Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Inner City Struggle of Both Landlords and Tenants

Milwaukee, like most large cities, has a surfeit of substandard housing rented to struggling families, and people with histories of drug addiction, and criminal behavior. These families and individuals can spend as much as 70 percent of their income just to keep a decaying roof over their heads. You also have the landlords. Their lot isn’t easy either. Properties have mortgages, taxes, and repairs. When tenants default, the landlord must cover the expenses and often evict the tenant.

The stories in this book are heart wrenching. Young mothers with small children who can’t find enough money to feed the children properly and pay the rent. These people are trapped in low paying jobs, or confined to public assistance. As the author points out, it’s not always easy to get and keep public assistance. There are also drug addicts and ex-convicts struggling to get clean and keep a place to live.

This is a very powerful book. I found myself rooting for the families trying to pay the rent, feed the children, and stay out of trouble. If you wonder what life is like in the inner city, this book may not be an eye opener, but it will make you think.

I highly recommend this book because of the insight into people trying to make a living and the problems of both landlords and tenants. Evicting people is hard, but the author depicts a culture in which it is inevitable that evictions will occur and where landlords will also suffer.

The author has a solution. I don’t know that it’s workable. I do know that what he portrays is a very complex societal problem. It’s a situation we should all be aware of because in the end it affects all of us.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Erica Sparks Uncovers a Secessionist Plot

Erica Sparks’ program, The Erica Sparks Effect, is still highly rated, but Erica needs more challenge. She convinces her network, GNN, to give her a new show, Spotlight. The show promises to be a success, but will her marriage to Greg survive? He no longer works for GNN. He’s doing work as a consultant, but is he happy? Erica could hire him as her producer, but could she work with him?

Leslie Burke White, an author specializing in political commentary, is tapped by Erica for a special on her program. Leslie is brilliant, beautiful, and well connected. Erica can’t help but be awed by her and desirous of joining her famous circle of friends.

Jenny, Erica’s, daughter, is growing up and still having trouble balancing her love for her mother and her mother’s fame.

The novel starts with a group of secessionists in West Texas in a shootout with local law enforcement. Erica realizes what a draw the secessionist movement would be for her new show. She determines to meet some of the groups and highlight what’s happening. These are very dangerous people and the action is non-stop.

If you like a fast paced plot with echos of the evening news, you’ll enjoy this book. Personally, I found the action, particularly Erica’s involvement in stopping the secessionists’ plot, a bit over the top. She is after all a news reporter, not special forces.

I was turned off by Erica’s treatment of Greg. She knows he’s not happy with his consulting role, but she’s determined to keep him outside her new show although she could use the help. I found that very selfish, self-centered, and shortsighted.

The book is well written and moves smoothly. As an adventure story it’s good. However, I found the actions of the characters, particularly Erica, not quite believable.

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Counterpoint to the Low Fat Diet

Diet fads come and go. We’ve had the low fat diet, the low carb diet, the South Beach Diet, the Atkins Diet and others. From current research it seems clear that any diet that insists on not eating one type of food is not going to work for all people. I enjoyed this book. It makes the point that diets need to be individualized and that eating fat is not the real problem.

The book contains a great deal of information on current research. Karvandi, a fitness coach, explains the current finding in language easy to understand by anyone interested in nutrition. He explains fat metabolism and goes into detail about how it keeps the body function in a healthy way.

If you read a lot of nutrition advice, the book doesn’t present anything new, but it is explained well. I recommend this book for beginners or people who are interested in nutrition and don’t have much time to study it.

In addition to the description of body function and recommendations for foods to eat and those to avoid, the author includes a number of recipes and a diet plan for those who want to try his method.

This book is short, easy to read and even if you don’t plan to take on all his recommendations, you’ll learn a lot about food and exercise.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Jack Stratton Solves Thefts in a Florida Retirement Community

Jack Stratton is visiting his parents in the Orange Blossom Cove Retirement Community in Florida to introduce Alice to them. Jack proposed marriage before they left, but with Alice things never go as planned.

When Jack, Alice, and Lady, their enormous dog, arrive in Florida the community is bedeviled by a series of thefts. Nothing of serious value has been taken, although the prologue hints at something darker. The residents are concerned and have formed a committee to catch the thief, known as the Orange Blossom Cove Bandit. Laura, Jack’s mother is so proud of him she told the committee that he will help solve the mystery. This generous offer leads to unforeseen complications.

Jack’s parents, Laura and Ted, are impressive characters. They love each other and are very proud of their son. They’re also involved with the community and enjoy their amusing neighbors. The retirement community is peopled by a series of zany seniors. They are stereotypical of what people think of as elders, but they’re fun and add a light touch to the novel.

The romance between Alice and Jack seems destined to go on forever as a never completed action. However, this book may surprise you. The atmosphere of love and caring surrounding Jack’s parents opens the door for a rather different ending.

I enjoyed the book. The pace is fast; the retirement community scenes, well done; and the plot is full of twists. If you like Jack Stratton mysteries, this is one of the best. If you’re new to the series, it’s not a bad place to start.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.  

