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From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia by Michael McFaul

Book jacket cover of From Cold War to Hot PeaceThe relationship between Russia and the US is an enormously important and fraught one. Michael McFaul brings both academic expertise and personal experience to the subject. Booklist gave his book a starred review, writing “American foreign policy is personal for McFaul, who began observing U.S.-Russian relations as a student in the 1970s and 1980s, engaged them as a pro-democracy activist and academic in the 1990s and 2000s, served on President Obama’s National Security Council, and was the American ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. McFaul, therefore, witnessed the end of the Cold War, the dissolution of the USSR, and the two ensuing decades of complex Russian engagement with democracy that, he argues, ended with Vladimir Putin’s return to power in 2012. His engaging political memoir centers on his work as part of the Obama administration and as ambassador in Moscow, as his ideas were tested by the constraints of policy making and challenged by life in a Russia that was rapidly returning to autocracy. He focuses on political elites and their actions, presenting them, including the often-stereotyped Putin, as complex, human characters. McFaul ends by bringing his depth of perspective to bear on current U.S.-Russian relations, concluding that the hot peace of the Putin era is here to stay. An expert political chronicle that often reads like a fast-paced thriller, this title is highly recommended.”

Storm Lake by Art Cullen

Book jacket cover of The Armored SaintI have a soft spot in my heart for small town Iowa journalism since my nephew worked as a reporter in Le Mars (Ice Cream Capital of the World!). Unlike Art Cullen, the author of Storm Lake, my nephew hasn’t yet won a Pulitzer, but he’s young… Booklist gave the book a starred review, writing “Cullen, editor of Storm Lake, Iowa’s small hometown newspaper, the Storm Lake Times, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017 for a series of editorials about farming practices and water quality in northwest Iowa. Here, Cullen chronicles his early life in Storm Lake, his journalistic forays at various Midwestern newspapers, and his ultimate return home when his older brother, John, needed help managing his fledgling paper. An engaging storyteller, Cullen recounts the deeds (and misdeeds) of youth, but his writer’s passion shines when he discusses the events that led him to write the prize-winning editorials. He cares deeply about his community and the changes it has undergone. Storm Lake, like many other small Midwestern towns, has seen manufacturing jobs dry up and farming morph into a corporate concern, but more uniquely, it has welcomed immigrants in search of a better life, and it is thriving. The moral, economic, and social history of a small town in Iowa might not seem like much of a story, but in Cullen’s hands, it is. He and his family have sunk their roots deeply, engaged with the issues of their place, and cared enough to call out injustice.”

The Armored Saint by Myke Cole

Book jacket cover of The Armored SaintMyke Cole has written a number of action/adventure books but The Armored Saint is his first fantasy novel – and it’s a good one! Booklist gave it a starred review, writing “[w]izardry and magic have been outlawed in this epic fantasy trilogy starter from Cole, author of the popular Shadow Ops series. The Order monitors the citizens of the kingdom to make sure that they don’t practice magic, which they believe comes from the devil. Naturally, the Order are terrible, power-hungry individuals who terrorize the population with threats of what they will do if they suspect a wizard, and terrify the public with threats of what wizards can do if they exist. But Heloise cannot help herself, and she repeatedly stands up to the Order to protect her family and even jumps one of them to save her best friend, Basina, whom she loves. Cole has created a dark medieval world that by the end only has a small sliver of light in it. The spunky Heloise fights for her family and friends and makes it easy to cheer her on through her adventures.” And for those of you find it hard to wait, the second book in the series (The Queen of Crows) is out and it’s even better than the first!