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The following book 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. Poisonous by Allison Brennan is a very powerful story. The novel delves into very relevant issues from cyber bullying to social media’s role within people’s lives. The author makes a good point about how social media makes it easier for someone to say mean things without any repercussions. This intense plot also focuses on psychological issues involving a mentally challenged character and how family dynamics play into divorce. The plot has a cyber bully, Ivy, falling off a cliff; was she pushed or was it accidental? Maxine Revere, an investigative reporter that works on cold cases, is asked to find the truth about the fall. A mentally challenged eighteen year old, stepbrother to Ivy, is suspected by her mother of being the murderer. Max sees immediately he is a gentle giant who loved his sister in spite of her cruelty that caused a peer to commit suicide. With a huge list of suspects, Max must pursue the truth and allow justice to prevail. Being a mother of five, Brennan realized “I did not grow up with social media. In the 1970s and 80s I could make mistakes and hopefully learn from them. I knew the stupid thing I did was not going to be around forever or go viral. Today it is on the Internet for everybody to remember forever. It comes down to our kids never being able to say or do anything they might regret, with the possibility their lives might be ruined forever. Teenagers always make mistakes, which is why I love writing about them or young adults. My family has a rule now because of what happened a few years ago. We had gone out to dinner and all my five kids were either on video games or texting on their phones. ‘I said that’s it.’ I told them ‘keep it in your pocket or I will put it in my purse.’ After that when we went out to dinner once a month we were actually able to have a conversation.” Brennan has a way of writing characters that readers care about. She allows people to feel certain emotions from the printed words. What is done beautifully is how she has the readers rooting for Max to solve the case. Not for the victim Ivy, but for Tommy. Ivy is seen as a “mean girl” that took joy in exposing her peers secrets and flaws through a gossip website. Tommy, a sweet and kind boy, is genuine, honest, and hoping to get his old life back. She noted to blackfive.net, “Parents also make inappropriate comments or are always texting. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people “unfriend” you because of the way you think or the way you vote. We can’t agree on every single issue. With social media people can say things or be offensive because they can distance themselves. Children emulate their parents. I decided to write about bullying because of a local tragic case of a young boy killing himself after being bullied online.” While Max is still brash, outspoken, intelligent, independent, and tenacious, she is less impulsive, more sensitive, and is learning to not always say what she thinks. Through her eyes, readers see Tommy as a heart-wrenching personality and cheer Max on for caring and wanting to protect him. An interesting point made was the similarities in personalities between Max and two of the characters: Tommy and his stepbrother Austin. Both Tommy and Max found lies devastating, wanting only to be told the truth, while Austin was protective, and unforgiving for the circumstances his parents placed him in. Poisonous has a fast paced plot. This fascinating story about dysfunctional families and relevant issues of today makes for a great read. Continue reading
Posted yesterday at BlackFive
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The following book 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. Tied Up in Knots by Andrea Tantaros is the 21st Century’s version of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Both are about understanding the opposite sex. Tantaros argues relations between men and women in America have never been more dysfunctional while discussing the issues of intimacy, authenticity, kindness, respect, discretion, and above all commitment. Readers should know her as one of Fox News most informative commentators and a co-host of the show Outnumbered. Both men and women need to read this book to get a fast check on relationships, how the sexes treat each other, and the responsibilities of society. While reading the chapters people can relate to the author’s comments with current issues. Blackfive.net had the privilege of interviewing her about her book and her opinions about today’s world. Regarding the provocative cover, Tantaros said there has been no criticism and jokingly hopes that will continue. “It is inspired by the Wonder Woman pose. I hope people see how it symbolizes the modern female who is very powerful, but tied up in her own lasso of truth.” It is not a “chicks book,” because men’s eyes will be opened about what is going on in the mind of a woman. She noted, “I interviewed a lot of men and they kept talking about their frustration and confusion. They can read this book and they will get a better understanding about how women think and issues important to the sexes. Even women do not understand the rules. Are we capable, high functioning, responsible, women who can take care of ourselves and do not need special treatment? Or are we really the weaker sex, something women have fought against for decades. I give the early feminists credit in this book when they called for rightful equality.” Where does rightful equality play into a woman’s role in the Special Forces Units? Should the expectations be lowered for women to become SEALs or should they be allowed to try while keeping the current rules? She predicted, “Just like the Rangers this administration will get women into the SEALs training and right before President Obama leaves office they will reveal a female in the graduating class. The narrative will be they could do it even though the rules were changed. I know a number of SEALs that say they will quit the brotherhood because of it. Many people do not know that there are already women serving in the Special Forces, although not in combat. These women are really upset with women’s rights groups who say we need women as SEALs, even though they are there, but in different roles. These women feel forced to say ‘we are here and you just blew our cover to the world.’” The book goes into a lot of detail about how women are sending mixed messages to men. She writes of Girls actress Zosia Mamet comments in Marie Claire about the loss of romance and old-time dating rituals. Mamet wrote, “Not that long ago a guy spent the night with me. We went to breakfast the next day. The check came. I went to the bathroom, came back. It was still there… Seeing my confusion, he said he didn’t want to offend me by paying on ‘my side of town’-So he’s thinking I’d be offended, and I’m thinking, if you’ve already Lewis-and-Clarked my body, maybe buy my oatmeal.” Tantaros insists the struggles between the sexes are based on misconceptions. She pointed out to blackfive.net, “Liberal women knock stay at home moms and perpetuate single moms by insisting women do not need men. I heard Jennifer Aniston say women don’t need men to have babies. Ugh, technically I think we do. There was also an article in the Washington Post written by a woman who said she was so tired of her helpful husband. I thought, ‘are you kidding me. Do you know how many women would kill to have a man around the house.’ I agree with Sheryl Sandberg who said in her book, Lean In, the most important thing a woman could do is to choose the right husband. Patti Stranger, the famous matchmaker, also echoes this thought when she said, ‘women, you cannot have your penis and eat it too.” The media completely ignored those messages because it was traditional and destroyed the theory of feminism, men are unnecessary.” A very relevant issue she discussed in the book was the phrase, “playing like a girl,” considering the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays faced a backlash recently after saying players might have to “wear dresses” because umpires in a game enforced a new slide rule designed to take deliberate contact out of baseball. When asked about it, Tantaros noted, “I did not get offended. We women do the same thing about men. We need to lighten up. I think playing like a girl should be embraced, and not to consider it a negative connotation.” Tied Up in Knots is a shocking, funny, and honest narrative about today’s gender gaps. It is insightful, informative, and relevant to what is happening currently in the world. Anyone wanting a new relationship guide for the 21st Century should read this book. Continue reading
Posted yesterday at BlackFive
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The following book 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. Allegiance by Kermit Roosevelt is part mystery and part historical fiction. Best-selling author Jeffery Deaver once said, “A thriller asks what is going to happen and a mystery asks what happened.” The plot begins with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Caswell “Cash” Harrison was all set to drop out of law school and join the army until he flunked the physical. Instead, he’s given the opportunity to serve as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black. He and another clerk stumble onto a potentially huge conspiracy aimed at guiding the court’s interests. Then Cash’s colleague dies under mysterious circumstances, and the young, idealistic lawyer is determined to get at the truth. Although the front cover displays pictures of Japanese American interned during WWII that places a very secondary role to the murder mystery. Anyone picking up this book to learn more details about the shameful period in American history might be a bit disappointed. What Roosevelt (Teddy’s great-great-grandson) does brilliantly is to allow the reader to understand what are the duties, attributions, and tribulations of a Supreme Court Justice. Being a professor of constitutional law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and having clerked for DC Circuit Judge Stephen F. Williams and Supreme Court Justice David Souter he allows these experiences to contribute to the storyline. The gathering of facts, writing of briefs and oral arguments before the court are described in meticulous detail. The author has included an extensive note at the end of the book pointing out where fact ends and fiction begins for each of the supporting characters mentioned in the story. This coupled with his use of actual transcripts, makes for informative reading. There are appearances by many historical characters including J. Edgar Hoover and his number two man, Clyde Tolson, Hugo Black and Felix Frankfurter of the Supreme Court, Attorney General Biddle, and various members of the Department of Justice and Department of War. Readers will feel as the story progresses that they can get a glimpse into the world of Supreme Court Justices, specifically those mentioned above. Roosevelt commented to blackfive.net, “I learned as much as I could about Justice Black. After doing the research I came to admire these men, but realized they also had flaws. For example, Black did have clerks over to his house, cooked dinner for them, and played tennis with them. In fact, the tennis scene in the book is based on the time I played tennis with Justice Scalia.” Allegiance is a good read for anyone who wants to understand the relationship between a Supreme Court Justice and his clerk. Within that there is a mystery and resolution. Continue reading
