The Shelton Mill, by Elaine Gavigan

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Elaine Gavigan for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Looking for something a little more conspiratorial, I turned to this novel by Elaine Gavigan. The Shelton Mill offers readers a glimpse into a story that explores how greed and political corruption make for strange (and usual) bedfellows, leaving the ‘little gal’ to push back and fight for the truth. A decent read, though not as stirring as I would have hoped, given the dust jacket blurb.

Ellen Larkin enjoys working as an investigative reporter with the Boston Chronicle and has been compiling information on a major story about kickbacks in the construction industry. However, due to a massive diminution in advertising revenue, she’s handed a pink slip by the newspaper and sent on her way.

Her dreams of a Pulitzer dashed and a bank account on fumes, Ellen is forced to look for work. While her reputation precedes her, she knows that a job in journalism is a lofty ask so quickly agrees to a position at Gargantua, a recruitment company that has been siphoning the aforementioned advertising dollars from the Chronicle.Things are a tad strange when she arrives for an interview, but Ellen chalks it up to her own paranoia.

With Gargantua located in the Shelton Mill, a piece of property with a long history all its own, Ellen knows that she’s in for an interesting work experience. Early in her training, she comes across something that leads her to believe that Guarantua’s tied in with the construction scheme she had been investigating. Might her time here allow Ellen to covertly gather intel for the story of a lifetime, positioning her to be brought back to the Chronicle and offered a Pulitzer?

As organised crime in Boston is as intense as ever, with both the Irish and Italians happy to stick their fingers in as many corrupt pies as possible, Ellen will have to be attuned to those who may wish to silence her. One wrong move could ruin her chances and leave her footing in the Charles River, another crime statistic the Chronicle may not even cover!

While this appears to be the first published novel by Elaine Gavigan, there is a great deal of potential. The ingredients are there for something gripping, though it takes a little time for the narrative to heat up to the point that I was fully committed.

Ellen Larkin serves as a decent protagonist for this piece. Her dreams of reaching journalism’s elite halls may not have yet been realised, but she knows her stuff. With an interesting backstory, she puts all her efforts into earning her paycheque by being intuitive and gritty. Struggling to make ends meet, she does all she can to keep the money coming in and yet she cannot help but feel she’s owed something.

Gavigan uses a large array of characters to keep the story on point, pulling on Boston’s varying cross-section of cultures and socio-economic groups. Many of those who grace the pages serve to push the story along, though there are ties when things lag and I might have sought less backstory or tangential character development. Still, there’s something intriguing about her character choices, all of whom complement one another as the piece progresses.

The premise of the story worked well for me, with corruption embedded into the core of the city’s largest construction project, The Big Dig. While things started off well, there was a point when I was waving my hands in the air to get back to the central theme of the story and lessen Guarantua’s superficial public persona. Gavigan knows how to writer and can set a scene effectively, but it lacked the needed momentum for me to remain hooked with the plot.

Shorter chapters worked to keep me pushing onward, but I needed something more to hold my attention, rather than tap my finger as I tried to keep my attention focussed on the next major reveal. I’d likely return for another novel, as Ellen Larkin has some sass worth seeing developed on another occasion.

Kudos, Madam Gavigan, for a great debut (I presume) novel. You’ve got some talent that needs a little developing for greater success.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Fear: Trump in the White House, by Bob Woodward

Nine stars

I have decided to embark on a mission to read a number of books on subjects that will be of great importance to the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Election. Many of these will focus on actors intricately involved in the process, in hopes that I can understand them better and, perhaps, educate others with the power to cast a ballot. I am, as always, open to serious recommendations from anyone who has a book I might like to include in the process.

This is Book #31 in my 2020 US Election Preparation Challenge.

While the talk of the 45th President of the United States (POTUS) seems to be an endless cycle of conversation, insults, and downright headaches, I approached reading this book with an open and curious mind. I chose to let Bob Woodward —a highly esteemed journalist in his own right—guide me through some of his findings during the early period of the Trump presidency.

Woodward explores Trump’s candidacy and first year or so in the Oval Office, tackling some of the more controversial events and topics that came to light. Woodward offers the reader some insights into this time, where Trump was fuelled by a passionate hatred of President Obama and how he would do anything to derail or dismantle programs put in place, making promises at rallies and seeking to enact them as soon as he had a presidential seat.

There was also much talk of his attempts to make his own mark in the military, trade, sanctions, and even diplomacy, all guided by his Trump-centric mentality. Woodward clearly points that Trump was not alone, as he had a number of well-meaning—as well as completely useless—advisors around him, many of whom tried to guide him in a certain direction. While I may not agree with their politics, Woodward presents these advisors as those who sought to educate and guide Trump towards what could be done for America and how the Jenga blocks needed to be inched in a certain direction in order not to make things come cascading down, thereby heralding catastrophe.

The few sycophants who emerge from the text are those who are useless to the larger process, but entirely what Trump felt he needed on a daily basis. Armed with his narrow view on the world and with his Twitter account as a billy club, Trump tried to fix all things in a few characters, which usually failed to bring about presidential diplomacy.

If Woodward offers a single theme in this book that echoes throughout the pages of well-documented chapters, it is that Trump wanted to do things his way and will rarely follow the narrow and calculated path asked of him. A renegade to some and completely rogue to others, there is reason to fear.

America’s enemies are ready and willing to strike, which evokes added concern, when the man with his finger on the button treats it like his own personal toy, rather than listening to the reason of those who seek to advise.

Woodward should be applauded for this book, as he seeks to offer insights through the eyes of others, rather than rallying his own personal attacks with little substantive proof. Recommend for those who want a glimpse inside the West Wing without the baseless attacks of a jilted few who feed only negative information to sell books.

I have heard much about this book before I even began the opening sentence. Some loved the book for its openness and exploration of a number of topics, while others hated it for not revealing new smoking guns or additional finger pointing. Still others criticized it for poking fun at the POTUS in any way, as we should bow to him and allow him to create America in a new image.

I found the book to be intriguing in many ways and took much away from it. While I have read a few books on the Trump presidency—is it not indicative of something that so many pieces have come out so soon after he made it to the Oval Office?—there are themes that come out in all of them. These include: obsession with television portrayals, refusal to read background materials for essential decisions, preconceived notions of effective governance, and a hatred for all who oppose him.

What this book helped me see was that all of these and other perspectives were further solidified through the interviews Woodward undertook with those closest to Trump. This was not Woodward standing atop a soap box and issuing criticism dreamed up in his own mind, he used the words and sentiments of many who were ‘in the trenches’ to garner a better understanding for the reader. Call me naive, but I cannot see Bob Woodward as one who is all that interested in using weak information to build his arguments. Woodward has shown time and again that he asks the tough questions, but seeks to be fair in his delivery. First hand accounts serve as the foundation of this book’s narrative momentum, which I applaud.

