"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
Twenty years reviewing books, audiobooks, graphic novels, movies and music! More than 1,600 reviews.

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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Unthinkable (Jane Candiotti and Kenny Marks #4) by Clyde Phillips

To be released in August 2013 by Thomas and Mercer

This is my 1,000th review on my blog. I have several good books that are already read and just waiting to be reviewed, but only one could be my 1,000th review. This is the best of that small bunch of books and it is really quite good.

This is the fourth book in a series of books about married San Francisco homicide detectives Jane Candiotti and Kenny Marks. I had not read any books in the series until this one and the reader does not have to read them in order to join in.

Photo by Rich Niewiroski Jr.
Cadndiotti and Marks are called in to a nasty murder scene in a fast food restaurant. Six strangers are massacred in the basement storage area right after the lunch rush. They have nothing in common except for the way they died. To make everything much, much worse, one of the victims is Marks' nephew.

The San Francisco Police Department starts to sort through the clues and work through the pasts of all of the victims looking for a motive and their search leads them to a former gang member who is conducting an investigation of his own and he promises to deal with the murderer in his own way...

This story grabs you from the first moment and pulls you right through. I flew through this book and I was genuinely surprised by who actually committed the murders and the ending is quite satisfying.

Disclosure: the publisher sent me an advance reader's copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program at no charge in exchange for an honest review.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Unthinkable by Clyde Phillips.

Reviewed on June 30, 2013.

A Milestone: 1,000 Reviews

I have suffered with abibliophobia for years (the Kindle App on my smart phone has allowed me to work with this problem quite well). I have successfully passed it on to my children - and I think this is important because of the following thought:

And for those who wonder how I could have ever read so many books...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Cage Life (short stories) by Karin Cox

This e-book was published in 2011 by Indelible Ink

The common theme uniting the two short stories by Australian writer Karin Cox in this kindle e-book is a caged in, trapped feeling.

The first short story ("Cage Life") features a mis-matched couple, a free spirit wife and her straitlaced husband. She feels trapped in her marriage, living in a soul-less house and raising a toddler. They met in college in a drug-filled flophouse (there is way too much description of this part of the story for me) and she is afraid that she and her husband have moved too far apart, that the marriage was based on a temporary willingness to meet each other halfway. But, something heartbreaking happens (that I cannot disclose but it strikes you right in the heart) and it changes everything. I rate this story 3 stars out of 5.

The second short story (The Usurper) is one of those stories that mislead the whole time until you get to the very end and they you have one of those delightful "Ah-Ha!" moments and you realize what the story is really about. I rate this story 5 stars out of 5.

So, two stories. One rates 3 stars, one rates 5 stars. That makes a 4 star average.

Reviewed on June 28, 2013. This e-book can be found here on Amazon: Cage Life (Love in the Time of Literature Book 1)

Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians by Raymond Ibrahim

Published in 2013 by Regnery Publishing, Inc.

Raymond Ibrahim's Crucified Again is at once alarming, shocking and tedious. The book documents attacks by Muslims on Christians, Christian churches and Christian organizations throughout the world, especially in predominately Muslim countries.

Ibrahim uses newspaper articles and TV news programs that are printed and broadcast in Arabic and, thus, largely ignored by Western media as a source. He also uses regional Christian newspapers and  magazines and newspapers from organizations that document human rights abuses. He then proceeds to methodically list instance after instance of anti-Christian attacks from Nigeria, to Egypt to Indonesia.

Ibrahim starts with a short overview of the history of Muslim/Christian relations in majority Muslim countries.  He lists the Koranic verses that are used to justify persecution of Christians (and all other faiths) and then demonstrates how it is done again and again and again. This is where the book becomes both tedious and alarming. A typical page becomes a listing of one atrocity after another. For example, on page 65 the four complete paragraphs start like this:

"In February of 2012 a dozen armed Muslims..."
"In August of 2011, two churches were set aflame..."
"In March of 2011, as Christians were celebrating..."
"In May of 2012 in Tunisia, the country..."

