Category Archives: Non-Fiction

A Tempered Faith: Rediscovering Hope in the Ashes of Loss by Jennifer Sands

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

A Tempered FaithThere are so many stories regarding the events of September 11, 2001. Some are told by the family members who lost loved ones on this day and others are told by the survivors. The stories are very sad; but, at the same time, they are all unique and very intriguing. It’s difficult to imagine what the relatives and friends of people who were killed on September 11 went through at the time and for the years that followed this terrible assault on America.

Jennifer Sands tells us her personal story. She met her soul mate, Jim, through a dating service. The two were surprised that they went to the same school, lived in the same town, etc. but never met each other. They got married. Jennifer worked as a pharmacist and Jim worked for Cantor Fitzgerald at the World Trade Center. They enjoyed a few short, wonderful years together. They both had a love for Scuba diving in the Cayman Islands.

Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway’s Secret Adventures, 1935-1961 by Nicholas Reynolds

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Writer, Sailor, Soldier,SpyAuthor Reynolds holds a PhD from Oxford, is a former Marine who also worked as a CIA officer eventually settled into the role of military historian. It was while he was helping gather information for a new exhibit at the CIA Museum on the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), that Reynolds ran across several documents referencing Ernest Hemingway. That in itself was not so surprising as anyone who has read any of Hemingway’s work is aware the author worked as a war corespondent and also lived in Cuba as Castro came to power. However, his findings went far beyond that. He was surprised to find hints that Hemingway had once been associated with the NKVD which was the forerunner of the KGB, served as a spy for the US but also later a supporter of Castro. Make no mistake, this not some drily written tome of historical facts and documents. Reynolds seriously researched Hemingway’s life during each of these times and wrote a book filled with the author’s fascinating adventures. An author who already had a reputation of living life mostly out of bounds. How much research did the author do? There is roughly 80 pages of notes at the end of the book before the index.

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Much has been written about Ernest Hemingway already. Most people with any interest at all in the author knows of his 4 wives, his penchant for adventure regardless of the danger, his reputation as a hard drinker and his periods of deep depressions. This book gives readers a ring side seat into the larger than life figure explaining why all of those things happened to him. One of my favorite tales was of Hemingway actually patrolling the US coast line looking for German subs, a job he was sanctioned by the military to do. He was not just looking for them, his desire was to find and sink one. It isn’t just that he did this that makes this so interesting. It is the enthusiasm he put into the project that is. In many ways, he seems like a man who has never outgrown the little boy playing at war. One of my biggest surprises was how easily Hemingway was able to work his way into situations. He started as a writer covering WWII but slowly wormed his way into working for the OSS under the code name ARGO as a spy. He managed to get himself very close to the front lines, and even managed to fly for the RAF.

Intelligent Field by Surendra Kumar Sagar

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Intelligent FieldIntelligent Field by the immensely gifted author, Surendra Kumar Sagar, is a mind-expanding look at what he refers to as the Intelligent Field, a sort of Traveling Cosmic Mind that controls nature, but it’s the `Information` in the field and the flow of such information in the field that is responsible for everything that happens in the universe , including the imparting of Intelligence to the field. As mentioned in the Foreword of the book, within this `Intelligent Field` is a universal mind, that gives us “consciousness.”

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Intelligent Field is a follow-up, of sorts, to Sagar’s book, Six Words. Both Intelligent Field and Six Words have a cross-disciplinary approach and are deeply philosophical. In Intelligent Field, as in Six Words, a wide variety of topics get incorporated into a heady mix, with Sagar always optimistic in the potential for the human race, but also pointing out how events unfolding in the United States and globally could lead to the possible end of human life on the planet Earth.

Sagar is not a prophet of gloom and doom in Intelligent Field, but he does mention that humans are getting closer and closer to midnight, as far as the Doomsday Clock goes. There is still time left to pull humanity back from the brink of potential extinction, but it can only be accomplished only if certain measures are taken before it is too late.

Reclaim American Democracy: Economic Solutions to Dysfunctional Politics by Werner Neff

Reviewed by Veronica Alvarado

Reclaim American DemocracyThe year 2016 was inarguably one of the most tumultuous in American society in recent memory. A bitterly contested election between two unfavorable candidates, and the surprise dark horse win of populist Republican nominee Donald Trump, has prompted a desire amongst American readers to actively understand both the inner workings of their political society and how they reached the current political moment. To help fill this need comes Swiss economist Werner Neff’s Reclaim American Democracy: Economic Solution to Dysfunctional Politics. With deft insights and easy-to-comprehend prose, Neff presents his readers with a working hypothesis of the evolution of current American politics and admirable solutions towards countering growing social and economic injustice.

