Book Reviews

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UntitledPublished in the September-October 2014 issue of MyLIFE magazine

Cathy Droz loves red high heels … and cars. Her mother, Ruth Hoffmann, told her in 1967 that every woman should own a pair of red high heels: “Let your shoes set the tone; after that, you open your mouth.” Droz believes that red shoes with heels are not a sign of stupidity, but of confidence and fairness. They’re what she wears when she’s out buying a car … or test- driving a car … or writing about cars or advertising cars … or educating people about them.

Experience in the automotive industry throughout a 20-year career gave Droz lots of expertise with which to write this guide. The twin topics of cars and women come together to give advice that male readers will also enjoy. The reason this book is geared toward women is because they spend $7 trillion consumer and business dollars per year. It is expected that in the next decade, women will control 66 percent of consumer wealth. According to MediaPost, they already make 85 percent of all purchasing decisions.

And then there’s the fact that women and men are very different when it comes to purchasing big-ticket items. Droz is living her dream, working with automotive sales companies and their employees to teach them how female consumers want to be treated when buying a car.

Along with business partner John Coe, Droz came up with a program in which auto dealers that meet certain criteria can become “High Heels Certified”—a place where respectful and fair transactions occur as a matter of fact. This seal of approval comes with an agreement on the dealer’s part to attend classes, undergo an audit and train sales and service staff to ensure that the car-buying experience is customer-focused. Their good work may eliminate all those bad jokes about car salesmen!

In the book, Droz writes of personal experiences that are unique to her and that taught her about the process of buying a car. She was not home-schooled, but between the ages of 10 and 17 she was “auto dealership schooled,” especially by her dad, Vinnie. At age 10, she hung out with her brother in garages and pretended that her Ken doll was an auto mechanic. By age 13 she was sitting in on car-purchasing negotiations with her father. At 15 she collected brochures for Buicks, Chevys, Pontiacs, Fords and other cars and played with them as if they were paper dolls. Finally, at the age of 17, she was ready to take her “final exam.”

“I bought the family car while Dad stood outside the dealership only to come in and sign the papers,” she said. Here’s what’s remarkable—her dad was worried that the salesman might take advantage of her because she was so young. Her being female was not an issue in his mind!

Being female was an issue, however, when Droz was 40 and a single working mother with three children. She’d started an ad agency for car dealers (with $500), and her office was above a showroom. She said each time she went downstairs, she “would see the terror in women’s eyes, whether they had come in alone or with a man next to them. I would watch salesmen with dollar signs in their eyes overtake the women and make them feel very uncomfortable.” Droz was the voice of reason, telling sales teams that female car buyers wanted to see engines and not the vanity mirrors. She realized the amount of education and training that needed to take place.

There is so much good information in this book—from navigating car purchases on credit to how financing really works, to what type of personality drives a red car, to comparing a list of your wants versus your needs … and doing a kind of ‘matchdotcom’ between buyer and seller. Look for brilliant bits of advice in the “If I Owned A Dealership …” text boxes. Know that if Droz did own a dealership, we’d all want to buy a car there.

So, if you want to learn how to research a car purchase, choose the right dealership, test drive vehicles, trade or sell your used car, negotiate pricing and develop a relationship with the maintenance and repair service department, this book includes everything you need to know. It’s a quick read, at just 132 pages—you can finish reading it in the time it takes to do the 100,000-mile checkup on the car you plan to trade in for a new one.

Throughout the book, shoe metaphors figure prominently. Shoes are, after all, treads for foot transportation—whether they’re sporty sneakers, classic loafers or a head-turning pair of red high heels.

 

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soldiers-book-cover

Published in the July-August 2014 issue of MyLIFE magazine

After the Second World War ended, there was a debate in the international community about Nazi-era war crimes committed by the German military. The debate persisted for several decades before it became apparent through overwhelming evidence that the Nazis had indeed performed war atrocities, not only against Jews in what became known as the holocaust, but in other instances as well.

