This is Elise Cooper's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Elise Cooper's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Elise Cooper
Recent Activity
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition shows the evolution of the character created in 1933 by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. They sold Superman to Detective Comics, the future DC Comics, in 1938. This book shows why Superman has maintained his appeal from generation to generation. The book features over 19 stories and essays including a forward by Paul Levitz, an introduction by Laura Siegel Larson (Jerry Siegel’s daughter) and other pieces by Jules Feiffer, Tom DeHaven, Marv Wolfman, David Hajdu, Larry Tye and Gene Luen Yang. There is also a section with cover highlights and full biographies at the end. The comic stories include the first comic, “The Mystery of The Freight Train Robberies” to “The Super-Duel In Space,” and ending with “The Game” written in April 2018. There are also stories that explore the relationship between Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and Superman as well as some cameo appearances by some famous figures including President John F. Kennedy. Readers are treated to comics that explore the origins of Supergirl, Brainiac, the Fortress of Solitude, as well as a previously unpublished 1940s Superman tale believed to be written by Jerry Siegel with art by the Joe Shuster studio, salvaged fifty years ago and hidden away. Along with this book, people can also purchase the 1000thedition, making Superman the first comic book to reach that highlight. Below is an interview with Larry Tye who wrote the essay in the book, Endurance.He is a journalist and author of many biographies including Bobby Kennedy, Satchel Paige, and the Man of Steel, entitled The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero. Elise Cooper: How has Superman changed over the years regarding his appearance and the enemies he has faced, which includes politicians? Larry Tye: Superman has evolved more than the fruit fly. In the 1930s he was just the crime fighter we needed to take on Al Capone and the robber barons. In the forties, he defended the home front while brave GIs battled overseas. Early in the Cold War he stood up taller than ever for his adopted country, while in its waning days he tried singlehandedly to eliminate nuclear stockpiles. For each era, he zeroed in on the threats that scared us most, using powers that grew or diminished depending on the need. So did his spectacles, hair style, even his job title. Each generation had the Superman it needed and deserved. Each change offered a Rorschach test of the pulse of that time and its dreams. Superman, always a beacon of light, was a work in progress. EC: What influences has Superman been on comics, movies, and TV shows? LT: Over the years comics have been transformed – from childhood entertainment to art form to mythology – and Superman helped drive that transformation. The comic book and its leading man could only have taken root in America. What could be more U.S.A. than an orphaned outsider who arrives in this land of immigrants, reinvents himself, and reminds us that we can reach for the sky?Yet today this flying Uncle Sam is both global and multi-media in his reach, having written himself into the national folklore from Beirut to Buenos Aires. It is that constancy and purity – knowing that he is not merely the oldest of our superheroes, but the most transcendent – that has reeled back aging devotees like me and drawn in new ones like my daughter. It is what makes the Man of Tomorrow timeless as well as ageless. EC: Do you think the aviation's golden age influenced having Superman fly? LT: I think it has less to do with what was happening in the real world of aviation than in the heads of his creators. Superman was a man of the world, perennially on call and needing to dash to wherever Lois Lane and others required his help. Flying would have made that easier and would become his trademark, but it did not happen overnight in the comic books or strips. The most he could manage in 1938 was leaping an eighth of a mile and outracing an express train. Two years later, after what must have been intense training, he could vault into and beyond the stratosphere, outrace an airplane, and run a mile in a scant second. By 1942 he could run at the speed of light and outpace an electric current. But still no take-off. There were hints it was coming in a single frame of a story in May 1943, when his jump looked like he might be taking flight, and he did, finally and irrefutably, that October in Action Comics’ “Million-Dollar Marathon” story. “Let’s see ya fly!” adoring boys at Children’s Hospital yelled to Superman, and so he did, telling them, “I’ll be back for a real visit pretty soon! Up – up – and away!” EC: I noticed in the first Superman issue there was a comment, "You're not fighting a woman," and in the comic “Superman and The Teen Titans,” Wonder Girl says to him, "Nowadays us liberated ladies don't take much to being called inferior by a man." Do you think women's issues also played a role? LT: Yes, and that was especially apparent with the launch of a comic that let women and girls see a Superman-like character created in their own image. The fellow Kryptonian who gave Superman the greatest joy, and the most sleepless nights, was his cousin Kara Zor-El, known on Earth as Supergirl. It took until 1959 to launch her as a character, when we quickly got the full story. The Maid of Steel, who would get her own comic book, gave Superman a blood relative and fellow outsider with whom he could let down his defenses. If youths of all stripes embraced Superboy,... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Lost Pilots by Corey Mead combines an adventure story, a tragic love story, and a crime story into one narrative. It has it all: a fascinating look back into the early days of aviation, a love triangle, bringing back to prominence Jessie Keith-Miller, a female pioneer pilot, and a murder trial. The story begins in 1927, when World War I pilot, Captain William Lancaster and Jessie Keith-Miller take off from London, aspiring to complete a record-breaking flight to Australia, the first in a light plane. Although they were basically strangers, they bonded over their desire for adventure, fame, and escape from unhappy marriages. There are many scenes that underscore the dangers of flying during those early days. Having crashed numerous times it became obvious that weather was a character, an enemy with its slashing rain and battering crosswinds, sleet, and fog that could easily bring down these light planes. After successfully completing the flight, they found they were international celebrities, but also deeply in love. The spotlight takes them from Australia to New York to Hollywood. Their celebrity status is exploited, yet as lovers they must fall under the radar since both are still married. Making matters worse the crash of 1929 causes them financial problems. Their lives were influenced by the era, having lived through World War I, the Roaring 20s, and the Great Depression. Mead believes the effect of “WWI taught that generation how to cheat death. They became free-spirits, wanting to escape the Victorian upbringing. I also wanted to show how there was huge bias against female flyers. Jessie was probably a better pilot than Lancaster. But living in the Roaring Twenties also helped her because it was a time where women became more independent and started to enter the male-dominated world.” Since the depression dried up any commercial flying possibilities, Jessie participates in the Women’s Air Derby, rooming with Amelia Earhart, while Lancaster seeks other flying adventures. Still in need of money Jessie decides to write her autobiography with Haden Clark as her ghostwriter. Having been granted a divorce she accepts Clark’s marriage proposal. After returning to Miami where Jessie and Clark lived, Lancaster became devastated when told of the couple’s plans. That night Clark is found dead of a gunshot wound. Was it murder or suicide? A riveting and scandalous trial ensues that ultimately costs Jessie her fame as she stands by Lancaster. Mead noted, “The entire court room case was presented verbatim in the Miami newspapers. It covered not only the trial but also Jessie’s and Lancaster’s background. I was able to draw a pretty complete picture of their lives from the newspapers at the time, their diaries/writings, and talking with his great nephew. What I discovered was that it was similar to today’s sensational court cases where tragedy and misfortune are exploited for entertainment as the public’s hunger is fed.” This book combines the daring days of the early aviators with a passionate love story. A true story of adventure, forbidden love, fame, fortune, tragedy, scandal, and loyalty. Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Gale Forceby Owen Laukkanen is a realistic story where readers take the journey with the characters as they board the ship, and feel the splash of the waves. It is an attest to the author’s writing style he is able to make an intense adventure story of a maritime salvage operation. The author based the story on “The wreck at the center of the tale is based on the real-life saga of the Cougar Ace, which did in fact capsize near the Aleutian Islands. You’re so isolated on the water, and at the mercy of very powerful forces of nature. The potential for conflict and action is always there. It’s just such a different environment from anything any of us is really used to, in particular in really remote places like the Aleutian Islands or the Arctic Ocean.” The plot has McKenna Rhodes inheriting the Gale Force, a salvage boat, after her father died in violent weather on the open seas. Hearing about a salvage operation, she and the crew decide to attempt a rescue of a freighter, the Pacific Lion, which has turned over on its side during a horrific storm. A stowaway who has stolen fifty million in bonds from a Japanese gangster hampers them along with other salvage tugs. After finally getting a contract from the insurance company McKenna and crew can earn $30 million for saving the ship and its property. She is smart, brave, beautiful, and wants to prove that she is able to navigate this male-dominated world. He describes her, “I wanted to write a character that is daunted by the magnitude and responsibility of being a captain. I based her insecurities on a lot of people I met that worked on the water and are aware that if a mistake is made people’s lives are at stake; thus, constant worriers. Also, when I was on a train going from Seattle to Los Angeles I met this single mother from Idaho. In order to feed her four children, she started a trucking company. I thought she would make a good character for a story since trucking like tugboats is a male dominated boys club. She told me how she struggled with men who tried breaking contracts because they objected to a woman trying to make inroads. I wanted to show how McKenna also struggles with this. Both were seen as a small fish in a big pond.” Another character in the book is the ocean the alternates between playing an antagonist and a protagonist. “I wanted to write it as an ever-present threat. Every second the crew spends on the ship they must realize that the ocean could suddenly turn on them. The main characters love the ocean and feel at home around it. They are attracted to it; yet, at any moment it could destroy them. One day the ocean is beautiful and calm, while the next day a storm can pick up, showing the ocean’s anger, basically eating someone alive. The environment is as unpredictable as any human character in the book.” The first in a new series starts out with a splash, not a drizzle. It is a riveting and intense action-filled story with very well-developed characters. Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Alex and Elizahas taken the world by storm. Whether the play by Lin-Manuel Miranda or the novels by Melissa De La Cruz, people are craving for more information about the Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza Schuyler. The first in the series, Alex and Eliza, and its sequel,Love & War,emphasize the romance more than the historical, as the author brings to life the love story of these two Revolutionary figures. Melissa wants to emphasize, “Alex is a creation based on an historical figure. I consider him someone I made up from the real person. These are characters. They may be historical figures, but they are also characters of my imagination. I think that Alexander Hamilton never went by the name ‘Alex.’ There is no way Eliza would call him ‘Alex’, and more likely called him Mr. Hamilton till the day he died.” In the first book, Alex and Eliza,the plot spans the years from when they first met in 1777 to their marriage in 1780. Because there is not much information about Eliza, the author had to take liberties to construct a story that was somewhat accurate, weaving together fact and fiction. Hamilton is seen as a smitten dashing knight who sweeps the princess, Eliza, off her feet. But it is also a Prince and the Pauper story since Hamilton was an orphan who did not have a name or financial means. The bright, ambitious, but penniless Hamilton is drawn to practical Eliza, falling deeply in love. His prestige comes from being the aide-de-camp to General George Washington. Eliza is seen as a strong-willed, sharp-tongued, sarcastic, and intelligent woman. She wants to marry for love, not prestige and wealth, but will not go against her parent’s wishes. A book quote shows how powerless women were during those times, “It is a cliff, a drop into some unfathomably deep and foggy abyss… a shipwreck.” Yet, in the end, love wins out, and her parents accept Hamilton as a suitable husband. She wanted to write it as a perfect American fairy tale. "Elizabeth (Eliza) was the princess coming from one of the most prestigious and richest New York families. Then there was Alexander Hamilton, a handsome, brilliant, brave, and charming war hero who had no name and no money. I thought about how someone like him could marry someone like her.” Readers will get a glimpse of the time period: how they dress, eat, and live are described in great detail. For example, a scene in the book has Eliza helping to inoculate Washington’s troops with a smallpox vaccine. Fiction, Eliza did not have a hand in it, while, the truth is that the soldiers were inoculated. Another factual scene has a description of Eliza’s dress, with “skirt, underskirt, petticoat, slip, and ankle-length, form-fitting pantaloons.” Melissa, “I am fascinated with the time period including the architecture, dress, and what they ate. What I wanted to do is find the facts and then incorporate them into scenes of the books. I myself tried to understand who they were, how they lived, and how they partied. I enjoyed finding the details that helps to bring this story to life.” The second book in the series, Love & War, by Melissa De La Cruz has the Revolutionary War still prominent, although it is coming to an end. This story shows the struggles of early married life as Alexander Hamilton is trying to make a name for himself to prove himself worthy, while Eliza is trying to make her way into high society. The story delves into the same problem many young couples face, even today, how Alexander Hamilton has a burning ambition, and Eliza is trying to find her place in this world. At first, he was off to war, leaving his newly wed bride with her family, and then at the war’s conclusion he starts up his law practice, spending long hours, and basically neglecting his wife. Unlike the first book, this one does have more of a balance between romance and history. It delves into the topics of unemployment, financial crises, and the political divide. As a lawyer, he took on many loyalist clients, arguing for reconciliation and challenged the laws that penalized them. The story touches on the three views of political thought for this young nation: Hamilton believes in a strong central government; Jefferson’s belief is a middle ground of limited government except for national security, and those like Governor George Clinton who wants each state to have absolute control. With a quote that is relevant today, the author shows the divide among Americans, “We will only stand if we learn to accept and even embrace each other’s differences rather than allow them to divide us.” The case he argues is based on many similar cases. "I found out he became known after the Revolution as someone who defended those loyal to the Crown. After the War, many wanted to take the Loyalists’ property and position. He had the foresight to know that to be the United States of America everyone had to be a part of this country.” Readers get a glimpse into the real personality of Eliza. How Hamilton is growing to depend on her as his psychological anchor, where she views his enemies as hers. There is a fictional scene in the book where she calls out Governor Clinton as she defends her husband, “This man whose hand I hold and whose ring I share put his life on the line for this country over and over…” This is a very similar tone to what actually happened when she told former President James Monroe, “If you come to tell me you repent, that you are sorry, very sorry, for the misrepresentations and the slanders and the stories you circulated against... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Agency by Australian author James Phelan is making a big splash here in the United States. Anyone who likes the action continuing at a harrowing pace will enjoy this story. There is also enough fun dialogue between the characters to put a smile on readers’ faces. This prequel introduces Jed Walker, a former Lt. Colonel in the Air Force who has decided to join the CIA. The reason for a prequel, “I wanted to challenge myself since this is the first prequel I have ever written. I think it is more of a suspense novel than a thriller. I hope to show how Jed is personally driven, wanting to hunt down the bad targets. This gave me the opportunity to explain why Jed decided to move from the military to the CIA. All the Jed Walker books written to date will be released this year. They were tied up for awhile with my previous publishers who had first right of refusal. They dragged their feet and held things up for a couple of years. Now we have the rights back. Although it is the fifth book in the series, Americans will be able to read them in order.I am working on the sixth book currently.” Set in 2005, after completing his rigorous training with the CIA’s Special Activities Division in Virginia, Walker’s assigned mission is to exchange code phrases with a male contact. But just as the meeting is to occur, a British intelligence agent, Steph Mensch warns him of a set-up. After neutralizing the threat, he and Steph join forces to find a secret weapon that the Russians are looking to buy for hundreds of millions of dollars from a Blackwater-like private security firm. They must go off mission, operating in New Orleans, instead of overseas. Besides all the bad guys to contend with they must also deal with the hurricane that is barreling down. Interestingly, Steph is introduced in the prequel, but does not appear in the other four books. “I will definitely have her back in another book. I think she is intelligent, funny, and very persuasive. I based her on an actress in the British series, Luther. She has red hair and this is how I picture Steph. The other person I based her on is Stella Rimington, the first female director of MI5, the British FBI who is also a thriller writer. She worked her way up as an officer. I used my friend Stella as a model for Steph’s career. The book out in 2019 takes place about ten years from when this one took place. I am thinking of having Steph and Jed team up again if not this book, maybe the next one. It might be interesting to have them back together since the last of the five books already written, Dark Heart, has Jed back with his wife Eve, a family man living on a Texas ranch with a baby on the way.” The hurricane plays a strong role because it made such an impression on Phelan. “I have family in the US where we have visited since 1980. I remember when we had a family trip in 1989 across the US. We were chased by Hurricane Hugo. I have vivid memories of how we drove in the car and couldn’t see out of the windshield, even with the wipers on at full whack. As we drove, we saw how the rivers swelled over.” An intense story where the action never stops. Readers are able to get a good grip on what makes Jed Walker tick by reading all five books in order. Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Shattered Mirrorby Iris Johansen is a paranormal thriller with a tease of romance. What makes this book stand out is that the good guys/gals are actually good and the bad guys are pure evil, without any grey area. Eve Duncan, a forensic sculptor, has the job of reconstructing skulls for recognition. At her Georgia home, left in Joe, her husband’s car, is a package with a skull burnt beyond recognition. Also, inside are two mirrors, one intact and one shattered. It is threat sent to Eve that her family is currently intact, but will be shattered as this killer goes after them one by one. This villain has set up a complex plan to get revenge by first going to New York’s Carnegie Tech where Eve’s ward, 18-year-old violin prodigy Cara Delaney, and her roommate, former child actress Darcy Nichols, have residence. After Cara is attacked in their room Jock Gavin comes to her rescue. He is someone designated to be Cara’s protector, but also became her best-friend. With danger looming, Cara and Darcy agree to visit with Eve, Jo, and Michael their six-year-old son. After their arrival, it becomes apparent there is more than just a casual resemblance between Darcy and the skull, which turns out to be Darcy’s twin sister, Sylvie. Eve and her team must work quickly to discover who is behind that murder and threats against her family before the killer destroys all she holds dear. She had the profession as a forensic sculptor because “I think it is honorable what she does. Most of the time the work is done when a person cannot be identified. After the restoration, it is used to circulate a picture for the public to possibly recognize who was that person. Another important aspect is the ability to give closure. Their loved one can have a sense of who they were before the horrific act was committed. I think Cara’s roommate Darcy went through that process with her twin sister Sylvie.” The paranormal plays a significant role in this novel. There are many characters who can communicate telepathically with each other or those who have died. Eve is able to connect with two of her birth children, Bonnie who lost her life, and Michael who is the joy of Eve’s life. They can communicate their thoughts without any sensory perception. The twins, Darcy and Sylvie were also able to do this before Sylvie’s death, and it appears they can do it in some form after her death. Being fascinated with the paranormal the author feels “it reaches beyond the scope of what we know and what we dream of or can hope for. But my paranormal is never a horror story like what Stephen King writes. The family is trying to keep their young son Michael just a kid, but it is getting harder and harder because Michael is Michael. I do like to keep his talents a surprise, both for me and my readers because it’s more fun that way. Because he is different it presents a whole new world.” As in all Johansen books family plays an important role. Eve and Joe have unconditional love for those children conceived at birth and those who became a part of the family formed by love not blood relations. Johansen commented, “Most of my books involve family because I really believe in family. Eve and those around her circle the wagons when one is threatened. Joe Quinn is now a detective with the Atlanta Police Department. I made him a former SEAL because they are tough, smart, and have incredible endurance with a complicated lifestyle, especially after he becomes involved with Eve. It is a very cold world out there but they all realize as a family they can get through anything. In my family, we are making an effort to be like the one in the TV show Blue Bloods. At least once a week we get together and make sure we are not all scattered to the four winds. It is important that we stay together.” This story is highly suspenseful with interesting, witty, and intelligent characters. The killer is a psychopath who does not worry about collateral damage or the gruesome ways he goes about murdering people. Readers will be on edge as they take a journey with Eve and family to find to the killer before he catches them. Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Dead Girl Runningby Christina Dodd is a sprint read, a fast-paced page-turner. Those who liked her Virtue Fallsnovels will love this first book of a new series. It does not have the paranormal element or much romance, but the mystery is action-packed. The novella is an introduction to the book, explaining Kellen’s time in Afghanistan, how she sustained the injury for a medical discharge, and how she recovered. In addition, the novella storyline introduces readers to the Monument Men that searched for artifacts taken by the Nazis. Kellen works with General Lawrence Slater in trying to find some famous paintings hidden in a German cave. This leads into the book plot and explains some of Kellen’s backstory. Dodd introduced this special organization in the short-story, but it plays a significant role in the book. “I wrote about this because what they did was fascinating. It was an organization that was actually part of the Army during WWII. They were going around trying to save European art. I believe they were de-commissioned in 1946. I just brought them back through the character Nils Brooks. The terrorists are really looting and selling artifacts on the black market to fund their causes. Maybe the government will get an idea from this story.” In the novel, there are two mysteries the main character, Kellen, is trying to solve: what happened during an earlier year of her life, after she was shot in the head, losing her memory for that period of time, and in current time, trying to discover who killed a woman found buried without her hands. Hired as an assistant manager of a remote vacation resort, Yearning Sands, she uses her former military skills to find the culprits. The intenseness of the backstory is very well developed through Kellen’s nightmares and flashbacks. This book definitely gives a shout out to veterans. It shows how Cecilia Lykke a helpless and afraid abused wife uses her cousin’s name, Kellen Adams, to join the Army, becoming a tough and skilled military officer. Readers will understand through Cecilia’s eyes how she became a victim, frozen and unable to escape her predicament until her husband dies in a fire. Searching for family and a home Cecilia, now Kellen, finds it with her comrade in arms. Never forgetting this new family, after accepting the position at the resort, she hires those she served with knowing they are capable, resourceful, and able to use the skills learnt. The Washington setting becomes a character as the darkness spreads over the resort during the month of January. Located at the edges of the Pacific coast, it can be attractive in fair weather, but dangerous during the winter months with cold, windblown, and stormy foggy days/nights. It adds to the atmosphere of the story creating a dark and scary feeling. It appears that coastal towns are fair game for this author. “: I want to get to a point where I own the Washington coast and every little town is mine with murders going on all the time. There are a lot of eccentric people who live here so I have a lot to go on. I wanted to make them tourist towns because it will be plausible for all these murders with people constantly wandering in and out. What makes it more suspenseful is that everything here is affected by the weather, with extreme change from light to dark, during the winter months with cold, windblown, and stormy foggy days/nights. The weather is not an, ‘in passing conversation piece,’ but is actually an issue. The geography also plays into the plot with the Pacific Ocean, the mountains, and the desert. I have lived in many states including Texas, California, and Idaho. For me, this is the most expressive state.” This “who done it” has a list that can go on forever. Kellen is unsure whom to trust. This includes Nils Brooks who impersonates a mild-mannered author with black rimmed glasses that turns out to be a well-toned combat ready government official working for the MFAA, a revised agency that searches for smugglers who want to sell artifacts to fund terrorist organizations. This appears to be a shout out to Superman considering it is the 80thAnniversary where he was first introduced in an action comic book. Smugglers, murder, and loss of memory are intertwined to make this a gripping story. With plenty of intriguing characters and twists and turns, including a major surprise twist at the book’s ending, readers will be left craving for more. Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. With his latest novel author Alex Grecian is moving in a new direction with a new series, a new era, and a new setting, Kansas. Another book that took place in that state, Wizard of Ozhas a famous line “Lions, Tigers, and Bears. Oh My.” Replace that with The Saint of Wolves and Butchers and readers havethe title of this new book. This intriguing story involves Travis, a man who chases down evil-doers with help from his trusting companion, a dog named Bear, and a Kansas State Trooper, Skottie who join forces to track down a Nazi in hiding. Grecian wanted to write more of a modern-day contemporary story than his past series, set in Victorian England. “While driving through Western Kansas to visit my wife’s family I saw a lot of ranch/farm country. Regardless of where I am I look for angles I can use to write a story. I found out that German POWs captured in Africa were sent to Kansas. After the war, most of these people were allowed to become farmers and stayed here as authorities turned a blind eye. It occurred to me this would be a great place to hide if I ever committed a crime. Since Travis and company will hunt for evil-doers, for the next book I would love to have Skottie, Bear, and Travis searching for the bad guy behind the funding of the Nazi in this book who runs a human trafficking ring. I think I will set it in Alaska.” The plot begins in 1951 when wanted war criminal Rudolph Bormann succeeds in making his way from South America to rural Kansas, where he begins a new life as Rudy Goodman. In the present, Travis Roan, the head of a family foundation devoted to bringing war criminals to justice, comes to Kansas after a report that the German was recognized by Ruth Elder, a concentration camp guard. Aided by his canine companion, Bear, a massive dog, and another ally, Kansas Highway Patrol trooper Skottie Foster, the search continues for this horrific figure who had performed medical research on unwilling victims. To make matters worse, Goodman decides to become a Church Pastor for a Nazi-type cult where he continues his cruel experimentation. All the characters are either very likeable or very unlikable. The character that stole all the scenes was Bear, a Tibetan mastiff who understands Esperanto and became mute after poachers cut off his vocal cords. He is brave, smart, and loyal, where everyone except the antagonists have complete trust. Surprisingly, Elder, was written as sympathetic considering she was forced into becoming a guard by the Nazi regime, after refusing to have sex with German military officers. The main character, Travis is calm, intellectual, unfailingly polite, and very moralistic. Because Grecian wants this to be a series he plans on developing each character’s backstory as the books progress. “Travis keeps to himself so we do not know where he has been in the world and where he has come from. He is mysterious and I purposely did not say if he is Jewish. I do hint at the terrible tragedy he has gone through. As time goes on readers will find out more about him.” An interesting aspect is that the Nazi was hit by lightning, not once, but twice, while in Kansas, and lived to talk about it. After being struck people have their bodies affected in unexpected ways, such as a person’s hair and toenails will not grow back, and they can have hearing loss. Goodman used it to claim he could heal people, because it gave him energy and insight. This for some could be the fantasy part of the book. Hopefully readers also understand that guns are tools. Grecian explained, “This is why I put in the book quote, ‘These chunks of metal that were largely useless without a hand to point them.’ The evil comes from the person who uses it to their advantage. It is the person that needs to be blamed.” Readers will yearn for the next book to see how Grecian flushes out the characters’ backstory, especially Travis Roan, whose mysteriousness is intriguing. Hopefully, this does become a series, because of the unique characters and storyline. Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Warning Lightby David Ricciardi creates a Jack Ryan type character that is on the run from Iranians. Readers are reminded of a former TV series The Fugitive, with this novel being a 21stCentury re-make, foreign style. The protagonist, Zac Miller, has to become a survivalist in order to escape. Ricciardi enjoys the outdoors and wanted to write about something “I know about and I am at home around nature. I spend a lot of time in the woods and desert. Once my family and I took a plane that dropped us off in Alaska. We were alone, without any technology, put in the middle of nowhere, twenty-five miles from the nearest road. This is something I wanted to share with readers, which is why I wrote this book quote, ‘In an age where there is a GPS in every car, and place, I (Zac) had to make my way navigating with the sun.’ The feeling of trying to survive is what I wanted to convey. What drove Zac can best be described by the Winston Churchill quote, ‘When you are going through hell, by all means keep going.’” Zac Miller is a CIA analyst whonormally works behind a desk. He has some preparation because of the Agency requirement that all have to undergo basic hand-to-hand combat skills, Thanks to a month of training he underwent at the CIA’s clandestine operations training facility at Camp Perry, Virginia, Zac was somewhat equipped.He decided on impulse to volunteer to have his boss, Peter Clements send him on a quick mission, to take a few long-distance photos of a secret Iranian nuclear complex. Due to severe mechanical issues, created as a decoy, a commercial flight heading to Singapore is forced to make an emergency landing in the heart of Iran’s forbidden zone. Zac takes a few pictures of the mountain and the sunset but unfortunately for him, it caught the attention of the Iranian military. He was brought in for questioning because they believe his intentions are more than innocent. After being taken prisoner the Iranians drug, torture, threaten, beat and abuse him. Knowing if he does not escape he will die he finds a way to overwhelm his captives. This is where the adventure begins. To show the corruptness of the Iranian regime, “I wrote how they want to undermine these societies that don’t agree with their belief system. They are the biggest sponsor of state terrorism as the military and religious leaders run the place. They have starved their own people so they can build nuclear weapons. Anyone who voices disagreement gets arrested and locked up.” The story is very believable since many Americans including tourists, hikers, and businessmen have been captured and tortured by the Iranians as they accuse them of being spies. There is also a scene in the book that should remind people of the Lone Survivor, Marcus Luttrell, where Zac confronts a herder and must decide to allow him to live or kill him. As a survivalist, Zac must make the ultimate decision of who shall live and who shall die. The author compares his story to Homer’sThe Odyssey. “I would read this to my children all the time. The struggle to return back home from the Battle of Troy, having to travel through all these different lands with the many different struggles influenced me. Every turn he made he encountered a new obstacle that he had to get around.” Warning Lighthas many aspects to the story including technological, political-geographical and multi-cultural information. It is not only entertaining, but informative as well. Readers will root for Zac to use his knowledge, resourcefulness, and training to complete his mission. Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Skyjackwill elevate author K. J. Howe to a level close to Tom Clancy. She follows up her riveting debut novel, The Freedom Broker, with another gripping thriller featuring kidnap and ransom expert Thea Paris. Her assignment is to escort two orphaned African brothers, Jabari, 12, and Ayan, 9, to their new adoptive parents in London. The children had been forced into soldiering after seeing their parents murdered by Boko Haram. Now they will finally have a chance at a better life, a real childhood and education.In route, the chartered plane carrying Thea, the boys, and 12 other passengers is hijacked and lands in the Libyan Desert. Her long-time nemesis, Prospero Salvatore, the head of the Sicilian Mafia, forces herto intercept a truck full of Syrian refugees who are headed towards Budapest and supposedly exchange them for the plane hostages, including the boys. Howe noted, “Since I am an avid flyer, although not a pilot, I started to think about the new security measures on planes including reinforced cockpit doors. I wanted to create a real buzz in the air so I thought how passengers surrender control to the pilot every time they step on a plane. Everyone must trust that the pilots have our best interests at heart, but what if they do not. Think of the German pilot that plowed the plane intentionally into a mountain or the Egyptian pilot that intentionally crashed the plane. I thought how different it is than getting into an Uber or bus where if something happens there is the possibility someone can take over.” From the very first page readers are swept into the action as they are placed in the middle of a skyjacking, horrific weather conditions, and passengers whose medical conditions create a dangerous situation. As the story progresses it becomes apparent that things are not what they seem to be considering those involved are a part of an organization who intends to reduce the world’s population by releasing a virus killing those of Middle-Eastern origin. They will stop at nothing including brutal attacks and killings of innocents. Thea’s backstory is also being further drawn out. It is heart-warming to have a female protagonist who can be an alpha. She is strong minded who can stand on her own with any male antagonist. Having the medical condition of diabetes does not slow her down. Howe wanted to make sure Thea is “Smart, fearless, and vulnerable. It is incredibly important for me that girls have strong female protagonists to look up to. We have all these males: James Bond, Jack Reacher, and Jason Bourne. Where is the strong female? But, males are not turned off by her. In fact, a lot of my Special Forces guys enjoy reading her exploits. I think through her I am able to weed into the story both action and emotion.” The intricate plot has action, manipulation, betrayal, murder, and political intrigue intertwined within family relationships. Anyone looking for a new series should read Howe’s books. Continue reading
Posted Apr 15, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Cutting Edgeby Jeffery Deaver has many twists and turns. It brings into focus how diamonds are not people’s best friends and can actually be dangerous to one’s health. It appears there is a serial killer terrorizing couples for the rings on their fingers. Deaver noted, “I like writing in the little esoteric pieces into the story. For example, the Italian culture in The Burial Houror electricity for the grid inTheBurning Wire. I saw the movie Blood Diamondand thought about writing something with the diamond industry. I wanted to make a character obsessed with diamonds in a twisted and psychological way. I knew this industry would be a perfect foil for an overarching story.” The plot opens with the horrific murders of a couple, William Sloane and Anna Markam, and a master diamond cutter, Jatin Patel, who works in Manhattan’s diamond district. As they enter to pick up their engagement ring, a gunman wearing a ski mask goes in right behind them. After the intruder shoots William and Anna dead, he tortures and kills Jatin with a box-cutter. Shortly thereafter, an employee, Vimal Lahori, arrives, but manages to escape the killer. The tension ratchets up as the killer, now dubbed The Promiser, hunts Vimal and more engaged couples.Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs are hired on a consulting basis to analyze the evidence and assist the police in catching the murderer. Simultaneously an additional story unfolds in Brooklyn where a drilling construction site is home to numerous and extremely rare earthquakes that set off gas leaks and explosions. In addition, Lincoln is hired as a consultant by the defense team of a known Mexican cartel leader. He is very careful not to get too graphic while addressing violence, “I do not like sexual sadism or sexual violence, and will not kill a child or animal. A death should create huge and rippling consequences for many people. Before a writer kills someone, they must think it through because it is a horrific incident. To have more of an impact there should be fewer scenes. I guess I follow the Alfred Hitchcock approach of suspense, not gore.” In this book, Deaver does not give much page time to the main characters, Rhyme and Sachs. The focus is more on Vimal and his girlfriend. He is a young and passionate sculptor and apprentice diamond cutter. Through him readers learn numerous details about diamonds and the industry. It almost appears that diamonds become a character in the story. The author commented, “I do think in the novel the other characters were looked at more than Rhyme and Sachs. In the book, there is this attitude between Muslims and Hindus. I like including these personal conflicts, and hoped to pull off a Romeo and Juliet. This is why I spent a lot of time with Vimal and his girlfriend. I also wanted to write him as someone who wanted to escape his father and the killer. But he was drawn to the diamond, similar to that of Michelangelo. Both feel the objects are souls needed to be brought out.” The multiple plots become connected at the story’s end. Deaver once again uses his magical ways to show nothing is as clear-cut as it seems. Continue reading