There are moments of praise for Trump and others of complete mockery, but when they come from within, can be really call it a smear campaign by liberal media sources? I have never hidden my sentiments on this topic and while I try to get some of my foundation through reading and trying to better understand the situation, I am also an outsider. I admit to being happy that I have the right to expand my horizons and to better comprehend that which I argue against from my side of the (unwalled) border. Freedoms to express my sentiments cannot be taken, nor should they, so long as I am not fanning unfounded hatred for the sake of personally harming others. Worry not, Woodward handles this discussion in the book when he speaks of the supremacist rallies in the summer of 2017.

This was the first book I read on the subject where I was attacked by both pro- and anti-Trump folks. The former group sought to criticize me for reading about the negativity of the POTUS and how it all lies, while the latter bemoaned that I would waste my time reading about him at all. It is this ignorance that has pushed for me to seek a better understanding of the situation. I find many readers seek to ‘trump’ the ongoing discussions, in hopes that people will stop talking and trying to better understand things as they evolve.

Should we, as citizens of the world, live in fear until 2020? Might the type of behaviour exemplified in this book lead to horrible things? There is that possibility, but it could also be a rallying cry for American voters to turn out to cast their ballots, while Intelligence agencies work to plug some of the gaping holes that permitted outsider influences in elections past.

I encourage Bob Woodward to return to this topic after the Trump presidency has ended (however that will come about), as I would read that book, which can explore the entire experience in a single arc. Until then, I encourage all readers with an interest to give this book a try, ignoring the trolls on both sides who hurl insults at your choice. (Note, since reading and reviewing this book the first time, Woodward has added to the Trump White House series, my next major read, RAGE).

Kudos, Mr. Woodward, for giving me something about which to think. I feel enriched about what you have presented and look forward to where things will lead from here.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Girls of Brackenhill, by Kate Moretti

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Kate Moretti, and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

When seeking a story guaranteed to offer strong plot lines, stellar characters, and twists at every turn, one need look no further than the work of Kate Moretti. She uses these and other ingredients to keep the reader on the edge of their seat in her latest thriller, Girls of Brackenhill, where a woman is forced to return to her past in order to put her present in order. Recommended to those who need a surprise or two in their reading experience.

It was a call out of the blue that shocked Hannah more than anything. Her Aunt Fae had been in a horrible car accident and Hannah’s presence was urgently requested. Agreeing to take the six hour journey, Hannah and her fiancé make their way to sort things out, which includes time spent at the Brackenhill, an isolated piece of property that locals call a haunted castle, but Fae and her partner call home. Brackenhill has a long and sordid history as being home to many mysterious goings-on over the years, which may be why the locals have given it such an ominous reputation. It is also the last place Hannah’s sister, Julia, was ever seen.

Once Hannah learns and comes to terms with Fae’s death in the accident, she must determine how to deal with her uncle, who has been clinging to life for a long while and still lives in Brackenhill. Hannah agrees to stay at on the property to put things in order, though the past comes bubbling back to the surface. Over a number of summers, Hannah and Julia spent their time here, getting into teenage trouble and finding love. However, after Julia went missing, Hannah left and never returned. It’s been seventeen years, yet for Hannah it seems like yesterday.

When Wyatt McCarran arrives at the door, another layer of Hannah’s past comes crashing back. While Wyatt is now a police officer investigating Fae’s accident, he was Hannah’s first love and the boy who broke her heart. Awkward and yet trying not to let it engulf them, Hannah and Wyatt seek to put the past in order while also deal with the issues at hand. This is further complicated when a jaw bone is found on the Brackenhill property, leaving the possibility open that it could belong to Julia.

As Hannah spends even more time at Brackenhill, some of her troubled past comes to the surface and she begins to question much of her life over those summers. New mysteries emerge and Hannah is not prepared to ignore things, which proves troubling to many. Hannah learns more about some of the gaps she could not have understood as a teenager, though these prove to be more painful than she could have predicted.

Hannah’s troubles with sleepwalking return while she is at Brackenhill, causing her more grief than she could have imagined. While trying to settle her uncle as he slips into his final days, Hannah remains determined to discover what happened to Fae and how it may relate to Julia’s disappearance. Brackenhill may have a sordid history, but it is a handful of locals who hold the key to solving the mystery, each possessing their own piece of the puzzle. It’s up to Hannah to bring it all together before she falls apart!

Having read one of Karen Moretti’s novels before, I knew a little of what I ought to expect with this piece. That being said, there is a constant curiosity as to what the narrative will bring and how things will come together in the end. Moretti strings the reader along with some great work in two time periods, meshing them together effectively when needed to add impact to her work.

Hannah’s role as protagonist is obvious, but there is a lot about her that remains veiled in mystery. The reader slowly discovers what they need to know throughout the narrative, which splits between present day and flashbacks. This builds a solid foundation of backstory, though the gaps are plentiful and the reader is forced to piece things together for themselves. Hannah’s growth in the present time hinges on her understanding of that past, as she reestablishes old connections and tries not to let them cloud her judgement.

Moretti’s use of supporting characters helps solidify the strength of the novel, in my opinion. The two timelines can be difficult to juggle while also being essential to understand the central plot. These characters both support Hannah in her discovery, as well as impede her on occasion. Moretti creates great development for all involved and injects effective banter to offer depth to her plot, without confusing the reader with too many threads to manage.

The story works well and builds throughout, using the two timelines to weave a strong foundation. There are moments the reader is thrust into the middle of one mystery, only to find themselves learning about another. The intensity of the narrative never dissipates, which is fuelled by Moretti’s use of short chapters to keep the reader on their toes. There is no time to breathe, let alone put the book down, which adds to the book’s allure. Mysteries intertwine and a set of characters leave the reader guessing about how Brackenhill might tie it all together. Those familiar with Moretti’s work and curious readers alike will take something away from this book, likely solidifying their desire to find more by the author in short order.

Kudos, Madam Moretti, for another strong piece. I can rely on you to always bring something unique to my reading experience.

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Fresh Meat (DS Jamie Johansson #2), by Morgan Greene

Nine stars

Having devoured the opening novel in this series, I was eager to get back to it, particularly because Morgan Green left things so wide open with a cliffhanger. This second book is just as good, using another gritty story and spicing it up with strong character development. A dual plot line that keeps DS Jamie Johansson busier than she could imagine helps to propel the piece forward. I was highly impressed with the novel and hope others will take the time to read the series to date. Recommended to those who love a good police procedural where the action never takes a breather.