In Soldiers, two German researchers, historian Sönke Neitzel and psychologist Harald Welzer, give us an insight into transcriptions of covert surveillance—British and American taped conversations of German POWs that were obtained during World War II in order to aid the Allied war efforts. The transcriptions were discovered in 2001 when Neitzel visited the British National Archive. The documents had recently been declassified by the British government and were made available to the Archive. Neitzel’s remarkable discovery later led him to another collection of transcriptions—twice as extensive, in the National Archive in Washington, D.C.

The book presents the true mental state of German soldiers during the war. The transcriptions were sometimes obtained by Allied agents who were planted among POWs and often initiated conversations to gain a better understanding of the feelings, convictions and perceptions of the soldiers in captivity.

As British and American intelligence continue to analyze thousands of individual accounts—exceeding 100,000 pages of transcriptions—a consistent, cold-blooded, mass murder attitude is apparent, not just among German soldiers but also high-ranking generals, members of the SS, navy, army and Luftwaffe (air force).

In the final chapters of the book, the authors focus on the perceptions soldiers held and the impact of their ideology. They present accounts by fighter pilots in the Luftwaffe about how targeting people from above became part of their job—a routine—as the pilots dropped bombs over cities, lacking empathy for innocent people below.

In one of the transcriptions, conversations about a battlefield were presented.In the following excerpt, as told by German Staff Sergeant Schmid on June 20, 1942, we get a glimpse at how the soldiers spoke:

“I heard of a case of two fifteen-year-old boys. They were wearing uniform and were firing away with the rest. But they were taken prisoners. A corporal in hospital told me that. They were wearing soldiers’ uniform, so what could one do. And I myself have seen that there are twelve-year-old boys in the Russian Army, in the band, for instance, wearing uniform. We once (captured) a Russian military band and they played wonderfully. It was almost too much for you. There was such depth of feeling and yearning in their music; it conjured up pictures of the vastness of Russia. It was terrific, it thrilled me through and through. It was a military band. To get back to the story, the two boys were told to get back westward and to keep on the road. If they tried to run into the woods at the first bend of the road they would get a bullet in them. And they were scarcely out of sight when they slunk off the road, and in a flash they had disappeared. A large detachment was immediately sent to look for them, but they couldn’t find them. And then they caught the two boys. Those were the two. (Our people) behaved well and didn’t kill them there and then, they took them before the C.C. [concentration camp] again. Now it was clear that they’d done for themselves. They were made to dig their own graves, two pits, and then one of them was shot. He didn’t fall into the grave, he fell forwards over it. The other was told to push the first one into the pit before he was shot himself. And he did so, smiling—a boy of fifteen! There’s fanaticism and idealism for you”!

It is difficult to imagine how this particular soldier could be talking about two young boys being captured, change the subject about how much he likes Russian music, and then continue telling the story about how the boys were made to dig their own graves and were then executed.

In this other excerpt, we find the same type of consistency in talking about something pleasant and then changing the subject to talk about the war:

The POWs discussed such topics for hours on end. But they also conversed about airplanes, bombs, radar devices, cities, landscapes, and women:

Müller: When I was at Kharkiv the whole place had been destroyed, except the centre of the town. It was a delightful town, a delightful memory! Everyone spoke a little German—they’d learnt it at school. At Taganrog, too, there were splendid cinemas and wonderful cafés on the beach. We did a lot of flying near the junction of the Don and the Donetz. . . . It’s beautiful country; I travelled everywhere in a lorry. Everywhere we saw women doing compulsory labour service.

Faust: How frightful!

Müller: They were employed on road-making—extraordinarily lovely girls; we drove past, simply pulled them into the armoured car, raped them and threw them out again. And did they curse!

