Thursday, July 12, 2018

Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence

Candid. In a book titled, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence, former United States director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper, offers readers a professional and candid description of five decades of life in the intelligence committee and the lessons he learned. Clapper’s life has been spent in public service, and he describes that life with a frankness that seems foreign and refreshing in relation to other memoirs. He seems to take an objective view of his failures, and praises others frequently. He can’t disclose classified things that readers would like to know, but nudges our attention toward areas of focus, including concerns about North Korea and Russian interference in United States elections. Set partisan views aside and listen to what Clapper has learned, whether you want to hear his message or not. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Facts and Fears from amazon.com.

Fascism: A Warning

Virulent. Former United States Secretary of State Madeline Albright examines the spread of fascism in the 20th and 21st century and rings an alarm bell for readers in her book titled, Fascism: A Warning. While in many places, democracy beat fascism in the 20th century, a variety of factors have caused a reduction in democracy around the world, allowing elements of fascism to infect politics. Russia and North Korea are prime examples of what Albright describes. While she doesn’t call Trump a fascist, she takes some shots and expresses concerns about some aspects of behavior that should alarm citizens. Readers interested in world affairs are those most likely to appreciate this cogent book. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Fascism from amazon.com.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Magpies. One staple of summer reading is a suspense novel, and Ruth Ware’s latest book titled, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, will satisfy those readers who like an engaging thriller. A protagonist named Hal living hand to mouth receives a letter about an inheritance. Ware leads Hal to and fro as she considers how to play her hand, which is a skill she has developed as a Tarot card reader. When the magpies arrive on the scene, Agatha Christie fans will feel on familiar ground, albeit without a Miss Marple to straighten everything and everyone out. Instead we have hapless Hal gradually stumbling into jeopardy and reward. I was thoroughly entertained by this novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Death of Mrs. Westaway from amazon.com.

Warlight

Shadows. Some of the best novels take readers to a different place and time and lead us to feel as if we are there in a vividly drawn setting alongside characters who are just like us and people we know. From the first pages of Michael Ondaatje’s novel, Warlight, I felt like I was in London in 1945, and as I read each paragraph, I saw shadows and light alternating across the rubble of the war. While some of the characters are just like you and me, others were a bit quirkier, but all are complex and finely drawn. This novel is a thriller that will appeal to any reader who enjoys fine writing. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Warlight from amazon.com.

There There

Identity. The debut novel by Tommy Orange titled, There There, explores identity and issues of belonging and exclusion. The title refers to part of Gertrude Stein’s description of Oakland, California, where this novel is set. Orange draws readers into the lives of about a dozen Native Americans, and through each of them we learn about a segment of American culture and their struggles. This is a novel about chaos and disillusionment that seems to fit our current times precisely. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase There There from amazon.com.

God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State

Home. I can offer three great reasons to read Lawrence Wright’s book titled, God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State. First, the writing will delight those readers who enjoy well written prose. Second, Wright gives readers with no familiarity with Texas or those who know the state well a great sense of a big place that the author loves. Finally, this is a personal story that describes an intentional life and decisions to remain in the place he proudly calls home. Thirty years ago a transplanted Texan told me that when his children were born, he placed a pot of Texas dirt under the delivery bed so that the children could claim forever that they were born on Texas soil. After reading Wright’s book, I now understand a little better something I had considered very odd. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase God Save Texas from amazon.com.

The House Swap

Creepy. Fans of creepy thrillers are those readers most likely to enjoy London writer Rebecca Fleet’s introduction to American readers, a novel titled, The House Swap. Fleet uses a structure of two time periods, 2013 and 2015, along with a setting of home or away. Protagonist Caroline finds a way to restore trust in her marital relationship: she arranges a house swap to get the couple out of their routine. Gradually, readers learn what led to distrust. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The House Swap from amazon.com.