While the partner pairing of Detective Sergeants Jamie Johansson and Paul Roper is the talk of the London Metropolitan Police, the oddity has been diluted somewhat. DS Johansson is young, lithe, and health conscious, while DS Roper smokes like a chimney, but has curbed his love of drink. The age gap is also quite significant, but somehow they make it work and find a form symbiosis. After a somewhat rocky start in the first novel, they have found their stride and the ever-present sobriety of them both appears to be one factor.

After letting serial killer and illegal organ donor, Elliot Day, slip through their fingers, Johansson and Roper have tried to earn some credibility back. When postcards from around the world begin turning up in Johansson’s personal mailbox, she is curious. Is Day simply mocking her as he galavants all over, killing Interpol agents at will? When Day begins offering Johansson clues as to where she might find some local criminals, she undertakes the missions with much success, but keeps the news from her partner and the police brass.

A postcard arrives with a vague description of a victim, one that Johansson cannot pass up. She discovers the Jane Doe, a young Asian woman who was pregnant and shot in the back. After reading some of the preliminary reports, Johansson convinces Roper that they ought to work the case. However, it’s been assigned to a senior pair of homicide detectives and they have no way of explaining how they came to know of it. Working her magic, Johansson convinces the senior detectives to let her in on the case, though she is to take no credit for anything and must keep it from her superiors. She’s in and ready to ruffle a few feathers.

After learning a little more about the victim, based on a tattoo located on her wrist, Johansson enters the world of underground Chinese casinos. It would seem the victim worked at one called Jade Circle and was used to service clients when requested. Asking too many questions leaves Roper in the hospital and Johansson on the wrong side of the beat down, though she refuses to stand down, wanting to give the victim the justice she deserves. When Johansson discovers a name for the victim, Qiang, it gets the ball rolling and makes the investigation all the more real!

When Elliot Day re-emerges at Johnasson’s apartment, he shares some news that could put the Qiang case into better perspective. Jade Circle is surely much more difficult than it appears on the surface and surely must be stopped. Human trafficking and the abyss that emerges with it will impact Johansson greatly, but she cannot relent, needing to make a difference as only she knows how. Qiang may only be a single woman, but there are so many others who need saving, if only to justify keeping Elliot on the lam and defying every rule the Met has for DS Jamie Johansson. This is where the action picks up and the case gets even more dangerous, with Elliot lurking in the shadows as well.

Morgan Greene is a natural storyteller and lures the reader in with great writing alongside some well-developed characters. Both novels served to keep me pushing ahead and reading well into the night, so as to finish and learn a little more about what was to come!

DS Jamie Johansson is a wonderful protagonist yet again, as her character continues to blossom throughout the story. With a little more backstory about her father, a detective in Sweden before he took his own life, keeps the reader eager to learn more. While she is a young detective, Johansson has the passion her father instilled in her, though she is still fairly wet behind the ears when it comes to certain aspects of policing. When she’s not in the middle of a case, Johansson uses her personal time to burn a little energy with mixed-martial arts, something Greene explores in breakaway moments of the narrative.

The cast of secondary characters remained intriguing for me. Greene develops his supporting cast effectively in this police procedural, mixing people from all walks of life to complement our protagonist. Some are one-offs, which is to be expected, while there are a few who returned for this second adventure. I hope to see more of these characters as the series moves forward, seemingly with at least two more books.

This was a great follow-up novel and Morgan Greene is surely an author worth noting, as his confidence builds. The piece gains momentum throughout with great action and a well-paced set of cases. Exploring more of the darker underbelly of London, Greene offers his readers a piece they will not soon forget. Longer chapters pull the reader in with much plot development, alongside a few teasers to keep the reader forging ahead. There is still a lot to go in the series, as Elliot Day remains on the loose and Johansson cannot simply let that leave her memory. Two more books await the reader, according to the author’s note, which will surely make for some wonderful reading in the coming months.

Kudos, Mr. Greene, for another stellar piece. Keep them coming and let Jamie find her wings!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Bare Skin (DS Jamie Johansson #1), by Morgan Greene

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Morgan Greene for providing me with a copy of this novel, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Approached by the author to review his debut police procedural, I entered the experience with an open mind and high hopes. As soon as DS Jamie Johansson made herself known, I could tell that this would be a gritty story with significant character development and a plot that would propel the piece forward. I was not disappointed with Morgan Greene’s work and hope others will take the time to read it. That being said, you’ll want to block off some time, as this novel will surely pull you in!

Of all the partner pairings within the London Metropolitan Police, that of Detective Sergeants Jamie Johansson and Paul Roper is surely the least likely. DS Johansson is young, lithe, and health conscious, while DS Roper smokes like a chimney and loves his drink. The age gap is also quite significant, but somehow they make it work and find a form symbiosis.

When they are called to investigate the death of a young, homeless man, Johansson and Roper can only suspect it will be another case that adds to the statistics. However, Oliver ‘Ollie’ Hammond presents as a long-time heroin user who appears to have drowned in the river, with a significant amount of torture to his body. Might it have been self-inflicted from years of drug use? That’s the question that no one seems able to answer.

When DS Johansson tracks Ollie back to a shelter, she discovers that he has a girlfriend, Grace, who has been living on the streets with him, battling the same heroin addiction. While there are few leads, once DS Johansson finds Grace, she is in bad shape. Rushed to the hospital with an overdose, she will be of no help to anyone for the time being.

DS Roper takes him job seriously, but is also realistic about the chance that a pair of homeless people will be top priority for the Met. His pig-headedness clashes greatly with his partner, as DS Johansson refuses to give up. She’s sure there is a drug angle here, as many of the dealers and drug kingpins likely have Grace and Ollie on their radars. Working every angle they can, Johansson and Roper discover a possible suspect, though they try to handle things on their own, much to their own demise.

Suspended for putting themselves and other cases in jeopardy, Johansson and Roper go their own ways for the time being. Johansson uses her time away to reflect on some of her own personal problems, including a budding connection to one of the witnesses that has helped shape the case. It’s only when a substantial lead comes to fruition that DSs Johansson and Roper will be called on assist in bringing a ‘big fish’ down. However, not everything caught in the net proves helpful, and this leads to a stunning cliffhanger as the last chapter comes to an end.

Morgan Greene not only has a way with storytelling, but can lure the reader in with a strong plot and some well-developed characters. There was no point during my reading that I was lulled into a sense of boredom, as I was always wanting a little more, turning pages well into the night.

DS Jamie Johansson is a wonderful protagonist and her character is hashed out effectively throughout the story. A transplant from Sweden in her teens, she idolises her father, who was also a detective before he took his own life. The animosity between her parents left Johansson with a gaping hole in her life, something serving on the Met only hopes to fill. While she is a young detective, she has a knack like few others. Her mix of workplace professionalism and desire to better herself through diet and exercise make her a well-rounded character that Greene explores in breakaway moments of the narrative. There is still much to learn about her, making the fact that this is a series with some momentum all the more exciting.