Male conversations are like this. The two soldiers protocolled here, a Luftwaffe lance corporal and a sergeant, at times describe the Russian campaign like tourists, telling of “delightful” towns and memories. Then, suddenly, the story becomes about the spontaneous rape of female forced laborers. The sergeant relates this like a minor, ancillary anecdote, before continuing to describe his “trip.” This example illustrates the parameters of what can be said and what is expected in the secretly monitored conversations. None of the violence related goes against his interlocutor’s expectations. Stories about shooting, raping, and robbing are commonplace within the war stories. Rarely do they occasion analysis, moral objections, or disagreements. As brutal as they may be, the conversations proceed harmoniously. The soldiers understand one another. They share the same world and swap perspectives on the events that occupy their minds and the things that they’ve seen and done. They narrate and interpret these things in historically, culturally, and situatively specific frameworks of reference.

Soldiers: German POWs on Fighting, Killing, and Dying is a must-read book. It not only reminds us just how war has brought out extreme experiences for the human condition—pain, suffering, anger, pride—but I believe the authors’ intent was for us to admit and acknowledge what happened, in an effort to prevent such atrocities from happening again. Author Edmund Burke said it best: “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

sonke-neitzelABOUT THE AUTHORS
Sönke Neitzel is a professor of international history at the London School of Economics. He has previously taught modern history at the universities of Glasgow, Saarbrücken, Bern and Mainz.

harald-welzerHarald Welzer is a professor of transformation design at the University of Flensburg, teaches social psychology at the University of St. Gallen and is head of the foundation at FuturZwei.

 

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howard-falco-author-i-am-time-in-a-bottle-book-reviews-featPublished in the May-June 2014 issue of MyLIFE magazine

Scottsdale resident Howard Falco understands the number two better than most other people. He has published two books. He’s had two PPEs.

What is a PPE? It’s a Profound Personal Experience. Yes, his books are about his PPEs, but they’re really about you. Too.

There are a lot of self-help books being published now, and the best ones all have the same theme in common: writers whose lives have changed in ways that stretch the boundaries of comparison. That is, one day they were just regular people going through day-to-day, common life experiences such as playing roles, paying bills, lying low to avoid conflict or rising up to participate in it. Just surviving. Then, after “seeing the light” or arriving at some other pivotal point of experience, they knew more about life and being than was ever possible. The stories of this kind of life change must be told because these writers want other people to have a similar wake-up experience.

Life is better afterwards.

In Falco’s first book, I Am, there are a few paragraphs about the way humans view the concept of time. This author believes that the past and future do not exist. Though this message has been presented by other philosophers, poets and authors, Falco tells readers “… as you become more aware that the power to determine your journey in life is always within you … a new freedom from force, pressure and time emerges.” Seeing, and using, time in a new light is what Falco chose to expound on in his second book, Time in a Bottle.

But wait! Don’t throw out your watches and clocks! Time is a useful tool. It measures daily movements. It defines social agreements such as office hours, appointments and vacations. It assists the science of life—cooking a two-minute egg or running a six-minute mile. People rely on it, but it has limitations when applied to relationships.

As it relates to creating, experiencing, seeing or being, though, time is a different kind of application. Going beyond the physical agreements people make, and science, there is a world of spirit, imagination, thought and feeling that is outside the measurement of hours, weeks and years. People experience this “outsideness” while engaged in leisure, while getting “lost” in doing something they enjoy, during sleep and while in the process of creating something, such as a poem, a garden or an apple pie.

Your life is in constant creation by you and what you believe to be true—whether you’re feeling powerless, happy, troubled or loved. Throughout Time in a Bottle, Falco uses words like “intention,” “authentic” and “potential,” and urges readers to “… see what you’ve created … how you’ve created it and how life has served your truth.” He says that an intention (be it a desire related to your career, your relationships or your spiritual growth) is like a seed—if all conditions are right, then over time, the seed will grow into a plant that represents your exact idea. The thing about time is that it’s related to your awareness that all of the correct conditions are in place, and that it’s irrelevant as a factor in manifestation. Remember, there is no past or present. You only have the space you’re in right now to work with, so how will you move? Act? Create?
Falco thinks it is time for everyone to talk about a world in which the melding of spirit and science forms a state of grace—and thus creates a better way to exist in our lives on Earth. Words, poetry and nonfiction are Falco’s tools. They’ve created your ticket to a different reality—one in which time is appreciated until it can be turned off to better understand powerful (but now less mysterious) patterns of belief and behavior.

