Book Reviews, Murderous Mondays

Bone on Bone #JuliaKeller

I wasn’t sure what to think after Fast Falls the Night, Julia Keller’s stunning book about 24 hours in a rust belt town forced to cope with the mounting, egregious death toll from tainted drug overdoses. The protagonist, Bell Elkins, and her town, were left shattered and broken with a deputy fighting for his life and Bell making the decision to confess to a crime she only recently remembered was her fault. I had no idea how, or even if, the series could continue. Bone on Bone, puts the pieces back together and, like things that have been broken, it never will be same but, thankfully, the pieces are there.

iu

As always, Keller’s writing is superb and her characters are brilliantly and realistically drawn. There are few series characters with whom I identify with more than I do than Bell Elkins. While this book is much slower, not nearly as much action as those in the past, it was needed in order to serve as a bridge from what was to what will be in the future of the series. If you haven’t read Keller’s books before, then I suggest you start at the beginning. If you are a fan, then one is not to be missed!

Advertisements
History-Political Science, Non-Fiction but totally readable

Howard Zinn’s Southern Diary- Banned Book Week

It’s banned book week – a week in the US where we celebrate the beauty and truth in the books that others found controversial. There are few American authors, in recent years, who has been questioned and banned more often in our schools than Howard Zinn.

definition_if

Howard Zinn’s Southern Diary is a compilation of entries from Zinn’s journal  that he wrote while he was teaching at Spelman College in Georgia during the winter/spring of 1963-64. This is, of course, during the rising strength of the Civil Rights Movement with Georgia being at the hub of the student activism. Being an activist himself, his years at the college allowed him a closeness to the student activists across Georgia and, ultimately, the south. While Zinn wrote about his time at Spelman in a previous publication, it was only after his death when his papers were opened and released that his journal was discovered. Through his writings, one can see how Zinn was instrumental in bringing about legal social change that he had hoped would lead to a different mindset regarding racial interaction and racism as a whole.

Howard-Zinns-Southern-Diary-199x300

In truth, Howard Zinn is one of my favorite authors. There are few of his works that I haven’t read. His book, A People’s History of US, was and still is a mainstay in our home and was used to teach US history in our homeschool. It is often banned in schools when parents discover that it is a truthful account of this nation’s very sordid history rather than simply perpetuating the  myths with which Americans have been indoctrinated by the white elite. His writings always are an unvarnished, well documented commentary on our nation and its people and this diary certainly is no different. It is a tough, truthful look at the deep south and the struggle for African Americans to gain the freedoms that all Americans should enjoy without question. It is a personal account of the protests, marches and sit-ins that were occurring during this time. Having lived through this period and later as a protestor who has campaigned for equal rights for all, it was especially interesting to see our experiences retold. However, the message throughout his book is this: the struggle has not ended, racism in America still is rampant and, sadly, it is growing in fervor once again.

If there is one point that I want to convey in this review it is this: this is not your average non-fiction book, none of Zinn’s books are that. They are written with the average person in mind, they are readable and always they are eye opening and enlightening.

I highly encourage you to read Howard Zinn’s Southern Diary and afterward to pick up a copy of A People’s History of the US. I guarantee you that you will be shocked and will understand why educators are fighting to have it taught in their schools and, conversely, whey the anti-intellectuals do not want it there at all. It is a great read for Banned Book Week 2018.

Huge appreciation to the University of Georgia Press, #RobertCohen and #Edelweiss for my review copy of this amazing book!

Domestic Noir/Thriller, Fiction, Uncategorized

Pieces of Her @KarinSlaughter

Different is good, and this book IS GOOD!

PIECES+OF+HER+United+States

I am a Karin Slaughter fan. I thought a few of her previous books were graphically violent just for the sheer shock value, but Slaughter remains a masterful story-teller. I also like her stand-alone books better than her series. While I adore Amanda and Will, too much more of Sarah’s perfection would make me ill. Every book has a reader for them and those who adore Slaughter’s series most likely will find this book too different for their tastes. I, however, loved it. Aside from Cop Town, Pieces of Her is my favorite Slaughter book.

