An Engineered Injustice

This fast paced thriller moves quicker than a roaring locomotive to its breathtaking conclusion.

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It has been ages since I have read good legal thrillers but this one caught my attention for multiple reasons, not the least of which was the topic of a massive train crash. Anyone keeping up with the news in the US is aware that there has been a number of Amtrak wrecks in 2018, so this book is as timely as it is captivating.

In An Engineered Injustice, one of the largest and deadliest train wrecks has just occurred and as Vaughn Coburn is frantically searching for news on his co-worker, he receives a call from cousin’s wife: his cousin was the engineer on the train. While Vaughn’s loyalty is torn between sympathizing with his injured co-worker and his duty to his family, he owes a debt to his cousin that has to be repaid. Vaughn agrees to represent Eddy, his cousin, and begins searching for the answers that Eddy, due to amnesia, cannot remember – why did Eddy plow into an obstruction on the tracks without ever applying the brakes or slowing down. As tension mounts and evidence against Eddy grows, Vaughn slowly begins to realize that there is far more to this case than a train wreck and blame. The nefarious undertones and implications will have you, the reader, turning the pages so quickly you will not stop for a break until the very end. The story is compelling, unique and, sadly, extremely plausible.

I had no idea that this was a follow-up to William Myers, Jr.’s best seller, “A Criminal Defense.” Since I haven’t been reading legal thrillers, I had not read the first book but it didn’t in any way affect my enjoyment of this book. It works fine as a stand-alone. If you enjoy thrillers of any type or legal thrillers specifically, then this is definitely a “must read.” Myers is a very successful attorney and his writing reflects his skill and knowledge. 4 out of 5 stars.

I greatly appreciate #ThomasandMercer, #Netgalley and Mr. Myers for their generosity in providing my copy of this book for review.

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Building the Great Society

It’s Wacky Wednesday here at Macsbooks, where anything goes as far as reviews. I have a pile of unread non-fiction, politically bent books that I feel I need to work my way through, one of which is Building the Great Society: Inside Lyndon Johnson’s White House.

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“We have the opportunity to move, not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.” Lyndon Johnson

I find that reading and reviewing books about recent history often is difficult for two reasons: not enough time has passed since the events themselves and our own opinions and thoughts about the event cloud our judgement. Keeping both of those things in mind, I found “Building the Great Society” to be a thoroughly documented, well written synopsis of Lyndon Johnson’s inner sanctum, his dealings with Congress at the time and ultimately what became his legacy – The Great Society Legislation.

Johnson was not a favorite president, he wasn’t even well liked at the time. He gets blamed, often, for the US involvement in Vietnam and, to an extent rightly so since it was during his tenure that the war escalated. However, this book is not about foreign policy and the Vietnam War gets very little coverage. This is about Johnson’s domestic policy for which he is not given nearly enough credit.

It is important to remember that one of the most popular presidents had been assassinated, the world, including the US, was rushing head-long into a civil rights movement that was growing more violent by the day, and the Cold War had been escalated by both Eisenhower and the USSR. All of this was placed on Johnson’s shoulders with the death of Kennedy. Building the Great Society walks us through the various pieces of legislation that, quite literally, put a grieving country back together again and through its expansion into social programs helped, not only the poor, the African Americans, but introduced the first vestiges of rights for women. As hard as it is to imagine or remember, prior to the 1960s, women were not allowed to have their own bank accounts, own their own property without having a man – husband, father, uncle – SOME MALE – cosign with them. When we think of domestic policy in the 60s, the very basic human rights that we take for granted today, simply did not exist then. Sadly, far too many Americans assume those rights always have and always will exist for all. Clearly, they have not and will not.

I never was a fan of Johnson when I was younger. It is only recently – visiting his library, reading books such as this one – that I have come to understand his, and his wife’s, contribution to America. Whether you like him or not, know nothing about his presidency or simply would like to know more, I highly recommend Building the Great Society. It is a thorough and unbiased look at the Johnson years.

Much appreciation to the author, Joshua Zeitz, #Netgalley and #Penguin-Viking Press for my copy of this book.

 

 

The Lost for Words Bookshop

Happy Publication Day to The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland!

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All the stars for The Lost for Words Bookshop and Loveday Cardew!

“God, I don’t love much but I love words.”
― Stephanie Butland, Lost For Words

There are times when certain characters in a book are so vivid, so real that you want those characters to be in your life forever – in the real world and not just books. Loveday Cardew is one of those brilliant characters. Loveday is flawed, she is hurt, she is sarcastic and definitely a loner, but her soul reaches out through the pages and grabs your heart fiercely and does not let go! Not since Eleanor Oliphant have I felt so strongly about a fictional character. And yes, I know there are comparisons between Eleanor and Loveday, but they are very different and so are the two books.