Posted Apr 21, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book 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. War Hawk by James Rollins and Grant Blackwood is a thrilling novel. This series is different than Rollins’ others in that it is more in the realm of complete believability and realism, with nothing far fetched. In creating a realistic relationship the beloved characters of working dog Kane and his handler Tucker Wayne are brought back to life. The plot begins when a former flame and army colleague, Jane Sabatello, asks Tucker for his help in finding those who want to kill her and have murdered her former co-workers. Through his investigation he finds that an evil corporate CEO, Pruitt, is behind these killings and a global conspiracy. He is using the knowledge of Alan Turing, the English code-breaker of the Nazis, to change the way modern warfare is fought. Rollins noted to blackfive.net, “There is currently an arms race underway to develop new and improved robotic warriors, even those that can operate autonomously. Basically, drones can be sent out to kill with little or no human involvement. Will this mean that they make us more likely to go to war? In the book Rex represents a drone that learns and can be beneficial. But, what happens if it is able to go beyond our ability to control?” Jane, a former Intelligence Analyst with the 75th Rangers, is now working for the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency). She fits in perfectly with Tucker and Kane, where readers can regard them as “The Three Musketeers,” or as Jane refers to them, “the old gang is back together.” She has a closeness to Kane and Tucker both personally and professionally. They can be regarded as kindred spirits, all are tough, no nonsense, with a moral code; yet are also secretive and operate in the shadows. Through Jane and Tucker, Rollins explored the issue of “moral injury,” a new form of PTSD. Both experienced serious inner conflicts because of a betrayal, which put them at odds with their ethical and moral beliefs. While working closely with USA Cares Rollins “first learned about ‘moral injury.’ It relates to the shattering of moral and ethical expectations. Unfortunately, medication has no benefit and currently only therapy seems to work. It can manifest as shame, guilt, anxiety, and anger along with behavioral changes such as alienation, withdrawing, and possibly suicide. I wanted the reader to have a better understanding of the causes and consequences of someone afflicted with this aspect of PTSD.” Tucker’s betrayal, according to Rollins, is related to “his guilt about the war dog Abel. He could have jumped off the helicopter and tried to rescue him, but did not. He felt like he betrayed Able. He has been running away from these problems and has chosen not to face it. Tucker has an old wound from losing his partner with the feeling that he had an arm cut off. Both Jane and Tucker have been traumatized and these similar injuries help them find a way back to each other. I put more of this backstory in the book but cut it out. I will probably put it in the next Tucker book.” As with all Rollins’ books he explores the relationship between the partners, Kane, a Belgian Malinois, and Tucker. It is evident that they are really best friends with a very special bond. Both are willing to sacrifice their own life for each other. Anyone who is a dog lover will relate to their relationship. What makes it even more interesting is how Rollins writes what any dog owner does, putting thoughts of the canine into a humanistic form. The themes of the book are all centered around warfare. Using the springboard of Alan Turing’s work, the book explains how he laid the groundwork for the modern computer that led to drone warfare. Different aspects of warfare are examined, from insurrection to political coups, to the use of drones. Will the new generation of battlefields be digital? This information warfare, a digital house of cards, is three pronged: electronic jamming, infrastructure disruption through cyber attacks, and spreading misinformation by psychological operations. Beyond this is the consideration of who will control future drones, the military or corporations. Rollins noted, “We are now seeing the lines blurring between military forces and those armies being controlled by corporations. To save money and balance budgets, governments, are handing more and more military powers over to corporate boardrooms. I think this year as we see with Presidential candidates; we are seeing some pushback against that, which will hopefully continue. If we shift our military responsibility to corporations there could be no interest to protect human life and their only concern is the bottom line of profitability.” War Hawk has a very intriguing story, including everything someone wants to know about drones, but was afraid to ask. The relationships between characters are very well developed. This is one of those novels that not only has a riveting plot, but is also informative and insightful with many different subject matters explored. Continue reading
Posted Apr 21, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book 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 on the right sidebar. Lost Among The Living by Simone St. James is a haunting story. As with her previous books the plot takes place in England during the 1920s and examines the challenges brought upon to those living in the post World War I era. The novel is a great combination of many genres, a riveting historical fiction intertwined with a murder mystery and a touch of the paranormal. Both fans of gothic stories and non-fans can enjoy this book. The plot has several factors that the gothic genre is known for, including a haunted house, a ghost with something to say, an independent, isolated heroine, and family secrets. Yet, the gothic portion does not dominate, allowing the reader to delve into the mystery and characters without being hit over the head by the ghostly presence. From the very first chapter people will be engaged with the characters and storyline. The plot begins with Jo and Alex knowing from their first date it was love at first sight. They had a blissful marriage until the outbreak of World War I. Jo is notified that Alex is missing in action, leaving her status in limbo. She is neither a married woman nor a widow and is not entitled to any benefits. Her grief is compounded by having to put her insane mother in a private mental institution. In need of money she accepts Alex aunt’s proposal to be a traveling companion and later a secretary at Dottie’s Wych Elm House. It is there that Jo feels the presence of Dotti’s daughter Fran who supposedly committed suicide. Jo starts to believe that Fran might have been murdered as she unravels clues provided by an unknown force. Because World War I had such an impact, even with its aftermath, St. James commented to blackfive.net, “We have the image of the 1920s as everything being fun and everyone was partying, yet World War I was devastating to that generation. I touch on the concept of mental illness in most of my books as a recurring theme. This ties back to the gothic novel. Back then there were harsh reactions with no understanding of what people have gone through. There was no desire to help them. In my third book I wrote about an insane asylum where men who fought in World War I and had PTSD were put away.” She also wants the reader to feel for those who have someone missing in action, noting, “I liked the quote, ‘trapped in amber,’ because she was not a widow or a married woman. I also put in the quote, ‘Women don’t have a great many choices in such a situation.’ In those days a woman had very limited options.” The characters are well developed. Jo’s situation as the wife of an MIA is explored brilliantly, reminding the reader how the family is affected by having someone disappear during combat. Although living a hard life Jo never gives up. She is courageous, brave, intelligent, and resourceful. Aunt Dottie, although grim, demanding and materialistic, is also practical, compassionate, and helpful. Through flashbacks and memories Alex is seen as caring, smart, and heroic. Readers will not only enjoy the suspense of the story but will learn some facts of the times including how women were treated, the creation of of MI5, and society’s view of those who have gone “mad.” If readers wonder about the British spy details, St. James told blackfive.net, “All true. The MI5 archives were opened up in the last twenty years or so. Since then, there have been several histories. I read some books about the British spy agency and put that information into this book. Before World War I there was a worry that the Germans would invade England. They needed people to help spy for them and report back. Since there was no training they were on their own and reported back by writing letters.” Lost Among The Living is a very interesting read that has the reader glued to the pages. The blending of different genres makes the story even more interesting. Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book 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 in the right sidebar. The Girl In The Glass by James Hayman is a mystery based on two time periods. These copycat murders take place in 1904 and 2012, creating an intriguing premise. The crimes are identical in every way with a time span of 108 years. Because the book delves into the rich society, Hayman hopes the readers “understand this sense of privilege. The attitude being, ‘whatever I want I can have, no matter who it hurts.’ Fitzgerald said, ‘The very rich is very different than you and I,’ and Hemingway joked about that statement, ‘yeah, they have more money.’ My modern day character is the ultimate bad rich girl who uses brains and beauty to get what she wants.” The plot has two women stabbed to death, about a century apart, on the same remote island near Maine’s coastline, left for dead with the letter “A” carved into their chest. Detectives Mike McCabe and Maggie Savage are assigned to bring the modern day killer quickly to justice. But the key to solving the murder appears to have been buried with her ancestor who was killed in a similar manner. Readers might think of the legendary novel, The Scarlett Letter, where a woman found guilty of adultery had an “A” pinned to her clothing. However, that is where the similarities stop. With this book, the cases have a number of suspects, each with their own motives. These two stories include a lot of broken marriages, complex families, and parental love where jealousy and sibling rivalry are the norm. Hayman commented to blackfive.net, “McCabe is my alter ego. We are both New Yorkers, city guys with our women talented artists. We both have daughters who we love. We share the same values. When I write him it is as if I am putting myself into whatever position he is in. Anyone who has read all the books would know me very well if they understand the McCabe character. The people I spend the most time with are my imaginary friends.” As with most of Hayman’s books he is able to masterfully portray the misty, coastal atmosphere of Maine. The islands are described in such a way the readers can close their eyes and feel they are transported there with the rocky high cliffs surrounded by rough seas that have dangerous shorelines. The Maine coast and Portland in particular with its maritime history provide a unique backdrop for a book like The Girl in the Glass. Hayman regards Portland Maine as “the perfect setting for a suspense thriller series. It is a hip little city with a police department big enough to have specialties; yet, small enough so they know each other and can interact together.” This latest McCabe/Savage thriller has a great setting and characters. The setting blends into the mystery perfectly. Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book 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 on the right sidebar. Time Of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen is a mystery that blends crime suspense within a very potent historical setting. By using historical events and people in her books the plots become both believable and relatable. In this novel the 1906 San Francisco earthquake almost becomes a secondary character, where it is featured prominently. Bowen commented to blackfive.net, “When I write a story I always look at what has happened during that time period. For example, this book takes place in 1906. When I write about that era I don’t want to tell people about it, but want to take people to 1906. I consider myself a tour guide that has people feeling what is happening as well as being told what it was like.” As with all her books, Bowen allows the reader to feel that they have gone back in time. In this book she gives a flavor for what it is like to be an Irish American, how corruptness was widespread, the ability to travel across country, and the effect of natural disasters upon the population. Intertwined within that is a crime that must be solved. The two main characters, Molly Murphy Sullivan and her husband Daniel are struggling to maintain respectability while dark forces attempt to besmirch their name. As a New York police captain who believes in honesty and integrity he is contemplating resigning from a corrupt force. But an unexpected twist of fate allows him to take an assignment offered by the head of the secret service, to weed out corrupt officials in San Francisco. Molly, a former private detective, feels completely in the dark until she receives a cryptic letter from him asking her to join him in California. Embarking on a cross-country journey by train she is apprehensive of the dangers in store for her family. It is there that she must use her detective skills to find out who is responsible for the attempt on her husband’s life and their ulterior motives. It is while doing the investigation that the earthquake hits, plummeting the city into chaos and despair. The earthquake adds to the suspense of the story as readers see the human side of natural disasters where there is a fine line between the good guys and the bad ones. Daniel and Molly not only face danger from the earthquake and subsequent fire but from corrupted officials and unsavory people who have come out of the woodworks to take advantage of the vulnerable. It becomes clear that Molly and Daniel’s personalities are very similar. Both are smart, savvy, self-sufficient, resourceful, and fearless with a sense of justice. The author noted, “When I was doing the research I found there to be so many first hand accounts. The one that struck me the most was the army’s instruction to shoot looters on site. Here you had so many people escape from the earthquake only to be shot as they tried to retrieve some valuable heirloom of theirs. I was also touched by the fact that those who were there had no way of getting in touch with anybody. There were families disrupted. This was one of the reasons I put in the scenes of Molly and Daniel’s young son, Liam, disappearing.” What makes this novel a stand out is how the mystery is intertwined with the historical events. The setting, dialogue, and characters, help to create an informative, suspenseful, and insightful plot. Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar. Clawback by bestselling author J. A. Jance brings back the heroine Ali Reynolds. The story brings to mind issues revealed in the movie The Big Short and the news events surrounding Bernie Madoff. Where Jance is at her best is describing complicated issues and breaking them down into understandable terms within a gripping mystery. In this latest, Ali Reynolds must solve the murder of someone caught up in a Ponzi scheme that bankrupted hundreds of people. Among those are her parents who lost their life retirement savings. Because her dad wants answers he decides to confront his long time friend and financial advisor, only to find he and his wife dead. In an effort to clear her father, seek justice for those who lost their savings, and find the hidden money she teams up with her husband B. Simpson, the executive of High Noon. Jance noted to blackfive.net that this story was highly personal. “My husband and I had our own Ponzi guy in Seattle. He relieved us of $500,000 of our retirement funds. That is why I put in the dedication, ‘For all the people who gave me 500,000 reasons for writing this book. Whoever you are; you know who you are.’ Because it was in a retirement account we could not even claim the loss on our taxes. We will never see any of that money again. It is sad to think that people who are in their 70’s, had retired, and planned on having this money for their golden years are all back at work. My advice, ‘If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.’” Furthermore, Jance wants readers to understand that she and her husband did their due diligence. “We spoke with investment advisors from big management firms. We even checked the audits. What evidently happened is that whenever there was going to be an audit someone from that company would call and warn the Ponzi guy. This allowed him to move the money around and show everything was honkey dory.” Although the story is very entertaining readers can also learn something. Clawback refers to a law that assesses penalties on victims of Ponzi schemes by having the bankruptcy courts confiscating previous distributions. The book quote explains, “So my parents get hit twice, first by the Ponzi scheme itself and then by the bankruptcy trustees-insult to injury.” Jance explains, “Proceeds from an investment that is found to be fraudulent are confiscated and then redistributed to all investors on a proportional basis. Since we had not started taking any funds out, Clawback did not affect us. But since none of the money has been found, the characters in my book had a happier ending than those who were schemed along with me. I wish I could have hired High Noon to trace the money since the government is not interested in helping find the money hidden by the bad guys.” Jance also appears to be tech savvy. She talks of “presence technology,” in which employees and their families of High Noon have all their electronic devices equipped with the latest technology. Basically allowing the company to know where an individual is and follow their movements in real time. One of the most interesting characters is Cami Lee, an employee of High Noon. Coming from a world of accomplished parents, she was an over achiever who was shy, a bookworm, highly technical, and an expert in martial arts. Jance commented that she based this character on “my two granddaughters who came from orphanages in China. Both are very talented gymnasts. Those girls are no bigger than a minute but are surprisingly strong as can be.” Clawback is a must read for anyone who wants to understand a complicated issue that can possibly have a personal effect. With a rich cast of characters and a compelling story that is believable this is a must read. Continue reading
Posted Mar 24, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar. The Watcher In The Wall by Owen Laukkanen is a novel with a very dark subject matter. Known for his powerful and suspenseful stories Laukkanen continues this pattern with his latest book. He has dealt with Internet targeted killings that prey on young veteran’s emotions, human trafficking of teenage girls, and now this, a predator that encourages teenagers to commit suicide on a web-cam. Early in the book readers understand that a stalker of sorts attempts to find teenagers who are depressed and want to end their life. In fact, the book cover and title play into this scenario. Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere, partners in a joint BCA-FBI violent crimes task force stumble on this person. Stevens’ daughter is devastated when a classmate commits suicide. She asks them to investigate this voice of death and doom. What they find is an online suicide club of unhappy teenagers, presided over by an anonymous presence that seems to be encouraging them. Stevens and Windermere are driven to find this person and prevent him from convincing others to act on their feelings. Laukkanen based the book on “the real-life case of online predator William Melchert-Dinkel. He is a Minnesota man who has counseled someone online and encouraged them to commit suicide. He is suspected of entering into fake suicide pacts with at least five other victims. All killed themselves at his instruction. At the time I started to write this story the case was working its way through the courts. I was stunned and frustrated with the justice system in that it appeared he would get away with it so I wrote this book about a similar predator. On appeal it was found that he could be retried for actively assisting in a victim’s suicide. Ultimately he was convicted last fall and served just 360 days in jail. Writing this story was therapeutic for me because I was so upset with the sentence of this real-life guy, so I decided to administer my own justice, which was more fitting.” What makes the story more relatable are the backstories on Windermere and the Internet killer. After being brutally abused by his alcoholic stepfather as a young man he decides to turn the tables on his stepsister, giving her constant emotional abuse. She decides to take her life, and as she hangs herself she notices him watching her. Unfortunately he gets a high from this and decides to set up a website where he can encourage others to die at their own hands as he watches. Windermere also has dealt with suicide from bullying. As a teenager, she watched as someone she knew was taunted and bullied until they took their life. She did nothing to intervene and this has haunted her. This is probably one of the most potent parts of the book: the description of how so many students laugh along with the bullies, not because they want to be mean to the victim, but to fit in themselves, or out of a desire to not become a target of the bully themselves. The author noted to blackfive.net, “We need to pay attention to what our friends/students/family members are feeling, whom they are talking to online, and what is bothering them. Parents need to play a role on monitoring what their children do on the Internet. This story was very personal to me. I hope the story brought some awareness. I was always someone who was an outsider. There were times where I felt the whole world is against me. Depression does things to you mentally that could be really paralyzing. While writing this book I was dealing with some mental health issues, mainly depression and suicidal thoughts of my own. When depressed you feel so alone. I channeled this by writing the book. It became a release for me. The mixture of talking to professionals, friends, and family as well as finding the right medication helped me.” The book is also very informative in that it describes the debate between calling coercion a crime versus freedom of speech. A quote from the story explains, “State law says it’s a felony to coerce or counsel someone into committing suicide,” but there is no federal law because of “his right to free speech to do what he’s doing.” Readers might be shocked to learn that predators like this fictional character may not even be breaking the law. The Watcher In The Wall is an informative mystery. This chilling story is gut wrenching. A word of warning make sure you have the time to read it because you will not want to put it down. Continue reading
Posted Mar 23, 2016 at BlackFive
The following author interview is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our author interviews and book reviews by clicking on the books category link on the right side bar. Meet Jennifer Robson. She is a historian, novelist, and a kindred spirit with those in the military. All of her books are character driven with strong female and male heroes that are somewhat independent. They begin in a place of relative powerlessness while ending in a place of relative strength. Robson spoke with blackfive.net about the challenges, her writings, and influences. Her latest project was a chapter in the anthology Fall Of Poppies, entitled, All For The Love Of You. Through a heart warming plot she describes what an American Captain, Daniel Mancuso, had to endure when his cheekbones were shattered and right eye lost. He was able to have a mask fitted by the American Red Cross Studio for Portrait Masks, a civilian based organization that allowed wounded warriors to get fulfillment, flickers of hope, and protection from those who might react negatively to the deformities. But it is also a love story, which emphasizes the importance of a person’s inner beauty, rather than their physical appearance. Released early this year, Moonlight Over Paris is the last book in the World War I series. It is a follow up to After The War Is Over, and the first in the series, Somewhere in France. This latest emphasizes Paris during the 1920s, where the characters experience a new world after World War I. Just as the fictional characters come into contact with the “Lost Generation,” and its circle of American expatriates, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, so does the reader. It is a story of friendship, change, and choices. She commented to blackfive.net, “I hope readers are touched by what my heroes, Sam and Daniel, have suffered, and then make the connection to what