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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Blind Justice

Blind Justice

Review of Blind Justice by James Scott Bell

Overview from His wife has left him. He's drinking again. And his five-year-old daughter is in the middle of it all. When a judge calls him "a disgrace to the legal profession," Jake starts thinking things might be better for everyone if he wasn't around anymore.
Then a childhood friend's mother phones him. Her son, Howie, has been accused of murdering his wife. Jake takes the seemingly hopeless case in a last-ditch effort to save his client and his fading career.
Meanwhile, Howie's little sister, Lindsay, has grown into a beautiful woman. Though Jake is drawn to her, there's something about her he doesn't understand, even though it may be the very thing he needs to reclaim his humanity.
With the evidence mounting against his client, and a web of corruption closing around them both, Jake Denney faces the fight of his life--not only in the courtroom, but in the depths of his own soul.

My Review:

The way this book starts out is just a little bit sneaky. We begin with Howie. I presumed that he would be the main character. But I knew that our author wrote Legal Thrillers and Howie doesn’t sound at all like a lawyer.

Looks can be deceiving but as the opening continues on it becomes apparent that Howie is probably a murder suspect. No lawyer in the first scene.

Enter Jake. Ah, here is our lawyer, or rather a sad excuse for one. He apparently hasn’t had any paying clients in a long time since his rent is and has been due to his office land lord for quite some time. His friend/landlord has just gotten to insisting that Jake give it to him which Jack knows isn’t easy for him.

Then the last straw. His ex-wife threatens to take his daughter away from him.

Meanwhile Howie becomes a murder suspect after being stabbed himself. His parents remember Howie’s old friend Jake and ask him to represent him in court.

Things go from bad to worse though when Howie confesses to the murder from his hospital room just as a police officer walks into the room.

Jake still hopes that he is innocent. After all, Howie admits that he doesn’t remember stabbing his wife and he remembers the presence of another person in the room. Unfortunately for Jake, Howie is convinced that the other person is the devil.

Certain that the devil was nowhere near the crime scene, Jake thinks that maybe he can somehow prove that Howie might be crazy. Maybe he did see someone else in the room but not the devil. Maybe it was just someone who looked like him. Or just a defense mechanism.

As the trial continues, Jake must also confront his own personal demons. His alcohol problems, his inability to relate to his father or anyone who reminds him or his father, his attempts to relate to his daughter,  and his growing attraction to Howie’s sister are just a few of the problems he faces in addition to trying to when Howie’s case.

I dare not say too much more about what happens next but I will say that I highly recommend this one. I had high expectations going into it too after reading Mr. Scott Bell’s writing books (which I really liked). “Let’s see what he’s got,” was the attitude I had in reading it. “Let’s see if he writes as well as he tells his students to.”

I can honestly say that he delivers. I wasn’t disappointed.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Women Heroes of World War I

Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics

Review of Women Heroes of World War I by Katheryn J. Atwood

Overview from In time for the 2014 centennial of the start of the Great War, this book brings to life the brave and often surprising exploits of 16 fascinating women from around the world who served their countries at a time when most of them didn’t even have the right to vote. Readers meet 17-year-old Frenchwoman Emilienne Moreau, who assisted the Allies as a guide and set up a first-aid post in her home to attend to the wounded; Russian peasant Maria Bochkareva, who joined the Imperial Russian Army by securing the personal permission of Tsar Nicholas II, was twice wounded in battle and decorated for bravery, and created and led the all-women combat unit the “Women’s Battalion of Death” on the eastern front; and American journalist Madeleine Zabriskie Doty, who risked her life to travel twice to Germany during the war in order to report back the truth, whatever the cost. These and other suspense-filled stories of brave girls and women are told through the use of engaging narrative, dialogue, direct quotes, and document and diary excerpts to lend authenticity and immediacy. Introductory material opens each section to provide solid historical context, and each profile includes informative sidebars and “Learn More” lists of relevant books and websites, making this a fabulous resource for students, teachers, parents, libraries, and homeschoolers.

My Review:

This week I am stepping away from fiction entirely and towards the world of nonfiction. Kathryn contacted me through Twitter offering me a copy of this book to review. I thought it might be fun for a change of pace.

Also I love History and I hope you do also. And this is a part of History that I knew nothing about. Could there really be that many heroic women involved in the First World War? Apparently so.

This was not a short book either. There were more names than I ever could have imagined. These heroes came from all walks of life: spies, nurses, soldiers and journalists. But the soldiers were by far the most surprising. I had no idea than any woman had ever served as a soldier during this war.

And the book was not written in an academic tone either. I think it was a young adult book yet the details seemed well-researched and pertinent.