The cast of secondary characters kept me intrigued throughout as well. Greene is able to paint a wonderful picture in this police procedural with strong supporting characters from all walks of life. The police, drug world, and medical folk are all presented in a believable fashion and help to hash out the multi-faceted plot that never seems to lag. With the cliffhanger at the end of the novel, we’ll likely see many of these faces again in the sequel, though how they will impact the story is left to be seen.

This was a great debut novel and Morgan Greene is surely an author worth noting. A strong plot gains momentum throughout with a strong setting on the gritty streets of London. Using some of the darker underbelly of the city, Greene offers the reader something well worth their while. The use of longer chapters pulls the reader in with much plot development, only to be countered with a few short, teasing chapters to keep the ‘a few more pages’ mantra on the lips of many. With a cliffhanger, I have no choice but to reach for the sequel to see how things resolve themselves. In truth, Greene writes so well that I’d be happy to rush to find another DS Jamie Johansson novel no matter the topic!

Kudos, Mr. Greene, for a great beginning to what looks like a gritty series. I hope others stumble upon your work and see just how addictive it can be.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump, by Seth Abramson

Nine stars

I have decided to embark on a mission to read a number of books on subjects that will be of great importance to the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Election. Many of these will focus on actors intricately involved in the process, in hopes that I can understand them better and, perhaps, educate others with the power to cast a ballot. I am, as always, open to serious recommendations from anyone who has a book I might like to include in the process.

This is Book #30 in my 2020 US Election Preparation Challenge.

This reading challenge has led me along some eye-opening paths. With Election Day almost at hand, I have decided to tackle some more legal and analytical tomes that explore the most sinister aspects of the Trump Administration and their dealings with others. Seth Abramson has penned three decisive books about Trump and those around him, arguing claims of collusion, conspiracy, corruption in the years before he became president and into his authoritarian reign. This is the final of those books, where the corrupt practices receive their time in the limelight. The tome offers a powerful narrative with copious amounts of research and proof to support the arguments, something Trump finds difficult to produce when pressed. Recommended to those who enjoy the political history game and uncovering the deceptive nature of the current White House cronies.

Continuing to develop the foundational statements made in the previous tomes, Seth Abramson effectively argues that corruption was one of the key languages spoken in the Trump Campaign. While the reader familiar with the previous two books will understand that Russia and the Red Sea Conspiracy countries (namely Saudi Arabia and the UAE) played key roles in helping Trump win the White House, the idea of the 2020 re-election campaign was never off the radar. Key to that would be for Trump to be able to sink his likely opponent, who appeared to be Joe Biden by as early as 2018. Trump and his cronies would need to find a way to skewer the longtime politician, honing in on his family. Hunter Biden’s activities in Ukraine became a key focal point, which proves to be a central theme of this book.

Abramson offer a brief backgrounder to readers about Ukraine and how it was the victim of Russian aggression in 2014, when President Putin forcefully annexed Crimea. This act was condemned by the United States at the time, under President Obama, which led to significant sanctions that remained in place. This Russia-Ukraine strain would prove to be a key turning point later in the narrative, as American policy seemed to change under incoming President Trump.

Ukraine may have been an American ally through the early years of the Trump presidency, but the ambassador there was not keen on how things were being handled. Marie Yovanovitch was quite outspoken when it came to her issues with the Trump Administration, leading the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to poke his head into the country and begin setting up a plan to have her removed. Always one to inject a smear when he could, Giuliani began defaming Yovanovitch amongst senior Ukrainian officials. Giuliani returned to the White House to whisper in Trump’s ear, hoping to have her removed so that her meddling would no longer be an impediment in the region. Trump backed his recommendation and Marie Yovanovitch found herself fired in true Trump fashion, left to speak openly about the issues she uncovered.

The Ukrainian presidential election saw television actor Volodymyr Zelensky win in surprising fashion. Well out of his element, Zelensky relied heavily on those around him. The Trump Administration were not entirely sure of this man or how he would alter the regional dynamic, which included a Russian Government that was still eyeing more territorial acquisitions in Ukraine. Abramson outlines many of the discussions between Trump and his new Ukrainian counterpart, including some of the messaging that came back from Kyiv during the inauguration. The ball was rolling and Trump needed to use his new political ally to help dig a little deeper into the goings-on with Hunter Biden, in hopes of uncovering some dirt that could be used against presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, ahead of the 2020 presidential election. The pressure increased during a call in July 2019, where a quid pro quo discussion arose. Trump would send earmarked military funding to Ukraine (helping to fend off the Russians) if an investigation into Hunter Biden could be green-lighted. Many of those who were part of the call or read the transcripts saw that this was abuse of power, though how it would be handled may shock the reader, as it did some of those journalists covering the events.

Abramson opens up a long discussion about the Ukrainian angle into Hunter Biden, producing many characters who served in a number of roles. Rudy Giuliani was a key member of the assault, though he had no White House role or connection, serving solely as Trump’s personal attorney and lapdog. US Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, appeared repeatedly and appears to have been one of the first who endorsed the quid pro quo idea, but was not the only one who thought it made a great deal of sense. While some of the inner circle supported the approach Trump took, many others did not and made those objections known. True to form, these individuals found themselves fired or stepping down as media outlets began to report on this.

It was a hot potato issue for Congress, to say the least. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives undertook some thorough investigations, much to the chagrin of the Republicans. Using their majority in the House, Democrats pushed to explore Trump’s actions and found that there were strong abuses of power. Tied into some of the findings from the Mueller Investigation, House Democrats pushed for and presented Articles of Impeachment, which Abramson depicts in an interesting narrative. While the vote on the Articles fell almost entirely along party lines, it was only the first step in the process. Trump was the fourth president to be impeached, with his fate left to the Senate, which would act as jury. Abramson has much scorn for the way the Senate handled the impeachment, arguing that the Republican-led House abused the role assigned to them by the US Constitution. It makes for some interesting reading, though is less revealing than much of the remaining narrative Abramson offers throughout.

While the previous tomes offered a few strong villains on which the reader could affix their attention, much of the negativity in this tome rests with Rudy Giuliani. While many will know him as the blowhard who is espousing countless odd conspiracy theories, he also seems to be pulling strings behind the scenes and serving to start fires for his client, President Trump. Abramson illustrates that Giuliani sought to smear anyone he could and bring down those who were not entirely dedicated to Trump. Giuliani also served to keep secret pathways open for Trump with international leaders deemed ‘enemies of America’. One of these would be Venezuela, where Trump was publicly critical of the government, but was seeking to help the country, as it worked to create ties with Russia. Astounding in some regard, but also to be expected when it comes to Trump dealings.