Loveday has experienced more heartache in her short life than most experience in a lifetime. She finds solace and refuge in an old bookstore and through the owner, Archie, who becomes like a father to her, not that she needs one, you understand. Loveday needs nothing and no one except BOOKS. Despite her introversion, she has attracted two very dissimilar men and their stories are enfolded with Loveday’s as well. She has secrets, dark secrets, that she has kept hidden since she was a child. Now, with the arrival of a box of books on their bookstore steps, those secrets are threatening to be revealed. As we learn of Loveday’s past, as the secrets are revealed, we realize that either they will kill her – literally – or through their revelation she will grow.

The story is told from within Loveday’s amazingly quirky, sardonic mind in three parts – the far past, the past and the present. The back and forth of these timetables can get, at times, confusing but not so much to detract from the overall telling of the story. There are marvelous references to books throughout that obviously will delight any true bibliophile. In fact, the entire book – its prose, the references, the chapter headings and the bookshop itself – are like manna for a book lover’s soul.

The Lost for Words Bookshop is a narrative, not a suspense or thriller. Its story unfolds slowly but eloquently. If you don’t read any other book this summer, I would suggest this one as your must read. Loveday will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

My thanks to Netgalley, St. Martin’s Press and Stephanie Butland for the opportunity to read this incredible book.

The Last Time I Lied

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On this middle of the year Monday, the true “mayhem” in the Midwest is the weather! Record-breaking heat and humidity is everywhere here. Luckily for me that means staying indoors and reading – no gardening or yardwork in this weather! Always a plus, right?

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The Last Time I Lied is the second Sager thriller that has had me on the edge of my seat, turning pages through the night unable to stop reading. It is a non-stop thrill ride from start to finish! While the first, Final Girls, was a bit campy and reminded me a bit of a 1980s horror movie – which I still loved – The Last Time I Lied is far meatier, the plot deeper and the characters much more defined.

In this tale, we find Emma Davis, another lone survivor of a tragedy in which the three other girls in her summer camp cabin disappeared without a trace.

Fifteen years later, Emma is haunted by their disappearance and the lies that she told that summer – half truths, omissions and actual falsehoods. Now Emma is being invited back to the re-opening of the camp, this time as a teacher and counselor. In order to put the past to rest, she agrees to go to the camp, but the secrets that are buried there do not want to be put to rest – not until the truth is told.

Sager is a master thrill writer whose words come to vivid life off of the page. There are times when it appears as though the dialogue will veer onto the cheesy side, but with one stroke of a pen, it stays on track and the reader is, once again, heading into the unknown and unforeseeable. I admit that rarely am I fooled by a suspense novel, but the ending of The Last Time I Lied left me flabbergasted. It was not a ridiculous twist just for the sake of a twist, but it was something that I had not seen coming – and should have! That made the ending even better!

I can safely recommend this one to all who love suspense, thrillers or a fun summer read. I know that Sager’s books, definitely, will be on my “go-to” reading list in the future.  Watch for The Last Time I Lied in bookstores and in your library on July 3, 2018.

The Machine Stops

“Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from that disturbing element – direct observation. Do not learn anything about this subject of mine – the French Revolution. Learn instead what I think that Enicharmon thought Urizen thought Gutch thought Ho-Yung thought Chi-Bo-Sing thought Lafcadio Hearn thought Carlyle thought Mirabeau said about the French Revolution.”
― E.M. Forster, The Machine Stops

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The first thing you will notice when reading E.M Forster’s “The Machine Stops,” is how eerily real it seems for a Science Fiction novella. You may even ask yourself “what is all of the hype about machines when they are all around us?” That is because you are reading this book today, 2018, but it was written over 100 years ago! While many hail Wells and Bradbury for their insightful vision into the future, here is Forster describing with inexplicable accuracy a cell phone, the internet, holographic imagery, 3D printers and, most frightening of all, the destruction of the earth due to climate change. Remember, this is prior to the ill-effects of the Industrial Revolution. Ahhh, if only people had read and learned.

In the story we find Vashti, who is sealed in a square room where all of her needs are met with the touch of a button. Air quality, nourishment, entertainment and, most telling of all, communication. Not that she is often bothered with real communication because she doesn’t have time for it. She is too busy punching buttons, moving her information around, reading all that The Machine provides. There is no need for religion any longer – the Machine provides the answer to everything. Long Live the Machine.