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Great Fortune, A Lonely Woman, A Con-man, and a Jealous Daughter

Liliane Bettencourt, heir to the L’Oréal cosmetics fortune, is one of the world’s richest women. Married to Andre Bettencourt, a politican, Liliane became tired of her bourgeois life. She met and was attracted to Francois-Marie Banier. Banier was an artist and photographer and a member of artistic society that fascinated Liliane. Infatuated with him, she presented him with hundreds of millions of euros worth of real estate, paintings, and cash. Andre didn’t complain about the money. He said it was her’s to do as she wished.

Liliane’s daughter, Francoise, thought differently about Banier and the family fortune believing that he was taking advantage of her mother. She had not been particularly close to her mother, probably because Liliane was not a maternal person and was absent during the early years of Francoise’s life taking a tuberculosis cure, The rupture never healed. When Liliane started becoming confused. (She is presently suffering from Alzheimer’s.) Francoise filed a law suit against Banier.

The lawsuit devolved into a major scandal involving corporate secrets, WWII relations with the Nazis, Swiss Bank accounts, and political payoffs.

This is a fascinating book. The unusual characters, tangled emotions, and high level political maneuvering makes the book read more like fiction than history. The book is very well researched, going in depth on the background of the characters as well as the trial.

For me, the book started rather slowly with the history of the L’Oréal Company founded by her father Charles Schueller, a brilliant chemist and business man. This history is important to the rest of the story, so it’s necessary in order to understand the later trial, but it did make the early chapters slow when you’re interested in the scandalous trial.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Get Away from the Destructive Forces in Your Life

People become trapped in destructive forces in their lives. Some are pushed into pits, some fall into pits, others jump in. No matter how you get there when you’re in a pit you need help and encouragement to get out. Beth Moore provides that help in this book.

Moore shares her own story and those of others who found themselves in a pit and managed to get out with God’s help. God’s help is the key to this book. The book is filled with scripture focusing on God’s love and how He can pull you out of the pit and help you get on with a more rewarding life.

Perhaps one of the most useful parts of the book is recognizing when you’re in a pit and knowing when you’ve escaped it. I love Moore’s description of knowing that you are out of the pit because you have a new song in your heart.

The last chapter is equally valuable, knowing how to stay out of a pit in the future. I highly recommend this book. It’s a Christian book, but the theology is easy to understand focusing on the Psalm 40. I highly recommend this book if you’re struggling with your life. Moore’s book is like having a counselor who is also a good friend.

I received this book from Handlebar for this review.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

An Ex-Speical Forces Limo Driver Gets Wrapped into a Murder Plot

Michael Skelling, owner of a limo company, is waiting for his fare in an alley behind a hotel. He’s been driving Bismark Avila, a skateboard rapper, for the last twenty-eight hours and wonders when Avila will get tired and go home.

A voice on the Santa Ana wind, like that of a Chechen torturer he shot in Yemen, warns Michael of danger. Knowing not to disregard the warning, he charges into the hotel just in time to save Avila from a bullet, but not before Avila’s body guard is killed. When Michael wakes up in the hospital, he finds he’s implicated in the murder. Avila refuses to alibi him unless he agrees to be his personal driver which puts Michael in a direct line to take a bullet for his employer.

The book is packed with action and snappy dialog. The ending is quite violent. Michael seems almost superhuman. The plot is filled with twists. It’s almost impossible to figure out what’s behind the murders until the very end.

For me, the best part of the novel was the quirky characters Michael employs in his limo service. Two are wounded veterans, one is his Afghan interpreter. The veterans are damaged, fighting their demons, but they are all supportive of each other and willing to sacrifice their lives, if necessary, to save each other.

I recommend this book if you enjoy fast paced action and interesting characters.

I received this book from Dutton for this review.  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

An Ex-Con and a Pastor Find Love

Shay has just been released from prison for embezzling from the bank she worked for. The victim of an abusive father, a mother who died young, and a manipulative brother, Shay hasn’t had much of a chance. She pulled away from a relationship with Shooter, a drug dealer, but when her brother owed money to Shooter and others, she felt she needed to get the money for him and took it from the bank.

Feeling that she’s lost her chance at a good life, Shay is lonely and depressed when she gets off the bus from prison. It’s freezing and there’s a church in front of her. She enters to get warm, and it changes her life.

Drew Douglas, pastor of the church, feels that he is losing his faith after his wife’s death. He’s praying when Shay walks in. Meeting her, he wants to help and by helping gives them both a chance at a more fulfilling life.

This is a Christian romance. The emotion between Drew and Shay is powerful, but all at the level of propriety, no bedroom scenes. Shay has a hard time giving up her defensive attitude to accept help and friendship from others. I found this the most realistic part of the book.

As usual in a romance, the course of love doesn’t run smooth. In this case, it’s due to Shooter and Shay’s brother reappearing in her life, as well as her prison past coming back to haunt her. I enjoyed the book. Some of it seemed too good to be true. However, it was an enjoyable, quick read.

If you like Christian romance, Debbie Macomber is always a good choice.

I received this book from Penguin Random House / Ballantine Bantam Dell for this review.