Review: Island of the Mad

Island of the Mad

Author: Laurie R. King
Bantam Books
2018
ISBN #978-0804177962

 Island of the Mad cover

I absolutely adore all of Ms. King’s books, but her Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell series is my favorite! “Island of the Mad” does not disappoint! I am not thrilled that Mrs. Hudson is taking a “side-trip”, but she would not have been in this book anyway, as it features Holmes and Russell in lovely Venice.

Russell has been asked by a friend to find her Aunt, while Holmes has been asked by his brother Mycroft to “check into things” in Venice re Benito Mussolini and the rising Fascist movement. Holmes is not quick to make that clear to Russell, however! We are looking at a post WW I, pre-WW II environment.

The missing Aunt, Lady Vivian Beaconsfield) by the way, has been in and out of insane asylums for many years. Her condition was said to have been brought on by the loss of her brother and father in the Great War – but is that really so? It is interesting to note that Lady Beaconsfield arranged to leave the asylum to attend her other brother’s birthday party, but she managed to disappear (after taking a large amount of money from her personal account, and having her brother get an expensive diamond necklace that is hers out of the vault). The nurse that was attending her has also conveniently disappeared!

Once in Venice the focus is on the Lido cabarets, wealthy, privileged individuals at play, and the ominous presence of the Fascist “Black Shirts”. Cole Porter, and a new (to Holmes) violin also come into play. There is also a strong LGBTQ theme, along with the rights of women – or rather, their lack of rights.

As always with Ms King, the characters are wonderfully bold, the storyline does not wander one iota, and the intensity of research shows through clearly. Thoroughly enjoyable, and highly recommended!

© July 2018 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission from the author.

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Review: The President Is Missing

The President Is Missing

Author: Bill Clinton, James Patterson
Little, Brown and Company; Alfred A. Knopf
2018
ISBN # 978-0316412698

The President Is Missing - cover

I have looked forward to reading this book ever since I heard about it – and it did not disappoint! Very slow in the beginning, and dragged a bit, but it did pick up the pace wonderfully!

What we have here are two individuals (Bill Clinton, former president and co-founder of the Clinton Foundation, and James Patterson, renowned author and founder of the JIMMY book imprint for children) who shared their expertise to create a timely story about government (national and global), terrorism, cyberspace, and the need for cyber-security.

The story is based on fictional U.S. President Duncan, and how he deals with a crisis situation of critical proportions in a very humane manner, with all of the knowledge and wisdom gained through his life in the military, as a POW, and as a civilian. Between Clinton and Patterson, they create a believable (and functioning!) White House, a believable environment around the president (including the Secret Service), great descriptions of the White House, a unique location where a great deal of the action takes place, and strong global interaction.

We start out with the president dealing with a health crisis that underlies the entire story. But he has to be President – no time for doing the right thing medically! The national crisis is one of epic proportions – one that could take the entire U.S. down through a virus that was planted in it Internet three years before. And yes – there is a date when the virus will activate. A date that comes too soon, and a cyber security team that, while they are the best of the best, cannot locate the virus, and, when they finally do, cannot stop it. Every system in the U.S. that is connected to the Internet (and all systems are!) will go down. No clean water, no ability to purchase anything, no ability to keep hospitals operational – the list goes on!

So – we have a president with a health crisis, who needs to protect his country, who had been about to face an impeachment hearing, and who has now “gone missing”. He has the secret service with him, but he is still targeted. The person behind the virus (who did meet with the president) is killed. Her partner did not write the code, he simply hacked it into the U.S. systems. He is captured alive – and actually wants to help!

The President reaches out for help from the Israeli Prime Minister, the German Chancellor, and the Russian President. He gets two out of three in person – the Israeli Prime Minister and the German Chancellor. Russia comes up short, sending their second in command, Prime Minister Ivan Volkov.

Then there is the individual that might have been the cause for his impeachment – a global terrorist by the name of Suliman Cindoruk. Oh, and yes, one of the President’s six closest advisors, the only people that know about the virus, is a traitor.

I definitely recommend this book as representative of our times. Even though it starts slowly, and to me has an overwhelming amount of female primary characters (FBI Director, Vice President, the President’s personal physician, the President’s Chief of Staff, and Deputy Chief of Staff, and a female assassin who is pregnant), the characters are well written, the plot is fantastic, and the storyline moves quickly (after a slow start). I also recommend watching the accompanying video on Amazon featuring both authors. Definitely a history lesson within the covers of this book!

© June 2018 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission of the author.

Review: When Spirit Calls – A Healing Odysey

When Spirit Calls –
A Healing Odyssey

Author: Joan Diver
Monkfish Book Publishing Company
2018
ISBN #978-1-939681-68-3

When Spirit Calls - cover

Joan Diver was the first Executive Director of Boston’s Hyams Foundation, a position that she held for eighteen years, and for which she was recognized for her creative leadership in philanthropy and social justice. She and her husband Colin (Dean of Penn Law School, later to be President of Reed College) were featured in J. Anthony Lukas’ Pulitzer prize-winning book “Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the lives of Three American Families”.

