Pick of the Month, November 2013



Hidden Order by Brad Thor, Emily Bestler Books/Atria, $27.99


The five candidates to head the Federal Reserve are kidnapped by an unknown group referring to itself as Sons of Liberty. When one of them is found tortured and murdered with her ears cut off, former Navy SEAL Scot Harvath is sent to find the others. Soon the body of the second victim turns up. The motive remains a mystery. Harvath and an associate observe that there are many reasons not to like the Federal Reserve, a private organization that is subject of conspiracy theories. And many people would profit if it were shut down.  


Meanwhile, Lydia Ryan of the CIA stumbles on a possible terrorist plot against the U.S. and accusations that the CIA is plotting to destabilize Jordan and other Muslim countries in order to help overthrow their governments. As she elicits the help of a trusted friend Bob McGee to check this out, they find themselves the targets of professional assassins and are forced to run for their lives. Eventually their mission merges with Harvath’s.

I particularly enjoyed Thor’s historical inserts, such John Adams telling Thomas Jefferson that America’s greatest weakness is the citizens’ complete ignorance when it came to money, credit, and circulation. This exciting thriller is not for the squeamish.



Practice to Deceive by Ann Rule, Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster, $26.99


The day after Christmas, 2003, Russel Douglas, 33, was murdered execution style in his car on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound. Three persons of interest emerged:


• The victim’s estranged wife Brenna Douglas - mother of his two children and partner in their beauty salon Just B’s and in a former business of selling sex toys. She appeared neither grieved nor surprised by his death and accused him of a variety of deviant behavior. She had caught him having an affair with a much older woman and stood to benefit from his life insurance policy.

• Brenna’s friend Peggy Sue Stackhouse Harris Thomas Allen, who at the time was a limo driver in Las Vegas. She was the pampered daughter of Jimmie Stackhouse and his second wife Doris Matz (whose treatment of his daughters reminded one of the evil stepmother in “Cinderella”). Peggy Sue was described by a former best friend as “pure evil” and would end up with three ex-husbands - an African-American preacher (she said she married him to make her father angry); a cheating second husband; and then New Mexico multimillionaire Mark Allen, owner of the Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, whom she callously used for his money.

• Peggy Sue’s married lover, Jim Huden, member of the rock band Buck Naked and the X-hibitionists and recipient of Punta Gorda (FLorida) “Businessman of the Year” award. He didn’t know the victim and was described by friends as never cruel or violent. Yet he rose to the top of the suspect list. When he disappeared, his wife suggested he committed suicide. The investigators doubt this.


The investigators had no motive except for Brenna’s, no gun, no eye witnesses, no solid evidence, only a battered bullet. However, they would not give up. Piece by piece they built the case until finally in 2012 they made the arrest. Practice to Deceive is well-written and well-researched and filled with diverse and interesting characters. It’s an engrossing read that was hard to put down.



Divergent by Veronica Roth, Kathleen Tegen Books/HarperCollins, $17.99, YA


Chicago in a distant future is divided into five factions, each centered on a specific value. When children reach age 16, they must choose one of them. Beatrice “Tris” Prior makes the painful decision to leave her family’s faction and chooses Dauntless, which is based on bravery. She finds the initiation period grueling, at times life threatening, as it pits the initiates against each other. Those who fail are relegated to the factionless who live in poverty, doing jobs nobody else wants and for which they receive barely enough food and clothing to survive.

Through it all, Tris hides a dangerous secret: she is a Divergent. Her mother explains, “Every faction conditions its members to think and act in a certain way . . . [But a Divergent] can’t be confined to one way of thinking and that terrifies the leaders. It means we can’t be controlled.” Thus, they have to be eliminated. When Tris stumbles on a plot by leaders of two factions for a bloody revolution that would kill many, including her family, she decides to fight back and comes to the brink of losing her life.

This riveting dystopian novel is the first in a trilogy followed by Insurgent and Allegiant, all of them top bestsellers.


Specialty/Small Press

The Harvard Common Press, founded in 1976, specializes in cookbooks and parenting/childcare books that have have won the James Beard Book Awards among others. Its title include Prairie Home Cooking, Vegetarian Planet, and The Basque Table. A recent one is The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook by Kathy Strahs that contains over 200 recipes for panini and other things.


Author submissions: They accept proposals through both email and snail mail. Manuscript submission guidelines are listed on harvardcommonpress.com.



Thomas Leo “Tom” Clancy, 66, died on October 1, 2013 at the John Hopkins Hospital in Maryland shortly after being admitted. He was an historian, part owner of the Baltimore Orioles and internationally acclaimed author of The Hunt for Red October and scores of other blockbuster thrillers. He was a man ahead of his time. So far the cause of his sudden death has remained a secret, leading to wild speculation on the Internet. His last novel, Command Authority with Mark Greaney will be released in December, 2013.


Botanist and limnologist Ruth Patrick, 105, died on September 23, 2013 in a Pennsylvania retirement community. She advised President Ronald Reagan on acid rain and received National Medal of Science from President W.J. Clinton.

