The Kremlin Conspiracy – Book Review

The Kremlin ConspiracyThe Kremlin Conspiracy by Joel C. Rosenberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rosenberg is at it again….this time introducing a new character in a new political theater – Russia. Rosenberg delicately weaves the backstory of the principal characters while slowly creating a tense geo-political scenario that could easily be mistaken for current headlines.

Rosenberg understands the world’s political landscape, and it comes out in his novels, which are addictive page-turners.

I blame Rosenberg for keeping me up late last night, reading page after page to see how it all ends.

SPOILER ALERT: Readers will have to read the next book in the series to see how the story unfolds!

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Without Warning – Book Review

Without Warning (J. B. Collins, #3)Without Warning by Joel C. Rosenberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The third and final installment of Joel Rosenberg’s J.B. Collins trilogy does not disappoint.

Without Warning lives up to its name with unexpected plot twists and turns that keep the reader engaged right up until the very end.

Packed with drama, intrigue and plenty of action, Rosenberg once again weaves together a story that includes themes of redemption, forgiveness, justice, love and sacrifice. Like many of Rosenberg’s novels, the characters and story-line are fictional, but the political climate and circumstances seem so current and real that the reader is left to sift through what is fictional and what isn’t.

Rosenberg is gifted in writing political thrillers that mirror our current political environment, and his knowledge and understanding of the Middle East political climate is once again on display.

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Extortion – a book Review

Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own PocketsExtortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets by Peter Schweizer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How many times have you heard a local candidate state that they’re running as a Washington outsider who aims to “clean up the system”? And yet, year after year, we find that nothing in Washington really ever changes, as those outsiders always seem to be quickly absorbed and corrupted by the system they pledged to overhaul.

I’ve long been an advocate for term limits for Congress because of the influence of special interest groups. It is believed by many that special interest groups have corrupted our politicians, making them especially susceptible to being bought.

However, in his book “Extortion”, Peter Schweizer paints a much uglier and troubling picture than I had imagined. Schweizer outlines a system in which the Permanent Political Class (i.e. congressmen & congresswomen) aren’t being bought as much as they are using their influence to extort money from corporations in a mafioso-like scheme that boils down to an elaborate protection scheme. And it’s all perfectly legal.

With pain-staking detail and specific examples, Schweizer explains exactly how congressional leaders use and abuse their influence to milk large corporations and industry executives to contribute to their campaigns and PACs.

Schweizer also outlines the many ways congressional leaders make money off the system – from loaning their campaigns personal funds from which they extract insanely large amounts of usury, to using PAC money for lavish trips and personal expenditures.

I’ve always wondered how career politicians were able to become lavishly wealthy on the meager salaries they receive. Schweizer will open your eyes to how they do it, demonstrating the many different ways politicians are milking the system, milking corporations and rewarding friends and family….all for personal and political gain.

This book is well-researched and the foot-notes are extensive. Schweizer holds nothing back and gives examples from both sides of the aisle.

This is one of those books that is both good and bad. It’s good in that it’s well written and well-researched and very interesting to read as Schweizer navigates the reader through specific bills and laws and shows how the shake downs work.

But it’s also bad in the sense that, if you’re like me, you’ll finish this book with an extremely sick feeling in your stomach as you realize that the depth of greed and corruption from career politicians is much deeper than maybe you had previously thought!

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The Mamba Mentality – Book Review

The Mamba Mentality: How I PlayThe Mamba Mentality: How I Play by Kobe Bryant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was not what I expected. I thought it would be the typical auto-biography of one of the greatest sports stars of the last 25 years, complete with details of his upbringing, family history, introduction to basketball, high school years and then a detailed description of his nearly 20 years as a Los Angeles Laker.

I was expecting detailed stories of what happened before the draft and what it was like to be a 17 year old in the NBA.

I wanted to know about his rookie year and growth as a player….the real story on his relationship with Shaq and Phil along with his decision to remain a Laker when he had the chance to leave via free agency.