This is an intensely personal story, revolving around personal growth, spiritual growth, the growth of a relationship, and the growth of a family. It is very detailed, with a good mix of family issues, personal issues (Diver suffered from intense back pain for many years), and both Joan and Colin Diver’s spiritual growth.

Even during the years that Diver served as Executive Director of the Hyams Foundation, she was following her spiritual path. Beginning with being a member of the congregation of preacher Howard Thurman (spiritual mentor to civil rights leaders), her spiritual life was important to her, and she followed where that path lead – even when she did not understand why. Speaking for those of us that grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, this was not an unusual thing. When we heard about a spiritual leader, we tried to see what they were all about. We have all been to lectures and retreats, sat on the floor listening to guru’s sitting in front of us on a raised dais. Diver’s journey is very much an East/West journey, as she visits gurus here in the U.S., in China, in India, and makes pilgrimages to Egyptian holy sites.

We are shown a world where spirit guides and unusual (out of body) experiences abound. It is all about being open to what we see, and what we hear. It is all about seeing where we are closed off as individuals, and about where we are blocking ourselves. It is about healing ourselves on all levels.

All the while Diver is dealing with a back that many times, and for long periods of time, is so excruciating that all she can do is lie down. The pain originates in the solar plexus, which is where the release and healing must occur. She deals with both Eastern and Western medicine, including past life regression and healing. Hers is an amazing story! I personally want to thank her for sharing the depth of her experiences, including the information that comes to her in her sessions, how it comes to her, the wisdom that comes from her teachers/guru’s, and in-depth detail of her surroundings/environment.

As a woman, I can appreciate her concern about how following her path might affect her marriage and her family. I loved the detail that she went into about her home(s), about social responsibilities (hers and her husband’s), and about the changes that they went through. She is transparent and honest in sharing her story (including the doubts that she has more than once along the way about whether she was doing the right thing).

Every reader will find their own version of personal growth through this story.

© June 2018 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission.

Review: Crazy Like A Fox

Crazy Like A Fox

Author: Rita Mae Brown
Ballantine Books
2017
ISBN #978-0399178344

Crazy Like A Fox

“Crazy Like A Fox”, by Rita Mae Brown, is part of the “Sister Jane” series. (Brown also writes the “Sneaky Pie Brown series, and has written several stand-alone books, including “Rubyfruit Jungle”.) As with Sister Jane, Brown is a Master of Foxhounds.

Sister finds herself in the middle of a very perplexing puzzle – a valuable cowhorn, belonging to Wesley Carruthers, has been stolen. Carruthers himself is an enigma, having disappeared in 1954 – presumed dead. However, someone looking and speaking very much like Carruthers (aka Weevil) let a video behind on the cell phone of one of Sister’s friends.  (The ladies had been visiting the exhibit, and the phone was accidentally left behind.)

The stolen cowhorn brings up issues from the past, including Weevil’s history with women (single and married), and an argument that has two brothers not talking to each other for over twenty years. Then there is the issue of jewelry that seemed to have disappeared about the same time that Weevil did.

I loved that Brown brought Tootie back as part of the Jefferson Hunt, as well as bringing Tootie’s mother deeper into the series. Per usual, everyone has a voice, including the animals: the foxhounds (Cora, Asa, Diana and Dasher), the foxes (Aunt Netty, Earl, Comet, Inky, and Georgia), the horses (Keepsake, Rickyroo, Showboat and Iota), the birds (Athena, Bitsy, and St. Just), and the house pets (Raleigh (a Doberman), Rooster (a Harrier), and Golliwog (a long haired Calico cat).

I love reading about the background and history of the hunt, the culture of Virginia, and about the fact that to understand the present we need to understand the past. In this book, we are introduced to what may be a ghost – a ghost who blows the stolen horn during foxhunts, and does it in such a way that everyone who knew him thinks it is Weevil himself blowing the horn. Then there are the strange appearances of a young man (the age of Weevil when he disappeared) holding conversations with people from his time (and saving Tootie from a gun toting individual who is protecting his marijuana crop!).

Brown is one of two authors that immediately come to mind that cannot write a bad book (the second being Laurie R. King). Her characters are in depth, her background is well researched, and her books keep a strong pace.

This is one of those books that I will read over and over again!

 © June 2018 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission from the author.

Review: “A New Republic of the Heart”

A New Republic of the Heart:
An Ethos for Revolutionaries –
A Guide to Inner Work for Holistic Change

Author: Terry Patten
North Atlantic Books
2018
ISBN: 1623170478

 A New Republic of the Heart

“A New Republic of the Heart” is a 408 page book on the transformation of civilization in regard to our current global issues. To get the most out of this book, one needs to look at the background of the author. Terry Patten has devoted his life to understanding the evolution of consciousness by facing, examining, and healing our global crisis through merging spirit and activism. He is a philosopher, activist, and social entrepreneur. His written works encourage his readers to become activists in their own way, in their own lives.

In his introduction, Patten talks about our need for guidance from a higher wisdom. He makes the very interesting observation that all of humanities highest wisdom traditions are in conversation as never before. He also asks: How can we “be the change that we want to see in the world”?

Patten talks about “whole system change”, a broad transformation of all human civilization. Constant transformation. Like it or not, we are all interconnected. Patten teaches us to turn what we see as problems into opportunities, to encourage conversation with those we agree with, as well as those that we do not agree with, and to form creative responses. He encourages all of us to be active agents of transformation. It can be scary, as we face both spiritual and political awakenings – and see how intertwined they are.

Patten has broken this material into four parts: Part One puts the material into a multidimensional consciousness. Part Two explores the integral understanding of the nature of individual and collective spiritual practice, purpose, social responsibility, and evolutionary activism.

The work that we do here is both inner and outer work. The writing in this book is clear and concise. While Patten talks about global issues, about issues that we face on a day to day basis, he speaks at a level that we can all understand, about subjects that have great depth. I liked the manner in which this material was organized – it describes the journey that Patten has taken, and allows us to take the journey with him. The problems that we are facing are termed “wicked problems”, because they are wickedly hard to solve. Patten notes that some people have categorized climate change as a “super-wicked problem”. Then there are the “black swan events” – transformation that comes about dramatically and suddenly, due to events that we could not have predicted.

I have to note here something that I was fascinated by, and that was the Four Quadrant diagram, where we are looking at interior and exterior, merged with individual and collective. The four resulting quadrants are Subjective, Objective, Intersubjective, and Interobjective. Quite the picture in words!

As core modules of individual practice, Patten lists Body, Mind, Spiritual, and Shadow Work. Under relational practices, he lists intimate relationships, work and creative service, and civic participation.

I highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to transform themselves and the world around them. At the end of the book Patten presents a list of resources to help the reader implement this material into their own lives. I found this list to be comprehensive, and useable. There are some marvelous tools for change here! Another plus is that there is an index of names and terms, with a link to where they can be found in the book.

© April 2018 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission of the author.

Review: King Billy and the Royal Road

King Billy and the Royal Road

Author: RC Ajuonuma
Illustrator: Beverley Young
Silverwood Books
2017
ASIN #B0771VL77Q

King Billy

King Billy and the Royal Road” is a lovely children’s book, based on the Major Arcana of the Tarot (which are often referred to as the Royal Road). It is written in short paragraphs, akin to poetry, and shows a fluid series of thoughts for a young boy called Billy.

The format of the story is very much fairy tale/adventure, with Billy waking up to an empty refrigerator. No food! He tries to wake his mother, but is unable to, so he makes the decision to grab a sack, and a stick, and begin his journey to find food. (For those who know the Tarot, in the card entitled The Fool the character is on a journey, with his belongings tied up in a sack that he carries at the end of a stick. Billy makes his way past a dog that his mother has told him is his best friend, while the Fool has a little white dog that travels with him, and nips at his heels.)

Note: I need to mention here that Billy lives with his mother, who feeds him well and keeps him protected from the outside world. Indeed, he has no experience of the outside world, about people, and places, because his mother does not let him out.

Throughout his journey, Billy comes upon people and places that have food to offer. They also offer him other things – such as an atlas to the world (where he could find food on his own), and words of wisdom (he is not the Prince that he thinks he is). He ends up with more food than he cares for, but he has lost the beautiful young lady he talked to on his journey.

The dog that is mother had told him was his friend reappears.  In his haste to get away from him, Billy ends up in a cave, with a lamp on a table of stone, and a book. Every page said the same thing: “Be brave, be true, and your heart will find you.”

This is quite a fascinating journey, divided into three parts: Part 1 – The Way To Your Heart, Part 2 – Be Brave, Be True, and Part 3 – What Was Lost Can Be Found. This coincides readily with one way of breaking down the Major Arcana into stages of progression on the journey to enlightenment: (1) consciousness (the outer concerns of society), (2) subconscious (our inner search for self), and (3) superconscious (developing a spiritual awareness). It is presented in a manner that a young child can understand.

It was a pleasure to read this book, with the gentle black and white images by artist Beverley Young. It certainly lends itself to and adult reading the book to/with a child, and to ensuing discussions about what the child is getting from the book. I would love to read more books from author RC Ajuonuma along this line.