Posted Apr 15, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Red Skyby Chris Goff is a fast-paced thriller that has action, intrigue, sprinkled with some technology. In this second installment of the series, the featured character, Raisa Jordan, a U.S. Diplomatic Security Service agent, heads to Ukraine to investigate her father’s death. While there she is side-tracked when People’s Republic Flight 91 crashes, killing everyone on board. Notably, among the two-hundred dead passengers and flight crew, is George McClasky, a veteran DSS agent who was escorting a Chinese-American prisoner, accused of treason, home from China. She is assigned to investigate the cause of the crash, and quickly realizes that the downing was no accident. The technology used to down the plane was part of a top-secret weapon being developed by several countries, including the United States. The Russians successfully tested the “railgun” on the plane and intend to use it against others in an attempt to take over the Ukraine. Her investigation draws the attention of Nye Davis of Reuters news agency, who agrees to help her uncover who is behind the crash and what are their motives. The author found DSS agents to be “be cowboys. They are trained at the Federal Law Enforcement Academy (FLECT). A true story was told to me about one agent who went to a Sheik’s palace, banged on the door, and even though he and the two Marines he brought with him were extremely outnumbered, demanded that the person he sought after come with him. Another time, one decided to spy on terrorists in the middle of the night.” Since settings play an important part in most thrillers, Goff traveled to the Ukraine, “I went there to get a feel for the setting with my youngest daughter who is a school teacher. As soon as we got off the plane someone asked if we want to go to the front lines? We could do it for $50 and the driver will have a gun, as well as a flak jacket and helmet for us. I said ‘ok,’ but my daughter put her foot down so we did not go. When in Kiev, at least half of the people are tied to Russia and are pro-Russian. Whereas, in Lviv, on the western side of the country, they identify with the Polish people. They would not acknowledge anyone who spoke Russian. They actually had in the markets Putin toilet paper.” A very relevant book quote, “She viewed journalists like hyenas-offensive and sneaky predators feasting on the sensationalism of a moment…Too many times the real story was lost or ignored, usurped by moments taken out of context and distorted by the reporter’s own bias.” Today it would be called fake news. Since Raisa is a law enforcement agent she expresses the feeling of a lot of others who shy away from the media. They feel journalists always put them under a microscope and they never worry about who gets hurt in the process. Red Skyis a very riveting and believable thriller. Goff allows readers to learn about an agency that gets very little recognition. Continue reading
Posted Apr 15, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Necessary Ends by Tina Whittle highlights Tai Randolph and Trey Seaver, detective partners and partners in life. Whittle’s writing style pulls readers into the story from page one. This novel combines an action-packed plot with great banter dialogue and a psychological aspect. Whittle noted, “My very close friend has TBI. Watching him negotiate his life afterwards was profoundly inspiring. Every day he requires a dose of courage. Another friend of mine, after reading the first book, told me she had it. She explained that when she returned to her house the first time she felt it belonged to someone else. I saw how it is really challenging for the loved ones. One of the questions I try to explore is, what makes us who we are? The brain is the great unchartered world of science. We can explain more about the universe than what goes on in our own skulls. I think the psychological aspect in my books runs hand in hand with the mystery.” Trey Seaver is haunted by the one that got away, a murder of a Hollywood producer’s wife in Atlanta during a filming. Now, about four years later it appears someone wants the producer, Nick Talbot dead. Trey is asked to investigate since he was one of the officers at the crime scene and now is working for a corporate security firm. He tries to use all the skills learned as a former SWAT officer with the Atlanta Police Department. Forced into retirement by a horrific car crash that gave him TBI he now has a new skill, being able to detect someone lying with a high degree of accuracy. His girlfriend, Tai, an amateur sleuth and a gun shop owner is helping him solve the mystery. Believing in a pragmatic approach to guns, “I wrote how one of my characters, Tai, considers guns to be tools, yet she also says, ‘Some people poured all their crazy into whatever they touched, and a gun sopped up crazy like a sponge.’ I show Tai training regularly because I see what happens to those who do not. I am personally a gun owner and I do support the Second Amendment. I hope to show in this series what responsible guns owners look like versus those who are not. In a scene from this book, Tai knew the woman was buying it for her boyfriend who was waiting in the car outside. She emphasizes that as a responsible person who follows the law, she is not going to sell a gun to that person.” This series explores what happens to someone with TBI. Since Trey has frontal lobe damage his cognitive impairments include language processing and executive function, the control center of the personality. There is also an exploration of PTSD which Tai has after being kidnapped and almost killed. At night she experiences nightmares, an increase in her heart rate, and becomes delirious. Readers will learn about re-enactment therapy, dissociation, a psychological reaction to overwhelming stress, and decompensation. All of this plays out in the Southern setting. The characters must navigate lies, lust, and betrayals to find who is behind the original killing and the attempted murder. The powerful theme of vengeance, justice, and playing by the rules keeps the intensity of the plot. Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Disappeared by C. J. Box has all the elements that readers have come to enjoy in a Joe Pickett novel. This is a compelling mystery that is action-packed, has details about the western setting, likeable characters, and humorous interaction. Box noted, “Over the eighteen books I have written Joe has moved around in the state of Wyoming quite a bit. He has gone to almost every corner of it, although there are a few more places for him to visit. In this book, he has gone to Saratoga, in South Central Wyoming, a place I am really fond of. Sometimes I use fictional locations, but Saratoga as described really exists. I love the great terrain and mountain ranges. I put in the book quote, ‘The terrain was high and the windswept desert, would have no inkling that twenty-one miles to the south was a lush river valley with mountain peaks on three sides. Elk Mountain and the Snowy Range rose sun-kissed and blue…’ I hope readers learn about it through Joe’s travels. I also enjoy talking about the community. For example, in most Wyoming towns Friday night is much more popular for socializing than Saturday nights.” Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett has to contend with a new Governor, Colter Allen. He is continuing the previous practice of retired Governor Spencer Rulon, requesting Pickett to be a troubleshooter. Joe is asked to find a prominent female British executive that never came home from the high-end guest dude ranch she was visiting. Pressure is mounting from the family, the tabloids, and the British government to find out what happened to her. Unlike Rulon, Joe does not have a special relationship with Allen and suspects he has ulterior motives in asking for this favor. The theme according to Box is “having the freedom to get away from life’s stress. I put in the C. S. Lewis quote because it applied perfectly, ‘Why would I ever trade long lazy walks in the forest to going back to traffic, bad air, and insipid ‘men without chests.’’ Sheridan, his daughter, who works at the ranch, volunteers to help along with his dear friend, Nate Romanowski, who gets answers by ignoring the rules of law. Also, in need of a favor Nate is willing to help as he tries to find answers to his own agenda. He wants Joe to intervene with the feds on behalf of Falconers who can no longer hunt with eagles even though their permits are in order. As with all of Box’s books he delves into an environmental issue, absurd regulations, as well as showing how political leaders are both dislikeable and self-centered. This includes the Governor’s Chief of Staff, Connor Hanlon, who loves to displace blame. The Disappeared has a plot that will not vanish from reader’s minds. It is engrossing and riveting that has people turning the pages at a brisk pace. Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Wild Inside by Jamey Bradbury is part paranormal, part thriller, and part horror. This debut novel is very character driven, specifically with the protagonist Tracy Petrikoff, where readers wonder if everything that happens to her is driven by her imagination, some delusions, or was indeed reality. Bradbury noted, “Tracy is hard to pin down. Sometimes even I wonder if she is part vampire or a werewolf that has not completely transformed. There is a genetics quality with the connection coming from the family members. She is tough to like. She is problematic as she makes her decisions based on selfish and stubborn motivations. In some ways, she is an unlikeable narrator. But she also has good qualities of being loyal to her family, very caring, and a naturalist. I think I would call her more of a difficult character than an unlikeable one. I do hope the reader can find in her something that they like, admire, or at least understand.” People meet Tracy, a natural born hunter and trapper who loves the Alaskan wilderness, where she spends her days in the remote forest by her house. She still has not come to grips with her mother’s sudden death that occurred two years ago. For Tracy, it was her mother who understood her, allowing her freedom, yet laying down three important rules: Never lose sight of the house, never come home with dirty hands, and most importantly never make a person bleed. The reader finds out that Tracy gains essential strength from drinking the blood of her prey while also temporarily mind-melding with victims. The paranormal comes into play as “with my idea is that the mom had this weird genetic abnormality passed down through generations to the women by the women. I originally wrote it where Tracy’s mom would say ‘my own mom didn’t understand me because it had skipped a generation.’ Her mom struggled with it because, unlike Tracy, she wanted a normal life. Both connect with animals and people. It is the supernatural quality of the book. What she gets from the blood is the ability to understand their experience, their thoughts, and their desires. The mythology I created is that if Tracy and her mom just tasted a little of the blood they could have only a slight impression. But if they drank the blood of a person or animal they are able to get all the thoughts and feelings. Basically, they have access to others feelings and impressions.” But now, because of being expelled from school, she is prevented by her father to do what she loves, working with their dogs and trapping in the wilderness. Rebelling against him, she goes into the forest anyway and it is there she is attacked by a burly man who eventually shows up at her family’s house with a knife wound. Almost at the same time, a mysterious drifter appears looking for a job. Tracy senses, Jesse Goodwin, is hiding something and is determined to get to the bottom of his secrets. It is a book where readers will constantly turn the pages, wondering who is this protagonist, Tracy. Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Beneath The Surface by Lynn H. Blackburn has both suspense and romance although it has more of an emphasis on the relationship between the two main characters, Leigh Weston and Ryan Parker. It is interesting how she weaves everything in the plot around the Dive Team, including relationships between the team members, the victim, and the outside experts. The sarcastic banter between the characters allows for a humorous interlude. Because she wants to emphasize the character interaction, she noted, “When we pitched the series my editors asked how much of this is going to be underwater, because it is difficult to develop relationships there. Any law enforcement dive team knows the dive is very intense, mainly because of the horrible conditions. I want readers to understand I am writing about the team, not necessarily the dive. The unifying factor for the story is that they are all on this dive team. Besides, I wanted to make this realistic. Most of the time they cannot see anything underwater. It is like someone driving in a fog. I talked to a professional who said ‘you cannot see anything and must feel around since it is so very dark.’” There are actually two mysteries to the story, dismembered bodies found at the bottom of the lake by the dive team, and someone stalking Leigh with the intent of doing bodily harm. They come together when Ryan and his colleagues ask Leigh if they can use her boat deck as they work the investigation. Soon after, Leigh’s life is threatened having law enforcement wonder about a possible connection. Ryan knows his team must solve the murder case quickly, especially when Leigh may be the next target on the list. Sprinkled throughout the story are images of the Carolina community that includes their culture. “I wanted to show how Leigh connects to her mom through cooking. After all, Carolina girls love to cook. In the South, we cook for the people we love. No one gets together without having lots of food around. Through her baking and cooking she is able to initially get close to people. If she likes you she will try to feed you. One of her love languages is cooking and baking cookies. I actually developed a little recipe book for my newsletters’ subscribers, a dive team recipe book.” This first in the series will leave readers wanting for more. Fortunately, the next book will be coming out at the end of this year, but it is also unfortunate that people will have to wait months for the next installment. Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
High White Sun by J. Todd Scott is a very plot driven story. Scott, who has been a federal agent with the DEA for over twenty years has used his experiences to write this book. Now living in Texas, he is able to write a first-hand account of the small-town Texas setting. The plot has a new sheriff in town, Chris Cherry, determined to clean out his department after the death of his predecessor, corrupt Sheriff Ross. He brings in new deputies including America (Ame) Reynosa, the tough and aggressive female, and Ben Harper, a hard-edged veteran homicide detective now lured out of retirement. They are untiring in their determination to find the killers of Texas Ranger Bob Ford, and river guide Billy Bravo. The major person of interest is John Wesley Earl, a leader of a vicious prison gang, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. As the investigation takes hold, an unforeseen twist makes the pursuit of justice harder as they must navigate through the shady characters, numerous lies, and buried secrets. Scott noted, “I see the setting as a character. This remote area drives a lot of people’s decisions and choices. In my books, everyone seems to wear not a black or white hat, but a grey hat. The remoteness puts them out on the frontier where, like the old westerns, they police it with just a small group. The emphasis of the story is not solving the crime but the after effects of it. In this book, the murders do not have a lot of page time.” This is a tale of murder, revenge, and redemption. Readers will also learn about the investigative process including the different techniques, tactics, and methods. Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Bone Music’s story by Christopher Rice is not a classical melody, but more like hard rock. The scenes are riveting and realistic enough that there is an element of believability, alternating between a thriller and the fringes of science fiction. Rice considers it a “sci-fi cross over where it has a gratified fantasy dusted in the grit of existence. What was extraordinary: the drug that makes Charlotte able to do incredible things and the pharmaceutical company that is so wealthy they have infinite resources including their paramilitary units. The drug attacks the process in the brain to prevent fright so that Charlotte is not paralyzed by fear and can actually fight. Also, throughout the series an ongoing question will be why does the drug only work with Charlotte, allowing her a three-hour window where she is capable of absolutely Superhuman strength.” This consuming read has the heroine trying to overcome her tragic past by rebuilding her life and overcoming her trust issues. The intensity begins from page one when a husband and wife team of serial killers abducts a nine-month-old baby after brutally killing its mother. They raised Trina, hoping to include her in their viciousness, grooming her to follow in their footsteps. Yet, she could not even kill a bird and felt remorse. This shows that environment is not the sole basis for serial killers since Charlotte refuses to kill. Luckily for her, at the age of seven, the FBI raided their hideout. Throughout her life Trina had to be under the suspicion of some who felt that she was complicit in the murders, labeled as “The Burning Girl.” She attempts to bury her past by changing her name to Charlotte Rowe, and baring her soul to psychologist, Dylan “Cole,” who was pretending to help, but actually had his own agenda. He gives her a supposed calming pill, which is actually an experimental drug. It transforms her adrenaline when triggered by a sense of fear, allowing her to have super strength. Now able to gain back her confidence with a life ruled less by fear, she decides to use her extraordinary ability to fight evil, a serial killer known as the Mask Maker, with the help of the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug. As the story unfolds Charlotte transforms from a paranoid and insecure individual to someone who gains strength, confidence, and a small amount of trust. She returns to the town of her childhood, Altamira, California, where she enlists the help of those who she knew, including a high school peer, Luke, who would bully her, but now wants to make amends by helping. Wanting a superhero with some flaws, Rice notes, “She does everything one step at a time. She is strong, determined, resilient, smart, but has a dark side. When her grandmother died she became grief stricken. Since then she had built walls, but once she decides to make the most of a bad situation and gets a new purpose she is starting to bring the wall down and allow people into her life. After she changed her name from Trina Pierce to Charlotte Rowe she found her own voice. Changing her name was a way to say ‘I can set my own course,’ and make my own identity.” Just as those in the military, Charlotte feels that it is her duty to protect others. “I wrote that the people Charlotte goes up against are fundamentally evil, and she feels they must be stopped by her. I have to say, as I was writing this I did not feel much remorse for the people who died at Charlotte’s hands. Just as with the military, people should not be weighing in and creating a social media jury system on every combat situation. Especially, since they have no sense of what really went down, and we are not willing to make the sacrifices our men and women in the military must make. I think Charlotte realizes she will go after the worse of the worst and I compare her to the special forces of serial killer trackers. I address through Charlotte when absolute force is justified.” This is a fast-paced story that has very engaging characters. Readers will root for Charlotte to succeed emotionally and with her quest to rid the world of evildoers. Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer once again proves he is the master of secrets. His books always delve into the hidden stories of the characters and governmental conspiracies. He has a knack for finding out and then writing about interesting topics that are not widely well-known, incorporating them into a thrilling story. The book starts off with a bang when one of the passengers jumps out of a plane without a parachute before it crashes to the ground. It might have received little notice except that one of the passengers was the Librarian of Congress and a good friend of President Orson Wallace. A little tidbit, this is the same President who appeared in Meltzer’s previous series. Following the crash Jim “Zig” Zigarowski, a very skilled mortician at Dover Air Force Base, is assigned to perform his magic on the bodies of those who crashed. He has unique reconstructive talents that has made it possible for families to view the peaceful remains of their lost loved ones, allowing them to make sure the fallen look the way people remember them so that their families can have the proper closure they need. Some bodies have missing limbs, so Zig must sculpt new ones out of clay. If their faces are ripped apart by shrapnel or burned beyond recognition, he does his magic with makeup. It’s a job he does with love, and something he takes very seriously. One of the bodies from the plane crash is Nola Brown, a name Zig recognizes immediately, since she saved his daughter, Maggie’s life and lost a portion of her ear in the process. A year after Nola saved Maggie she ended up dying in a tragic accident and Nola had a terrible childhood at the hands of sociopathic foster parents. Zig’s sadness turns to surprise after realizing the body in front of him had no ear damage making Zig positive that it was not Nola. This sparks a personal mission to find Nola. He is determined to discover who are the remains he was working on, and unravel the mystery of the mix up. Through the investigation Zig uncovers that Nola is the U.S. Army's artist-in-residence, a painter and trained soldier who rushes into battle, making art from war's aftermath and sharing observations about today's wars that would otherwise go overlooked. After finding her they work together uncovering a sinister scheme called Operation Bluebook, based on the magician’s Harry Houdini secret way of revealing fake fortune-tellers, separating truth from lies. Zig and Nola must find who is behind Bluebook before the conspirators can kill them. In the course of the investigation they realize that they have a lot in common. It seems as though Zig and Nola are able to restore everyone but themselves. This riveting story is about handling grief, the feeling of loss, and the ability to recover. But it also delves into how secrets can be costly to one’s health. Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Queen Of Hearts by Kimmery Martin delves into relationships within the medical profession. This debut novel is set against a background of hospital rounds with life-or-death decisions. It is a story of betrayal and forgiveness as the two best friends, Emma Colley and Zadie Anson navigate their friendship through stormy waters. Martin describes Zadie as “Competent, caring, intelligent, warm, and trustworthy. She is also goofy, funny, and fun-loving. People are asking me if she is patterned after myself, but I have to say she is much more charismatic. I think she is not by nature a grudge holder.” For her Emma is the complete opposite, “In many ways, she is unapproachable. She stews over what has happened to her and fixates on things. Although physically beautiful she is socially awkward, cerebral. I like and empathize with her.” The plot alternates between 1999 and the present day where they now live in North Carolina, raising a family, and have a successful medical practice. Everything turns topsy-turvy when Nick Xenokostas decides to join Emma’s surgery group. The two friends must face the secrets of their past, including how Nick broke Zadie’s heart. Nick's unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. A powerful book quote, “If a child dies it’s not because she’s needed in heaven, or because there was some cosmic plan for her to die so another child could be born”? Martin explains, “This was stated by Emma who wants everything to make sense. She wants the world to function according to the laws of logic, less likely to have her personality ruled by emotion. She never rationalizes that things happen for the greater good. As I started writing, I thought, ‘try it; what is the worst that could go wrong.’ But in medicine the worst that can go wrong is that you can kill someone. It is a cloud hanging over doctors’ heads.” The story has intrigue, drama, and turmoil that combine for a good story. Continue reading
Posted Mar 12, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Third Victim by Phillip Margolin is the first in a new series. Margolin is back with his expertise of legal suspense crime novels. What makes his books interesting is the ability to intertwine facts about the justice system within a riveting plot. The book begins with a horrific scene of a girl stumbling out of the woods and collapsing on the highway. She has been badly burned, beaten, and tortured. The investigation would later show that this woman was the ‘third victim’ of a sadistic killer. Luckily she was able to escape before he finished the job. Persons of interest pile up: Alex Mason, a prominent defense attorney who owns the cabin where the torture takes place; Arnold Prater, a rogue police officer, and a drug dealing pimp, Jackson Wright. Readers enter the courtroom with the defense attorneys, Regina Barrister and Robin Lockwood, as they try to figure out who is the real torturer. Margolin noted, “I pioneered the battered woman defense back in Oregon in 1979. No one understood the dynamics of wife beating and why they stayed with their abuser. That year I represented a woman who murdered her husband with a hammer after he passed out drunk. During the course of my investigation I found out she was beaten by him for fourteen years and he also pushed her down a flight of stairs. She got probation. After that I lectured and wrote articles on how to use it as a defense.” As with all of his novels, Margolin explores societal issues, with this book being no different. Alzheimer’s is dealt with in a very understanding manner. Regina, a high-powered defense attorney, in the midst of a very serious case of murder and torture is starting to forget important information and is not able to hide it from the rest of the team that includes her newly hired associate Robin Lockwood. Since Regina is known for her quick wit, sharp mind, and immaculate research, Robin thought this would be her dream job, having a great mentor. Yet, she now must decide what to do, weighing her desire to continue working with Regina against her moral compass. Does she approach her or some of the trusted friends, and if so how to avoid confrontation since Regina is obviously in denial? Using this disease as an inspiration for the story, “I read this article in the Oregon State Bar Journal that examines what should be done when a senior partner in a big law firm, a rainmaker, starts showing signs of dementia. This made me think about a young lawyer who starts working with her idol on a death penalty case and realizes something is wrong. It is also personal since my grandmother, mother-in-law, and my aunt had Alzheimer’s. I think it is worse for people who are around them. I remember when I went back to New York and called my aunt to get together for lunch. After lunch, we were sitting in the park and she did not know where was her apartment. Five minutes later she asked the question again. My father and brother flew out and we took her back to Oregon.” Margolin never disappoints readers with his legal thrillers. He chooses an issue relevant to today and encases it in a story involving some crime. This book is really two plots in one, a murder mystery and an examination of the impact of Alzheimer’s. Continue reading
Posted Mar 12, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Terminal List is a debut thriller by Jack Carr. What makes this book special is that Carr uses his experiences as a SEAL to write a realistic action-packed story. It takes readers to a time when rules of engagement had the Special Forces acting as cowboys where they took out the enemy up close and personal as well as from afar with sniper fire. Carr noted, “The book was essentially written for me. It was very therapeutic. I revisited what was important to me over the last twenty years including emotionally, strategically, and tactically. I combined them into a fictional thriller hoping to make the weapons and the people authentic. It was me pouring out my passions and emotions. I took my experiences of studying warfare and the real world and applied it to this story about revenge. I based it on the Samurai warrior mentality that understood they might die while going into warfare. All of the emotions, flashbacks, and remembrances I felt over the last twenty years were placed on the protagonist. It also helped that my friend partnered with me to write this story.” He served for over twenty years with an expertise in communications/intelligence, to leading assault/sniper teams, and to practicing counterinsurgency. He uses all this in the story when his hero, Lt. Commander James Reece, seeks revenge after losing almost all his men in an Afghanistan ambush killing 36 SEALs, 28 Rangers, and four aircrew members in his unit as well as his wife and child. After finding out that the murders were perpetrated by high-level rogue government and military officials he creates a list of twelve who must die. Reece has no regrets since he believes he is dying of a terminal brain tumor because the government decided to use his unit for experimentation of a drug that would be used for those with PTSD. Readers will be reminded of Vince Flynn’s books Term Limits and Consent to Kill. Carefully plotting these assassinations Reece is determined to see that justice is served. The author wanted to write a realistic story and reminds readers, “In the 1970s Senator Church had hearings on experiments done to people in the military. For example, they put Navy divers down at a certain depth for a certain amount of time. If they had issues they would reduce the time. These guys were used as guinea pigs. I molded much of this information into a fictional story. It is also based on Vince Flynn’s Term Limits in that in both stories by killing the bad guys justice was served so there were no regrets. This is why I put in the book quote, ‘Killing was not so much about taking a life, it was about sustaining life: the lives of your countrymen, your unit, your family, yourself.’ I personally sleep very well at night regarding my decisions.” There have been many inspiring books by SEALs about their life and career. With The Terminal List readers get the inspiring story within an action-packed plot. Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin brings psychological suspense stories to a whole new level. The focus of the plot emphasizes the relationship between parents and children and how social media plays a role. The I-GEN generation characters that keep secrets and isolate themselves, allows readers to realize it is sometimes impossible for parents to really know their children. The plot begins with Wade, a teenager’s, suicide note, then flashes back five days and unfolds from the perspectives of Jackie, Connor, Pearl, and Amy Nathanson. Amy files a police report claiming that she was car jacked by a teenage boy. Another boy, Liam, rushes to help and is hit by the car. The case quickly consumes social media, transforming Liam, a local high school football star, into a folk hero, and the suspect, a high school outcast named Wade Reed, into a depraved would-be killer. His mother, Jackie, and brother Connor, are convinced Wade is innocent, but must face their own life changes as they too are seen as pariahs. Gaylin has the uncanny ability to develop likeable and dysfunctional characters. A shining character in the story is police officer Pearl Maze. She has problems that must be worked out with her father. But as a cop she is very astute at realizing there is more to the crime than meets the eye and she is a great judge of personality. Suspense ratchets up as Pearl tries to figure out if Wade is innocent or guilty. Readers might not see the last of Pearl since Gaylin is thinking of writing a Pearl novella. “I can definitely see a possibility of doing a series with her. I wrote her backstory because I’ve always been haunted by the stories I’ve read about toddlers picking up guns and accidentally killing a parent, wondering about what effect that would have on the child. In writing Pearl, I saw an opportunity to introduce that idea. She describes herself as, ‘a murderer before she could even read.’ I imagined what toll that could take on an otherwise level-headed person. Pearl is a complicated young woman who tends to isolate herself from others. Overall, she is a basically good and moral person and a keen judge of character.” Jackie Reed, a single mother of two teenage boys, loves and embraces them, always believing in them. Her sons Wade and Connor alternate between being the older wiser brother and the dependent one; even though Connor is the thirteen-year-old and Wade is seventeen. They rely on each other for stability and support, and want to protect one another. Gaylin noted, “Secrets. I write about secrets in most of my books. We really do not fully know someone. There are characters in this book who are willing to let others go down just to make sure their secret does not get out. What I like to do when I start writing is to find out everyone’s secrets. In this book, I felt for Jackie because I am also the parent of teenage children. I love writing a twisting plot, but this is probably my most character-driven novel. A lot of the twists come out of characters lying to each other and to themselves.” Also, a character in the story is social media. It creates fake news, victims, and heroes, and allows everyone to keep secrets and manipulate those around them. What should scare people the most is how it can destroy when instantaneous posts become permanent. This engaging tale stresses family relationships and the role of social media in society today. As with her other books Gaylin takes readers on an emotional roller coaster ride with her many twists. Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Agent in Place by Mark Greaney has lots of action, some current events, and a great storyline. The main character, Court Gentry, known as “The Gray Man” ventures into places where not many would dare to go having to overcome some very bad people. The reader feels as if they are placed right into the center of the Syrian Civil War as they go along for the ride with Gentry as he faces all of the different factions and players including mercenaries, the Free Syrian Army, ISIS, the Russians, just to mention a few. Greaney wants “Court to operate with a mission he thought of as noble. Because I have been interested in this Civil War ever since it started I decided to create this idea for the story. Assad is currently using chlorine against his people and seems to get away with quite a bit. It seems over the years governments say, ‘we will never let this happen again.’ When it happens again they look the other way and appear to do nothing. It is pretty pathetic. Many of those who are anti-Assad or in my case anti- al-Azzam are radical Jihadists. There is the saying, ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ but the reverse it also true. Then there is Russia that basically wants to use Syria as an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean, where they have a military presence. All these groups including those against the Russians commit atrocities, but then there are the innocent children and those who just want to live their lives. It is not like World War II where there were distinct good guys versus bad guys.” The novel begins with ISIS about to execute Court. The story then backtracks a week ago to show readers how Gentry got in this mess to begin with. Because he was never an official employee of the CIA Court decides which missions he will choose, some for the Spy Agency and some from freelance work. In this case he is working on his own for the Halabys, leaders of the Free Syria Exile Union who hire him to kidnap the mistress of the Syrian President, the model Bianca Medina. The plan is to have her release information that will deal a serious blow to the Syrian regime and hasten the end of the cruel civil war. Complications arise when she refuses unless her son is rescued from the grips of his father, Ahmed al-Azzam, the Syrian President. After agreeing to this new job, Gentry realizes that there is a tangled web including Syria’s First Lady who wants Bianca and the heir to the throne dead. The tension ratchets up even higher from here. His nickname of “The Gray Man” suits Gentry since he always seems to keep a low profile and work in the shadows. He's a fiercely loyal and trustworthy individual and when he says he's got your back you can believe him. What makes him special is his desire to do what is necessary to make sure the bad guys never are a threat again. It is a welcome relief considering the real world has the bad guys winning way too much. Greaney uses current events to make the plot even more realistic. “It is very important to me not to make them so complex they are not understandable. Of course, I am obviously pushing the envelope, but I do want everything to be possible. I hope Court is not viewed as a Superhero like Captain America. Instead, he should be seen with vulnerabilities and can get hurt at any time. For example, there is a kernel of truth about my character, Shakira Azzam, and the real Syrian First Lady. In this book, she is a power broker because she is the villainous. She is beautiful, brilliant, and was once referred to as ‘the Rose of the Desert’, and ‘Lady Diana of the Middle East.’ But in actuality she is a master manipulator and wants to be in control. Now, after seven years of a Civil War, her public image has been destroyed, and she is now referred to as ‘The First Lady of Hell.’” Agent In Place blends historical facts, current events, and a gripping action-packed story. It is nice to have The Gray Man fighting on the side of righteousness. Continue reading
Posted Feb 24, 2018 at BlackFive
Image
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen is one of those rare books that will stick with people long after they finish it. The story is based in two time periods, 1944 and 1973, where the former is an historical account of World War II and the latter embodies a mystery. Wanting to challenge herself, Bowen wrote in two time periods with parallel stories coming together at the end. “I always wanted to write something set in Tuscany because I love it so much. I have been there quite a few times in my life, including two years ago when I was asked to teach an author’s workshop. The World War II aspect came from an account I read where an English airman bailed out of his plane before it crashed into Tuscany. All these bits and pieces come together in this story.” The novel begins at the end of 1944 when British airman Hugo Langley must parachute out of his crashing plane into German occupied Tuscany Italy. Badly wounded he finds refuge in a monastery and is discovered by one of the villagers, Sophia Bartoli. She aids him in his quest to become well enough to escape to the Allied lines. As time passes both realize that they have fallen in love and plot to escape together. During these scenes WWII is brought to life as readers jump out of the airplane with Hugo, fear the German atrocities with Sophia, and realize how severe are the conditions. Fast forward to 1973 where Hugo’s daughter Joanna goes through her just deceased father’s old trunk filled with his possessions. In it she finds an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. As Joanna had little knowledge of her father’s wartime life, the revelation it contains startles her. Joanna travels to the small Tuscan hill town of San Salvatore to learn about her father and the time he spent there. The mystery comes into play when everybody in this small town refuses to acknowledge that Hugo hid near the village. The most sobering parts of the book are the descriptions of the cruelties committed by the Nazis on the Italian population. “I wanted to show that after the Italians switched sides, the Germans were brutal and committed atrocities including machine gunning down whole villages. World War II is the last time we had a clear sense of good versus evil. I think it is important we remember it and understand what people went through. I wanted to show the major risk Sophia took by helping the British airman. She bought danger to herself, her child, and her village. Even though it was at the end of the war the Germans became like vicious dogs that are cornered and deliberately killed people.” Tuscany is a character onto itself. Having been there several times Bowen wanted readers to understand how the “town has a feeling to it with the high stonewalls and narrow streets. I walked through the market and did wine tastings. I also found out there is a central olive press in and area where bribery allowed for a better time slot. I will be going back this summer to teach the same course. The festival I described in the book happened the last time I was there. It was a procession with bands and banners combining religion and folk culture. Regarding the earthquakes I wrote about, they can be devastating. Remember in Italy all those stone houses will fall down.” Bowen brings to life the setting where the reader can smell the cooking scents, see the brilliant olive groves, and hear the Italian chatter. This is also an action packed story that is very intense and haunting. Continue reading
Posted Feb 24, 2018 at BlackFive