Each paragraph goes on to list one horrible atrocity after another (in this case, two shootings, two church burnings, two more shootings, two murders and a series of death threats). It is tedious because it is a simple listing and it goes on for page after page, one atrocity after another. It is alarming and shocking for the exact same reason. How can this be going on and people not know about it?

Actually, Ibrahim ends the book with a discussion of how this has happened in the West so the reader will know exactly how this can be going on and no one knows anything about it.

Is the book fun reading? No. It is painful, worrisome and makes the reader worry about the future. Because of that it is important and worthy of your time.

By the way, the title of the book comes from this verse from the New Testament in the Book of Hebrews (verse 6:6): "To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace."

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Crucified Again.

Reviewed on June 28, 2013.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Yesterday's Gone: Episode 1 (The Post-Apocalyptic Serial Thriller) by Sean Platt and David Wright

Published July of 2011 by Collective Inkwell

If you are a fan of Stephen King's post-apocalyptic novels The Stand or Cell you may want to check out Yesterday's Gone.

Platt and Wright are teaming up to write a series of short e-book novels (Amazon estimates this book to be about 116 pages long) to tell the story of a world where almost everyone has disappeared without a trace. There seems to be no pattern - the good, the bad, the rich, the poor, men and women have disappeared. And, a similar mix has been left behind.

Platt and Wright use "Episode 1" to introduce this world and the people that are left behind. Being an introductory episode, the lack of character development is understandable. I found myself less worried about the characters and much more curious about the setting - this strange world where almost everyone is gone. There are hints but no real answers (thus the impetus to move on to "Episode 2").

6 "Episodes" make up a "season" and Platt and Wright have completed 3 seasons, or 18 episodes with the promise of more. Platt and Wright have a lot of writing experience together - they are working on multiple series together, promising a book a week. That is a stiff schedule (I assume they have already worked ahead) but this first one indicates that this series has potential.

As of this writing, the first "episode" is free as a Kindle book on Amazon.com. It can be found here: Yesterday's Gone: Episode 1.

I rate this e-book 4 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on June 26, 2013.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! Famous People Who Returned Our Calls: Celebrity Highlights from the Oddly Informative News Quiz by NPR

Published by HighBridge Audio in 2009.
Performed by the guests and cast of Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
Duration: 2 hours and 29 minutes.

If you have not discovered NPR's weekly radio show Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! then I pity you. This clever show is truly one of the funniest shows on radio or television or just about anywhere and this collection is promoted as a distillation of 12 of the best visits from a very funny crop of celebrity visits.

They truly are all funny. Even the people who I had never heard of like Philippe Petit and Michael Pollan were funny and interesting. Other, more well known personalities (at least to me), like Carrie Fisher (Star Wars), Jane Curtin (Saturday Night Live, 3rd Rock from the Sun) , Neal Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser, How I Met Your Mother), and Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek) were as funny or funnier than I expected.

This audiobook focuses on a part of the show - the "Not my job" segment. In this segment a celebrity is asked 3 questions about a topic about which they may not have any particular expertise  and if they get 2 of the 3 correct they win a prize for a listener. For example, Leonard Nimoy, who is famed for playing Mr. Spock on Star Trek was asked questions about advice from baby experts like Dr. Benjamin Spock. Fearless tightrope walker Philippe Petit was asked questions about the phobias of certain celebrities.

For me, the funniest moment came when one of the hosts (comedian Paula Poundstone) went after healthy food expert Michael Pollan about Ringdings. Of course, it was all done in fun and this is one truly enjoyable audiobook.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! Famous People Who Returned Our Calls: Celebrity Highlights from the Oddly Informative News Quiz.

Reviewed on June 24, 2013.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My Mother Was Nuts: A Memoir (audiobook) by Penny Marshall

Published by Brilliance Audio in September of 2012.
Read by the author, Penny Marshall
Duration: 8 hours, 30 minutes.

