The Jerusalem Assassin – Book Review

The Jerusalem Assassin (Marcus Ryker, #3)The Jerusalem Assassin by Joel C. Rosenberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The third book in the Marcus Ryker series, “The Jerusalem Assassin” picks up right where “The Persian Gamble” ends and finds our protagonist in the middle of a massive, time-sensitive manhunt for a killer intent on sabotaging a ground-breaking Middle East peace initiative.

Rosenberg is in a unique position as an author who has worked in the political arena in the U.S. and in Israel and who currently lives in Jerusalem. Rosenberg has a deep understanding of all the major players in the world political scene and he uses that understanding to create page-turning political thrillers that often feel like they’re ripped straight from the headlines.

The “Jerusalem Assassin” is no exception as the central theme of the book is a peace process in the Middle East that would seem far-fetched if it hadn’t actually happened last year. Rosenberg’s story once again, like many of his books, seems to depict real world events before they happen.

If you enjoy political thrillers, you won’t be disappointed with Rosenberg’s third installment in the Marcus Ryker series. It’s recommended, however, that you read this book after reading the first two books in the series, “The Kremlin Conspiracy” (NOTE: the Kindle version is currently free with Prime Membership) followed by “The Persian Gamble”.

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“People Fuel” by John Townsend – Book Review

People Fuel: How Energy from Relationships Transforms Life, Love, and LeadershipPeople Fuel: How Energy from Relationships Transforms Life, Love, and Leadership by John Townsend
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

People Fuel is an important read for those who are wanting to experience growth and change and realize that people are necessary to help us experience transformation in our lives.

Townsend identifies a number of “nutrients” that are necessary for growth and he identifies how these nutrients are received and delivered via our various relational networks.

Townsend spends ample time talking about the kinds of relationships we need in order to receive the right nutrients, but he also gives plenty of examples to show how it works out practically in our relationships.

I found this book to be an enjoyable read as Townsend’s writing style is easy and engaging with plenty of relevant information mixed with real life stories and examples.

But this book was also challenging, particularly during Covid, where building relationships has proven to be more difficult with lockdowns and restrictions that make it more difficult to interact and engage with others.

As a slight introvert who has struggled to build relational intimacy in the past, I found this book to be challenging yet hopeful at the same time.

There’s a lot of great content and helpful information in this book and I can imagine this being one of those books that gets re-read and referred to frequently as I seek to grow in my own relationships, but also as I mentor others.

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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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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.