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Taking an undoubtedly liberal point-of-view, Neff essentially begins his argument with the somewhat controversial stance that “Today, it seems that America has lost its glory,” and follows that with the all-important question, “Why?” (Neff, 9) The rest of the work attempts to answer this brief, but all-encompassing query. Neff begins by discussing the nature of division in America, the weightiest among those being political and economic divisions. He gives much explication to the three interrelated topics of poverty, deficit, and employment. These three problems within American society all are instrumental towards maintaining the ever-widening gap between the wealthy and the impoverished. With the aid of informative charts and precise language, Neff is able to explicate his thesis that many of the socio-economic problems that stand in the way of the progress of American democracy. Some, but by no means all, of the sources of these issues that Neff touches upon or explains thoroughly include a Republican corruption of the core values of conservatism, polarized political parties, gerrymandering, massive corporate tax breaks, excessively large political campaign contributions, and a belief in the effectiveness of supply-side economics.

To remedy these aforementioned issues, Neff offers variety of liberal solutions. He calls for, among other solutions, a mandatory pension plan, an immediate end to polarizing political practices, and an increase in social contributions and taxes for wage earners. He underlines the importance of achieving these goals within American society, as their implementation will no doubt greatly ease some of the economic burden and mitigate much of the social unrest that currently resides within the United States today. Neff’s concluding chapter forms a helpful summary of his insights and again highlights the need for change. An extensive works cited section at the end of the book bolsters the validity and scholarly insight that Neff provides. All of the works cited are readily accessible to the curious reader.

Werner Neff’s Reclaim American Democracy: Economic Solution to Dysfunctional Politics is undoubtedly a work for the current age. While it may alienate some more conservative readers, Neff’s book ultimately will serve as a useful aid and an insightful read for any who are looking to understand the existing state of American society and who hopes to work towards democratic progress.

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Notorious RBGLike or dislike her, Ruth Bader Ginsberg is a woman who daily continues to defy stereotypes. She’s eighty-three-years-old and stands five foot and one inch.
No one questions her intelligence. This dynamo is a legendary force fighting for injustices to make our country a better place.

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As being a Supreme Court Justice, her diminutive size is completely opposed to her immense influence of society today. Ginsberg always has defined life with her rules. She excelled in school. Unfortunately, her mother died of cancer the day before she graduated high school. Attending Cornell in the early 1950s as a woman who married with a degree in government.

Carter Lake: A Slice of Iowa in Nebraska (Brief History) by John Schreier

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Carter LakeWhy is a small section of Iowa surrounded by Omaha, Nebraska? Imagine a person arrives at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska, and as they drive into the city, they see a sign stating, “Welcome to Iowa.” As they continue down the road, they quickly see another sign, welcoming them to the city of Omaha, Nebraska. Confused? For many travelers, this is a problem many encounter. Carter Lake, Iowa is in this situation.

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With the Missouri River being the dividing line between Iowa and Nebraska, the land east of the river belongs to Iowa, west to Nebraska. What happens when the river changes its path moving east a mile? Years ago, Dr. Thomas Jefferis purchased thirty acres of swampy land near the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa along with other land parcels throughout the area.

However, in 1877, the Missouri River flooded. When the waters finally receded the pathway of the river had changed. Dr. Jefferis’ land was now west of the river with deposits of new land.

Who owns the land now? Who is the owner of the additional new land forced into place by the river? With a new crescent-shaped lake surrounding much of this land, this Cut-Off Island quickly became in dispute between the previous owner and the two neighboring states.

Carter Lake, formerly known as Cut-Off Island has a unique history while trying to alternately be independent while maintaining its relationship with its birth-state, Iowa. Being separated from Council Bluffs has caused a multitude of problems for this community. From schools for their children, police and fire protection, to taxation, and being a refuge for criminals, Carter Lake maintains its individuality while sometimes being assisted by its mother city, an eight-mile drive, Council Bluffs.

John Schreier, the author, bases his interest in Carter Lake from growing up in Omaha, Nebraska and graduating from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln with a double major in history and journalism. While managing editor of the Daily Nonpareil, he still finds time to contribute articles to Sports Illustrated, the Denver Post, and the Omaha World-Herald.