Top 10 Best Dystopian Novels & Short Stories

(alphabetic order)

Anthem by Ayn Rand, 1938, novella

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1932

Divergent by Veronica Roth, 2011, Young Adult, first in a trilogy

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, 1953

Foreign Enemies and Traitors by Matthew Bracken, 2009, third in a trilogy

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, 2008, Young Adult, first in a trilogy

“The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster, 1909, short story

1984 by George Orwell, 1949, the most popular dystopian novel

We by Eugene Zamiatin, 1924

When the Kissing Had to Stop  by Constantine Fitzgibbon, 1960

Winners and Losers


  1. The non-profit Fisher House Foundation. When during the government shutdown the White House and Pentagon cut off payments to families of fallen soldiers even though Congress had appropriated the money, Fisher House volunteered to pay the families.

  2. Writer Alice Munro, 82, Canada. She won the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature, the committee calling her “master of the short story.” Dubbed “modern Chekov,” she has previously won countless awards.

  3. Jerre and Mary Joy Stead, Scottsdale, Arizona. They donated $10 million to the University of Iowa to advance children’s medicine. They had previously also donated $10 million for UI Children’s Hospital and have made numerous other contributions to charities. Jerre Stead is the chairman and CEO of HIS Inc., a global information company.

  4. Oracle Team USA. The team came from behind to win on September 25 the 34th America’s Cup sailing race in a thrilling rally.

  5. The Hardacre Theater Preservation Association. Formed in 2012, the group is busy raising money to preserve the century old Hardacre Theater in Tipton, Iowa and received non-profit status. To donate or volunteer, go on their Web site thehardacre.org.


  1. Dishwasher Conrado Juarez, 52, Mexico & New York. Police charged this monster for the 1991 rape/murder of 4-year-old “Baby Hope” who was finally identified as his cousin Anjelica Castillo. Her family members had abused her and covered up for Juarez. Kudos to the many law-enforcement members who gave her a beautiful funeral while her own parents didn’t even report her missing.

  2. The U.S. Park Service. Their placing of barricades around WWII memorial and its demeaning treatment of elderly WWII veterans sparked nationwide outrage.

  3. Guadalupe Shaw, 14, and her family, Lakeland, Florida. She, along with her friends, terrorized Rebecca Sedwick, 12, for months. The bullying led Rebecca to commit suicide on September 9 (some suggest she was murdered). Guadalupe and Katelyn Roman, 12, were charged with felony aggravated stalking. While Katelyn showed remorse, Guadalupe gloated over the death, and her father Jose (Shaw? Vosburg?) and stepmother Vivian Vosburg, 30, shamelessly defended her. Her brothers also have a reputation as vicious bullies. In a separate case, the stepmother was arrested for child abuse and child neglect involving two boys in this scary household. Where is Guadalupe’s bio mom?

  4. Boy Scout leader Glenn Taylor, Utah. He destroyed a nearly 20 million-year-old sandstone formation in Goblin Valley State Park and made a video of this available online. Consequently, he is no longer a Boy Scout leader and his earlier lawsuit for disability is in jeopardy.

  5. NASCAR. When driver Corey LaJoie, 22, tweeted “Is it stereotyping to ask TSA to cavity search the gentleman with a turban and a gray beard? I don’t think so,” he echoed the sentiment of most Americans since 9/11. Yet NASCAR placed him on indefinite suspension for this innocuous comment and required him to undergo sensitivity training, likely destroying his career. He isn’t the only casualty of NASCAR’s ever watchful Thought Police. Earlier NASCAR punished Nelson PIquet Jr. and Jeremy Clemens for respectively using a word and making a comment not approved by the corporation. NASCAR wants its drivers to be like the robotic characters in a dystopian novel. Lesson learned: Best not to tweet unless you’ve nothing to lose. Your private comments are monitored and the most innocent ones can be twisted against you.

Kathy Strahs is author of The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook and founder of the blog PaniniHappy.com.

“The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth,” oil painting, 1914, by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe (1850-1936)

Photo: whatsaiththescripture.com

Shurik’s daughter at age 33.  She remembers the many happy Thanksgiving dinners at her parents‘ home.  Photo © TS

Tootsi railroad station in 2012. The building was completed in 1927.  Photographer: Ivar Leidus

Ann Rule’s new true crime book Practice to Deceive tells of the murder of Russel Douglas, which would make a gripping film.

Right: One of the persons of interest, Peggy Sue Thomas, shown when she won the Ms Washington contest. At six feet tall, she played on the high school boys’ basketball team; served in the U.S. Navy; and her jobs included aircraft mechanic and beautician.

Left: Her lover, James “Jim” Huden. He was a high school athlete and student body president; a computer genius who developed software for Microsoft; and member of the rock band Buck Naked and the X-hibitionists.

Veronica Roth, author of Divergent. Film adaptation of this dystopian novel, starring Shailene Woodley, is scheduled for release in March, 2014.

Mingdong Chen, 25, an illegal alien from China described as a lazy drifter, arrived in this country in 2004. On October 26, 2013, after his cousin Yi Lin Zhuo, 31, had harbored him for some ten days, Mingdong used a meat cleaver to murder Zhuo’s wife Qiao Zhen Li, 37, and the children Linda, 9, Amy 7, Kevin, 5, and William 1, decapitating the baby and one other child and cutting off Qiao’s fingers. He almost escaped. When apprehended, he showed no remorse. (source: “Jealous butcher ‘killed mom, 4 kids because they had too much’” by Jamie Schram, Larry Celona, Kristan Conley, and Bruce Golding, New York Post, October 27, 2013)

On November 3, the Zhuo family and other victims of illegal aliens will be remembered on Remembrance Day, which is held annually on the first Sunday in November. Photo of 2012 poster: examiner.com

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