Penny Marshall, best known as Laverne DeFazio on the TV show Laverne and Shirley, tells all (or at least a lot) in this name-dropping memoir. If you are offended by frequent use of curse words and references to drug use, this is not your book.

A still from the opening credits of Laverne and Shirley
Let me begin with an important point in my review: I listened to it as an audiobook that was read by Penny Marshall. This is important because I think it added immensely to the experience despite Marshall's relatively poor reading style. She mumbles, slurs words throughout and pauses at weird moments to take a breath but that is part of Penny Marshall's style. On top of that, at emotional moments, such as the death of her mother and discussing the 9/11 attacks the listener can hear the  emotion in her voice. Add to that her famed New York accent, her great impersonation of her brother Garry (creator of Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley among other shows) Lorne Michaels (creator of Saturday Night Live) and Robert DeNiro and you have an enjoyable experience.

The title of her memoir comes from the difficult relationship Penny Marshall had with her mother, who was also the director of a dance studio in the Bronx and the person who taught Penny how to dance, sing (sort of) and, most importantly, entertain. Penny's father seems to have been mostly an enigma in her life - a colorless personality who worked in advertising.

Penny's tales of her childhood are both sad and side-splittingly funny. The name-dropping starts early. She knew Calvin Klein from the old neighborhood. She worked with Marvin Hamlisch at a summer camp, etc. Penny's college years started out strong but ended with a forced marriage due to pregnancy. After a divorce, Penny's career in Hollywood starts, thanks to contacts created by her brother Garry (already an established script writer by this time) and the story goes into the stuff most people picked up the book to hear about. Penny Marshall does not disappoint, telling numerous name-dropping anecdotes and her life with up-and-coming celebrities off of the set.

Sometimes the book focuses too much on name-dropping (especially in the NBA section towards the end) and not so much on actual story-telling, but that is when I thought to myself that she is almost seventy years old and this story often reminds me of older folks (like I am some sort of spring chicken!) reminiscing about their younger days. That being said, there are times when the name-dropping is fun, especially if you think about how many of these people worked together on different projects and you get a real feel for how connected Penny Marshall is.

So, is this a great, insightful, soul-searching memoir? No. It's just Penny Marshall telling you about her life. That's it. It's an imperfect life but it she tells it pretty well. It's sometimes funny, sometimes sad and usually interesting. She leaves this advice: "Try hard, help your friends, don't get too crazy, and have fun."

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: My Mother Was Nuts: A Memoir

Reviewed on June 22, 2013

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Leaving Home: A Collection of Lake Wobegon Stories (Lake Wobegon #2) by Garrison Keillor

Originally published in 1987.

I stepped away from Garrison Keillor for a while. I don't know why, but I forgot about Lake Wobegon for about 15 years. But, I have returned for the occasional visit for a couple of years now and I find that I missed these stories. Having grown up Lutheran in rural Indiana I find quite a connection with these stories.

Keillor melancholy yet heartwarming stories of the people in and around the fictional Minnesota town of Lake Wobegon are worth a re-visit if you have stayed away. Deft turns of the phrase like "Corinne doesn't believe in God, but there is some evidence to show that God believes in her. She has a gift to teach, a sacred gift. Fifteen years in dreary bluish-green classrooms, pacing as she talks, this solid woman carries a flame" (p. 23) make you nod your head in appreciation.

Towards the end, a couple from Lake Wobegon is trying to take a trip to Hawaii. Keillor's extended discussion on why the glamour of "paradise" is wasted on Minnesotans and how heaven will be just as wasted is great sly understated humor with a sweet comment that starts with: "My people aren't paradise people, but when God loves you, then everywhere is paradise enough." He ends with a long comment about love cemented in life's losses and tragedies "...will last because it has endured so much already." (p. 218)

My laugh out loud moment in the book came during the story of Larry the Sad Boy who was saved twelve times in the Lutheran church. It rings true to this lifelong Lutheran and I had to immediately run and read it to my wife who also laughed out loud. A great paragraph that gently skewers and defends the unbending Lutheran outlook on life.