our soldiers are going through today. I have had heroes endure PTSD, being maimed, and have experienced terrible things. Yet, they made a decision that it would not define their life. I do think the average person today does not have a connection to someone in the military; yet, should understand the implications of what it is like to serve, be injured, or lose a life. It seems it is very easy to spend money to support wars, but very difficult to spend money to support the veterans afterward. When I served as a guide in France in 1989 at the National War Memorial I will never forget how I had a chance to thank those who fought in the Great World War, shake their hands, and listen to what they had to say. It was an honor for me. It was something that influenced me as I decided to write this series.” Having been influenced by her family members and friends who have served she commented, “I worry about the generations dying out. Will my children understand the sacrifices made by those who served? My great grandfather was a soldier in WWI and my grandfather was an aviator in WWII. I hope in a small way my novels capture the people, memories, and thoughts of veterans. I want the periods to come alive as a way to honor the memory of those who fought.” The chapter in the anthology insightfully shows how facial prosthetics gave wounded warriors confidence to venture outside without being thought of as oddities. She explained, “Facial deformities is something the human eye has difficulty processing. In doing research I looked at a lot of pictures and was taken in by those people’s suffering. I wrote this chapter to show what happens to soldiers when they survive with major injuries that can affect their lives. My character made the point that a soldier could still live even after having a horrendous injury that maimed them.” Besides feeling a bond with her characters, readers are also able to understand that those who worked in the studio for portrait masks took up the challenge of healing the emotional wounds as the doctors and nurses healed the physical wounds. Robson stated, “No one who worked there made much money and it was not done for profit. Through my research I read some of the letters written to Anna Coleman Ladd, a renowned American sculptor, who set up the studio. The letters expressed such gratitude of being able to get even a part of their lives back. They said how they were able to go home and not see disgust on the faces of their loved ones. An interesting point I found out is that there are very few masks in existence today. The superstition of most historians is that the masks were probably buried with the men.” In reading these books people will feel they are actually a part of the story. The best historical fiction novels allow people to understand what is happening and get swept up in the story. They are able to see the world through the character’s eyes and hopefully relate it to today’s issues. With Robson’s writings, readers can gain an understanding of the war, its aftermath, and how those on the front lines are able to connect in the new world. Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book 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. No One Knows by J. T. Ellison is part mystery, part psychological thriller, and part cautionary tale. It is one of those stories that show fairy tales do not always come true. The themes of trust, betrayal, and treachery are explored through the lives of the main character. Ellison noted, “People might compare it to Gone Girl, but I wrote it before that book ever came out, back in 2011. It was based on a dream I had when my husband and I went to a wedding at the Opryland Hotel in Tennessee. After sending me a drink he disappeared. I was looking for him and as I rushed into the parking lot I saw the author Harlan Coben, who wanted to give me career advice. Unfortunately I never got it because I woke up. I did not have it published then because Catherine Coulter popped up in 2012. She wanted me to start writing with her so I shelved this book. Of course Gone Girl came out a few months later. But now after numerous revisions I have published my first stand alone.” As the story unfolds readers will wonder which character they can truly trust and believe. The main character, Aubrey Trenton Hamilton, thinks she has met her savior, a knight in shining armor who will love her unconditionally. She and Josh live in marital bliss until his disappearance. Ellison breaks the storyline down into time periods based on Aubrey’s relationship with Josh, having spent the first seven years of her life not knowing him, the next 17 years of her life side by side with Josh as childhood sweethearts, and 5 years mourning his unexpected disappearance and possible death. In those five years she has known nothing but emptiness, solitude, and loneliness. With alternating past and present chapters, readers get a feeling of knowing the characters inside and out. Aubrey is an unreliable narrator, a complex character who is put into an extraordinary circumstance. She has had a harsh life, losing both her biological and adoptive parents. This frail person just wants to be loved. This becomes evident with not only Josh but someone she meets, Chase Boden. He has an uncanny resemblance to Josh, from his mannerisms to the way he walks, Readers go on the same journey as Aubrey wondering if she will ever be able to forge a life beyond Josh. The reason Ellison has the setting at the Opryland Hotel is for its monstrous landscape. She explained, “It is so easy to get lost in. I thought it a great setting to start off the book. It is a metaphor for this story because anyone who visits there can get turned around and see different things at different times.” Even after her husband, Josh, is declared legally dead Aubrey has a hard time moving on. She is still obsessed with finding the answers behind his disappearance. People will understand how someone can almost lose their sanity wanting answers. It is a reminder how missing persons can sometimes be worse than knowing someone is dead, considering there is no closure. Although the plot is not based on this, Ellison tells of her own experience with a missing person. “I had a friend who went missing and never has been found. In 1992 in South Carolina after a U2 Concert she just disappeared, and was never heard from again. I know she didn’t run away to create a new world for herself. It is horrifying to me to think what her family has to go through even to this day.” No One Knows will have inevitable comparisons to Gone Girl, but this is a more realistic storyline. It will have readers guessing who can be believed and what are their ulterior motives. Ellison messes with the character’s head as well as the readers with her many twists and turns. Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book 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 on the right side bar. Off The Grid by C. J. Box brings back Nate Romanowski, the beloved rugged individualist. This book delves into a number of themes, some of which Box has become known for: getting the Federal government to acquiesce to the States, a contemporary Western, a solid description of the western landscape, and the issues facing western states. But, beyond that he explores the possibility of how terrorists can use technology to harm Americans, the vulnerability of the US communication systems, and the overzealous government surveillance. It might seem that a lot of issues are covered in the novel, but Box has a knack for brilliantly intertwining everything. The plot begins with Nate and his girlfriend, Liv, living in obscurity on a remote Wyoming ranch, enjoying hunting and his falcons. Some rogue Federal organization finds Nate, because Liv decides to telephone her ill mother. A deal is made to destroy Nate’s criminal record for his help in locating a terror cell in Wyoming’s Red Desert. Nate's master falconer skills are needed to give him an "in" with the Muslim, Ibby, who is also a master falconer. Meanwhile, game warden Joe Pickett is asked by the Wyoming Governor to stop the tracking of a grizzly bear and instead track down his friend Nate. Coincidentally the bear, Nate, and Joe converge at the Red Desert. Also there is Joe’s daughter Sheridan who has decided to go on a weekend camping trip. All unite in an attempt to thwart the terrorists before they can destroy the US electrical infrastructure. The title, Off The Grid, is very apropos since it represents two plot lines. Literally, the terrorists are attempting to destroy the electrical grid that would incapacitate the US, and figuratively as Nate attempts to become a hermit, to be left alone in peace. He has been living “off the grid,” having no electronics, credit records, bank records, or tax records. Nate is content to live deep in the wild, flying his falcons and avoiding contact. The idea for the story came to Box after hearing the FBI Director John Comey say there are terrorists being tracked in all fifty states. Box stated,“After a homeland terrorist attack, national security comes to the forefront, but as time passes we put it on the back burner. I think that a terrorist plot happening in far-flung Wyoming is not as crazy as it sounds. I started to think about Wyoming, what could potentially happen here, and what would be the target. Nobody in the US should feel immune. Attacks will not always happen in New York or Washington. I put a lot of the information in the book on how every electronic device can be killed by an EMP, if in the vicinity of the pulse. It would be a devastating attack.” Anyone wishing for the return of Sheriff Matt Dillon will enjoy this storyline. The gunfights with the terrorists are taken right out of any Western battle. Even the weapon used is an “Apache” Helicopter. One scene in the book has Nate shooting out the trucks, which represent horses being shot out from the villains. Readers can vividly picture the gun battle as the shoot out occurs behind covered rocks. Even Joe’s “cowboy” hat is affected by this gunfight, being ridden with bullets. As with all his novels Box is informative about western culture. In this case he gives insight into the western setting, grizzly bears, and falcons. His vivid descriptions of the harsh and remote, but beautiful environment, allow the reader to feel as if they are there. Box noted to blackfive.net, “Nate was based on someone I grew up with. This guy was a Falconer who went into a Special Forces Unit of our military. I made Nate part falcon because his qualities are similar to those birds. He is definitely the ultimate Falconer. He is described as a libertarian homicidal folk hero. Based on his moral code, he will murder first and ask questions later. In all of my books with Nate I put something about falcons. In this one I had in the book how “Nate had the ability to go as still as one of his hooded falcons.” I also compared in the book how falcons identify, attack, and kill their target, to what Nate did with the terrorists.” He also commented, “There is a theory that the more the grizzly is studied and thus, comes into contact with people, the more likely they will lose their fear of humans. The number of grizzly bear attacks has grown. I read about this one bear that traveled 1000s of miles and even slept in an elementary school playground. I decided to put it in the book. Also true, is that grizzlies have been known to actually track hunters. Sometimes it appears the researchers tracking the bear seem more worried about the health and welfare of the bear than the hunter being tracked.” Off The Grid is a warning of sorts in that it shows how US national security is vulnerable to a terrorist attack. It is not only informative, but challenges peoples’ minds as they learn about western culture. To date this might just be one of Box’s best. Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar. What Remains Of Me by Alison Gaylin is a captivating story. The bestselling author Jeffery Deaver once said, “A thriller asks what is going to happen and a mystery asks what happened.” In this spellbinding story, Gaylin does both through her character Kelly Lund, portraying her as a teenager and a woman in her forties. There are multiple themes explored including the effect of secrets, how money and power corrupt, as well as how the media frenzy attempts to put a persona on a celebrity. These are all wonderfully intertwined throughout this story about the world of Hollywood. The plot alternates between two murders, with the suspect being the same person, Kelly Lund. In 1980, as a seventeen year old, she is found guilty of killing director John McFadden. Released after twenty-five years, she attempts to maintain a low profile until five years later when she is again suspected of murdering her father-in-law, a legendary actor, Sterling Marshall. Readers are shown the circus surrounding the coverage of a famous murderer, and are reminded of the O.J. Simpson and Charles Manson cases. In this story, the media casts Kelly in a role that becomes reality to the outsiders. As one of the characters in the book says, "It's not what you've done that matters, it's what people think you've done." As the plot progresses people are able to understand the dark secrets, lies, and betrayals caused by power and money. The power of the press is explored because Gaylin wants readers to understand, “The press can be as unreliable as anyone else. It is impossible to get to know someone from an article. A sense of that person is colored by the writer’s perception of that person. Facts as they are presented are many times different than facts as they are. This distortion is definitely true in high profile trials. We can never truly know our public figures. Just look at Marcia Clark, the Simpson prosecutor. She became well known in a murder case where a young actress was shot by an obsessed fan. She helped establish the anti-stalking laws. But after the O.J. case she became known as the lady with funny hair who botched the case. A lot of the Hollywood aspect is larger than life. BTW: Clark is now a terrific mystery writer. On the other side is Amanda Knox. The press created a persona of her because she didn’t act according to some prescribed script. That story inspired me. If your exterior isn't viewed as likable, or if you don't seem as contrite as people think you ought to be, a narrative builds up around you, and you become a 'monster.'” Even though all the characters are dysfunctional, Gaylin does a good job of showing the reasons behind their faults and personalities. Kelly and her friend Bellamy Marshall become more likeable as the story progresses. In many ways they both had rough lives, having faced some very bad knocks. They attempt to hide their true feelings, and become almost compartmentalized with their emotions. In understanding these two characters the fairy tale The Prince and The Pauper comes to mind. Both Kelly and Bellamy envy what the other supposedly has. Kelly searches to replace her twin sister Catherine who died and Bellamy wants her to be the sibling sister she never had. Each looked upon the other’s life and thought how that life could be better than their own. Regarding her character Kelly, Gaylin commented to blackfive.net, “Writing young and middle age Kelly was like writing two different characters. I try to figure out how every character justifies their actions. She was affected by her twenty-five years in prison, and the loss of her twin sister. I think it stunted her and hardened her. I hope readers will develop some understanding of her. She as well as the other characters went down the wrong path. I wanted to write a story about someone very young and somewhat naïve who was accused of committing a murder. She was definitely convicted in the court of public opinion with people misconstruing what she said and how she acted.” The only character that seems to have some semblance of being grounded is known as Rocky Three. He becomes Kelly’s confidant and someone she can believe in, a friend who offers tenderness, compassion, and truthfulness. The direct opposite of Rocky is the narcissist John McFadden, a truly evil person who uses his power to prey on young girls. This is brought home with the powerful quote, “You ever wish you were a little kid again…too little to understand how the world works?” Readers begin to understand that many children in the Hollywood scene grow up way too fast, and begin to realize that the world is not always a nice place. Anyone fascinated with Hollywood and true crimes needs to read What Remains Of Me. Gaylin uses her journalistic credentials to have the plot and the characters come alive. This emotional, dark, and distinctive tale of revenge and betrayal, presumed guilt and innocence lost, will have the readers quickly turning the pages. Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book review and interview 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 on the right side bar. Playing To The Edge, written by former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, offers insight into many of the programs under his responsibility. He discusses NSA’s data collection, the enhanced interrogation program, relations with Congress and the media. It also delves into the political, legal, defense, technical and budget restrictions he faced during his tenure as a director of the NSA and CIA Hayden told blackfive.net he wrote the book “to pull back the veil to give Americans a better understanding of what the intelligence community does for American security. Despite its great importance, it is highly misunderstood.” The book highlights NSA data collection, and Hayden makes a very good point, that much of the fear is rooted in misunderstanding. He clearly explains how Stellarwind, the Metadata program, became an enormously useful way to track who foreign terrorists are talking to in the United States without sacrificing any significant measure of privacy. Readers will understand that those in the intelligence community and the Bush Administration were not focused on world domination, and had no interest in listening to a person’s phone calls, unless they were speaking with a terrorist. It becomes evident after reading the book and talking with General Hayden that intelligence operates in a universal gray area, where there is a need to balance freedom and security. He explained, “We put together with Stellarwind a massive file of the history of American phone calls. But the files were accessed only with strict and limited circumstances. For example, if you pick up a phone never seen before, associated with terrorism, you can ask the database if the phone’s history has ever been in contact with anyone in the US. The database is accessed by an intelligence professional that thinks they have a reasonable suspicion that a particular phone number is connected with terrorism. In order for John Doe to be triggered he would have to be in touch with either, directly or indirectly, a phone number overseas that is believed to be terrorist related.” Hayden basically agrees with John Brennan, the current CIA Director, who said in an interview, “individuals are liberally giving up their privacy, you know, sometimes wittingly and sometimes unwittingly as they give information to companies or to sales reps. Or they go out on Facebook or the various social media. They don't realize though that they are then making themselves vulnerable to exploitation.” But more importantly what Hayden wants to focus upon is that America should be “capturing terrorists and detaining them for interrogation. How we get to that point is to elect another president. This President grabs someone only if he can put them in an article III court, instead of treating them as enemy combatants.” Congress and this administration have shown a betrayal of trust where the CIA is concerned; yet, has done nothing regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails. Hayden noted, “I have not seen the emails. But, once you set up a private server it can’t go to a happy place because it is unprotected. As a former Director of the NSA if a potential adversary of the US had done this I would have moved heaven and earth to see the information. It was imprudent and I cannot understand why the folks at the State Department did not say to her she could not do it. The explanation she gives is incoherent for anyone who was in government.” The book further explains the Hayden Doctrine. When asked about it, he directly commented to blackfive.net, “Balancing openness with the need for secrecy is a condition to be managed, not a problem to be solved. We should lean forward as far as possible in telling our story. If we do not do this other people will, without being as accurate or as favorable. We need to communicate to the broader society what we do and the reasons behind it. Because too much information is classified this breeds carelessness in protecting what is really secret. But we have to be open internally as well. I created a program, ‘Email The Director.’ Something seemed to be working because by 2008 we were only in the press because of Congress.” In Playing To The Edge Michael Hayden shows how important intelligence is to America’s security. People might not always agree with him, but one thing is for certain he believes in the Constitution, is a patriot, and his only agenda is to protect his fellow citizens. Americans should thank him for his service and consider him a true American hero who stepped up to the plate to defend the homeland. Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book 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 Steel Kiss by Jeffery Deaver is a gripping Lincoln Rhyme’s thriller. The plot feeds right into people’s fears. Although technology today plays a large role in everyday life, after reading this, readers will never look on devices the same way. If his goal is to scare the heck out of readers he succeeded beyond comprehension with this novel. The plot begins with New York City detective Amelia Sachs chasing a suspect through a busy mall. As she is about to apprehend him an escalator malfunctions with horrendous consequences, someone is mangled to death. It becomes evident that a person is hacking into consumer products to kill people, and appears to enjoy watching the suffering, either physically or emotionally. Amelia enlists the help of her boyfriend, famous forensic scientist Lincoln Rhyme to assist in solving the crime. They must race against the clock to catch the perpetrator before he hacks into more appliances and the victim count becomes greater. The author commented, “I do like to create a world where the killers appear somewhat sympathetic and are complicated characters that have interesting elements; yet are despicable. I chose to show the terror of these consumer products, such as microwaves, baby monitors, and escalators. Who is at fault, the consumer or manufacturer? For example, if someone misuses a car there are consequences. That is different from someone hacking into the control system of a car to cause an accident. I thought about all this and realized how wonderful and what a great way to terrify readers.” There are many sub-plots in this book. Fans of this series will wonder where the Sachs/Rhyme relationship is headed. Her ex-boyfriend, Nick Carelli has been released from prison and he asks Amelia for help in clearing his name. Another sub-plot involves Officer Ron Pulaski who goes undercover in an attempt to prove Lincoln was not responsible for someone’s murder. This allows Deaver to present readers with a new fascinating character, Juliette Archer, an intern, who is also a quadriplegic. She is vibrant and uses her knowledge of riddles to lighten the mood while everyone attempts to solve the crime. An example of one of her riddles, “Two sons and two fathers go fishing. Each one catches a fish. They return from the trip with only three fish. How can that be?” Deaver told blackfive.net, “I put in the riddles to give Juliette some quirkiness. I decided to give Lincoln someone he can help and mentor. She is quite charming, interesting, and self-confident. The reason I made Lincoln a quadriplegic is to have a character that only has their intellect as a weapon, having Sherlock Holmes skills. This became the book the Bone Collector. Lincoln had to use his mind and intuitive skills, because as a quadriplegic he had no other resources. I had no idea he would be so popular. At first, he was paralyzed from the shoulders down, but after some surgeries he regained certain movements of his right arm and fingers.” Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book 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 on the right side bar. Overwatch by Matthew Betley has an action plot with non-stop shootouts, exploding bombs, home invasions, drug cartels, and terrorists. Having served in Iraq Betley uses his experiences to create a gripping plot. He commented to blackfive.net, “As a Marine junior officer I commanded a scout sniper platoon. Although I had a lot of tactical training my deployments were in a staff support function. Unfortunately, mortars and rockets don’t care about what capacity someone is in. When I was in Iraq US forces took the most missile fire during the war. The locations, settings, military units, and certain narrative components are all very real, but the overall story is completely my own. I decided to write this story because I read some bestsellers that bored me. I wanted to write something I would personally want to read, an action packed thriller. I created a modern day action hero who had some issues going back to the origins set in Iraq.” The story begins when former Marine Recon Commander Logan West attempts to get his life back on track and reconnect with his wife before the divorce is finalized. As a relapsing alcoholic and someone suffering from PTSD he must deal with his demons. West has nightmares about the ambush that his Force Recon unit suffered in Iraq during an insurgent attack on a compound in Fallujah in 2004. But that is all put on hold when someone tries to kill him and his wife. After answering the dead killer’s phone West begins to connect the dots, realizing that a terrorist attack is imminent. The key appears to be an Iraqi flag that is currently owned by his friend and fellow Marine, John Quick. The FBI hires both ex-Marines as consultants to help thwart the attack that will draw the US into a war with Iran. It becomes clear they must battle ex-US military, now hired as mercenaries, by Calin Frost, a private security consultant out for revenge. Readers might be a bit skeptical how West can conduct himself while still having re-occurring blackouts and alcoholic binges. West’s withdrawal symptoms could have created problems even if he seems to have a superhuman ability to lock into the mission. Because Betley is a recovering alcoholic, sober for seven years, he told blackfive.net, he made those scenes very realistic. He noted, “I was a highly functioning weekend alcoholic. I would get hammered on the weekends. I thought about what would happen if I were in a bender. I basically would not stop drinking until I was hammered.” Overwatch has the action taking place all over the globe, from Mexico, to America, specifically the Alamo, to the war torn Iraq Al-Anbar province. This debut novel has non-stop action that has readers feeling the realities of combat. Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book 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 on the right side bar. Hard Cold Winter by Glen Erik Hamilton combines a mysterious plot with very powerful characters. Featured is Van Shaw, a former Army Ranger who must come to grips with making the transition from military to civilian life. The major theme is trust. Hamilton explores how someone needs to depend on their friends and have confidence in their own choices. The plot begins with Van helping one of his late grandfather’s associates search for his high school acquaintance, Elana Call, in Seattle’s Olympic Mountains. What he finds instead is a brutal murder scene, including a victim from one of Seattle’s most influential families. He is caught in the middle of a confrontation between a billionaire and a drug cartel. On a mission to find the truth behind Elana’s disappearance, Van must trust his instincts to find a resolution. Van’s life is a number of transitions, including trying to avoid joining the criminal world of his grandfather, and becoming a civilian after his Afghanistan deployments. He also wrestles with his own reemerging symptoms of PTSD caused during his combat days. A new character also suffers, former Army Ranger Leo Pak. The author explores the issue through the camaraderie they face, with each expressing their feelings, experiences, symptoms, and therapy. The plot skillfully handles the real impact PTSD has on some veterans. Hamilton commented, “I did my homework. In addition to a lot of reading on the subject, including David Finkel’s excellent Thank You For Your Service, I talked to Army vets and former Rangers about their own tours, how they thought about combat stress while active, and how that has changed since they’ve become civilians. Some of those soldiers were very open and honest about their issues and frustrations, and I owe them a great deal. There are no pat answers. As I mention in the book, there may be dozens of options for medical or psychological help, but navigating the system can be overwhelming. Some make it through and find what they need. Others don’t, or can’t.” While there are similarities between Van and Leo, Hamilton contrasts Van and his girlfriend Luce Boylan. Both came from criminal families, but Luce chose the straight and narrow path, practically raising herself. On the other hand, Van relied on the military to keep him focused, but always seems to be drawn in with the criminal element. Hamilton told blackfive.net, “Van is working on the transition between the life he wants and the life he now has. The next book will continue this storyline. He is trying to figure out his life without the military structure. He does not think of himself as a ‘war junkie’ but realizes he is not the type to sit at a desk forty hours a week. In the next book he tries to reconcile a balance between the criminal life of his past and his moral center.” In Hard Cold Winter readers will learn more about what makes Van tick through an interesting backstory. This plot has likeable characters, a good mystery, and is informative about what combat veterans must face. Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book 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 on the right sidebar. The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle is a fascinating thriller. The plot is intense with the main characters seen as either very likeable or having no redeeming qualities. Although the first few chapters are slow and readers will question where the plot is going they should realize that as the book progresses the storyline will grab their attention. This thought-provoking plot has many twists. Roy, a conman, now in his eighties, thinks he has an easy mark after an online meeting with Betty, a wealthy widow. Soon, they fall into a platonic relationship, with Roy moving into Betty’s cottage. He does this to grab the unsuspecting widow’s money, thinking of her as the perfect mark. Yet, as the story unfolds, it becomes obvious that there is a cat and mouse game going on between the characters. The author told blackfive.net, “I based it upon a relative of mine. While in her seventies she met someone, finding him on the Internet. She wanted a companion and thought this man was an utterly charming person. By the time we met him he had moved in with her. Within ten seconds of meeting him I knew there was something odd about this person. The rest was a voyage of discovery. I found out he lied about absolutely everything including his age, what he did for a living, and his relationships. He actually moved in with other women even though he was married. I became fascinated with him. Just like my character Roy he was imposing: tall, strong, broad shouldered, with piercing blue eyes. I wrote the backward sequencing because in my mind I started wondering what both Roy and the real life person were like twenty years ago, then thirty years ago, and so on.” The two main characters are as divergent as they come. Roy’s personality alternates between being charming and manipulative. Those he has schemed in the past are dead to him both figuratively and literally. He is malevolent, hateful, cunning, selfish, and a borderline psychotic. Contrast that with Betty, who is highly intelligent, attractive, and articulate. Searle noted, “Roy never feels a shred of guilt and has no conscience. He does not care about anyone. People can draw optimism from Betty. She is a survivor, petite, intelligent, and has an indomitable spirit.” Readers get to understand the characters through flashbacks into their lives that appear in reverse chronological order. The time periods alternate between the present and past, from August 1998, September 1973, March 1963, August 1957, May 1946 and finally to December 1938. As the book progresses, readers are able to start connecting the dots, realizing where the mystery is headed. The Good Liar is also a con job for readers allowing them to think the story is headed in one direction, but soon realizing that the twists take them on a completely different turn. This debut novel has a very ingenious ending. It will keep people guessing and on the edge of their seats. Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book 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 on the right sidebar. No Shred Of Evidence by Charles Todd is a story centered around Scotland Yard Detective Ian Rutledge. This story is definitely plot driven plunging Rutledge into the world of upper class societal families. With vivid depictions of England during the 1920’s readers will feel as if they are taken back in time. The basic premise of the plot has the entire “murder case” resting upon one eyewitness statement. It becomes a “he said, she said” story when Bradford Trevose accuses four women of murder. They vehemently deny the accusation, insisting that they attempted to rescue a man who called for help as his boat started to sink. Rutledge is called in to investigate while navigating the concerns and influence of the families of the women, all drawn from England's upper class, including Kate Gordon. She is someone from his past, last seen six years earlier, who was in love with him. The Todd’s noted, “Ian is not the bachelor type and wants to be married. We suggest things and he sometimes look at us like we are crazy. We will just have to wait and see what happens.” The second half of the novel spins a sub-plot in the story. Trying to remain neutral he must untangle this mystery and find the real killer. But his job is made more complicated since it appears there is no shred of evidence to clear the accused. But after a second assault, Rutledge’s inquiry takes an unexpected turn. This nameless killer seems to be invisible to both the local police and townspeople. With slim clues his investigation begins to go in a different direction. The Todd’s commented to blackfive.net, “We’ve always liked to write about a period when a policeman had to detect, to actively work at finding the truth, rather than looking to the lab to support his suspicions. This is harder work for us, but more challenging too. Rutledge has been very good at realizing that an inquiry going nowhere might actually mean that there is another possibility that isn’t obvious enough on the surface to be explored.” Readers are able to understand the time period compared to modern times. The authors explore how perception and someone’s personal agenda can influence their eyewitness story. A very interesting part of the story is how Detective Rutledge must use his skills to sort out the facts without the benefit of the DNA tools of today. Another emphasis of the time period is how women were regarded. Was the eye- witness’ story believed over the four women because he was a male? It appears women were supposed to be seen, but not heard. They had to follow certain rules and never protest. As with all their books there are a few scenes about the War. These descriptions allows for a comparison between today’s wounded warriors and those in World War I. The thought-provoking quote tells the story of the wounded, “Shattered bodies, burned or broken or gassed, bloody bandages, so much pain.” No Shred Of Evidence tells how an act of mercy turns into a disaster for the four women who tried to be heroes. All of Rutledge’s detective skills are needed to solve the mystery behind a man’s death. Readers are given clues throughout the book as they attempt to put the pieces together with Rutledge. Continue reading