Abramson does not hold back when it comes to Trump either, showing that he was invested in areas he ought not to have had any role. The recent revelations of a Chinese bank account for Trump are substantiated here, as Abramson discusses how Trump real estate deals were ongoing once he became president. While divesting or using blind trusts would be the norm, it seemed as though this was something Trump never thought he needed to do, which is shown in other examples throughout the narrative as well.

Following the lead of his Red Sea conspirators, Trump sought to vilify the Iranians and pushed to engage in military strikes to kill some of their high-ranking leaders. Abramson illustrates how the president wanted nothing more than to stir up trouble and then make it seem as though he were helping out in the region. His incessant need to flex American control, but in ways that lacked any usefulness in advancing geo-political success baffled many, including those within the Republican Party. Many senior members of Congress openly criticised his decisions, going so far as to call them ‘stupid’, ‘poorly executed’, and even, ‘counter to American foreign policy’. And yet… he still got away with it.

Trump’s ties to Turkey created chaos as well, though Abramson draws strong parallels to a pro-Russia sentiment when liaising with the Turkish leader. Much of their connection was tied to Syria and how to handle the civil war there, as well as some of the Middle East strife. Readers will be able to see how Trump linked his views with those who have never espoused democracy, making decisions that left American allies abandoned. Military personnel reacted to seeing how they were being used as chess pieces and received abuse on the ground when told to leave the region, all in an effort to offer Russia and Turkey control of Syrian land in the ongoing dispute.

One domestic issue worth exploring is the COVID-19 response, which Abramson leaves for the final chapter of this book. As the chapter opens, Abramson discusses of a virus simulation done in 2019 by American officials. This simulation offered symptoms that mirror what would come to be called COVID-19. Trump received the simulation report, but was not interested in much, dismissing it as ‘unlikely’. Abramson also explores some medical information that shows China hid the emergence of COVID-19, which began appearing as early as November 2019, perhaps even before that. News emerged in Trump’s daily briefings on January 3rd, 2020, but he appeared less than concerned. As the virus gained momentum, xenophobic comments emerged from the West Wing and Trump continued to downplay the severity. Abramson spends some time discussing the discrepancy between numbers Trump touted to the general public and those the Centers for Disease Control had in reports that made it to the Oval Office. Clearly, there was a desire to shield truths from the public, but for what reason? Abramson may not have the answers, but he certainly offers some strong facts as they relate to the virus, which have only worsened since publication of the book.

Leave it to Trump to politicise a pandemic on the domestic front. While many will know and have heard about much of what Abramson writes, it is telling that one can read something that has already been published and feel as though this is a live stream of things taking place even today. One may have expected that once President Trump contracted COVID-19, he may have had the epiphany that many on the right have had, seeing the light (to hell?) and choosing to sober up. Alas, the rallies are still taking place, the masks are still deemed for “the weak” and funding is tied to kissing the Trump ring. One can hope that, if for no other reason, people will use reaction to COVID-19 within the United States as a key reason to choose wisely at the polls.

Looking at the trilogy as a whole, what does this say about Trump and his band of merry hucksters? A great deal, at least for the attentive (and patient) reader. There is no doubt that collusion, conspiracy, and corruption follow Trump around like an oil slick. He has his fingers in so many pies, both domestically and internationally, though he continues to downplay his role and distances himself from those who are proven to have done something wrong. That Donald Trump does not colour within the lines should shock no one. However, the depths to which he does so surely makes Richard Nixon appear ‘Picasso-esque’. Seth Abramson has shown in as thorough a way as he can, without drowning the reader in information (debatable), just how troubling things have been with Trump since he announced his candidacy for president in 2015.

There is no way to ignore it, particularly as it has been reported so transparently. Some will surely want to scream #fakenews, though I really cannot grapple with how the conspiracy of media outlets can be so all-encompassing. I will ask those who believe the aforementioned assertion to please offer me some proof (as Abramson has done for his points) and not simply vomit up “many people say” or “I’ve read somewhere”. Such vapid responses only show that there are still those drinking the Kool-Aid and cannot engage in an intellectual discussion on their own. Sad, really, as I am always up for something where facts supersede blind ostriching.

This trilogy has opened my eyes to a vast amount of detailed information. While many may have become numb to Trumpers and their conspiracy tweets with nothing to back them up, Abramson’s writing cannot easily be dismissed, substantiated with countless documents and admissions under oath. Each book became progressively more detailed with subtleties about which I was not aware, which added a depth to the learning experience I was not expecting. Each chapter is themed on an event or personality, much shorter than the form used in the previous two tomes. This makes for a more easily digested read and is not as daunting to the curious reader. There are many threads to follow (characters and dates), which can get a little intense at times, as well as moments of overlapping and repetition. Some may find this annoying, but there is a need to revisit portions of the narrative on occasion to see how the pieces fit together. I am pleasantly stunned by the work Seth Abramson has put into this trilogy of Proof tomes. He does a masterful job and had me spellbound throughout as I read it. This is a collection that deeply dedicated political junkies will want to read, leaving them stunned and wanting more.

Kudos, Mr. Abramson, for a stunning series that had me learning with the turn of each page. I can only wonder what else you have in store for readers and if it might be a final roasting of how the end to 2020 led to the first time a president was carted off in chains!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump’s International Collusion is Threatening American Democracy, by Seth Abramson

Nine stars

I have decided to embark on a mission to read a number of books on subjects that will be of great importance to the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Election. Many of these will focus on actors intricately involved in the process, in hopes that I can understand them better and, perhaps, educate others with the power to cast a ballot. I am, as always, open to serious recommendations from anyone who has a book I might like to include in the process.

This is Book #29 in my 2020 US Election Preparation Challenge.

This reading challenge has surely taken me on some very interesting paths. With only a short time before the formal Election Day, I now turn to some more legal and analytical tomes that explore some of the most sinister aspects of the Trump Administration and their dealings with others. Seth Abramson has penned three decisive novels about Trump and those around him, arguing some substantial claims of collusion, conspiracy, corruption in the years before he became president and into his authoritarian reign. This is the second of those books, where conspiracy takes centre stage. The tome offers copious amounts of research and proof to support much of what is argued, something Trump finds difficult to produce when pressed. Recommended to those who enjoy the political history game and seeing how to connect some of the dots that many likely did not know were even on the page.

Building on some of the foundational statements made in the opening tome, Seth Abramson effectively argues that there was collusion between the Trump Campaign and others, but it went deeper than Russia. In fact, one could say that it all relates to the Red Sea Conspiracy, hatched in the summer of 2015. The players include: Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain. Their goal, to ensure a presidential candidate for the upcoming American election can be chosen that will benefit them all in various ways. Abramson explores how each of these countries will benefit and what their leaders will have to do in order to pave the way to a successful win by Donald J. Trump. This will, as the tome argues throughout, create a reliance and sense of being beholden by Candidate (eventually, President) Trump, which will ensure massive changes to US Foreign Policy occur, moves that baffled many unaware of these nefarious ties.