Will you have your own PPE after reading Time in a Bottle? Only time will tell.

howard-falco-author-i-am-time-in-a-bottleAbout the Author
Howard Falco is a modern-day spiritual teacher, self-empowerment expert and speaker specializing in the power of the mind as it relates to the creation of the experience of life.

His books empower readers to discover new possibilities by unveiling the wisdom and the answers regarding how and why each of us has created our unique and individual experience of reality. More information about his books, private coaching and schedule can be found at www.HowardFalco.com.

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killing-jesus-book-coverPublished in the March-April 2014 issue of MyLIFE magazine

For Christians around the world, the celebration of Easter in April symbolizes the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Millions gather on Easter Sunday in what has become the most attended service or mass of the year at churches everywhere.

Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God, who came to Earth to save humanity from sin and offer eternal life to those who repent for their transgressions and accept him as their savior. His teachings of love, humility, mercy, grace and compassion for others can be found in the Gospels of the New Testament, the second major part of the Christian biblical canon. His arrival is foretold in the Old Testament.

“Jesus Christ has not walked among us physically for more than two thousand years, yet his presence today is felt the world over and his spirit is worshipped by more than 2.2 billion people,” Bill O’Reilly said. “His teachings, his legacy, his life as a flesh-and-blood man, and his death created the world in which we live.”

In Killing Jesus, Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard explore the “historical” Jesus and his humanity. Labeled as a nonreligious book because it does not promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Killing Jesus has become a New York Times bestseller and has emerged as no. 1 on Amazon. The book is the latest in a series of works by these two authors that deal with the circumstances behind the deaths of significant historical figures. The preceding books, Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln, have both been no. 1 bestsellers.

So what else is known about Jesus of Nazareth outside the New Testament? In Killing Jesus, the authors attempt to deliver an accurate account of how Jesus lived and died and how his message affected the world socially and politically. The book will take readers inside Jesus’ life, recounting tumultuous political and historical events that made his death inevitable.

In Killing Jesus, we find chapters devoted to legendary historical figures such as Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Tiberius and John the Baptist. The book also gives us short biographies of other figures who lived around the same time as Jesus, including Pontius Pilate, who crucified Jesus, and the several Herods mentioned in the Gospels. The book also pulls context from eyewitness accounts from the Gospels, but also from sources who wrote about Jesus Christ and were present during his time. There are also historical accounts of the deaths of Jesus’ disciples, Pontius Pilate and Jewish governing high priests.

O’Reilly and Dugard also include many details about the history of the Roman Empire and the interaction between it and the Jewish governing entities in Israel. They paint a picture of a Roman empire engulfed in corruption, cruelty and treachery—especially with regard to the imposition of taxes on the poor. We also learn about the hardships Roman soldiers experienced. The Jewish religious authorities are described as powerful figures, hungry for control and status, who saw Jesus as a young revolutionary who threatened their roles and status.

Some might be hesitant to pick up Killing Jesus because Bill O’Reilly is an opinionated TV personality and a well-known political commentator—and for these same reasons, other reviewers have brought politics into their reviews—but don’t let that dissuade you from reading it. The book is well-written and has no political message. Although some have criticized the book’s historical accuracy, Killing Jesus relies on what Roman and Jewish historians wrote, and what is also written in the Gospels of Jesus Christ. The authors admit that writing about the life and death of the most influential man who ever lived was more daunting than either of their previous books—considering that Jesus lived more than 2,000 years ago.