Of course, as with anything that man has created, man must also maintain and that includes The Machine. But man, having to do nothing, where even lifting a real book is too strenuous for the atrophied arms, also becomes a bit atrophied and the machine glitches. What will happen to this perfect world then?

While many who read this book are astonished at the degree of technology that Forster created, I was mesmerized by the clarity in which he “predicted” human behavior. People no longer traveled for pleasure – there was no point when pictures on their screens were better, clearer than real life. They no longer actually read books but read what others wrote about the books – aaaahhh, not too different from here, wouldn’t you agree? In the end, they no longer relied on the “truth,” but rather another person’s version of the truth – even yet, the more interpretations of an event, the better. After all, an eyewitness to an event might actually be too easily influenced by the event itself. Perhaps the politicians of today actually did the novella and that is where they got the idea of “fake news,” for what is Facebook and other social media outlets if not the re-telling of the story through multiple sources?

Sadly, the story – like real life – does not end well. I cannot help but wonder if anyone who reads the book today sees the reality of their own fate on these pages. What happens to mankind when The Machine Stops?

This is a short novella; it took me a few hours to read at the most. I encourage you to download it – it is available for free from multiple sources. It truly is remarkable.

The Cyprus Papers

The Cyprus Papers is a fast paced thriller that you will not want to put down until you know the ending….

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For this week’s Southern/Midwest Saturday, I bring you a new author: C.W. Bordener. Bordener is originally from Chicago, studied in my home state of Indiana and now resides in D.C. where he is a financial consultant. His financial expertise is very apparent in his writing which is interesting and intriguing. Bordener is to financial espionage what Grisham was to legal thrillers in his early days.

In The Cyprus Papers, financial consultant Emily is tasked with the financial forensics of a political rising star – a Congressman who is prepping for a run for the White House. However, in doing due diligence, Emily soon discovers a paper trail with deadly results. Every where she turns, she is one step behind a mastermind killer. With her life in tatters, she has two choices – give up and give in or follow the trail to its ultimate, and deadly, conclusion.

This was a quick read for me since I refused to put it down until I was finished. There is a lot of political drama and references to world events that contained a lot of information but Bordener writes this in such a way to make it fascinating rather than overwhelming. There were details revolving around DC were spot on, something that writers who do not live in the beltway have a difficult time mastering. These details helped, not only to flesh out Emily’s character, but to bring the book to life in a very real, salient manner. This topic is very current – from the Panama Papers to the Cypriot international money laundering schemes – The Cyprus Papers very much mirrors today’s reality. If you enjoy espionage, political intrigue or well written, fast paced thriller, then you definitely will enjoy The Cyprus Papers.

 

In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills

“In Rwanda, they have a word ….: Amahoro. It means peace, but so much more.” 

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Jennifer Haupt writes of the word “Amahoro” often when she is writing about Rwanda. It means a quest for peace, the type of peace that comes within your soul, your essence, when you have truly forgiven someone and now are at rest with the past. It is a difficult state to achieve, much more difficult if you have been through trauma, but it is this peace, the quest for it and the journey taken along the way, that is at the heart of In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills. 

This is the tale primarily of Rachel who, after surviving a miscarriage and the death of her mother, feels the need to seek out her estranged father. a photojournalist living in Rwanda. However, it is also about the women of the villages, the aide workers, her father’s new wife who runs an orphanage in Rwanda and about their commonality of grief. Through the story we learn about the horror, the genocide, that occurred in Rwanda in the 1990s, and we learn how difficult it is to put your life back together after such a massive trauma – but also that trauma, no matter how great or small – binds us all together in a very unique way. It is that link that should open our eyes to the horrors we are causing every single day.

10,000 Hills is not meant to be a documentary of the genocide in Rwanda. It is an opportunity for many readers, all over the world, to learn a bit more about this travesty and, through this knowledge, hopefully, to seek out more resources. That is what I adore about world fiction- it whets the appetite to know more. Many who read this never will have heard of Rwanda, nor will they know about the genocide there. Through a beautiful story they will learn. It is the first step.

The tale itself is marvelously written, the prose is beautiful. It is one of those rare books that opens up both another world outside of my “American concepts” as well as nudges me in the direction to seek out my own peace, to be a better person.

Kudos to Haupt for an excellent book that should be read by all. May we and the world seek and experience Amahoro.

Thank you, also, to Jennifer Haupt and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this incredible piece of work.