Abramson rehashes some of the early Russian involvements, as far back as Putin-Trump bantering over the Miss Universe Pageant. This, as the reader who is familiar with the first book will know, created a strong sense of blackmail that will keep Candidate Trump in line as he makes his way through the Republican primaries. The reader also learns that Russian ties to Paul Manafort exist, one of Trump’s 2016 campaign managers, who will eventually fall on charges of bribery and witness tampering when the Mueller Investigation takes centre stage in the United States.

Abramson explores other actors who develop close relationships with the campaign, all while representing foreign governments and trying to shape upcoming US foreign policy. George Nader, a convicted paedophile, emerges repeatedly as a representative for the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi (UAE) and pushes forward many strong views that could benefit the region. While the complexities of these benefits can, at times, surpass my understanding and easy explanation, Abramson does a wonderful job laying them out repeatedly. The UAE seeks stability in the region, something that cannot be done with Iran treated so fairly by the American Government, stemming from a nuclear del negotiated by President Obama. Nader serves bridge the gap and seek to push Emirati views in the early stages, which are already echoed by others within the Red Sea Conspiracy.

Erik Prince is a mercenary whose policy ideas come unsolicited to the Trump Campaign. His ties to armies for hire will become a highly important position for the UAE and Saudis, as they seek to neutralise some of their regional enemies, small fish in the larger sea of the Middle East. Prince has ways of making progress and can help curry favour between Trump and these Middle East partners, though it will not be easy. Abramson posits that Prince will also be key in securing an American withdrawal from Syria (much to the benefit of Russia), seeking to install a mercenary army answerable only to President Trump, but off the books and thereby outside the purview of the US Congress.

Jared Kushner, son-in-law to Trump and a real-estate tycoon will play a strong role in the entire debacle. He has no foreign policy background, but is looking for money to fund his numerous enterprises. He looks to the Emir of Qatar, who has been a strong financial ally in the past. However, those days appear over and Kushner is not happy about the lack of money flowing into his hands. He uses his animosity to help develop a policy to sink the Qataris, longtime allies of America, by ensuring the Emiratis and Saudis get what they want and uses his keen business sense to violate proper channels and speak directly to members of the Red Sea Conspiracy to make promises that will completely turn US foreign policy on its head. Protected by Trump himself, Kushner has little fear of reprisals, as those with the titles fall by the wayside and earn the repeated ire of the president. The reader will see just how dangerous Kushner proves to be as it relates to legal and diplomatic processes within the United States, though no one has reined him in, even though scores of security reports have red flagged his actions.

The tome explores not only the actors, but the decisions that occurred to help create the 2016 electoral win and subsequent changes in US policy that leave some baffled to this day. Abramson presents proof that it was an Israeli software program the Russians used to ensure they could hack into the Democrats emails and lay the groundwork for social media disruptions throughout. As the Kushners have strong ties to the Israeli prime minister, this is no leap to make the connection. Israel has long sought an ally when it comes to the Middle East and Trump could be used to push back against those who might try to push for a softer solution, carving Israel up even more than it has already been.

Of particular interest is that Trump issued the travel ban list early in his presidency, those six countries whose citizens were no longer welcome to visit any part of the United States. Abramson tries to understand the list, with none of the six having citizens accused of plotted any domestic terrorism on US soil for the preceding four decades. By contrast, one country left off the list is Saudis Arabia, where a number of the September 11th terrorists were born. That may be because there were plans for Trump to head out to see the Saudis and sell them over $100 billion in arms for their upcoming push to defend the region. It would seem that money talks and policy walks in that direction, no matter who is at the helm.

The attentive reader will recognise many of the names that repeat themselves throughout the discussions in the book, which builds on a larger group being complicit in turning the Trump candidacy into a collection of collusive acts to ensure massive changes would occur to US foreign policy in the months after the 2016 election. The were also numerous violations of the Logan Act (a piece of legislation that bars private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments with whom the country has an active dispute) by many close to Trump, especially Jared Kushner and brief National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Abramson proves much of it through his research and testimony made to the Mueller Investigation. While rarely enforced, there was no chance that anyone would be prosecuted in a Trump Justice Department, just as the pleas for Russian interference fell on ignorant and deaf ears.

Sitting in power, President Trump knew those who had done him favours and it was time to pay the piper. Abramson shows how the tune changed and the tweets turned docile towards some and venomous when directed at others. If the reader needs any examples of this, Abramson offers a thorough and intense discussion surrounding the murder of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. As he did when Putin dismissed claims of Russian election interference, Trump assures Americans that the Saudis were not involved when their government denies any ties to the killing. Even when the truth came out, Trump refused to take action and blocked any move by American investigators to get answers. It is both mind-blowing and sickening to read this!

It is with the aforementioned evidence and substantiation that things begin to make a little more sense and some of the decisions the Trump Administration made can be explained away (but not accepted). The Red Sea Conspiracy has deep roots and can surely continue to work effectively for as long as Trump is in the White House. There may only be a short time left before Election Day, but you can be sure it’s no holds barred when it comes to keeping the puppet in the Oval Office, even if it means blurring the lines and making the impossible occur. With this information, I am a little more worried. I’ll turn to Seth Abramson’s third book on the corruption that befell America, to see how things can be explained there. I am hooked and cannot wait to see what else there is to learn.

This reading journey has opened my eyes to much, with Seth Abramson’s books serving to expand my understanding of a great deal more. While many may be used to hearing Trumpers spewing conspiracy theories with nothing to back them up, Abramson presents a narrative that cannot easily be dismissed, substantiated with countless documents and admissions under oath. Whereas the first book was filled with information about which I was aware, much within these pages was completely new and jaw-dropping to me. Each chapter is broken down into a time period, which makes the larger narrative palatable, though still stunning with every turn of the page. The chapters offers both the substantial arguments and then an annotated section to include more information, creating long chapters for the reader. This should not be overly daunting to the curious reader, as the writing is clear and easy to understand. There are many characters and dates, which can get a little intense at times, as well as much overlapping and repetition. Some may find this annoying, but with so much to cover and things intertwined on numerous levels, there is a need to revisit portions of the narrative on occasion. I am eager to continue into some of the deeper and darker areas of the Trump story, sure to be blown away yet again, particularly as we enter the domestic chaos that comes from much of the meddling from these first two books. Seth Abramson does a masterful job and had me spellbound throughout as I read it. This is a tome that deeply dedicated political junkies will want to read, leaving them stunned and wanting more.

