HRC (review)

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HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary ClintonHRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton by Jonathan Allen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘I sort of describe it as “stages of Hillary,”’ one member of Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s inner circle said. ‘You know, you first dread the prospect of working with her, then you sort of begrudgingly begin to respect her, then you outright respect her and her incredible work ethic. You know she’s inexhaustible, she’s tough-minded … she’s charming and she’s funny and she’s interesting and she’s inquisitive and she’s engaging’” HRC – Kindle location 1682.

I’m not sure why I chose to read this biography of a woman whose views are on the other side of the political spectrum from mine and who lives and leads on the U.S. side of the border. But I’m glad I did. Furthermore, I found myself experiencing something like the “stages of Hillary” even as I read about her.

HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes concerns itself with the six years from Clinton’s withdrawal from the presidential race in 2008 to the present. It ends by discussing the chances Clinton will enter the presidential race of 2016.

By the authors’ accounts, over 200 people provided interviews for the book. Many of these are anonymous but many voices are also named. Thus the book feels factual. However, its angle also gave me the sense that it is groundwork for Clinton’s perhaps-presidential-run in 2016.

In it we experience the Clintons’ shock and disappointment at being beat out by Obama in the 2008 primaries, Hillary’s surprise at being asked to serve as Secretary of State in the Obama cabinet, her baptism into the job, a behind-the-scenes look at statecraft Obama/Clinton style, the inside experience of headline events like the killing of Bin Ladin and the Benghazi incident, and more.

The book is pro-Clinton. I supposed it might be even as I studied the cover with its Hillary cameo of the Mona Lisa smile, and its simple title: HRC (short for Hillary Rodham Clinton), true to the “Hillaryland” way of using abbreviations even as it evokes the image of “Her Royal-highness Clinton.”

Through the book I came to admire Clinton for a multitude of things: her work ethic, her political instincts, her loyalty, her kindness and thoughtfulness, her attempt to understand and put to use new technologies in the service of diplomacy and politics, her toughness under pressure, her idealism, and her faith-grounded reasons for wanting to serve her country.

For me, a Canadian who doesn’t follow U.S. politics closely, the book was over-heavy with details—names of people from the Democratic establishment, the gossipy intricacies of their relationship and history with the Clintons, and program acronyms of which I read the full name once and promptly forget what they stood for. There is, of course, Google, which I resorted to once or twice to get my bearings. But, not needing to understand the minutiae, I didn’t let myself get too bogged in it.

As a whole HRC is an interesting read which will probably gain traction should Hillary Clinton declare herself a candidate for the 2016 presidential race. In that event, HRC will probably help more than hurt her.

I received HRC as a gift from the publisher through Blogging for Books for the purpose of writing a review.

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Veil of Tears (review)

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_225_350_Book.1269.coverVeil of Secrets by Shannon Ethridge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Take a large cast of characters including: Dave Dawson, senator; Will Connors his friend and backroom organizer; Melanie Connors, Will’s frigid wife; Sophie, their 16-year-old hungry-for-life daughter; Caroline Connors, Will’s sharp, attractive, single sister; Tucker Keyes, Carrie’s old drinking buddy from Princeton, now a wanna-be-journalist; a tent city of MoveIn protestors; and a series of frightening cyber attacks that for brief periods commandeer all electronic devices. Superimpose the above on the November to December months of Dave Dawson’s run for president—the season of presidential primaries in New Hampshire—and you have Veil of Secrets, a contemporary story about politics, relationships, and morality in America by Shannon Ethridge and Kathy Mackel.

Lots of action, complications, and trouble in the characters’ lives drew me into the story from the opening chapter. These people are complex and well-developed with detailed pasts. The plot develops naturally as the veils covering those pasts keep getting torn away by events of the present.

The writing style is smart, punchy, and perfect for this fast-paced tale. Take, for example, this description of Tucker Keyes:

“He had tried veganism and Catholicism, yoga and Pilates, Madison Avenue and Wall Street, faith and cynicism, fine arts and day trades. And still the emptiness echoed inside him like an existential tinnitus” – KL 538.

The story deals with themes of marriage, sexual abuse, the impact of one’s sexual history on the rest of life, abortion, life in politics, and the place faith in God has in all the above. I found the counseling sessions, where Will and Melanie are forced to face the dynamics of their relationship, interesting and informative in the way they show readers strategies for uncovering roots of marital dysfunction and dealing with the exposed issues.

I really wanted to give this book five stars, I enjoyed it that much. But as the story progressed, the antics of Carrie put me off. The cavalier manner her trampy ways are portrayed (keeping two guys on the hook while she’s pregnant by a third) and then everything working out just fine for her, gave me pause. I felt that the authors’ depiction of her gives a sanitized version of sin and its consequences, thus the four stars.

I received Veil of Secrets as a gift from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the purpose of writing a review.

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Persecuted (review)

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Persecuted: I Will Not Be SilentPersecuted: I Will Not Be Silent by Robin Parrish

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Freedom is fragile and costly. It must be constantly protected and defended by work and by faith … and by blood” (Kindle Location 103).

Rev. John Luther knows these words, uttered during a TV interview, could get him into trouble—especially given the pressure being put on him and Truth Ministries by his old friend Senator Donald Harrison.

Harrison’s baby is the Faith and Fairness Act—a piece of legislation he is determined to get passed whatever it takes. But so far, Luther has resisted bringing his popular and influential ministry on board. After all, it is an act that would bind Luther and his TV show “… to publicly declare your religious beliefs in a way that permits equal time and respect to other faiths.”

Big mistake. At last that’s what some consider it. Luther’s steadfast refusal to buckle to the forces of compromise, even after a personal visit from Harrison, puts in motion a chain of events that is the gripping political suspense tale Persecuted by Robin Parrish.

An ominous man in a gray suit, a distraught wife and innocent child, an intuitive and loyal father (also a man of the cloth), and two gutsy investigators make up the cast of characters.

It’s a David and Goliath fight all the way as John soon finds himself pitted against ruthless, shadowy figures who will stop at seemingly nothing. And they are getting their orders from whom? Could it be the highest power in the land?

The themes of freedom of religion and conscience, the relationship of fathers and sons, and the importance of family play out before us in scenes that go from palm-sweatingly tense to tender. John Luther’s checkered past plays a large part in convincing the public and even those close to him that he might be capable of the acts pinned on him. His backstory, told as flashback scenes between current incidents, helps us understand the gravity of his situation even as these episodes provide a break from suspenseful action of the here-and-now.

A set of nine “Questions for Conversation” completes the book’s offering.

The writing is strong with nothing to distract from the story’s spell and I found the book hard to put down (though John’s success at avoiding his pursuers did stretch my credulity from time to time). The book’s message of warning is timely as we see the political climate of western countries warm towards tolerance as the highest value, no matter what the cost to personal conscience and freedom. I also loved the portrayal of Charles Luther, John’s father—a rock John could always depend on no matter what. The way Charles fathered John reminds me of how God fathers us. The questions at the book’s end make this a good choice for book clubs to read and discuss.

I received Persecuted as a gift from publisher Bethany House for the purpose of writing a review. The quality of the NetGalley Kindle download was, as usual, abysmal with inconsistent formatting and letters missing within words. I only hope the ebook offered for sale is better quality!

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