Carter Lake is a short book for anyone who enjoys history. What is unique about this book is that Carter Lake, while a small city, becomes a character fighting to maintain its individuality. Between bullied by Omaha at times and not being protected by either its big brother, Council Bluffs or its parent, Iowa, Schreier successfully demonstrates the success of this community in achieving their dreams.

The Proof That God Exists: The Solution to a Puzzle Spread through Sciences and Other Disciplines of Human Knowledge by Mauricio Mediano

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

The Proof That God ExistsThe Proof That God Exists by the highly talented author and scientist, Mauricio Riguette Mediano, Ph.D., takes a look at scientific evidence and explains in a way that laymen can easily understand that science can be used as evidence to prove the existence of God. Mediano organizes the book, subtitled “The solution of a puzzle spread through sciences and other disciplines of human knowledge,” into short, succinct chapters summing up the proof offered by various scientific disciplines that explains how the creation of intelligent life on Earth cannot be chalked up to simple coincidence. There must, Mediano argues, be a Creator, a God, behind science and behind the creation of humans on our planet.

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Everything involved in establishing the extremely specific conditions under which intelligent life can evolve and be created in the first place makes it almost impossible that it could happen without there being a God involved. Mediano makes the case that the conditions intelligent life occurred on Earth are unique, and he uses science to establish that the likelihood these specific conditions could have occurred anywhere else is very slim.

Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction by Elizabeth Vargas (Kindle Edition)

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

Between BreathsElizabeth Vargas has always been one of my favorite journalists. I enjoyed her time on Good Morning America and loved to watch her co-host episodes of 20/20. I was saddened to hear about her problems with anxiety and alcohol. It was such a shock because I, and I’m sure thousands of others, had no idea Elizabeth had this problem.

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As I started to read Between Breaths her story became more and more interesting. I could not put the book down. Elizabeth told the readers of the many times she attended rehab and how she tried to deal with the many setbacks where she found herself going back to alcohol. She was concerned about her marriage and her children. Her marriage fell apart but she had a strong support group and that is what really helped. Elizabeth gave details of her time as a little girl when her panic anxiety started and told of how she started as a journalist. The readers were provided with a detailed report of what she endured during her many stays in rehab facilities.

Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond by Sonia Shah

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Pandemic“Cholera kills people fast. There’s no drawn-out sequence of progressive debility. The newly infected person feels fine at first. Then half a day passes, and cholera has drained his or her body of its fluids, leaving a withered blue corpse.”

Pandemic sounds like a science fiction thriller. Unfortunately, it can be all too realistic and could happen.


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How do we prevent it? One way would be to read Pandemic.

Most of us do not plan to be exposed or infected with cholera. What would you do if you were on an airplane from Haiti to Florida in 2013?

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson

Reviewed by Allen Hott

The Road to Little DribblingMy second trip with Mr. Bryson as he walked (mostly) along the roads, walkways, and streets of England. His writing can sometimes become a bit tiresome or boring as it basically has no dialogue. It is strictly his comments and descriptions of the places and scenery that he passes. However all of it is also laced with humor and smart-alec asides (usually that he keeps inside and doesn’t express outward to whomever he is jostling.

A quick example, “..about the Internet. It is just an accumulation of digital information, with no brains, and no feelings…just like an IT person, in fact”.

All the while he is exploring and walking he is chiding the people of England as well as the people of the United States. Bryson does have dual citizenship as he was born in Iowa and after meeting his wife while on an excursion in England years ago he decided they would live in England eventually.

As a starter he claims the British do strange things in their handling of roads and zones. He says it is not to confuse foreigners at all. They do it to confuse themselves. He does quite a dissertation on some examples.

Also he tells about a secret U.S. training mission in Slapton Sands in 1944 but somehow the Nazis had U-Boats in the area and killed close to 1000 American soldiers on landing crafts that were practicing and not actually in combat! It was one of the most lopsided routs of the war as far as America was concerned.

The entire book is filled with bits and pieces of very interesting information about the idiosyncrasies, occurrences, and people of the British Isles. Not that it is derogatory in any fashion but basically a great telling of tales that have occurred over the many years that England has been a mighty nation in this world.

Bryson has written many books and mostly they are about his musings as he travels in places all over the world. Not too long ago a very good movie was made about another of his walks……it was called A Walk in the Woods and it was a good look at Bryson and his lifestyle I guess you would say.

It won’t be long until I dig into another of his writings because he is very informative, funny and, though not too easy sometimes to read, very entertaining. Try this one and you will see!!!