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Book Review: Chief of Station, Congo: Fighting the Cold War in a Hot Zone

February 21, 2017 Leave a comment

Falling somewhere between David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King and Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, this memoir is a real world look at a CIA operative’s life as part of the staff of a U.S. Embassy. Danger, intrigue and civil service bureaucratic infighting abound, making it an interesting window into the sausage making of foreign policy.  (4 of 5 Stars)

Link to Chief of Station on Amazon

Categories: What I've Read

Hail to the Chiefs

February 10, 2017 Leave a comment

M.T. Bass

In 2010, I started on a mission to read a biography of each and every U.S. President in chronological order. If seven years seems like a long time, it is–so long, in fact, that I was reading about Adams, Jefferson and Madison on a Sony eReader.   I doubled up on some of them, like Kennedy, Reagan and T-Rex, so with my “extra credit” reading, it averaged out to about seven books per year.  Not too shabby, as it probably represented about 20-25% of my total reading and many of the bios were quite verbose.

Lessons Learned:

  • The Presidents as men, as human beings, are each uniquely different personalities that run the gamut from one extreme to another, e.g. from Theodore “Bully Pulpit” Roosevelt to Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge. But the bottom line is that no man ever becomes President who does not want the job. Remember, nobody joins…

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Categories: What I've Read

Book Review: Bone Dry (Blanco County Mystery, #2)

February 7, 2017 Leave a comment

A gritty-as-a-west-Texas-prairie murder mystery, Ben Rehder’s tale is more spicy gumbo than cowboy chili, stirring a Nordic blonde eco-warrior unafraid to use her feminine wiles, a big city mafioso in witness protection trying to muscle in on a home-grown business, and a girth-challenged U.S. Marshal in love with the mobster’s Hispanic housekeeper into the pot with local Blanco County LEOS and locos. I didn’t read the first in the series, but that’s okay.  Bone Dry was a quick, entertaining read with enough twists to keep you flipping the pages to the end of the trail.  (4 of 5 Stars)

Link to Bone Dry on Amazon

Categories: What I've Read

Book Reviews: A Presidential Twofer — Bubba & Dubya

January 31, 2017 Leave a comment

Bill Clinton on Amazon.com

 

I really hate to be so negative about another writer’s efforts, but, bless his heart, this book was a major disappointment, being not so much a biography as a screed against anyone who might have uttered a discouraging word against the Clintons, from Rush Limbaugh to the New York Times–yes, the New York Times.  I fully expected to read that Monica Lewinksy just accidentally fell face first into Clinton’s lap with her mouth open and a vast right wing conspiracy blew it all out of proportion.

The funny thing is that in the attempt to show Bill Clinton was caught up in a “Kafkaeque,” persecution, Tomasky turns him into a weak, hapless victim of circumstances and his political enemies.  Consequently, I didn’t really learn much about the man who was such a gifted politician and a dominant personality in American politics for the last quarter century.

The best thing about this book is that it is mercifully short.   (1 of 5 Stars)

 

 

I was going to conclude my self-inflicted survey of American Presidents at the end of the last millennium,  because the closer I got to current events, the more bios seemed to be hysterical than historical. But this biography popped up in Arthur Schlesinger’s series and I thought, what the heck, I’ll have just one more read for the road.

Anyone who paid much attention to Democrats and media reports at the time might ask themselves how such a “dolt” got elected President twice. Well, this book answers that question in a pretty straightforward and even-handed way, rounding out who George W. Bush really was, hitting both high and low points.  Love him or hate him, at least it’s clear how the Bushes became the only other father-son Presidents since the Adams family.   (4 of 5 Stars)

 


 

In my trek through the lives of America’s CEOs, I’ve read at least 15 of The American Presidents series books. Bubba’s & Dubya’s editions represent the worst and the best of the series. Sometimes it was the only choice for lesser known Presidents. Other times, it saved me a great deal of time by offering an alternative to wading through thousands of pages in multi-volume biographies for individuals that, frankly, I wasn’t that interested in (e.g., Ford, Carter).  Overall, the series is a great resource for getting a quick overview of our nation’s leaders.

 

 

Categories: What I've Read

Book Review: Lodging by M.T. Bass – 4.5 Stars

January 10, 2017 Leave a comment

Lodging

https://jenacidebybibliophile.wordpress.com

Opinion: *Sigh*…such a bittersweet story to make me weak in the knees and sorrowful all at once. I am truly starting to adore reading short stories more and more.

…but MY OH MY is it a wonderful story…

Source: Read the Entire Review: Lodging by M.T. Bass

Categories: Lodging, What I've Read

Book Review: President Reagan, The Triumph of Imagination

January 3, 2017 Leave a comment

The buck stops here: I take full responsibility for my disappointment in this book, having been misinformed by my expectations.  I really enjoyed Reeves’ bio of Kennedy (Profile of Power), giving it 5 out of 5 stars.  I was hoping for more of the same, but what started as a fly-on-the-wall behind-the-scenes look at a presidency in action morphed into an examination of Reagan’s reflection as it appeared in the mirror of the news media.

For example, Gorbechev was named Time Magazine’s Man of the year…

But the Fashion Foundation of America named Reagan to its “Best Dressed” list for the fourth straight year, and dropped Gorbachev because he wore a business suit rather than a tuxedo to the formal White House dinner to celebrate the signing of the INF Treaty.

In fact, the very last sentence of the book is

“God, this is impressive,” said Steven Weisman, a New York Times White House correspondent during the Reagan years [commenting on his funeral]. “But the man they’re talking about is not the President I covered every day.”

There was also a lot more editorial snarkiness in Reeves’ narrative this time than I recall in the Kennedy book. For example:

President Daniel Ortega and Defense Minister Humberto Ortega sounded more like the Marx Brothers than Marxists…

Or

He [Reagan] had connected Americans with a common political language—dumbing down politics in his way…

Written like a true Politico-Media Establishment elitist.

In fact, I think I may have come away with greater insight into those who collect salaries as paid observers of and commentators on politics than I did about Ronald Reagan. The book is littered with observations similar to Steven Weisman’s, like:

David Stockman was cruel and specific in his reminiscences, helping create the image of a befuddled old man who came alive only when the curtain opened and the lights brightened.

It gives me pause that journalists and politicians may be afflicted with the same cognitive dissonance as movie and TV fans who might struggle with the fact that Matt Damon is not really Jason Bourne or that Martin Sheen was never really President.

Reagan was, after all, an actor…and, really, aren’t we all? (2 of 5 Stars)

The Triumph of Imagination on Amazon.com

***~~~***

Note to readers of this bog (the following comments do not appear in my Amazon and a Goodreads review postings):  I have no doubt that the Iran-Contra “Affair” was a misguided and illegal attempt by the Executive branch to implement policy against the will of the Legislative branch, but…come on…seriously.  The wails of indignation by journalists, politicians and biographers over the fact that individuals involved in a COVERT! operation would lie during the execution of that operation and not be open, honest and forthcoming about their COVERT! activities is evidence of either a special kind of stupidity or their own devious natures.

Categories: What I've Read

Book Review: Blowout

December 27, 2016 Leave a comment

Blowout by [Wood, M.B.]

From an oil well “blowout” in Oklahoma to the company Christmas party from hell in Ohio, this murder mystery has enough conniving and backstabbing to make even J.R. Ewing proud. (4 of 5 Stars)

Blowout on Amazon.com

 

 

Categories: What I've Read
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