Well-researched but overstuffed.

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In the Name of Honor

In Feiss’ (The Formula, 2011, etc.) new novel, a cadet at the prestigious U.S. Air Force Academy dies under mysterious circumstances.

The Air Force Academy is an institution that takes the best of the best, then beats them down and builds them up until they’re something even better. But not everyone can make it through this grueling test of mental and physical strength. When Nick Argento’s battered body turns up one morning in the snow a few stories below his dormitory window, everyone agrees that he wouldn’t have committed suicide and no one would have murdered him. So how did Argento die? Uncovering that mystery is the job assigned to Zach Fields and Mindy Reynolds, veterans of the nearby El Paso Sheriff’s Department. The academy’s commitment to an ironclad code of honor makes it nearly impossible to get straight answers about Argento from anyone, which is further complicated by the fact that the cadet’s father is an ambitious tea party senator. Thanks to the unpublished memoirs of a cadet from the 1960s, Zach discovers that the honor code has been a source of great controversy for decades, and he’ll have to break through the ranks of cadets and officers to find someone truly honorable, who can finally tell him what happened to Argento. The novel offers a great behind-the-scenes view of the academy, its rituals and training regimen. Unfortunately, a lot of time is spent on less interesting minutiae, such as the workout habits of secondary characters or back stories for ancillary characters like Brig. Gen. Leo Barrows, who doesn’t seem to deserve so much attention. Weaving in the memoirs of a 1960s cadet proves to be an intriguing narrative choice, but its voice and perspective are barely differentiated from the rest of the text, making each section feel less authentic. Though the dialogue can be wooden—characters insist on frequently referring to each other by name midconversation—the chapters in which Zach and Mindy actively engage in trying to solve the mystery of Argento’s death are especially enjoyable. Occasionally, however, a few too many plotlines—multiple romantic interests and a secondary shooting outside the academy, to name just two—slow down the action.

Well-researched but overstuffed.

Pub Date: May 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1481968355

Page Count: 326

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2013

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An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

RAGE

That thing in the air that is deadlier than even your “strenuous flus”? Trump knew—and did nothing about it.

The big news from veteran reporter Woodward’s follow-up to Fear has been widely reported: Trump was fully aware at the beginning of 2020 that a pandemic loomed and chose to downplay it, causing an untold number of deaths and crippling the economy. His excuse that he didn’t want to cause a panic doesn’t fly given that he trades in fear and division. The underlying news, however, is that Trump participated in this book, unlike in the first, convinced by Lindsey Graham that Woodward would give him a fair shake. Seventeen interviews with the sitting president inform this book, as well as extensive digging that yields not so much news as confirmation: Trump has survived his ineptitude because the majority of Congressional Republicans go along with the madness because they “had made a political survival decision” to do so—and surrendered their party to him. The narrative often requires reading between the lines. Graham, though a byword for toadyism, often reins Trump in; Jared Kushner emerges as the real power in the West Wing, “highly competent but often shockingly misguided in his assessments”; Trump admires tyrants, longs for their unbridled power, resents the law and those who enforce it, and is quick to betray even his closest advisers; and, of course, Trump is beholden to Putin. Trump occasionally emerges as modestly self-aware, but throughout the narrative, he is in a rage. Though he participated, he said that he suspected this to be “a lousy book.” It’s not—though readers may wish Woodward had aired some of this information earlier, when more could have been done to stem the pandemic. When promoting Fear, the author was asked for his assessment of Trump. His reply: “Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis.” Multiple crises later, Woodward concludes, as many observers have, “Trump is the wrong man for the job.”

An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982131-73-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

IS THIS ANYTHING?

“All comedians are slightly amazed when anything works.” So writes Seinfeld in this pleasing collection of sketches from across his four-decade career.

Known for his wry, observational humor, Seinfeld has largely avoided profanity and dirty jokes and has kept politics out of the equation. Like other schooled jokesters, perhaps most famously Bob Hope, he keeps a huge library of gags stockpiled, ever fearful of that day when the jokes will run out or the emcee will call you back for another set. “For the most part, it was the people who killed themselves to keep coming up with great new material who were able to keep rising through the many levels,” he recounts of his initiation into the New York stand-up scene. Not all his early material played well. The first piece in this collection, laid out sentence by sentence as if for a teleprompter, is a bit about being left-handed, which comes with negative baggage: “Two left feet. / Left-handed compliment. / Bad ideas are always ‘out of left field.’ / What are we having for dinner? / Leftovers.” He gets better, and quickly, as when he muses on the tininess of airplane bathrooms: “And a little slot for used razor blades. Who is shaving on the plane? And shaving so much, they’re using up razor blades. Is the Wolfman flying in there?” For the most part, the author’s style is built on absurdities: “Why does water ruin leather? / Aren’t cows outside a lot of the time?” It’s also affable, with rare exceptions, as when, taking on a mob boss persona, he threatens a child with breaking the youngster’s Play-Doh creations: “Nothing wrong with sending your child a little Sicilian message once in a while.” One wishes there were more craft notes among the gags, but the ones that are there are both inspiring and gnomic: “Stand-up is about a brief, fleeting moment of human connection.”

Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982112-69-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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