institutions, or reforming mature democracies to better live up to their ideals. The work of securing it is never finished.

DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES

Title: Don’t Close Your Eyes

Author: Holly Seddon

In a bustling suburban neighborhood in Manchester, England, sits an unassuming house. There is no sign of life behind the unwashed windows, but Robin Marshall is inside. Driven by fears and obsessions racked by anxiety, Robin is frantically pushing her body through punishing workouts, eating little, haunted by what happened to her family when she was a girl. Robin’s only connection to the outside world is through her rear windows and the lives she spies upon in the apartment house across the way. Then a stranger starts pounding on her door.

Sarah Marshall is Robin’s twin, estranged from her sister after their parents’ betrayal and a violation at the hands of a man she should have been able to trust. Sarah has recently lost custody of the child she loves more than anything and has set off on her own, hoping that somewhere in England she can find Robin the braver twin, the rock star, the survivor, the savior.

These two young women, polar opposites, cannot go on unless they reckon with the past. While Sarah, slowly unraveling, searches for her sister’s hiding place, Robin sees another life hanging in the balance in the lighted windows across the street. It is a life only Robin can save–as long as she never looks away.

In a novel that is stunning in its twists, shocks, and gripping psychological suspense, two sisters find themselves on the razor’s edge of sanity. Untold secrets, a ghostly lie, and suffocating hold them back. Only one astounding act can set them free. And one last revelation will leave readers gasping in surprise.

PRICE OF DUTY

Title: Price of Duty

Author: Dale Brown

In a top-0secret location deep in the Urala Mountains, Russian president Gennadiy Gryzlov has built the most dangerous weapon his nation has ever produced–a fearsome tool to gain superiority in Russia’s long-running battle with the West. From inside Perun’s Aeriean intricate network of underground tunnels and chambers that is the heart of the Russian cyber warfare program–Gryzlov is launching a carefully plotted series of attacks on an unsuspecting U.S. and its European allies.

The first strike is aimed at Warsaw, Poland, where Russian malware wipes out the records of nearly every Polish bank account, imploding the country’s financial system and panicking the rest of Europe. When the besieged U.S. president, Stacy Anne Barbeau, fails to effectively combat the Russian threat, Brad McLanahan, on some well-earned R&R with his new Polish girlfriend, Major Nadia Rozek, is called back to duty.

As the Russians” deadly tactics escalate–including full-scale assaults on Europe’s power grid and the remote hijacking of a commercial airliner that kills hundreds of civilians–Mclanahan and his Scion team kick into gear, arming themselves with the most advanced technological weaponry for the epic struggle ahead. A patriot in the mold of his father, the late general Patrick McLanahan, Brad knows fist-hand the price of freedom.

With the world’s fate hanging in the balance, will Scion succeed in turning back Gryzlov before he can realize his terrifying ambition to conquer the world? And what will the toll of victory be?

DESTINED FOR WAR

Title: Destined For War

Author: Graham Allison

The reason is Thucydides’s Trap: When a rising power threatens to displace a ruling one, the most likely outcome is war. This phenomenon is as old as history itself. About the Peloponnesian War that devastated ancient Greece, the historian Thucydides explained that “it was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” These conditions have occurred sixteen times over the past five hundred years. Twelve ended violently.

In the seventeenth case, an irresistible rising China is on course to collide with an immovable America. Both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump promise to make their countries “great again.” But unless China is willing to moderate its ambitions, or Washington can agree to share primacy in the Pacific, a trade conflict, cyberattack, or accident at sea could be the spark that ignites a major war.

In Destined For War, the eminent Harvard scholar Graham Allison explains why Thucydides’s Trap is the best lens for understanding the competition between the United States and China. Can Washington and Beijing steer their ships of state through these treacherous shoals? Allison shows how imaginative statecraft has averted war in the past, and what painful steps must be taken to avoid disaster today. By masterfully blending history and current events, Destined For War aims not to predict the future, ut to prevent it.

CATTLE KINGDOM

Title: Cattle Kingdom

Author: Christopher Knowlton

The open range cattle era lasted barely a quarter century, but it left American irrevocably changed. These few decades following the Civil War brought American its greatest boom-and-bust cycle until the Depression, the invention of the assembly line, and the dawn of the conservation movement. It inspired legends, such as that icon of rugged individualism, the cowboy. Yet this extraordinary time and its import have remained unexamined for decades.

Cattle Kingdom reveals the truth of how the West rose and fell, and how its legacy defines us today. The tale takes us from dust-choked cattle drives to the unlikely splendors of boomtowns like Abilene, Kansas and Cheyenne, Wyoming. We venture from the Texas Panhandle to the Dakota Badlands to the Chicago stockyards. We meet a diverse array of players–from the expert cowboy Teddy Blue to the failed rancher and future president Teddy Roosevelt. Knowlton shows us how they and others like them could achieve so many outsized feats: killing millions of bison in a decade, building the first opera house on the open range, driving cattle by the thousands, and much more. Cattle Kingdom is a revelatory new view of the Old West.