Kudos, Mr. Abramson, for a stunning continuation of your political trilogy. Glad I left some of the heavy mental lifting until now, as much of what you reveal is best told to voters as close to Election Day as possible!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Without Her Consent, by McGarvey Black

Eight stars

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

Always one who enjoys a mystery, this particular medical thriller caught my attention. McGarvey Black writes about a horrible crime perpetrated against a defenceless woman in a coma. Who could have done it and how long will it take to discover the perpetrator? A quick read, perfect for those who love the genre, as well as the reader who’s keen on piecing it all together.

Oceanside Manor is home to a number of patients who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, including Eliza Stern. Eliza’s been a patient for many years, having been the sole survivor of a horrific car accident that claimed the life of her family. When a nurse discovers that she’s in labour, it’s all hands on deck.

Dr. Angela Crawford may not be actively practicing as an obstetrician, but has done well as the acting head of Oceanside Manor. The news of Eliza’s pregnancy and birth of a baby boy creates more headaches than she could imagine. Rushing to put out any fires she can locate, Angela tries to handle the situation on her own, though the Chair of the Board is sure to remind her how incompetent she can be.

When Angela reaches out to the police, it becomes a full investigation into the rape of Eliza Stern. It will take a massive effort to create a list of all possible men who have found themselves within the facility in the last ten months, but Angela will cut no corners to locate the rapist. She works in concert with the police, keeping the Board at bay throughout the process.

As the investigation progresses, the police work their magic, though not without news leaking. Headlines begin to appear around the world, making Oceanside Manor the talk as far away as New Zealand. A mysterious overdose by one of the staff leaves everyone wondering if the killer is back, trying to cover their tracks. Angela makes a decision that will benefit herself, though she justifies it as being a help to the investigation.

Eliza Stern may never wake up from her comatose state, but she deserves a voice. Angela promises to offer her that and bring the rapist to justice. It would take an especially heinous person to subject an unconscious woman to this fate, something that sits on Angela’s mind as the investigation reaches its climax.

This was my first novel by McGarvey Black, though I hope it is not the last. The writing was quite easy to digest and the story kept me interested throughout. There are medical, ethical, and criminal questions with which the the reader can wrestle, alongside a plot that is full of decent twists.

Angela Crawford proves to be an interesting protagonist in the story. This criminal act has fallen into her lap and she is forced to juggle everything on the fly. Her own backstory is a mix of happy times and some personal struggles, though she seeks to find the best it all of it. While she cannot be said to have complete control of the situation, Angela does her best to steer things in the right direction.

Black provides the reader with a slew of great secondary characters, offering different perspectives of the crime and investigation. From the medical professionals to the police and even the reporters covering the story, Black injects many personalities to keep the reader intrigued from every angle. With crisp dialogue and some small bouts of character development throughout, the reader can connect with many of those who fill the pages of this book.

The central plot of the book is one well worth the reader’s attention. A simple act of rape turns into an issue that will take the reader throughout many perspectives of the event. Told through the eyes of many—the police, the hospital administrators, journalists, and the Board of Directors—the story gains depth with each passing chapter. Black uses short chapters to hook the reader and keep them forging ahead, which is a great way to keep the momentum of this piece. The reader is sure to be entertained throughout, while left to consider where they stand about the various revelations found within this story. The final fifty pages alone make the book, as things come to a climactic reveal, something many will not have seen coming!

Kudos, Madam Black, for a great piece of writing. I will be looking into some of your other work, with hopes that it is just as intriguing.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America, by Seth Abramson

Nine stars

I have decided to embark on a mission to read a number of books on subjects that will be of great importance to the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Election. Many of these will focus on actors intricately involved in the process, in hopes that I can understand them better and, perhaps, educate others with the power to cast a ballot. I am, as always, open to serious recommendations from anyone who has a book I might like to include in the process.

This is Book #28 in my 2020 US Election Preparation Challenge.

While this reading challenge has taken me on some very interesting paths, I chose to turn to some more legal and analytical tomes before I run out of time. Seth Abramson has penned three decisive novels about Trump and those around him, arguing some of the substantial claims of collusion, conspiracy, corruption in the years before he became president and into his authoritarian reign. This is the first of those novels, where collusion is discussed and some strong arguments made to substantiate it. Recommended to those who enjoy the political history game and seeing how to connect some of the dots that Mueller could not make and that Trumpers refuse to acknowledge.

Even from the opening pages of his book, Seth Abramson effectively argues that business tycoon Donald Trump had a relationship with Russian oligarchs, which would have paved the way for a tie to Vladimir Putin. Trump has long been interested in putting his mark on Russia with one of his hotels, though the chance did not occur while the USSR was clinging to life. However, once Russia came into its own, Trump sought to sweeten the deal, which included helping to pull some strings and ensure that Putin noticed him in ways that could make things happen.

Abramson discusses the hoopla around ensuring Putin was pleased when his mistress won the Miss Universe Pageant, an event Trump says he was able to rig because he is that powerful. That began a bartering to make sure that Trump had doors opened for him for a Trump Tower Moscow, as well as sending the Miss Universe Pageant to the Russian capital for another of its interesting permutations.

It was at this time that there ‘may’ have been some less than germaphobe-approved events with Russian prostitutes, which could have left Trump beholden to his Russian friends, things that could (and surely would) be used to blackmail him in years to come. It was also around this time that Trump decided that he needed to curry added favour with Russia by running for office, something that may have been a long-shot, but showed that he was serious about helping Russia on the international front.

Abramson shows that Trump’s political ambitions were only part of what was going on at the time. The push to curry favour with the Russians was ongoing with various members of his family and entourage. While financial dealings were only part of the reason, it became apparent that there were fingers in all sorts of pies and Trump was aware of them. As he became a more serious contender, Russians from all walks of life came out to support or broker their own possible connections to him, which appeared only to add momentum to the connectivity, which would one day turn out to be colluding of a sort.

The tome tackles some of the proof around Russian involvement in trying to sway the election results, as they had already tipped the scales in the BREXIT vote to their favour. While Trump never thought that he would win, it appears his campaign worked hand in hand with Russians and other highly influential social media gurus to create a targeted system of ensuring that false news and fictitious events reflected poorly on Clinton, thereby paving the way for his success.

The knowledgeable reader will recognise many of the names that come out of the discussions in the book, which shows how complicit a larger group was to the collusion and helps to prove that this was not a single man’s idea. Trump could never have pulled it off, nor did he. When he miraculously won in November 2016, the wheels began to turn and the Russian promises were subtly made, inching America towards a strong and more open relationship with Russia. The were also numerous violations of the Logan Act (a piece of legislation that bars private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments with whom the country has an active dispute, which would include Russia at this time) by many close to Trump, as Abramson proves, though nothing was ever done by the Obama (too few days left) or the Trump Administrations (for obvious reasons). There was more, all of which would benefit Russia, but also create new and lasting ties with other nefarious countries whose help Trump would use to strengthen the connection to Moscow.