KILLING JESUS: A HISTORY
By Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
Henry Holt; $28; 293 pages

About the Authors
bill-oreillyBill O’Reilly is the anchor of The O’Reilly Factor, the highest-rated cable news show in the country. He also writes a syndicated newspaper column and is the author of several no.1 bestselling books. He is, perhaps, the most talked about political commentator in America.

martin-dugardMartin Dugard is a New York Times bestselling author who has written several books on well-known historical figures. He and his wife live in Southern California with their three sons.

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nightbirds-book-cover-lawrence-m-jamesPublished in the Jan-Feb 2014 issue of MyLIFE magazine

Once in a while, writers create characters that leave a lasting impression on their audience—characters such as Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs) or Patrick Bateman (American Psycho), to name a couple. Both of those characters are pure psychopaths.

Nightbirds is a graphic, violent thriller about a serial killer named Evan Morgan who, after targeting and murdering each of his victims, leaves behind the body and takes a “trophy,” as many serial killers are known to do. He also leaves a bizarre calling card—a blackbird.

Nightbirds’ author, Lawrence M. James, brilliantly depicts Morgan’s character—his background, and why commits such heinous murders on the women he meets. Finding the reason a serial killer kills is crucial in building a profile, and many times past events can help solve the crime and even predict future crimes. James’ insight into Morgan’s nature and his past reveals a shocking truth that will affect the lives of those who are on the hunt for him.

However, Nightbirds isn’t really about Morgan—it’s about Lou Mark, a young FBI agent with a unique talent. Although Mark has only been with the FBI a little less than two years, he now suddenly finds himself on the trail of one of the most prolific serial killers in the history of the United States.

From the moment you start reading the first chapter of Nightbirds, you’ll find it difficult to put the book down. The characters are very believable, and the evil Morgan perpetrates is truly horrifying.

As events unfold, Mark’s special “gift” surfaces. Like his father, who was also a detective, Mark has the ability to visualize a crime scene in his mind—what happened, who was involved and so forth. In doing so, he discovers clues that no one else could ever find. As Mark’s character develops, we find out more about his life, including his connection to his father, who was a distinguished detective in the Midwest until he was shot and paralyzed from the waist down by a man who killed his second wife and his neighbor. Mark is also happily married to Cara, whom he loves dearly—and is also in danger because of his involvement in the investigation.

Nightbirds has all the makings of a blockbuster movie if it’s turned into film. It’s an instant classic! Of other characters in the same genre, few come close to the complexity and evil that Evan Morgan embodies.

Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter, when Morgan is introduced and kills:

    After they made love, he walked into the living room and stopped next to the birdcage. Slowly, he put his right hand inside and waited until the bird stepped off her perch onto his right index finger.

    “It’s time now, isn’t it?” he said to the bird. “It’s time to sing.”

    He set the bird back on her perch, walked into the kitchen, and looked through the drawers next to the convection over until he found what he needed.

    “Are you coming back to bed?” she asked, then yawned and stretched. “That was nice.”

    “Yes, I’m coming back.”

    “Thank you for the bird.” She smiled.  

   “I’m sleepy now.”

    “Good.”

    He took the rolling pin from behind his back and slowly lifted it over his head.

    She squinted in the dark room. “What is that?”

    “You never know, do you?”

    “What?”

    “You never know when you’re going to meet someone like me.”

    “No,” she whispered, “please no.”

    “It’s time to sing.”

The author of Nightbirds is Lawrence M. James, a new author who is also a practicing attorney in Arizona. This is his first book, and it’s apparent that he has great insight into the minds of criminals and law enforcement
protocols. Nightbirds is his first book, and he is already working on a sequel called Sun Down, which will be the next Lou Mark thriller. Sun Down will be available next year.

You can find Nightbirds at Amazon.com. $24.99 hardcover; $16.95 paperback; $4.99 Kindle version. Publisher: XLIBRIS.

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