Book Chat

This month’s book reviews — post contains affiliate links:

President's Secret Service book reviewsIn the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect looked like a juicy read, and a lot of it was. As the cover states, it takes you “behind the scenes with agents in the line of fire and the presidents they protect.”

What did I learn? Lyndon Johnson was a real character – quirky, nasty to others, a womanizer. Nixon was odd. Ford was a gentleman, Carter was absolutely awful and not who his public persona suggested. Reagan was a gentleman, as were the Bushes. Clinton was a womanizer, as we know, although he was nice to agents. Not so with Hillary – they couldn’t stand her. Not much at all about Obama, although when he’s mentioned he is referred to positively.

That was the part I enjoyed, and it comprises maybe half the book. The other portion reads like a disgruntled employee’s manifesto:  the Secret Service doesn’t do enough training; we’re close to another disaster; the Secret Service has a bad corporate culture; agents mostly want to leave, etc. etc. May be true, but it doesn’t make for compelling reading.

I will say that my first-hand secret service observation tended to back up those claims. In October 2008 my daughters and I went (along with about 10,000 others) to hear Sarah Palin speak. People trailed in slowly for hours as the Secret Service had people going through magnetometers, confiscating our apples (!), etc. Finally, when Sarah was ready to speak, thousands were still not through security. At that point, they were just let in. I had to wonder how safe that was! Also, news stories the next day had local authorities at the venue complaining about the Secret Service requirements, saying that they had slowed things down significantly before they finally “gave up.”


Shipping News book reviewsHave you ever read a book that totally immerses you in another time or place, so that you really feel you’re there? The Shipping News is that kind of book. It takes you to Newfoundland (which I knew was in Canada, but reading the book inspired me to actually dig out a map), where you follow the adventures of Quoyle, his aunt, and two daughters.

Quoyle has faced a pretty rough life, but is hoping to make a fresh start here in the land of his ancestors. And a harsh land it is:  I found myself wondering if the shores of Newfoundland are really that rugged. Jagged rocks everywhere, dead bodies floating in the water, you name it – it’s not a place for the faint-hearted. The map shows it just north of Prince Edward Island, but it must be miles away, in practical terms, from the lovely land of Anne of Green Gables.

Quoyle works for a very primitive newspaper operation, writing the news about shipping in the area (hence the title). This is such an epic tale that it’s hard to know where to begin – the head discovered in a suitcase? The nautical knots described throughout? The many odd, quirky characters? The family secrets from long ago which come to light throughout the tale?

The style of writing is a bit different. Sentence fragments. The feel of the ocean. Flecks of gold against the night sky. Shattering rocks. You get the idea – it takes a bit of getting used to, but it does evoke a certain feel, and I think that’s what the author was going for. Hey, it won a Pulitzer Prize, so that’s saying something. Good story to really sink your teeth into.


10 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. I love ‘behind the scenes’ books. I’ll have to add the Secret Service book to my list. Interesting to see your own experience with them!

  2. Both of those sound very interesting. The Shipping News is just my kind of book. I love reading things that take me to another time and place.

  3. Got to get both of those! Shipping News has been on my radar a while, but hadn’t seen the secret service book. I remember in 90 or 91 being in a shop in Blantyre, Malawi, and seeing what I though were a bunch of Baptist missionaries come in to buy some gifty-items to take back home. After a while I notice there was something different. Then it register–EAR PIECES! They were shopping for the on duty folks with Vice President Quayle on his trip to visit dictator Hastings “Kamuzu” Banda!!

  4. A friend read In the President’s Secret Service and mentioned it to me. I idly noted the title but did nothing with it. Now, I think I’m going to have to add it to my TBR list for real–I enjoy the behind-the-scenes type stories as well.

  5. The Shipping News looks interesting–though the head in the suitcase may be too much for me!

  6. Mrs. B,

    I love how you link up your “5 minutes for books” reviews to my MBR link-up – what a great idea. I always enjoy reading your reviews!


Comments are closed.