These women had done some incredible things and were motivated by incredible ideas. Many of them did fight or work due to their own patriotism but just as many seemed to also fight for the love of a man, either a brother, father, husband, son, or even a lover.

At the same time there were the sad stories of some of the Russian women who fought. I think at least one of them was only fighting because the war had killed her whole family and she had nowhere else to go. It seemed sad but her contribution to the war effort was not.

The other thing that amazed me was the photos that the author managed to scrounge up along with the lists for further reading. And many of the women had written their own stories down which Atwood also lists. I am not sure if all of them were in English though so who knows if you could actually read them.

The best thing about the book was the way it gave you some background into why and how this war started. I knew about the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand but I never really understand how this ever translated into a large scale war like this one. That is until I read the author’s background into the war. Without it, I think it would be hard for readers to really appreciate who these women were and what they did.

I recommend this to all but especially to those who want to know more about this war and why any woman would want to get involved in it.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Gatsby Girls

Gatsby Girls

Review of Gatsby Girls by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Overview from She was an impulsive, fashionable and carefree 1920s woman who embodied the essence of the Gatsby Girl -- F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda. As Fitzgerald said, "I married the heroine of my stories." All of the eight short stories contained in this collection were inspired by Zelda.
Fitzgerald, one of the foremost writers of American fiction, found early success as a short story writer for the most widely read magazine of the early 20th century -- the Saturday Evening Post. Fitzgerald's stories, first published by the Post between 1920 and 1922, brought the Jazz Age and the "flapper" to life and confirmed that America was changing faster than ever before. Women were bobbing their hair, drinking and flirting shamelessly, and Fitzgerald brought these exciting Gatsby Girls to life in the pages of the Post.
A foreword by Jeff Nilsson, archivist for the Post, adds historical context to this wonderful, new collection, which is highlighted by an introduction written by Fitzgerald himself. Each story is accompanied by the original illustrations and the beautiful cover images from the Post. Read the stories that made F. Scott Fitzgerald one of the most beloved writers in America -- and around the world -- still today.

My Review:

Going off into a new direction this week, I am reviewing a collection of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald called Gatsby Girls. This book contains some of the stories that Fitzgerald wrote for “The Saturday Evening Post,” many of which Norman Rockwell illustrated. Sometimes the cover would even feature a Rockwell illustration based on his stories.

Why is that important? I don’t know. But to me it was interesting since I enjoy a Norman Rockwell painting as much as the next person.

Anyway, back to the stories. I was thrown off at first because the first writing by Fitzgerald was not a story at all but an essay. In it, he mainly wrote about his journey as a writer and in particular his experience with short stories. It was a very insightful little gem though I did start to wonder if I’d read the book description right. It distinctly mentioned that this was the book with Fitzgerald short stories.

Not to worry though because the next item was a short story. There was a short blurb about it with some background information including when it was published. And then the story followed.
I did begin to see something that surprised me in these stories. Over and over again, they were about relationships between men and women. The women were usually rich Southern belles who were either looking for something different than the life that had grown up in or were just thrown into something different.

I also began to see how the introduction to the book was right. The person who wrote that introduction explained how Fitzgerald created all or nearly all of his heroines based on one person—his wife Zelda. She was that spoiled Southern belle but she had spunk. Maybe these stories were his attempt to figure her out. Who knows?

My favorites were “Myra Meets his Family” and “The Off Shore Pirate.” These seemed to be the most original of the lot. And I did enjoy the Rockwell illustrations even if in some spots they seemed a little strange. It might have been mostly because I am not used to illustrations in a story for adults. They did add though in helping me visual the time period and atmosphere in the stories.

The other odd thing was the placement of the illustrations. I don’t remember which story it was in particular but one of the stories had an illustration of the last scene in the story. I thought if I had been scanning through this issue and not really read that story, that photo would have given the ending away. It seemed to be a strange thing to do.

All of the stories are also divided into sections with Roman numerals telling the reader which one it was. This was helpful as most of the stories were a bit long.

Overall though, I liked reading them. I think I learned something about Fitzgerald’s process as well as the time period. If you enjoy his writing, I think you would probably enjoy this collection as well.

Contains: some sensuality

Saturday, May 9, 2015

DeWitt's Strike

DeWitt's Strike

Review of DeWitt's Strike by Greg Hunt

Overview from As they rode into the canyon called Bloody Run, Ridge Parkman heard Rafferty mutter urgently, "Here it comes."
In the narrow canyon the dynamite blast was ear-shattering. The powerful explosion hurled chunks of shattered rock at Ridge and his companion with lightning speed.
Ridge's horse squealed, whirled in panic, and went down, throwing him out of the saddle and against the canyon's rock wall ten feet away.
Ridge Parkman had signed on to fight the bandits preying on DeWitt's Strike. Now, as darkness claimed him, he wondered if he'd even live to see them.

