Monthly Archives: August 2015

The First Family Detail

The book I have in hand today is The First Family Detail by Ronald Kessler.

The title interested me but I must admit I didn’t spend much time checking out the author or the book’s description. That was a very poor judgment call on my part. In my mind’s eye I thought I was getting a nice behind the scenes book about quirky habits of the first families and the presidents as viewed by their Secret Service agents; maybe something on the order of Caroline Kennedy catching butterflies in a paper bag or Lucy Johnson learning to drive.

When I tore open the delivery package and pulled out the book, I cringed when I saw the author is named Ronald Kessler. The author has a reputation to be factually inaccurate and often cites information received by second and third hand accounts without verification. But…I selected the book from Blogging for Books, so I will give an honest opinion. Not really fair to judge a book by its cover or the author’s previous history, is it?

However, a few pages into the book I was already holding my nose.

One particular statement leapt out in the prologue, ” [Secret Service Agents are] required to sign confidentiality agreements, they are sworn to secrecy, but they opened up for this book.” Maybe I am full of horse feathers, but doesn’t confidentially disclosed information sound like an oxymoron to you?

The book is 263 pages long, excluding the index and secret service chronology.

The chapters are short, caustic, gossipy and derogatory. When someone is praised or revered it is because his or her pious life is used to highlight the derogatory and dishonorable behavior of someone else. Lady Bird Johnson is depicted as Mother Theresa’s first cousin to make LBJ look like Voldemort. Lady Bird could take care of herself! I lived in Texas for a while. I heard stories too.

I am going to admit I only completely read three chapters. I just couldn’t finish the book. I felt soiled and nauseous and in need of a deep cleansing shower.

I will tell you about those three chapters in some detail. Just to be fair, I did thumb through the remaining chapters and looked at the pictures. It didn’t look to me that things improved in quality and character.

The prologue opens in the Ozzie and Harriet world of the hamlet of Chappaqua, NY. Birds are chirping and Mr. Rogers, in his ubiquitous sweater, sits on the front porch of the general store waving. The scene is quickly ruined by the description of life in that hamlet as the Clintons move into the neighborhood in 1999.

If you hate the Clintons, you are going to love the prologue. If you are a Hillary supporter, you are going to view this as an opportunity to re-feed the same red meat to the haters.

Chapter 1 is named “Regular Joe Biden” and is about the author’s perception that Joe Biden puts this country at risk caring “more about his image than carrying out the only significant responsibility required of him as vice-president: to launch retaliatory strikes in the event of a nuclear attack.” His dereliction of duty centers on his desire for a more relaxed security detail around his own neighborhood.

After accusing Biden of being irresponsible, he charges that Joe and his wife are kind to the agents but his behavior is bizarre. The only example of bizarre behavior offered to justify this claim is that Biden likes to swim naked in his own pool. The horror of it was exposed in the press! US News and World Report reported on Aug 1, 2014 in big bold print, “Biden Swims Naked; Upsetting Female Secret Service Agents, Book Claims.”

Chapter 2 returns to Hillary Clinton opening with this statement, “If Joe Biden is inconsiderate with Secret Service agents, Hillary Clinton can make Nixon look like Mahatma Gandhi.”

Kessler supports this claim by pasting stories already in print from one of his other books. He reports “In the President’s Secret Service” that Hillary fired a White House usher for taking a phone call from Barbara Bush and repeats that story in this book. Citing from the same page in this other book, a stormy story about Hillary, an electrician and a light bulb is repeated.

Hillary is by no means a saint. If she has no redeeming qualities and is completely horrendous as charged, surely there would be other salacious material to report. Why play the same tune on the harp over and over?

Kessler tosses in a few bits of nasty dialogue and insensitive comments reportedly made to agents by Hillary (not saying she didn’t say them) before repeating yet another recycled story. This time the author admits to recycling from his book, The Secrets of the FBI. The unsubstantiated story suggests that Hillary’s emasculating comments led to Vince Foster’s suicide a week later. Her cruel taunts, not defended by me in any way, cannot be the precipitating factor in that poor man’s demise.

Chapter 3 opens with LBJ shagging anything in a skirt; often openly in front of the staff. The graphic descriptions of LBJ running around Air Force One or the White House offices in the buff turned my stomach.

When Kessler shares the Secret Service nickname for LBJ as Bull’s Balls, an affectionate name for his over-sized testicles, I had rather unflattering pictures cluttering my mind. But I was finished off with the repeated stories of his pissing off a boat in front of God and everyone or dictating to his secretary while defecating. Some things are better off left to the imagination.

I don’t read the National Enquirer and I certainly am not going to finish this book. I have much better ways to spend my time.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest review.

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A Man Called Ove

Very goodEvery year I find that one book stands out in relief from all the others.  Sometimes it has made me laugh or cry, sometimes it makes me think about an issue from another perspective and sometimes it just entertains.

In 2014 that book was A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

I received the advance ebook from NetGalley and very quickly spread the word that this book was going to be a hit.  As a matter of fact my book club, The Blue Ridge Readers, will be reading this book next month.  What follows is the edited book review I placed on

I just read one of the best books of the year (2014). I laughed, chuckled, roared and admittedly shed a few tears.

Ove endured an unbelievably tough childhood filled with loneliness and lack of nurturing. Forced to survive on his own he structured his life around rules and principles. Over time he formed a crust over his personality that seemed to harden him into an ill-tempered old neighborhood crank.

Thankfully for Ove there were people who saw the cracks in the crusty soul and loved him deeply. The love story of Sophia and Ove will leave you in tears. Ove could not have foreseen his future the day the neighbors moved in and ran over his mailbox.

Poor Ove, despite his attempts to alienate children, cats and kooks, his snappy one-liners and his over-sized kind heart couldn’t fool anyone who took the time to look closely at the man. As Ove would say himself, “It isn’t what a man says that matters, it is what he does.”

Ove was obsessed with his car, a Saab, and the company was so enthralled with the story of Ove’s life they uncharacteristically did a book review on their company’s website. First published in Sweden, it has been translated into English. A must read!

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I think I can, I think I can……

I sure enjoyed this little book as a child.  My grandfather worked on the railroad for 50 years.  Not many people left can remember watching a train snag a mail bag off a post as it hurdles through the station.  In my day that rated pretty high up in excitement.

As I have struggled to get the basics of this blog established I am reminded of the Little Engine That Could.

My ultimate goal is to post reviews of pre-publication titles that I have been given the privilege reading.  Additionally I want to re-read some classics.

Wish me luck!  I am struggling.


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