Slaughter creates a scenario that is plausible. Not every woman in America is a ball of fury, strong and has their life together. I live in the “rust belt” where there are very few strong, “life-together” women and most of the 20-30 year old women that I know are exactly like Andrea. They are struggling, never have been made to stand on their own two feet and, barring some major life-altering event, this is exactly the way they will stay. A handful of the women in their 50’s are exactly like Laura. I know because I am one of them. We marched, we rallied, we protested and we fought. Not all of us have had a personal experience with a “cult” but we knew people who did and we personally saw far too many of them in the news. Now, we are mothers, lead boring lives but there are pieces of us that are not like other people. We want change but we live in a world that is different now. Our kids don’t understand us – they think they do – but they don’t. They can’t. They didn’t experience Watergate, Vietnam, the PLO, the SLO, Beirut, Civil Rights and more. We fought so they wouldn’t have to – maybe they should have to! Which is, to an extent, the point of this story! I think many missed it. They wanted a good crime novel. They wanted a good guy and a bad guy. This, however, is a story that can teach you something if you try just as Cop Town did.

If you’ve already made up your mind to only like Slaughter’s very safe series, then this is not the book for you. IF, however, you would like to have your mind opened, explore a different perspective of a different time and era; IF you understand that growth comes from change – and Andrea did grow – then this is a book for you. I remain a Slaughter fan and I am a fan of this book!

Fiction, Uncategorized, Women's Fiction-Interests

Kickdown by #RebeccaClaren

A hard, unvarnished look at America’s west during this modern era of climatic change.

514iELk6UlL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

I appear to be making my way across the US as I read book after book concerning the middle regions of the nation – and let me tell you, the view is not a happy one. From Julia Keller’s horrifying, tale of the meth/opioid epidemic in West Virginia, to Stephen Markley’s book, Ohio, which examines the travesty of the “rust belt, I now have arrived in Colorado with Kickdown, a book that examines the hard decisions facing ranchers in America’s west.

When Jackie Dunbar’s father dies, she leaves medical school to return home to their family ranch. What she finds is a nightmare: the ranch is in disrepair and on the verge of bankruptcy; her sister is in the throes of a breakdown and everywhere she turns she sees the oil and gas companies raping the land. Jackie immediately begins work on the ranch in an attempt to bring it back to life. However, there is a “kickdown” at one of the gas wells nearby and Jackie’s world is immediately and irrevocably changed. A kickdown, by the way, is a build of gas in a well which sets off an explosion into the air which sends firebombs and noxious gas into the atmosphere.

Kickdown is the debut novel for Rebecca Clarren but it doesn’t read like one. The imagery and prose are intoxicating, the story is taut and vividly told. It is a tale of the growing economic crisis in the US and those who are affected by it most harshly – the people who have worked the land: ranchers, farmers, blue-collar workers. The book examines the tough reality of choosing between the land that you dearly love and the offers from corporations, gas hacks and others who have taken over the land in order to make a quick buck. Admittedly, I am not a fan of those who do this. However, Clarren walks a fine line of presenting both sides fairly well, perhaps too well for someone like me. I wanted more of a defining moment, a bigger stand against those who destroy the land; what we are given is, basically, what those who live in these areas are confronted with every day: a balance between loving the land and surviving. That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book, I did very much, and because it is not polarizing I’m sure that it will reach a larger audience.

If you are a fan of character driven novels, those that are told slowly, deliberately and quite fully, then I’m sure you enjoy Kickdown.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #RebeccaClarren and #IngramPublisherServices for my copy of this book.

 

 

Children's Reads

The Lying King by #AlexBeard

“A runt who wanted to be a huge pig…”

51Xr4tYUArL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_

The Lying King, wordplay noted, is  wonderfully illustrated, hilariously told modern-day fable about a warthog who wanted to be king. He made promises he couldn’t keep, told lies that grew more preposterous with each telling and bullying all who got in is way. He lied to get money, questioned whether the truth was actually the truth and pitted those in the kingdom against one another to gain favor for himself.

Hmmm… why does this sound so incredibly familiar? No idea. Soon, the king’s lies catch up to him and bring about his folly. <sigh>

Written for children and obviously for adults who never learned the very important lesson that LYING is not acceptable and, ultimately, you will get caught; this book is utterly delightful for “kids” of all ages. Beard is an artist as well as a writer and his illustrations are a beautiful, captivating addition to the book. I read this out loud to guests staying with us and everyone loved it – especially the kids! It’s a perfect “lesson” book that can teach all of us the importance of the truth in this era of “fake news” and alternative facts. FIVE brilliant shiny stars for The Lying King – no lie!

I’m super happy to have received this book from #Netgalley and to #AlexBeard for his collection of children’s books. Although this was a download originally, I’m now the proud owner of his entire collection. They are too good not to own!

 

 

 

 

 

Fiction, Noir, Crime and Dark Endeavors, political thriller, Thriller

The Washington Decree

WOW – just WOW!! If there is one book that has knocked my socks off this year, it is The Washington Decree by Jussie Adler-Olsen! This is one action packed political thriller that must be read!

9781524742522_p0_v2_s550x406

Adler-Olsen is most well-known for his Nordic Noir, Department Q series, which I admit that I adore. He is an incredibly talented writer who gives depth to all of his characters and The Washington Decree is no exception. The characters are so well drawn that I, literally, had a picture in my head of what they looked like, who they reminded me of, what their next course of action might be. It was as though they were people I actually knew well.

The Washington Decree introduces us to the main characters several years before the actual story takes place. However, though this introduction, we begin to get a feel for these characters’ personalities and how closely they are tied to one another. When the actual tale begins to unfold, this background is key to the hopeful outcome in the end.

In essence, this is a story ripped from today’s headlines. A president, a wealthy businessman, is overwhelmingly elected to office. However, on election night his wife is assassinated. Overwhelmed with grief, the president initiates a series of executive decisions that will alter the foundation of America’s political, economic and constitutional foundations. The result, of course, is panic and outrage that grows worse with each day he is in office until the very (!) climactic conclusion. In case you suspect that the book is written with America’s current president for an example, keep in mind that The Washington Decree was originally written in 2006 and only now is being translated into English. In addition, the president in question is a Democrat and not a Republican. It does, however, mirror today’s current events very closely, taking them headlong to their ultimate, tumultuous outcome.

ALL US citizens are subject to arrest and imprisonment without charge in the event of a “state of emergency.” Freedom of speech and the right of assembly may be suspended and censorship of the media implemented.

Just a little something that was appended at the end of the book but is, in fact, part of the government’s right in the event of an “emergency.” It is the right that FDR used in the 30s when he shut down the banks and government while crafting his New Deal. The right to executive decision has long been part of the US Presidential powers but never used to the extent that it has been under Presidents Obama and Trump. This is the premise to the book. Its characters, their actions, the re-action of the various groups and organization in America, were so perfectly depicted that I truly believed that this could happen today, right now. It was/is a terrifying read!

The book is not without faults; it is a long book and there are passages that I thought were unnecessary to the overall theme of the book. I also felt so strongly at times about some of the political actions that I had to set the book aside until I could objectively begin reading again. Regardless of your party affiliation or nationality, remember Adler-Olsen is not American, this is an incredible, gripping read and well worth getting to the end – which will knock your socks off!! Just when you thought it was safe to come out from underneath the bed…… that ending. Just WOW! WOW-WOW!

History-Political Science, Non-Fiction but totally readable

To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment

36356199

Like a true political junkie, I devoured Laurence Tribe’s books when I was at University. God Save This Honorable Court still is one of my favorite go-to books when I am castigating the current Supreme Court. Tribe’s knowledge on the US Constitution is without rival and it is exactly for that reason that I wanted to read this book. No one knows more than Tribe about the US Constitution, the role of the Supremes and the constitutionality of our government.

From the beginning of To End A Presidency, Tribe sets out his agenda: not to convince you of the need for impeachment or to dissuade you from desiring one, but rather to inform you of the constitutionality of an impeachment against the current office holder, the history of past impeachments and why they seldom, ever, are successful.

For those Americans who are calling for impeachment, and I definitely fall into this group, this is very good resource. Tribe explains exactly what would happen, how the framers of the Constitution knew this would happen and made a guideline for it and also cautions on the timing – it is a long arduous process.

The most chilling aspect of the book is the chapter on consequences. Not since the mid-1800s, prior to the US Civil War, has America been so sharply divided. Even then, the sheer hate for our fellow Americans was not as pronounced as it is now, nor was it daily exacerbated by the media. Should there be an impeachment of a president about whom the nation feels so strongly, there will be upheaval. Tribe cautions that, unlike in the past, this is a decision that should not be made lightly nor should Americans think that their troubles will be over once the current president is impeached. Given the current heightened emotional state of Americans, there will be riots and, quite possibly, another civil war/revolution. That is not to say that impeachment should not happen. America currently is nose-diving, hurling itself, toward Fascism and the loss of our Democratic-Republic form of government. Tribe earnestly suggests that Americans take long hard look at both sides: Fascism vs Revolution/War within our own borders. As for me, I know which side I’m on. Fascism is not an option – it never has been. It never will be – no matter what the cost.

Tribe is an excellent writer who does so in much the same way that he lectures. He is easy to understand and very engaging. I highly encourage ALL Americans to read To End a Presidency, be informed, know and understand what is at stake and, above all, to stop sticking your head in the sand, refusing to see what is happening in this country – on both sides.