THE FROZEN HOURS

Title: The Frozen Hours

Author: Jeff Shaara

The master of military historical fiction turns his discerning eye to the Korean War in this riveting new novel, which tells the dramatic story of the Americans and the Chinese who squared off in one of the deadliest campaigns in the annals of combat: the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, also known as Frozen Chosin.

June 1950. The North Korean army invades South Korea, intent on uniting the country under Communist rule. In response, the United States mobilizes a force to defend the overmatched South Korean troops, and together they drive the North Koreans back to their border with China.

But several hundred thousand
Chinese troops have entered Korea, laying massive traps for the Allies. In November 1950, the Chinese spring those traps. Allied forces, already battling stunningly cold weather, find themselves caught completely off guard as the Chinese advance around the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. A force that once stood on the precipice of victory now finds itself on the brink of annihilation. Assured by General Douglas MacArthur that they would be home by Christmas, the soldiers and Marines fight for their lives against the most brutal weather conditions imaginable–and an enemy that outnumbers them more than six to one.

The Frozen Hours tells the story of Frozen Chosin from multiple points of view: Oliver P Smith, the commanding general of the American 1st Marine Division, who famously redefined defeat as “advancing in a different direction”; Marine Private Pete Riley, a World War II veteran who now faces the greatest fight of his life; and the Chinese commander Sung Shi-Lun, charged with destroying the American he has so completely surrounded, ever aware that above him, Chairman Mao Tse-Tung watches his every move.

Written with the propulsive force Shaara brings to all his novels of combat and courage, The Frozen Hours transports us to the critical moment in the history of America’s “forgotten War,” when the fate of the Korean peninsula lay in the hinds of a brave band of brothers battling both the elements and a determined, implacable foe.

G-MAN

Title: G-Man

Author: Stephen Hunter

The depths of the Depression were marked by an epidemic of bank robberies and the swashbuckling, tommy-gun-toting outlaws who became household names: John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde. Pretty Boy Floyd. Hunting them down was the new U.S. Division of Investigation–soon to become the FBI–which was determined to nab the most dangerous gangster this country has ever produced, a man so violent he scared Al Capone and was booted from the Chicago Mob–Lester Gillis, better known as Baby Face Nelson. To stop him, the Bureau recruited the most talented gunman of the time–Charles Swagger, World War I Hero and sheriff of Polk County, Arkansas.

Eighty years later, Charles’s grandson Bob Lee Swagger has finally decided to sell the family homestead, but when the developers begin to tear down the house, they uncover a strongbox hidden in the foundation. Enclosed is an array of memorabilia dating back to 1934–a much-corroded federal lawman’s badge, a .45 automatic preserved in cosmoline, a mysterious gun part, and a cryptic diagram–all belonging to Charles Swagger. Fascinated and puzzled by these newly discovered artifacts, Bob is determined to find out what happened to his grandfather, who died before Bob was born, and why his own father, whom he worshipped, never spoke of Charles. But as he investigates further, Bob learns that someone is following him, that someone is sharing his obsession with finding out what Charles Swagger really left behind.
Alternating between Bob’s present day search to uncover his grandfather’s legacy and Charles’s relentless pursuit for the nation’s most notorious outlaw in the Midwest of the 1930’s, G-Man is a thrilling, action-packed addition to Stephen Hunter’s bestselling Bob Lee Swagger series.

TALKING TO ANIMALS

Title:: Talking to Animals

Author: Jon Katz

We seem to need animals in our disconnected lives more and more, yet we understand them less and less. In Talking to Animals, New York Times bestselling author Hon Katz–who left his Manhattan life behind two decades ago for life on a farm where he is surrounded by dogs, cats, sheep, horses, cows, goats, and chickens–draws from his experience to offer us a deeper insight into animals and the tools needed for effectively communicating with them. By better understanding animal instincts, recognizing they are not mere reflections of our own human emotions and neuroses, we can help them live happily in our shared world.

Devoting each chapter to an animal who has played an important role in his life, Katz tells funny and illuminating stories about his profound experiences with them. He shows us how healthy engagement with animals falls into five key areas: Food, Movement, Visualization, Language, and Instincts. Along the way, we meet Simon the donkey, who arrives at Katz’s farm near death and now serves as his Tai Chi partner. WE meet Red the dog, who started our antisocial and untrained and is now a therapy dog working with veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. And we meet Winston, the dignified and brave rooster who was injured defending his hens from a hawk and who has better “interpersonal” skills than most humans.

Thoughtful and intelligent, lovely and heartwarming, this book will completely change the way you think about and interact with animals, building mutual trust and e4nduring connections.

BEAR TOWN

Title: Bear Town

Author: Fredrik Backman

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest,it is slowly losing ground to the ever-encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the workingmen who founded this town. And that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semifinals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage. boys.

A victory would send star player Kevin on to a brilliant professional future In the NHL. It would mean everything to Amat, a scrawny fifteen-year-old treated like an outcast everywhere but on the ice. And it would justify the choice that Peter, the team’s general manager, and his wife, Kira, made to return to his hometown and raise their children in this beautiful but isolated place.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semifinal match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Hers is a story no one wants to believe, since doing so would mean the end of the dream. Accusations are made, and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.