I have noticed that every comment I wrote was about a religious passage. I marked a few pages as I read and they all happened to have this theme. This book is not really a religious book but religion is a clear part of it.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Leaving Home: A Collection of Lake Wobegon Stories

Reviewed on June 16, 2013.

Friday, June 14, 2013

That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made by Eric James Stone

Originally Published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact in September of 2010.
Winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novelette.
Nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novelette.

I found this unique science fiction short story by Eric James Stone with my kindle, one of those happy accidents you sometimes get when you surf around on Amazon.

The story is about a funds manager for CitiAmerica who is stationed at the sun. Actually, just inside of the sun (but not too far in, that would be dangerous!). Stars are used to create interstellar portals - those portals require so much energy that only stars can provide them. So, our fund manager, Harry Stein, is located at the sun because he gets the news from other systems about eight-and-a-half minutes before funds managers on Earth (news can only travel as fast as the speed of light).

Harry is a Mormon and is the "branch president" of the Sol Central Mormon congregation. He has six human members and forty-six swale members. Swales are very large plasma life forms that live in stars and have been travelling from star to star for a hundred thousand years. Swales live hundreds of years and the younger swales have an interest in humans and, apparently, Mormonism

A swale member approaches Stein and asks for help with a situation. This swale has been forced to have sex with another swale. Humans would call it rape. Swales have no such concept. As Stein starts talking to human experts he finds that he must talk to Leviathan, the oldest and biggest swale of all...

What I liked about this book is that the author did not do what so many science fiction authors assume would happen - human religion would collapse at the time of contact with an alien species. Sure, there are some superficial changes, such as the Mormon Church having to re-write some passages to account for the swales having three genders, but the essence of Mormon theology is left so intact that there are missionaries (you know, those nice young men with the white shirts and the ties on bicycles) sent to the newest mission field of all - the sun.

I also like the humor of Harry Stein. He is a layman who is doing his best in the strangest of situations. Plus, he's very aware that there are precious few women that he could date on Sol Central Station, let alone Mormon women. He sadly notes that there are no unmarried Mormon women within 90,000,000 miles in any direction! But, the solcetologist (person who studies swales) who thinks that the Mormons should leave the swales alone is single and awfully attractive...

Like I noted above, this short story was a pleasant surprise. I am not Mormon, but you do not have to be Mormon to follow along with this story.

I rate this story 5 stars out of 5.

This novelette can be found on Amazon.com here: That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made

Reviewed on June 14, 2013.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Silent Speaker: A Nero Wolfe Mystery by Rex Stout

Seemed like Stout was looking for ways to stretch a good story

Rex Stout (1886-1975)
Originally published in 1946, The Silent Speaker is the 13th Nero Wolfe story or the 11th Nero Wolfe book written by Rex Stout (1886-1975) depending on how you want to do the counting. The story features the over-sized and very particular detective Nero Wolfe and his right hand man Archie Goodwin.

If you are not familiar with Nero Wolfe, let me introduce you. Nero Wolfe is an obese genius who solves mysteries but rarely leaves his New York City Brownstone home. His true passions are meticulously prepared meals, orchids and keeping to his routine. Instead of leaving his home and doing the legwork himself, he has several trusted and talented investigators who serve as his eyes and ears. The Nero Wolfe stories are told by Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's number one employee.

Goodwin is an interesting character himself. He is Wolfe's employee, but not a toady. He speaks his mind, sometimes too freely. He is flippant, clever, tough and quite the ladies man. If you are a fan of Robert B. Parker's Spenser books, you will quickly recognize the enormous debt that Parker owed to Rex Stout.