Now in power and having attain that spot because of Russian interference, Trump had to decide how to play things. He and Putin had, albeit through intermediaries, colluded to ensure Russia gained more power on the international scene and the only notable superpower did not stand in their way. With all this power and refusing to acknowledge that anything out of sorts happened, Trump needed to move forward and foster this friendship, while dodging any and all pitfalls that might await him. This leads into Abramson’s second tome, where conspiracies abound (those with substantiation, not of the Trump variety where ‘people are saying’)!

While this reading journey has opened my eyes to a great deal, Seth Abramson’s book has done that and more. Speaking of collusion is one thing, but seeing it presented in such a clear-cut fashion is another. Abramson opens by discussing that the term may not hold water in a court of law, but the definition fits like a glass slipper and he runs with it. Much of the information within the tome is not new to me, but it was connected so well that I can finally see how all the pieces fit and the larger narrative makes total sense. Within each chapter is a time period, which makes the larger story more digestible. The chapters open with a summary, move into the facts, and end with the annotated history, all of which paint the picture that Abramson seeks to offer the reader. The writing is clear and easy to understand, though there are many characters and dates, which can get a little intense at times. However, I am leaping at the chance to continue into some of the deeper and darker areas of the Trump story, sure to be blown away yet again. This is one of those books that deeply dedicated political junkies will want to read, as it opens the mind and the eyes in equal measure.

Kudos, Mr. Abramson, for a stunning beginning to what is sure to be a stellar trilogy. I am glad I left some of the heavy lifting until now, as it will make the most impact on American voters, some of whom I hope are still reading what I have to say!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, by John R. Bolton (Re-post)

Nine stars

I have decided to embark on a mission to read a number of books on subjects that will be of great importance to the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Election. Many of these will focus on actors intricately involved in the process, in hopes that I can understand them better and, perhaps, educate others with the power to cast a ballot. I am, as always, open to serious recommendations from anyone who has a book I might like to include in the process.

This is Book #27 in my 2020 US Election Preparation Challenge.

Perhaps one of the most anticipated political books of the summer, I chose to leap on the John Bolton memoir before reviews filled Goodreads and other platforms I frequent. Written based on his time working inside the White House, Bolton not only brings first-hand knowledge of events, but also offers insights into what he witnessed during his time as National Security Advisor. With a long history of work within various Republican administrations, John Bolton was not a man wet behind the ears when being considered for a position in the Trump Administration. His experience and hawkish approach to international politicking surely caught the attention of Trump and some of those within his inner circle. Bolton hit the ground running, explaining that every day in the Trump White House is fraught with chaos and ever-changing views on hot button issues. Bolton sought to steer the president in a few directions that would follow policy to support those views that arose in the campaign, at times doing anything to reverse the Obama trajectory. From America’s role in the Syrian civil war to Russian involvement on world events, Bolton showed how Trump’s opinions would change with the blowing of the wind, wanting America out of military involvement and yet not letting its greatest adversary to think it weak. This Russian sentiment baffled me throughout, as Trump would speak poorly about Putin and yet relied on him to win his seat in the Oval Office. Bolton also explores issues with China at length, clashing with one of the world’s economic superpowers at every turn, and yet Trump offered them the chance to keep him in power by ‘helping’ with the 2020 election (a la Putin 2016). Dismantling NATO and contemplating destabilising the leftist Venezuelan autocrat also played heavily on Trump’s agenda while Bolton was National Security Advisor, with many offhand and somewhat outlandish ideas coming up regularly before POTUS could be talked away from the ledge. Bolton spends much time throughout the book exploring the Trump view at finally getting some concrete progress with the North Koreans, with in-depth discussions of their two summits and the ‘love affair’ the media explored through the flowery diplomacy that took place, yet nothing substantial came to pass. Of equal interest and importance is the means by which Trump sought to dismantle the nuclear weapons treaty with Iran that had been negotiated during the Obama Administration. Trump seemed keen to change the rules and make sure America came out on top, while making sure that many new how horrible Obama was as POTUS (second only to Bush 43, whom Trump appeared to loathe even more). Bolton is happy to offer blunt views of Trump and those in the know, at times sharing views with other Cabinet officials as they watched the continued implosion of all things Trump. Bolton also sheds light on the constant sentiment that Trump is one who holds firm views of people, fleeting as the interactions change from day to day, including a strong dislike for some of America’s greatest allies, while praising those who are firmly in the column of ‘enemies of the state’. Bolton provides some insight into the Ukrainian interactions that fuelled the fire towards impeachment, offering his own ideas from the facts he knew. That Bolton and Trump eventually fell out is of no shock to anyone, as those who refuse to be sycophants are apt to become, but the recent vilification of anything Bolton might have to say only furthers my belief that there are hard truths in this book that many who nurse from the presidential teat would have us deny as a new round of false news. This book is full of detail and great narrative that will be ideal for those who want some additional insights into how the Trump White House ran things, both from an international and domestic perspective. I’d recommend this to those who enjoy all things political, as well as the reader who has no trouble hearing truths that may run counter to the POTUS circus.

I have never hidden my dislike of the current American administration, particularly the ringleader of the shenanigans. While I understand that media outlets will offer their own spin on events, I have come to appreciate those on the inside who offer up books about the events they witnessed. Some would call it smear campaigns or falsehoods to trip up POTUS, though I wonder how many people could have colluded with such a similar narrative, as well as what purpose it would serve to exert such energy to bring down a man who seems able to do it on his own. Bolton is by no means a Democrat seeking to dismantle the GOP machine, which only makes some of his views all the more insightful. He offers praise where it is needed and critiques things that seem to lack the insight to keep America from running amok (alas, we are well past that). Bolton does come across as a know-it-all at times, feeling that he is the smartest man in the room and all others should bow to his intellect, which is seen in many tongue-in-cheek sentiments expressed in most chapters, as well as in recollected conversations with others. While that may be the case, Bolton’s views are steeped in some well established views of international politics and diplomacy, something that adds to the flavouring of the book and leaves the reader to wonder why someone would purposely skew things that can be substantiated so effectively. With thorough chapters that explore many insightful areas that are sure to pique the interest of the politically minded individual. While some may call Bolton too close to Trump, it is this closeness that offers the reader some of the many views from behind the curtain. Why would someone like Bolton want to find himself on the outside with this book, upsetting POTUS, thereby making him an enemy of the administration? Knowing Trump’s penchant for such things, Bolton’s better off pissing from outside the tent inwards and letting the truth ‘hang out’.

Kudos, Mr. Bolton, for such a refreshing book about the inner workings of Trump’s Administration. I could not ask for anything more!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: