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January 2017

Book Review Three Days In January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Three Days In January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission by Bret Baier is a very informative book. Readers learn about the time, not by being pounded over the head with facts and figures, but through the personalities themselves. The issues discussed in the book come right out of today’s headlines.

Mr. Baier is the Chief Political Anchor for Fox News Channel and the Anchor and Executive Editor of Special Report with Bret Baier. What is fascinating is how he takes readers on a journey of the time period between Eisenhower’s last days in office and JFK’s inauguration. The book also reflects on the influences in his life from growing up in Kansas to the Supreme Commander during WWII to the election of 1952.

The book opens with the meeting on December 6th, 1960 between the outgoing President Eisenhower and the incoming President-elect JFK. Thinking Kennedy too green he dismissed the younger Kennedy as ineffective. JFK with his charm, young family, and ready to implement the New Frontier was the direct opposite of the older and less flamboyant Dwight Eisenhower. Baier noted, “The media storm around Kennedy was so effective and biased it swept the general public up in its wave. People were persuaded that Eisenhower was nothing more than a historical artifact.”

The book also compares Eisenhower to America’s first President, George Washington. They shared the same qualities of being good listeners, reflective, confident, persuasive, and understanding of the larger picture. Baier feels they “were kindred spirits. Both were generals who did not seek out the public limelight, but eventually chose to run for President. They wanted to empower people. What Washington expressed in his farewell address resonated with Eisenhower, the need to protect the freedoms of Americans.”

Throughout the book there are similarities between the election of Dwight Eisenhower and Donald Trump. “I wrote how Ike was not a traditional politician, something that appealed to his supporters. He criticized on the campaign trail the bureaucracies. In fact he joked before a trip to Philadelphia about a thirty-five page set of logistics, ‘politics is a funny thing. Thirty-five pages to get me into Philadelphia. The invasion of Normandy was on five pages.’ Another comparison is that both elections were referendums on the Democratic Party that had been in power for a long time.” Eisenhower was told not to go into the Democratic stronghold of the South, while Trump was told the same about Michigan and Pennsylvania. Interesting how neither candidate took the advice and forced their opposition to devote more time and money in those areas.

He describes the similarities between past and present candidates: “Both are outsiders, non-politicians. In fact, Eisenhower was the last one before Trump. They are unconventional Republicans, despise labels, despise political ideology, and operated out of patriotic feelings. The difference is in tone, tenor, and how they communicate.”

There is also the comparison in that both attempted to drain the swamp. Eisenhower favored practical tacticians, a matter of getting people who could get things done. Sound familiar? “I describe in the book how Eisenhower had picked a cabinet of eight millionaires and a plumber, the Secretary of Labor Martin Durkin. He also chose as his Secretary of Defense, Charlie Wilson, the former CEO of General Motors, and businessman George Humphrey as Secretary of the Treasury. The one contrast was that he did not have any other military people in the cabinet, other than himself.”

Baier furthermore explained to blackfive.net that the reason for not having any other military people was that “he did not want it to look like a take over of the military or a war cabinet. He was a man who craved peace.” It seems that the former President would agree that anyone who has been to war themselves knows what it is like. They are probably the most reluctant to send troops into a war.

What Donald Trump should do is read this book, because it shows how Eisenhower in his Farewell Address wanted to provide a blueprint on where America should be headed and a warning to President-elect Kennedy. “I wrote the dedication of the book to my sons, hoping they and their generation would allow history to inform their decisions in the future. For example, the Cold War when he attempted to soften the hard line with Russia. He wanted to reduce the inflammatory rhetoric constantly tempering his words about common values built from within rather than based on abhorrence of the other. Yet, he was not naïve and felt we should have our eyes wide open. The advice he gave to Kennedy could apply to Donald Trump today. ‘Don’t go to any meeting with the Russians too early; get your sea legs first. Otherwise you will be eaten alive.’”

Baier summarizes the speech by describing Eisenhower as “a whistle-blower. He strove a balance between military strength and domestic needs. If America should get involved in a crisis, we should use overwhelming force, but there is no need to get involved everywhere in the world. Future Presidents should have a balance, listening to dissenting views, and work in a bi-partisan way to get things done.”

This is a masterful piece of history in the understanding of President Eisenhower. It is a gripping read with a lot of detailed facts that are both interesting and informative, but definitely not boring. 51oH3wddY+L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Review Silver City

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Silver City by Jeff Guinn is a fascinating historical western that blends action and adventure with factual information. He is not a stranger to westerns, having written two other novels in this series and a non-fiction book about the shootout at the O.K. Corral.

In this story revenge and vengeance take center stage. Readers might remember that the male lead, Cash McLendon is on the run, as he tries to hide from a murderous thug, Killer Boots. His former employer, a powerful St. Louis businessman, wrongly blames him for the death of his drug-addicted daughter. In addition, Cash is attempting to win over Gabrielle Tirrito, the woman he initially wanted to wed but spurned when he was pressured to marry into wealth and prestige. After being seen as a reluctant hero of the epic Indian battle at Adobe Walls, he has journeyed to Mountain View in the Arizona Territory with one goal: to convince Gabrielle Tirrito that he is a changed man and win her back from schoolteacher Joe Saint. Killer Boots, aka Patrick Brautigan kidnaps Gabrielle to force Cash to trade himself for the love of his life. He, his good friend Major Mulkins, and his rival for Gabrielle Joe Saint hit the trail in pursuit of Killer Boots, hoping to make a trade before it’s too late.

The book has very well developed characters. Gabrielle is seen as a tough, intelligent, and independent. Cash is an opportunist, caring, who grows in character with each book. Joe Saint is resentful, manipulative, who uses guilt to get his way, and spineless. The antagonist Killer Boots is fierce, frightening, without any moral code. He subdues his victims using overwhelming intimidation, both psychologically and physically. There is also the terrain, which in many ways is a character as well. It plays a role with the overwhelming dust, mountain range, and floods. Readers get a sense of the setting, feeling as if they were there, while getting a flavor of what the Arizona frontier was like.

The provinces displayed are mining towns where prospectors were able to hike into the nearby mountains to find silver and gold. Guinn describes Silver City as “a seedy hell hole run by a corrupt sheriff. Towns that sprung up around mineral strikes either aspired to sophistication or descend into anarchy. I hoped I provided real historical context that contrasted Mountain View and Silver City. Mountain View was a sophisticated town that had bowling alleys, ice cream parlors, and eventually libraries. There was also Clantonville where Newman, Ike, and Finn tried to establish a town controlled by them. They are typical of a group of individuals who came into the frontier to make their own fortune.”

Quinn furthermore pointed out to blackfive.net 514oHz9j-HL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_how “the women throughout the frontier are the ones who actually made the settlements something more than bare subsistence. The men brought in the economic system while the women brought in the culture and lifestyle. In this book Gabrielle is working at a hotel at the same time she is helping to organize a library system for the community. In the first book, Glorious, the character Sydney Chow provided laundry services, but also much needed medical care. By the way she is not gone and will be heard from again.”

Readers will enjoy an action packed book, but also enjoy how the author intertwines into the plot the Western history, culture, and influences. These books of western fiction are based on real history that gives readers a feel for the frontier.

Book Review Small Admissions

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel is a study of the high-school admissions process with perspectives by four women who are connected by blood, friendship, and ex-boyfriends. The story is enduring for those who understand about entitlement, but beyond that there is the personal story of Kate, the main character.

The author created the story about eight years ago, “After we moved to New York City we started the interview process to see which school was best for our children. Unfortunately, my husband and I were really bad at it. After thinking about it, I started writing comedic parent interviewing scenes. Using humor for dialogue I turned those into a play for the Actor’s Studio, and then into a novel. My experiences led me to take prospective parents on tours at the school we sent my son to. One thing led to another and I ended up applying for a job in the admission’s office. Then all of a sudden I was on the other side of the desk, as I was seeing it from the school’s perspective instead of the parents.”

The plot begins with Kate being dumped by her fiancé. Her life is in disarray where she prefers to stay hidden in her apartment until her sister gets her a job interview. Although Kate gives completely inappropriate and not politically correct answers she somehow gets the job. This becomes a springboard for Kate getting back on her feet as she uses the position to regain her confidence. She takes the job as an assistant admissions officer at the prestigious private New York Hudson Day School.

Readers are taken on a hilarious ride as they explore the absurd competitive world between the prospective students and parents. Kate begins to understand that she was wallowing in self-pity and decides to change her life around. She starts to piece her life back together and figure out exactly what she wants. Between Kate’s relationships and the different personalities of the children/parents, as well as the school, it becomes obvious this book is an examination of human nature.

Poeppel hopes readers will get out of the book, “A fun peek at this crazy private school world. I tried to show humor in the situation where people get into such frenzy over it. Readers should question, what are the criteria in how we evaluate people financially, socially, and educationally? What are our priorities? Who do we want to impress and with what matrix?”

The exploration of the different personalities of each character enhances the plot. Kate is intelligent, unorthodox, and caring. She is contrasted with her ex-fiancé who is narcissistic and does not care if he hurts those around him. Her sister Angela is like many older siblings who always has their younger ones best interests at heart; even though at times they can be seen as overbearing. The rest of the characters, college friends of Kate, have their own heartbreaks and hidden secrets.

Poeppel told blackfive.net, “Kate is imperfect and makes mistakes, but overcomes adversity. She must handle acceptance and rejection in her professional and personal life. She took three steps forward and one step backward. Because of her job she gained confidence and accomplishment. The springboard of her job forced her to talk and listen to people.”

Small Admissions is not just about the process of applying to a private school it is also about how each character looked within to find their faults and strengths. The core of the story is about friendship and family, disappointments and joy. 51u1dV19-AL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Review Duplicity

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Duplicity by Ingrid Thoft is an informative and gripping novel about abuse. It brings back Fina Ludlow, an outcast in her own family, and a fighter for justice. It is very interesting how Thoft intertwines a murder mystery while having readers question organized religion and abuse. There are many similarities where people learn facts about a community or person; yet, choose to ignore it. These two seemingly unrelated plots come together as Fina must convince those who have this information and facts to act upon it. It is a wonderful story about what is right and wrong within the context of religion and life itself.

Thoft got the idea for the story in reading about “a Seattle Church that imploded. Although the Covenant Rising Church was Evangelical what was put forth in the book could be applied to any religion. I wondered what happens to people when the cornerstone of their experience doesn’t turn out to be what they thought. I am fascinated with the idea of mega churches where it is about faith, but also is about money and power, especially those personalities that rise to the top who are very charismatic.

I also thought of what happened in Penn State. So many people chose not to do anything because of money, position, and power. It blows my mind how people got this information and chose to ignore it. They did their minimal duty and had the attitude of washing their hands from it. It was as if they did not want to upset the apple cart.”

The story begins as Fina and her dad, the head attorney in the high-powered personal injury law firm, meet with his old flame, Ceci, who asks that they investigate the Covenant Rising Church. Ceci’s daughter wants to bequeath a large amount of expensive property to them. Fina finds the Church has a slick chauvinistic pastor whose wife has her own infidelities. In addition, both have suspiciously used the donations for luxury cars, a vacation home, and a fancy house. After a prominent Church member dies unexpectedly, one Fina was to meet with; she becomes more suspicious of the Church’s undertakings. The investigation uncovers misguided loyalties and questionable motivations. This is rivaled only by Fina’s own family problems, her abusive brother Rand, who she is trying to build a case against.

According to the author, “The common thread is where lots of people knew things, but did nothing about it. I questioned ‘at what moment do people speak up and say something is wrong?’ The dynamics of power, status, and social interaction influence how people make difficult decisions. You cannot always believe with blind faith and look the other way. We must keep our moral compass and allow dissent. Should you subvert your critical thinking to fit in or subvert your judgment?”

Fina is someone that not only stands up for herself, but also for those who she feels cannot speak for themselves. She has a strong sense of justice that spurs her to, at times, act above the law. She is independent, headstrong, focused, and loyal. Being a non-conformist, even within her own family sometimes makes her feel lonely and unaccepted. In this book she is not left in a good place as she tries to deal with family issues and why she prefers not settling down to a typical domestic life.

Duplicity delves with serious topics, but the banter between the characters and Fina’s sarcastic demeanor present a welcome release. Readers will question along with Fina the true meaning of faith and are given access to all the dynamics within her dysfunctional family. In addition the murder mystery is very riveting. 516QVaVE8eL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Review: Enhanced Interrogation

Enhanced Interrogation by James Mitchell with Bill Harlow discusses the EITs. Having spent years training US military personnel to resist questioning he explains the procedures, safeguards, and the results from the interrogation program. Being on the front lines Mitchell personally questioned thirteen of the most senior high-value detainees in U.S. custody, including Abu Zubaydah; Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the amir or "commander" of the USS Cole bombing; and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Mitchell is a psychologist who served twenty-two years in the Air Force and who helped develop the CIA’s interrogation program. He only dealt with the top-tier terrorists and by his own admission has spent more time with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) than other interrogators.

He helped incorporate some of the harsh techniques employed by the US military SERE schools. He told blackfive.net, these survival, evasion, resistance, and escape techniques had been used for over five decades without significant injuries to “train warfighters to protect secrets. I had been subjected to them myself, had used them to train others, and helped the Air Force Survival School revise its approach to resistance training after the first Gulf War.”

Readers will understand that EITs, when applied correctly, were useful in drawing detainees to cooperate, and, when applied incorrectly, they were counter-productive. He was particularly critical of Ali Soufan, a former FBI special agent who first interrogated Abu Zubaydah at a CIA black site in Thailand. Soufan, a darling of the Left, said the rapport-building techniques he used when he questioned Abu Zubaydah resulted in a huge intelligence score: the identity of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed versus what the CIA was doing in using “borderline torture techniques,” which made Zubaydah not cooperate.

Not true, says Mitchell, and recounts in his book, “Zubaydah shut down after Soufan called him a son of a b---- and then tried to bribe him. He thinks he buddied up with him after offering him spiritual guidance. This is ridiculous. Zubaydah later told me he did it because if talking about religion then he was not speaking about operations.”

Mitchell thinks “too much has been made of waterboarding. Of 1623 days in CIA custody only 14 days was he subjected to EITs. People are focusing on two weeks out of years. The CIA made sure to have doctors to evaluate the detainees before and after the interrogations to prevent long-term mental and physical problems. When you hear about Zubaydah’s mental problems, remember he wrote in his diaries about how he faked mental issues.”

What did work, according to Mitchell, was President George W. Bush’s response. “The swiftness and veracity put the terrorists off balance. KSM told me, ‘How was I supposed to know that cowboy George Bush would announce he wanted us ‘dead or alive’ and then invade Afghanistan to hunt us down?’ He made it clear that had the US treated 9/11 like a law enforcement matter, he would have had time to launch a second wave of attacks.”

KSM also predicted how those in the press and some in the political arena would turn on the interrogators who took aggressive action to prevent other attacks on Americans. Mitchell is especially critical of the Democrats, notably Senator Feinstein who “set us up as the fall guys. They were writing things in official reports that were inaccurate and misleading without giving us a chance to defend ourselves. Her report has stirred up the crazies and Jihadists, essentially issuing a Fatwa against everyone and me, past or present, working to protect Americans from Jihadist terrorist attacks. In fact, Feinstein staffers on ‘deep background’ outted me.”

He wants Americans to understand that the media, the Obama Administration, and some Democrats “live in a bubble of protection provided by the men and women who are willing to sacrifice their lives. Yet, they will throw them under the bus afterwards so they can claim the moral high ground. In my mind, the temporary discomfort of a terrorist who has voluntarily taken up arms to destroy our way of life does not outweigh my moral obligation to do what I can to save hundreds, maybe thousands of people. Good luck finding anyone who will actually use EIH if asked to. As General Michael Hayden said, ‘you better bring your own bucket and rubber boots.’”

In this gripping and illuminating book people will get a glimpse into the thoughts of high-ranking terrorists, an explanation of what was done to get them to talk, and a front seat view of how some on the Left would rather turn the Jihadists into victims rather than perpetrators. Enhanced Interrogation is an outstanding explanation and understanding of what is needed to keep America safe. 51l8Z-uH-lL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Review: The Guests On South Battery

The Guests On South Battery by Karen White is part paranormal, mystery, historical, with a little romance. Readers will be kept enthralled with the scenes of historic Southern houses and spooky happenings.

White has done a lot of research on the subject of ghosts. “I describe this series as ‘my Sixth Sense meets National Treasure meets Moonlighting series.’ There were certain parameters I wanted to include in this series: It had to be in the South with the city old, charming, and having a lot of historical significance. I wanted to set the plot around haunted houses. Every culture, every religion has them existing. I think there is a lot about the universe we do not understand. So yes, I do like the possibility. I do think people can communicate with the dead and I find it fascinating.”

The mystery begins after a young woman, Jayne Smith, is bequeathed a home in Charleston by someone she does not know. Questions arise as to why she randomly inherited this house and what is her relationship with the spirits who do not want her to inhabit it? She seeks out Melanie Middleton, a Charleston realtor, who specializes in historic real estate. She also has a hatred for old houses because she sees dead people come alive. White’s details about the architecture, history, old historic houses including hidden passages and other fixtures, make the story even more riveting.

Jayne and Melanie become kindred spirits after Melanie hires her as a nanny. Intertwined within this ghostly story is also the theme of family.   The different relationship dynamics are fascinating. Both Melanie and Jayne have abandonment issues; Melanie is insecure about her husband Jack; and her mother is struggling to make up for lost time now that she is back in her daughter’s life.

According to White, “Melanie, as a young child, was abandoned by her mother, but it was done to save her. Because Melanie’s alcoholic father raised her she had to be the adult in the relationship. Her sense of insecurity stems from this. She has two personalities, the public and private. Outwardly she appears strong and competent, but inside she is like a quivering bowl of Jello: neurotic, OCD, and a control freak.”

This book is an excellent read. It seems any Karen White book never disappoints with her spellbinding plot and cast of characters. The charm of the series is the relationships the main character Melanie has with friends and family. 619BcT1F69L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Review: Her Every Fear

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson delves into the human psyche and the mind of a serial killer. The story’s strength is with the character’s thoughts. By having four different narratives readers are able to understand the complete picture of the disturbing circumstances of the plot.

Swanson noted, “The idea for this story has been rattling around in my head for awhile. Originally I was going to write it as a romance where two people swapped apartments, never met, but somehow fell in love. The more I thought about it the more I thought it should be a murder mystery. Then it all clicked, where a woman moves into her cousin’s apartment and the day she arrives a corpse is discovered next door.”

There are just a few times in the story that people might need to suspend belief, as the main character, Kate Priddy, becomes a psychopath’s magnet. After being traumatized by an abusive boyfriend she escapes to Boston, MA to try to gain some perspective. Kate is able to leave her home in London when she and her cousin, Colin, decide to exchange apartments. Soon after her arrival she finds her neighbor, Audrey, has been murdered with the person of interest, her cousin Corbin. To make matters worse she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. He confesses to Kate that he was drawn to Audrey and basically stalked her from afar. The suspense ratchets up when Kate’s fears, brought on from her intense panic attacks, become well founded as a serial killer, Henry, targets her for his next victim.

This story is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock. Rear Window, Dial M For Murder and Wait Until Dark come to mind. Drawing inspiration from other movies and books Swanson commented, “When growing up I loved Roald Dahl, The Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew. I also watched my first Hitchcock movie, Rope, around the age of ten. It had a scene in it where two college students strangle their victim. I wanted to play off this relationship in my story, having an alpha and beta psychopath with Corbin as the beta and Henry as the alpha. This is definitely a story about the damage men can inflict on women. Besides Rope the other Hitchcock movies that influenced the story are Rebecca, with the setting becoming an important element, and Dial M For Murder where the villain does not look like a villain. Since I have seen all 53 of his films I hope to put in my books his mode of suspense.”

This book has readers invested in the characters. It is a psychological study of obsessive relationships that include Allen with Audrey, Corbin and Henry, and her ex-boyfriend George with Kate. It is a story of betrayal and revenge where monsters lurk under every bed. 51ohqYOdTHL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_