The Silent Speaker is the first post-World War II Nero Wolfe mystery. There are numerous references to Wolfe's exertions on behalf of the Allies during the war. During the war (both in reality and in Nero Wolfe's universe) the American government instituted a series of price controls to try to control inflation and insure that an appropriate amount of resources were sent to the war effort and also to the civilian sector. In Wolfe's universe, it is 1946 and the Bureau of Price Regulation is slowly releasing its hold on the economy. If it releases too fast, it could trigger a recession or a depression. But, some are sure that the National Industrial Association is very sure that it is releasing its grip far too slowly.

When the Director of the Bureau of Price Administration is found dead backstage just before he is to give a major policy speech and present his plans to the gathered members of the National Industrial Association, it looks like an open and shut case of a free market fanatic killing the government regulator. But, which member of the NIA was it? There was a room full of them. Or, did internal government politics inspire murder?

This is my third Nero Wolfe story and I would have to rank it my third favorite. The premise was clever, Archie had plenty of good lines and Nero Wolfe is actually forced to leave his house at one point. But, the story just dragged in the middle while Wolfe was casting around for any sort of clues. Goodwin was left out of most of the heavy lifting and since the story is told through him the reader is left with too many tales of sitting around the house waiting for things to happen. Throw in the way too forced "nervous breakdown" episode and it seemed like Stout was looking for ways to stretch the book.

However, it will not deter me from reading other books in the series.

I rate this book 3 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Silent Speaker (Nero Wolfe)

Reviewed on June 12, 2013.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sue Scott: Seriously Silly (A Prairie Home Companion) (audiobook)

Can't Miss for Fans of Garrison Keillor

Published in February of 2013 by HighBridge Audio.
Duration: 1 hour, 9 minutes
Multi-cast Performance

NPR's "A Prairie Home Companion" has an extensive collection of audio CDs based on lots of different themes, including skits that highlight certain regular actors on the show. This CD focuses on Sue Scott, an actress with a versatile voice and an admirable repertoire of characters to draw upon. She has been a member of the cast since 1992 and is the only female member so she gets a real workout.

This CD has 14 different tracks. Some are laugh-out-loud funny, some are merely amusing.  Altogether, this is a very solid hour of listening and a sure thing for any fan of Garrison Keillor.

Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary copy of this CD by the publisher through the Audiobook Jukebox Solid Gold Reviewer program in exchange for an honest review.

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Sue Scott: Seriously Silly.

Reviewed on June 10, 2013.

Sleight of Hand: A Novel of Suspense (Dana Cutler #4) (audiobook) by Phillip Margolin

Fantastic Narration by Jonathan Davis

Published by Harper Audio in April of 2013
Performed by Jonathan Davis
Duration: 8 hours, 10 minutes

Phillip Margolin
I have been a fan of Phillip Margolin for years but I have been disappointed with some of his newer books. Sleight of Hand started out fairly weak but the second half was much stronger.

There are two plots at work in this novel. Dana Cutler, appearing in her fourth novel is hired for a bizarre cross country case involving a 500-year-old scepter from the Ottoman Empire. The other story involves fashionable couple Horace and Carrie Blair. Horace Blair is a multi-millionaire international businessman and Carrie is much younger and is a career-focused prosecutor. When Carrie disappears, Horace is charged with her murder and eventually these two stories come together with a true sociopath and that's when the book starts to move.

The best part of this audiobook was the performance of the reader, Jonathan Davis. He told the story (the narration part) with a variety voices, sometimes ironic, sometimes earnest, sometimes neutral. His character voices were excellent. He covered a wide variety of characters - Hispanic, African American, Russian, old, young, male and female - with a great deal of skill. It was like having a whole crew of actors reading the book.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This book can be purchased on Amazon here: Sleight of Hand Unabridged CD (Dana Cutler).