Posted Feb 24, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book 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 on the right sidebar. Fall Of Poppies is an anthology that has settings and writings related to World War I. These historical fiction stories delve into unique experiences that are told from both the female and male point of views. Nine authors share stories of hope, strength, and renewal. The plots are insightful and interesting. Readers get a glimpse in understanding what the civilian and military population had to endure. Heather Webb, the editor and brainchild behind this anthology described the process she went through. “As a former teacher it was a natural skill for me to keep people on tab. It started out with a brainstorm about Armistice Day, the idea that tied all the stories together. The guidelines were any country touched by WWI with the time period either beginning on Armistice Day or ending on it. I contacted authors I knew who either wrote about this era or were interested in it, and they joyfully came on board. Anyone who loves history will find this time period perfect to explore.” One of the most gripping stories is All For The Love Of You by Jennifer Robson. Through a heart warming plot she describes what an American Captain had to endure when his cheekbones were shattered and right eye lost. He was able to have a mask fitted by the American Red Cross Studio for Portrait Masks, a civilian based organization that allowed wounded warriors to get fulfillment, flickers of hope, and protection from those who might react negatively to the deformities. But it is also a love story, which emphasizes the importance of a person’s inner beauty, rather than their physical appearance. Another wonderful story that also shows how facial prosthetics gave a wounded warrior confidence to venture outside again is The Record Set Straight by Lauren Willig. Inspired by the pioneering aviator, Denys Finch-Hatton, Willig writes the character, Nicholas Frobisher, an “Aviator with the Iran Mask.” This story examines how two brothers react to losing a part of themselves, Nicholas his face, and Edward his leg. With the help of his friend, who became his wife, Nicholas was able to realize his worth and regain a sense of purpose. The theme emphasizes how peoples’ personal life is tested during war, and the realities they must live with as peace arrives. Willig commented to blackfive.net, “The tin masks were designed for the maimed soldiers so they would not have to go out in the world and be thought of as freaks. For me, this was the birth of organizations that pioneered reconstructive technologies. I thought how today’s society is isolated from this current war and compared that to England during WWI where most everyone was touched in some way. Many of us have less understanding of our soldiers because we are removed and do not comprehend the day to day challenges those fighting must face.” Readers will also be drawn to the Gone With The Wind comparisons. Willig took that story and beautifully applied it to the World War I time period. There are many of the same elements: an epic war, soldier casualties, and a love triangle where the female lead is in love with one person, but marries someone else. It also has the Carrington house that becomes a central theme to the plot as the classic book does with Tara. Another notable chapter, An American Airman In Paris, by Beatriz Williams, brings to life an American pilot, Octavian. Her fans should appreciate how she delved into writing a story that takes place during wartime. Through her characters, people come to understand the effect World War I had on those who fought it. Readers get into the pilot’s mindset and can relate to his struggles. As with all of her books, Williams explores the historical significance of the era showing how this war, unlike WWII, did not have stand out heroes or villains amongst the leadership. In addition, she always centers the plot around an object, in this case, a photograph. This story highlights how the effect of WWI brought about the loss of innocence. According to Williams, the photograph represents “Octavian’s childhood, his emotional purity and naivety. Just as he loses that photograph, all of this is lost in the war, when his ideals were crushed. This included the romantic notion that the war could enable someone rather than debase them, when in actuality it was just the opposite.” One of the most relatable stories to today’s world is Hour of the Bells by Heather Webb. There are a lot of time metaphors as this author plays off the famous quote, “On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month...November 11, 1918.” But more powerful is how she speaks for the military families and the effect the war had on one in particular. Having lost a husband and a son to the brutality of the Germans Beatrix Joubert allows her grief to turn into a desire for revenge. This story has a woman seeking retaliation against the Germans who she sees as having no moral backbone. She decides to become a suicide bomber to blow up those that killed her family. Webb noted to blackfive.net, “I hoped to communicate how warfare in the past does relate to the present. I wanted to tap into and draw a parallel between something that happened a hundred years ago and what is happening today within an intense story. I wanted to focus on a woman who was completely devastated, but instead of becoming down trodden, she turns her emotions of grief into anger.” Fall Of Poppies has riveting stories related to World War I. This anthology of historical short stories allows readers to gain an understanding of the war, its aftermath, and how those on the front lines along with the civilians... Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book review and interview 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 on the right side bar. Back Blast by Mark Greaney brings back the Gray Man, a former paramilitary officer with an agenda. Anyone looking for characters and plotlines in the fashion of Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series should read this book. It discusses intelligence organizational politics, technology possibilities, and has a main character whose job it is to assassinate bad guys. The plot is spellbinding and riveting with non-stop action. The Gray Man, Court Gentry, has been away from the US for five years. He has returned to find out why his former agency, the CIA, has turned on him, putting a “kill on sight order.” Realizing he can trust no one he must stay one step ahead of those targeting him. As bodies pile up Court is blamed for all the deaths, even those he is not responsible for; yet, the Gray Man has the ability to outthink and outgun those hunting for him. The characters are captivating. Court Gentry morally does not wear the black or white hat. But readers root for him, knowing that all his missions were necessary to keep Americans safe. This book gives insight into the personality of Court. Layers of his past are revealed, which allows the readers to understand this very complex character. Over the years he has matured and has become wiser, less trusting, and more fatalistic. At times he is the hunter searching for his prey, but soon he becomes the hunted. What makes this character so fascinating is his ability to take the offense when he should be on the run. Contrast that with Denney Carmichael, the Director of the National Clandestine Service. His attitude learned, from his Vietnam days, is kill or be killed. Wanting to climb the ladder in the Agency, his ambitions dictated his desire to eliminate anything construed as negative, including Court. By creating this elaborate frame up of the Gray Man Carmichael is able to deflect criticism off of himself, and protect what he construes as national security. An interesting character brought in to make the story more realistic is the reporter Catherine King. Readers will be reminded of Sharyl Attkisson. Someone who searches for the truth while uncovering a story, that has no agenda other than finding the facts and the reasons behind why events unfold. These days there are not many reporters whom people can respect, but King fits into that mold. Back Blast is one of those books where readers will not want to put it down. Many of the details are very realistic and the thrilling action will keep people glued to the pages. Anyone interested in an espionage spy novel should read this book. Q/A with author below for blackfive.net: Elise Cooper: How did the Gray Man series come about? Mark Greaney: I submitted the plot to my agent who told me that the sub-plot should be what the book is about. He said it is much more interesting to have the hunter being chased. This cat and mouse chase turned into the Gray Man series. My agent also helped me with the name of the series, changing it from the Goon Squad to this series title. The Gray Man name came out of the Special Ops community, which is how they refer to maintaining a low profile. EC: Did you base Denny Carmichael on anyone? MG: I do hope readers’ dislike this character. It is less about the real world and more about the world the writer created. But readers can think of people like J. Edgar Hoover. Carmichael thought of himself as a good guy. He felt Court’s life was a small price to pay to get information that would help the US, that the end justifies the means. He saw it as a win-win. EC: Why the reporter Catherine King? MG: She was based on some real national security reporters. What the Gray Man had done all over the world is now happening in Washington DC. I thought it would be interesting to have reporters trying to figure out what is going on and how the press would deal with it. I think Catherine has a lot of integrity. My father was in TV news, head of the NBC affiliate in Tennessee. Because of his experience I felt a deep understanding of the media since I have been around it. EC: What about the firearms scenes? MG: I do own a lot of weapons the characters use in my books. In researching this book I did a lot of firearms training with the leading arms instructor for naval special warfare. I also trained with a bunch of SWAT guys who had me be a part of the opposition force. The SWAT team came into a dark house with their flashlights to shoot me with paint balls. I was sore for weeks. Friends of mine are tactical officers whose brains I picked for a free breakfast. EC: What about the drone used to help Court in one of his escapes? MG: It is based on Robert Fulton’s Skyhook that the CIA came up with in the 1950s, used to rescue people from behind enemy lines. This is a modern version I created. The technology is a million times better today so who knows if there could be something like this, but I do not think I would get a patent recognition. EC: Can you give a heads up about your next books? MG: I will be writing another Clancy book out in December and then another Gray Man will be out next February. The setting for that book will be Southeast Asia. I think this next Court book will be less of a spy novel and more of a big action piece. I want to bring in some new characters. In future books all... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book 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 on the right side bar. Violent Crimes by Phillip Margolin brings back the “take no prisoner” defense attorney Amanda Jaffe. In this fifth book of the series she has two clients suspected of the same murder, one accused while the other confesses. Beyond that readers get an interesting glimpse into the court process given Margolin’s ability to use his experiences of being a former top-notch defense attorney. He talked about his style of writing, which is plot driven. “Everything starts with some idea. After that I try to figure out what characters would fit into the story. Take for example Ties That Bind, I had no intention of putting Amanda and Frank Jaffe in it, but after thinking about it, I knew these characters would fit perfectly. With Violent Crimes it was a combination of wanting to bring Amanda back, but making sure it did not seemed forced.” The plot begins when Amanda is asked to defend Tom Beatty, a former Special Forces Warrior, who has PTSD, and is accused of using excessive force in a bar fight. Although the charges were dismissed Tom’s troubles are only beginning after he is suspected of murdering his co-worker and dealing drugs. Shortly after getting him out on bail another lawyer, Dale Materson, is found dead, also beaten to death. While investigating the case Amanda finds that Materson’s business practices are suspect. The case gets more complicated when his son, Brandon, a radical activist determined to martyr himself for his cause, claims he killed his father. Amanda now has to defend two clients, trying to prove both innocent. The contrast between defendants makes for an interesting read. Tom is someone everyone will root for, while Brandon is as dislikeable as they come. Margolin explores how sometimes a person’s background can influence how he is regarded. Because Tom was a former Warrior and now has PTSD he is seen as dangerous, but Margolin does a wonderful job of showing him as loyal, bright, and caring. On the other hand, Brandon is seen as an obsessed eco-warrior who resents his father for representing the interests of oil and coal companies. Being Dale’s son it becomes evident that the apple does not fall far from the tree considering Brandon is an egomaniac and thoroughly unpleasant. Hopefully no one will ever be put into Tom’s position because Margolin points out in the book “Defending a murder case is expensive… two hundred and fifty thousand to start.” The plot explains how a death penalty case is unlike any other criminal case including a regular murder trial. In death cases the same jury decides not only the person’s guilt, but also a day or two later if they should receive the death sentence. Margolin commented to blackfive.net, “I have been involved with twelve death penalty cases. I might be the only legal thriller writer who has actually worked on death cases. What you see in my books are things I have actually done in real life. In every other criminal case there is about a month between the conviction and the sentencing, not with death cases. It becomes really complicated so a lawyer has to hire many experts and investigators.” Violent Crimes allows the readers to understand what defense lawyers are up against. Even seasoned pros like Amanda Jaffe must make hard ethical and moral decisions. Violent Crimes is a captivating legal thriller. Continue reading
Posted Feb 11, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book 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 on the right side bar. Youngblood by Matt Gallagher shows the daily life of a soldier fighting in Iraq just before the troop withdrawal in 2011. It is a fictional journal that depicts the complexities of war with very vivid descriptions. Gallagher follows up on his successful first book, the memoir Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War (2010), with this Iraq War novel that speaks to the perspective of a US soldier and the Iraqi people. The narrator of the book is Lieutenant Jack Porter, who is leading a platoon of men in the last stages of the war. America is nearing the end of its involvement in Iraq with the new Iraqi Army being trained to takeover. Porter’s war deals with the internal power struggles of the town surrounding his outpost, paying off local men and appeasing those whose lives have been affected by the ongoing violence in their country. It is his job to keep a lid on the fragile peace that has been etched out by those who have come before him, including his older brother. He is assisted by Sergeant Dan Chambers who is determined to get all his men home. Porter also has become obsessed with a Romeo and Juliet type of love affair between an American soldier and a local sheikh’s daughter, Rana. Gallagher commented to blackfive.net, “In many ways Jack and I are quite different. When in Iraq I was hot tempered and thought in the moment. Jack takes his time in making decisions. Chambers is the one who gets things done, an attribute I admire in people. He focuses on the task of accomplishing the mission, almost Machiavellian. I think I put pieces of myself in all my characters.” Porter is portrayed as a newly minted lieutenant struggling to accept the brutality around him while at the same time attempting to be sensitive to the Iraqi culture. Assigned to his company is Chambers, an aggressive soldier who wants to make sure the rules of engagement do not cost any of his men their lives. The scene involving the fight between a scorpion and a camel spider can best explain their attitudes. As the spider gnawed on the scorpion’s head the scorpion rammed its stinger right into the spider’s eye. As Chambers comments to the men, “That’s what happens when you hesitate… Don’t be that camel spider. Be the scorpion.” The author stated he wrote this scene to emphasize how Chambers had a “noble purpose to get his men home. They needed to stay aggressive and stop being lackadaisical. The stage is set for the rest of the novel where the attitude was to do what is necessary to stay alive within the moral code.” Youngblood allows the reader to feel they are in Iraq with the soldiers. They experience the deployment, the camaraderie, fear, exhaustion, and boredom. This is a story of men and women trying to do their jobs, survive, and to return home in one piece. Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book 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 on the right side bar. Casualties by Elizabeth Marro is a very powerful and heart wrenching novel. With war at the core of the theme it is a reminder how those serving and their families have sacrificed. There are also other themes of abandonment, prioritizing, loss, and recovery. Although this is her first book the well-developed story and characters make it appear that Marro is a seasoned author. Considering herself, just a “civilian,” she told blackfive.net, “I am one of 99% of Americans relying on 1% of my fellow citizens to defend this country. I felt my biggest responsibility is to portray Robbie, a Marine who commits suicide, accurately. I did a lot of research and was humbled by the stories of veterans and families who struggled and continue to struggle with the aftermath of our most recent wars. It mattered a great deal for me to try to understand all the emotional aspects.” Shortly after the book begins the main character, Ruth Nolan, experiences a terrible loss, a parent’s worse nightmare, having a child die. But the loss is even more impactful because her son commits suicide while she is handling an emergency at work. Trying to escape the guilt Ruth packs up his ashes and decides to leave her past demons behind. She is helped with facing up to her past choices by a former soldier, Casey MacInerney, whom she meets under dubious circumstances. They agree to go on a cross-country journey together, both figuratively and literally. Their emotional survival depends on trusting each other, helping each other soul search as they attempt to make amends. Marro noted, “I knew that Ruth needed someone to help her find her way, and it couldn’t be anyone from her past world. Casey arrived unexpectedly. They both examine what would happen if they altered just one of their decisions. If you go on that road and damage has been done, how do you pick up, get back on your feet, and keep on going. They both struggle to take responsibility for their actions. I wanted this story to be driven by the characters. If I know whom these people are I can figure out where the plot needs to go so it does not appear artificial. This is definitely a character driven plot.” In many ways Casey and Ruth are kindred spirits. Both are lonely, feel isolated, are affected by war, and must learn how to deal with grief. They let down those close to them and realize what their priorities should have been after the fact. The question of when does work come before family and how should both be balanced are themes throughout the book. Although Casualties is not a happily-ever-after story, it is very thought provoking. It examines such important societal issues as when to prioritize family over career, war veterans having suicidal thoughts, PTSD, and how to manage and overcome guilt to move on with one’s life. As the story progresses readers will sympathize and root with these realistic characters. Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book 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 on the right sidebar. The First Order by Jeff Abbott is a very realistic thriller. This action packed fast paced story centers around an assassination plot. But the sub-plot is also very interesting as it explores the relationship between brothers. Abbott successfully uses the storylines of previous books and ties everything together in this fifth Sam Capra novel. The stage is set from the very first page with the quote by William Shakespeare, “There is but one mind in all these men, and it is bent against Caesar…security gives way to conspiracy.” The plot has an assassin becoming part of the Russian inner circle that is close to the President, Dmitri Morozov. As with Caesar’s assassination the killer wants to get up front and personal with the Russian President; yet, able to disappear, and live to enjoy his $20 million payday. Abbott commented to blackfive.net, “I love Shakespeare. I had put little nods to King Lear in my last book, Inside Man. For this plot I wanted to bring something new and refreshing to an assassination story. I decided this novel is not going to be about the lone wolf striking from a distance like in the magnificent novel, The Day Of The Jackal, which cannot be proved upon. In this book, the Russian President is surrounded by an inner circle that reminded me of Julius Caesar. I wanted the leader brought down in a place he feels safe, surrounded by people he thinks he can trust. I based it on the real Oligarchs in Russia who are very powerful and understand they can lose their power at the whim of the President. I like to joke they do not have an MBA but a KGB.” The other side of the story is a family affair. The first Capra novel, Adrenaline, has Sam altering his life after watching his brother Danny supposedly killed by terrorists in Afghanistan on a video. His brother’s death defined Sam who then decided to became a CIA agent and later an avenger of wrongdoers. But after Sam finds out that his brother could actually be alive and has become a contract killer, he recognizes his mission must be to stop Danny from assassinating the Russian President, or the global repercussions could change history. Not one to conform to the rules he knows that to find his brother he must depend on human intelligence, as well as Mila, his partner, who he respects and has an unbreakable bond. He realizes that just using digital intelligence, computer hacking, or satellite imagery will not be enough to accomplish this mission. Besides this riveting plot the characters are very well developed. One of the enjoyable features of Sam is that he is a flawed hero. Throughout the book he makes mistakes, which sets him back. Abbot described it as “winning the war and not each battle, because that is what life is about.” In many ways Sam is an unconventional hero, including his cover of owning multiple bars around the world. The bar idea was conceived by Abbott while doodling. He explained to blackfive.net, “I drew a globe and underneath that a martini glass. Then I thought how creating Sam as a bar owner would be fresh and different. This allows him to have a legitimate reason to go around the world. I know my readers really like this idea because they will suggest neighborhoods, cities, and bars where Sam could own one. For the Russian bar in this book I looked on Google maps, Tumblr, and read articles written about the nightlife. Usually I go to the setting in which I give Sam an adventure in, but for this book I did not. Even though it is fictionalized it is critical of the Russian power structure and I did not want to cause problems for anyone who would have helped me while I was there.” Abbott gave a heads up about his future book projects. His next book will be a stand-alone, a psychological suspense novel set in Austin. For the subsequent Sam book he has three possibilities, but all will include Mila, Sam’s sidekick and best friend. Abbott is even thinking about writing a book mostly from her viewpoint. The First Order brings changes in Sam and Mila’s life. It becomes evident that Abbott wanted to shake up the series and has opened new possibilities for both characters. This espionage series has compelling stories and characters that keep readers on the edge of their seats. Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2016 at BlackFive