This book really isn’t about any of that.

Instead, it’s a first person account of Kobe and his approach to the game. Most pages are short vignettes on a thought Kobe expounds on. It might be a name of a player he faced followed by Kobe’s thoughts on that player or how he would defend him or exploit him on offense. Or it might be thoughts on his pre-game ritual or his off-season training regimen.

Kobe gives analysis of dozens of players he faced over the years and how he prepared to defend and attack them. He also shares his personal thoughts on numerous team-mates he played with over the course of his career, including Olympic team-mates.

I found this book to be pretty easy to read and very entertaining. There were lots of photos from long-time Laker photographer Andrew Bernstein. It was interesting to hear Kobe share his thoughts on the game and as I read the words on each page, I imagined his voice speaking to me as if I were listening to an audiobook.

If you’re a Kobe fan, you’ll love this book. It doesn’t give the complete picture of who Kobe was or how he came to be the competitor that he was; we probably need an autobiography to fill in all those details for us. But this book was an interesting peek into the mind of a Laker legend and a basketball icon who sadly left us way too early.

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The First Hostage – Book Review

The First Hostage (J.B. Collins, #2)The First Hostage by Joel C. Rosenberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The First Hostage is the second in a trilogy of political thrillers by author Joel Rosenberg involving JB Collins, an international journalist for the New York Times.

Collins finds himself in the middle of a massive manhunt as American and Middle Eastern forces align themselves in a race against the clock to prevent an Isis-initiated jihadist Armageddon.

Rosenberg once again weaves a tale that mixes current affairs in the middle east with fictional scenarios that, a few years from now, might seem like historical narrative.

For example, given the current political climate in the Middle East, it’s not hard to imagine a joint military operation between Israel and neighboring Jordan. After all, these neighbors, once enemies, are now allies and have been allies for a number of years.

But who would imagine a joint Israeli-UAE military campaign? Nobody but Rosenberg. Yet, in just the last few weeks, we’ve learned that these two nations, long opposed to one another, have formally announced diplomatic relations.

If you read any of Rosenberg’s books, you’ll find that he often appears to be clairvoyant, including political details in his stories which seem far-fetched at the time yet often seem to develop not long afterwards in real life.

The First Hostage will keep you glued to the page and, as is the case with many of Rosenberg’s books, when the last page is turned, your next step will be to search when and where you can get the next book in the series!

The First Hostage is available on Amazon and other book sellers’ websites.

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Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon

“Steve McQueen was the biggest movie star in the world in the 1960’s and ’70’s”.

This is the claim from Greg Laurie, author of the recent biography on Steve McQueen published in 2019.

The truth is, Steve McQueen was a bit before my time. By the time I reached high school, Steve McQueen had passed away from cancer. I didn’t grow up watching him on the TV show, Wanted Dead or Alive, that had made him a household name, and I wasn’t even born yet when he moved to the big screen with his breakout role in the 1963 movie “The Great Escape“.

So, even though I was familiar with McQueen, he was never an actor I idolized or paid much attention to. To those a bit older than me though, McQueen was “the man.” For a generation of guys, McQueen epitomized what it looked like to be cool. He was “the king of cool”, as Laurie says numerous times in his book.

Greg Laurie is a pastor of a large church in Southern California. He’s older than me and he’s definitely part of that generation that grew up admiring McQueen. Laurie’s fixation with McQueen runs  so deep that he even has a replica of the famous Mustang car McQueen drove in the epic 1968 movie Bullitt.

As a pastor, Laurie had heard that McQueen had come to faith before his untimely death in 1980 at the age of 50. However, none of the biographies of McQueen’s life included any details about his faith journey. Being such a fan of McQueen, Laurie set out to learn the details, not only about McQueen’s life, but his journey toward God.

Laurie’s book, Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon, is a detailed biography of the legend’s life but also shares important details about McQueen’s last few years, in which he experienced a transformation spiritually.