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on June 10, 2013.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Umbrella Mike: The True Story of the Chicago Gangster Behind the Indy 500 by Brock Yates

Incorrectly Named and a Rather Disjointed Effort

Published by Thunder's Mouth Press in 2006

Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of the Indy 500. I have been to every 500 since 1986 and I live within earshot of the track. I have whiled away many a day at the track watching qualifications, practice or just going through the gift shop during the winter when the track is silent.

I was dimly aware that a Chicago gangster had fielded an entry in the Indy 500 in the 1930's so I hoped that this book would tell that story. And it does, but the title of the book makes it sound like Umbrella Mike (Mike Boyle, the crooked boss of Chicago's International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) somehow saved the race or even financed the construction of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

He did not.

Wilbur Shaw in 1939 in one of the Boyle Maseratis.
He won the 1939 Indy 500 in this car.
Photo courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society
What he did was use his race teams to launder some of his illegally obtained cash and financed several race teams at the Indy 500, eventually winning it three times, including the back-to-back wins in 1939 and 1940 by racing legend Wilbur Shaw.

The title also gives the impression that the book is primarily about Umbrella Mike while I would argue that the book is really about the Indy 500 and auto racing in general in the 1930's, especially the late 1930's. That was fine with me, I mostly enjoyed the digressions away from Umbrella Mike. I especially was amazed with the story of the American-born woman living in France who so desperately wanted to field an Indy 500 team that she smuggled a Maserati race car out of Fascist Italy, across embattled France and into Fascist Spain to be smuggled out to America. Then, she got a driver released from his duties in the French Army and got him out to America as well.

Mostly, though, this book was a chore to read because of its herky-jerky nature such as switched topics with no segues, super-clumsy attempts to tie in what was happening in World War II and American politics.

Even worse, was Yates' insistence on repeating himself. Often he would say something and than say it again. He would write about it and then write about it again . Then, he would write about it again. At times, he would mention something and then at other times he would mention it all over again like it was the first time.

If the preceding paragraph was annoying, imagine a whole book full of it and you can see why I am rating this book 3 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon here: 
Umbrella Mike: The True Story of the Chicago Gangster Behind the Indy 500
Reviewed on June 7, 2013

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Called By A Panther (Albert Samson #7) by Michael Z. Lewin

Published by Mysterious Press in 1991

Michael Z. Lewin's interestingly named Called By A Panther gets its name from a piece of Ogden Nash verse: "If called by a panther / don't anther."

Private detective Albert Samson is contacted by a group of eco-terrorists called the Scum Front. The Scum Front specializes in placing fully functional bombs in prominent buildings around Indianapolis. The bombs are functional except for a little piece is left unconnected along with a note that indicates that they are completely aware how to make the bomb operational. Then, they call a local cable TV station and get lots of publicity for their cause. The police are at a loss, but they are really irritated when they get a call about a bomb and there is no bomb.

But, when the eco-terrorists come to Albert Samson wearing animal masks and wanting his help to find their lost bomb, it is just starting to get strange...

I have lived in Indianapolis for the last twenty years and it was a real joy to read a book where I knew all of the places being discussed (Lewin grew up in Indianapolis). Not only that, but this story was quirky enough to be a great change of pace from the usual detective story.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.
Reviewed on June 5, 2013.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Rendezvous (audiobook) by Nelson DeMille

Published by HighBridge Audio in May of 2013
Read by Scott Brick
Duration: 1 hour, 2 minutes

Nelson DeMille's gripping short story Rendezvous is set in the Vietnam War and made more authentic by DeMille's own real-life experiences during the war.

A group of 10 American soldiers are on patrol in a no-man's land near the Vietnam-Laotian border. They are supposed to be make contact with the enemy, radio in what they find and move on to one of three rendezvous locations where they will be evacuated by helicopter. Everyone on the patrol is a little more than 30 days from being rotated out of Vietnam. This is important because the group has lots of experience but everyone has a sense of foreboding because this is their last patrol (there is a tradition of not sending guys out with less than one month to go).