My Review:

It is back to the Old West with DeWitt’s Strike which features one Ridge Parkman, a US Marshal in disguise, as our main character.

Parkman comes to a town know as DeWitt’s Strike in Colorado during the gold rush period. The town has been having trouble sending what gold they have been able to mine out so that the miners and other interested parties can make some money off of it.

The thieves and outlaws always seem to know when the gold will be shipped out and they promptly steal it from the wagons before they can make it out of the area. This is especially strange since it seems like there are only three or four people who are privy to that information. So Ridge, along with everyone else, wonders is someone feeding that information to the thieves or are the thieves just very observant?

That is what he aims to find out. Meanwhile he tries to keep a low profile to appear as non-threatening as possible.

The story itself is very entertaining and not too violent. I like the fact that the author puts us in the story right away rather than resorting to the back story of Ridge Parkman as a US Marshal. At first he seems like an ordinary drifter as is his intention. Only later do we discover his real purpose for coming to DeWitt’s Strike and why he wants to keep it a secret.

I’ll admit that it was a little confusing at first but the exciting beginning kept me hooked. Later my loyalty was rewarded with a great story.

I liked the characters and the mystery behind it. And it doesn’t take place in your typical Western location. I hope to continue the series at some point and I recommend it to my readers who like Westerns.

Contains: some language but not a lot

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Roswell Conspiracy

The Roswell Conspiracy: Tyler Locke 3 (An International Thriller)

Review of The Roswell Conspiracy by Boyd Morrison

Overview from After the 1908 Tunguska blast levels a Siberian forest the size of London, a Russian scientist makes an amazing discovery amongst the debris.

In 1947, ten-year-old Fay Allen of Roswell, New Mexico, witnesses the fiery crash of an extraordinary craft unlike anything she's ever seen.

More than sixty years later, former Army combat engineer Tyler Locke rescues Fay from gunmen who are after a piece of wreckage she claims is from the Roswell incident. Incredulous of her tale, Tyler believes the attack on Fay is nothing more than a burglary gone wrong. But when he finds himself locked in the back of a truck carrying a hundred tons of explosives and heading for a top secret American base, Tyler knows that he has stumbled onto the opening gambit of something more sinister than he ever imagined.

Because disgraced Russian spy Vladimir Colchev is after an Air Force prototype code-named Killswitch, an electromagnetic pulse weapon of unprecedented power. Although Tyler is able to avert catastrophe at the US facility, Colchev gets away with the bomb and plans to turn it on America itself. To complete his mission, he needs only one other key component, a mysterious object recovered from the Roswell crash.

In a desperate race against time, Tyler must unmask a conspiracy a century in the making to rescue the United States from electronic Armageddon.

My Review:

I must again apologize for not posting a review last week but I wanted to give the book I was reading a fair chance in spite of its disappointments. It turns out that I was wrong to do that. I got half way through it and wanted to scream so I stopped. Unfortunately the next book I read was even longer so I am just now posting my review.

The story begins with our main character Tyler (and his partner Grant) who has an assignment which he is only grudgingly accepting. He is in New Zealand to look at some artifacts that the elderly Faye claims to have taken away from the Roswell crash site. She also claims to have had an encounter with an alien that day and wants Tyler's help in verifying that a hunk of metal she found there came from an alien space ship.

Tyler arrives thinking he is merely there to take a look at her stuff and tell her that any test he might run will probably only yield inconclusive results. He instead hears a gun shot coming from the woman's house and must now help her get out of there and away from some would be assassins.

Thus begins the young man's quest to discover what it is about Faye Turia and her Roswell artifacts that made someone want her dead. He doesn't quite believe her story about the aliens but knows that there must be something special about what he has and after some pleading from her and her granddaughter, who also happens to be his ex girlfriend Jess, he decides that he will do what he can to find out and hopefully protect her in the process.

The plot has many twists and turns which I will not detail here. Not only am I hoping to avoid spoilers but it would also take too long. It is a very interesting story with lots of twists and turns as well as plenty of comic relief.

I particularly loved Tyler's bravado as well as his partner Grant's sense of timing and humor. You couldn't help but liking them even if they sometimes seemed a tad over the top.

In fact, I think my only disappointment in the whole story was the way things turned out for Grant. He just didn't seem to get a fair shake with his dream girl.

Other than that I loved it. And I even liked the connection with Roswell and how it was explained in the end. It all seemed very likely to have happened the way the book described it. But most important it kept me entertained the whole time. It would be really cool if they made a movie about it. As long as they didn't mess it up.

Contains: some sensuality, language