McQueen’s life was one of contrasts. He grew up poor but became wealthy. He was abandoned but became a loving husband and father. He could be harsh on the set but he seemed to care deeply for the underdogs, especially troubled youth like he had been.

McQueen was a self-made man who epitomized the macho spirit of the 60’s and 70’s. Though he could not save himself physically, succumbing to the harsh and painful effects of Mesothelioma in 1980, he did find salvation spiritually.

Laurie documents McQueen’s life and career and highlights a number of key encounters and relationships that were instrumental in McQueen finding God late in life.

I found the book to be interesting and engaging as I learned about McQueen’s childhood and his professional career. The details about his turn to God were inspiring while the events surrounding his sickness and death were tragic to say the least.

If you’re a McQueen fan, you’ll likely love this book, as it fills in a lot of details of the actor’s life and career. McQueen’s life isn’t glamorized. The veil is pulled back and you get a picture of the man warts and all.

One thing to note about the book though is that Laurie takes every opportunity to insert his own story into the narrative. It’s obvious from the beginning that Laurie is a McQueen fan but it turns out that there are many similarities between the two men, mostly in the stories of their family upbringing.

Laurie uses these similarities to try to help the reader understand how McQueen might have felt emotionally regarding the circumstances of his childhood and adult life. While it’s helpful in some degree to paint a deeper picture of what might have been happening on the inside, there are times when it appears that the story becomes more about Laurie than McQueen.

Still, the book is full of interesting information about an American film legend who passed well before his time. If you’re a McQueen fan or just like a good redemption story, you’ll likely enjoy this book.

You can get the book on Amazon or listen to the book like I did by getting your copy at christianaudio.com.

The Third Target – Book Review

The Third Target (J.B. Collins, #1)The Third Target by Joel C. Rosenberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Third Target is the first in a series of political thrillers by Joel Rosenberg with journalist JB Collins as his central character.

Rosenberg draws on his years in the political arena and his extensive understanding of the current Middle East political climate as he weaves a story that draws on historical facts to create a possible modern scenario that is plausibly believable, emotionally engaging and action packed.

Rosenberg is an evangelical Christian whose novels often contain spiritual elements without being overly preachy or dogmatic. His characters are real. Rosenberg doesn’t give you the James Bond or Jack Bauer type, which you might think is required for a political spy thriller novel. Instead, he gives you characters who experience the kind of emotions you might experience if you were faced with the scenarios created in the story. His characters are faced with moral dilemmas and they think about deeper issues of identity, meaning and purpose.

Rosenberg continues to churn out novels that are a mix of modern day politics coupled with intrigue, action and suspense. The Third Target will keep you engaged and glued to the pages until the final page, at which point you will be shaking your fist at Rosenberg for creating a scenario that forces you to reach for the next book in the series!

You can find The Third Target on Amazon and other book seller websites.

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The Lowedown on “The Auschwitz Escape” by Joel Rosenberg

The Lowedown on “The Auschwitz Escape” – my Goodreads review of Joel Rosenberg’s historical fiction thriller.

The Auschwitz EscapeThe Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A slight departure from Rosenberg’s normal political thrillers, this work of historical fiction contains the same riveting style that fans of Rosenberg have come to expect. Characters are vivid and real. Rosenberg has a way of helping you get into the minds and hearts of his characters and his descriptions of the conditions during this time frame are descriptive and emotional.

It is hard to imagine the pure evil that was exercised on humanity at Auschwitz. I’ve never been there and I’m certainly not an historian but I feel like I got a small taste of the atrocities and the horror from reading this book.

I felt a few of the scenes were kind of predictable but I still found myself glued to the pages and anxious to see what happened next. Through his characters and their interactions, Rosenberg deftly introduces the ethical and moral dilemmas that prisoners and citizens alike must’ve encountered during these harrowing conditions.

Overall, it was a good read and I’d recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Rosenberg, but also if you have an interest in WW2 history and specifically the Holocaust and the plight of the Jewish people during that time period.

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