While on patrol they encounter a female sniper who shoots the radio man and both radios. As the patrol decides to head out for the first of three pre-determined rendezvous locations with the helicopters the sniper takes out the patrol one person at a time. Usually, the officers and non-commissioned officers would be the first targets, but they are mysteriously left un-harmed.

The worst thing about this story is its length. This story is an hour long and it had me involved he entire hour. Narrator Scott Brick does a great job of conveying the world-weary fatigue of a man with a horrible story to tell and the story rolls along with no slow spots. The ending was totally appropriate but a little anti-climactic. Still, this is a solid hour of audiobook listening.

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5 and it can be found on Amazon.com here: Rendezvous

Reviewed on June 3, 2013

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Forgotten Conservative: Re-Discovering Grover Cleveland by John M. Pafford

Published by Regnery History in May of 2013

Grover Cleveland. Quick! Name me any fact about Grover Cleveland that you can think of!

Was he the one that was so fat that he got stuck in the bathtub? No, that was Taft.

Is he on the Mount Rushmore? No, those are Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and T. Roosevelt.

Was he a famous Civil War general that became president?

No, that was Grant, Garfield, Hayes and Harrison.

Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th President
Was he the president who was elected, got beat running for his second term but ran again and then won so that you have to learn his name twice if your teacher makes you learn the presidents? Yes. That's him.

But, as John M. Pafford demonstrates in The Forgotten Conservative, Grover Cleveland was a man  of contradictions. He was a uniquely principled man who was also mired in a sex scandal (the famous taunt went: "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa?"  "Gone to the White House, ha ha ha!"). His presidency is tucked in among all sorts of men who made their reputations in Civil War while he paid for a substitute because he was the breadwinner for his family. While the Progressive movement led by William Jennings Bryan was sweeping over the Democrat Party, Cleveland stood firm to his beliefs about sound money and the proper role of government and was the last Democrat who was also a true Conservative.  He also vetoed more than twice as many bills as all of the presidents that preceded him combined because he took his political principles seriously.

This biography is an overview of his life. If you are looking for an exhaustive re-telling of his life, this is not your book. But, let's face it, how many people want to read a thousand page tome about Cleveland? For me, this filled a relatively empty spot in my knowledge of American history and did a solid job of telling the story of his life, his presidency and explaining  the political movements that made him the last of the Conservative Democrats.

This biography also includes several full color political cartoons. Displaying them as they were meant to be seen is a nice touch.

Note: This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I rate this biography 4 out of 5 stars.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Forgotten Conservative: Rediscovering Grover Cleveland

Reviewed on June 2, 2013

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Dream So Big: Our Unlikely Journey to End the Tears of Hunger by Steve Peifer with Gregg Lewis

A Very Moving True Story

Published in April of 2013 by Zondervan

The hardest book reviews to write are for the books that truly touch you. A Dream So Big had me spellbound from the first and I cannot even attempt to write a proper review.

If you have ever had the scary meeting with a "genetic couselor" at the OBGYN office than you can feel for the Peifer family. In my family's case, the meeting was unnecessary - our daughter was born with no complications. For the Peifer family, this was not the case. Their son was born with severe disabilities and only lived a few days.

Peifer describes the devastation to his family and how he and his family come to join the faculty at a boarding school for the children of missionary families. He describes how a one year gig has become a mission to feed and educate as many Kenyan children as possible.

Peifer's good humor is visible throughout the book and he is a natural self-deprecating storyteller. He balances his tales of the larger mission with lots of stories about the school and his family.

I have included two videos so that you can see what he is trying to do in his own words:

If you are moved to help (and he emphasizes that a little bit really does go along way in Kenya), here is the website for Peifer's organization: http://kenyakidscan.org/how-you-can-help/

Note: This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I rate this book an enthusiastic 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: A Dream So Big: Our Unlikely Journey to End the Tears of Hunger

Reviewed on June 1, 2013.