© February 2018 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission of the author.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House

Fire and Fury:
Inside the Trump White House

Author: Michael Wolff
Henry Holt & Company
2018
ISBN-13: 978-1250158062

Fire and Fury

Note: This is not a review of this book – it is more a quasi “op-ed” piece on what it offers. If you are looking for a review – please move on.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” is a 336 page book chronicling the disaster that has governed the White House ever since Donald Trump took office. I bought the book for the same reason that so many did – because Trump himself tried to stop it from being published. However, I did want to understand the “behind the scenes” view of the author, Michael Wolff, who initially saw this project as being an account of the first one hundred days of this administration. In the end, Wolff covered over eighteen months, culminating with the appointment of retired general John Kelly as the new Chief of Staff, and the exit of chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon. Wolff interviewed President Trump himself, as well as members of his senior staff, taping many of the interviews. Some of the interviews were off the record, some were meant to provide “deep background”.

The book reads like a conversation between friends – some truth, some rumor, some conjecture. It is an easy read, but the reader needs to sort fact from fiction on their own. The importance of this book for me was the insiders view of the inter- relationships between those who work in the White House, how they view the president (and each other), and how these relationships change over time.

Wolff is an author and journalist who has contributed to USA Today, the Hollywood Reporter, and the UK edition of GQ, and is the author of seven books, including “Burn Rate” (a book about his own company), and “The Man Who Owns The News” (a biography of Rupert Murdoch). He co-founded the website Newser, and is a former editor of Adweek. For those who might question his credentials, the train wreck that has been this administration has been so well documented in the news that I would say “Take with you what you will.” There are some errors, including wrong job titles, indicating that it could have been better edited, but the gist of the book, which is a running commentary on the inter-relationships between those working in the White House, is pure gold!  And we get incredibly believable descriptions of various events, and how they played out.

This is a presidency that was never meant to be – candidate Trump did not think that he was going to win, nor did his campaign staff, so he was totally unprepared to take office. They never have come up to speed. Nor will they.

  • We have Trump himself, with a questionable business and personal history, a narcissist who has a low level of comprehension of anything, who has an ego that constantly needs to be fed, who will not listen to others, who gets up and walks out of meetings when he is bored, and who does not seem to have the ability to read or understand what he is being given to read. Who now announces that he is a “very stable genius”. We also have Trump’s claims that he was wire-tapped by President Obama, and Trump distancing himself from Roger Aisles (former CEO of Fox News, and a somewhat mentor to Steve Bannon), while trying to befriend media mogul Rupert Murdoch (who has allegedly referred to Trump as a f***ing idiot).
  • We have Trump’s daughter Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared, who have their own agenda, and were/are at constant odds with Steve Bannon. (I do have to say that I thought these two were educated people who might be able to influence Trump in a good way. It turns out they only want to influence Trump to their benefit. I was also surprised to see that Jared’s father in many ways resembles Trump.) We also find out that Ivanka is entertaining the idea of running for president at some point in time herself.
  • We have Steve Bannon, former chief strategist for the White House, former investment banker, former executive chairman of Breitbart news, educated at Harvard Business School, and a former Naval Officer. He mistrusts Ivanka and Jared, as much as they mistrust him.
  • We have Kellyanne Conway, who is a political consultant, Trump’s former campaign manager, and current counselor to the president. She loves to appear on national TV, and is very defensive of Trump (while not making much sense), but behind his back she talks another story.
  • We have Dina Powell, former managing director and partner at Goldman Sachs, and president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, who was brought in by Ivanka Trump. She is currently National Security Advisor for Strategy with the Trump administration. She is allegedly planning on leaving her job soon.
  • We have Reince Priebus, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, serving as White House Chief of Staff (January 20th, 2017 – July 31st, 2017).
  • We have Rex Tillerson, former Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobile, and current Secretary of State (who allegedly referred to Trump as a “f***ing moron”).

The takeaway for me from this book is that Trump is exactly what he seems to be – an illiterate narcissist that does not like to make decisions, who does not do well in meetings, who refuses to be educated on the running of the government (our government), and who believes his own opinions, whether they have a base or not. His staff does not respect him (nor do they have a reason to), and they all work double-time to keep him from making mistakes (or just plain making an ass of himself). More than one of them are allgedly looking for the right time to leave their jobs and return to the private sector. Everyone in the White House is looking for leverage to further their own careers/agenda.

The continuous leaks from the White House? I thought they were from mid-level staff, but it turns out that most of them were either from major players at the White House (who leaked information in order to keep other major players in line), or inadvertently from Trump himself, in one of the many calls that he made to well placed friends every night. Steve Bannon was also the source of many strategic leaks.

Now it looks like there is a chance of this book being made into a TV series. Endeavor Content has purchased the film and television rights to Fire and Fury – Inside The Trump White House”. I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but it may happen.

© January 2018 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission of the author.