Book Review - "Blessed Are Those Who Mourn" by Kristi Belcamino

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.

9780062389411_p0_v1_s192x300Blessed Are Those Who Mourn by Kristi Belcamino is a non-stop action packed novel involving murder, mind games, and a parent’s worst nightmare. She has come into her own as an author with great character development, showing their emotions, fears, and strengths.  

Almost from the very beginning of this plot, readers are drawn into the character’s anguish. Bay Area crime reporter, Gabriella Giovanni and her live-in partner, Detective Sean Donavan confront evil when their child is kidnapped. She suspects that the same person who kidnapped and murdered her sister is behind the nightmare she is personally facing now. Detective Donovan is frustrated when he cannot protect those he loves, his girlfriend and daughter. The story’s suspense never lets up, as it becomes a race with the clock to find the child before time runs out.

Belcamino uses her experiences as a crime reporter to add realism to the plot making her main characters jump off the page. She noted to that in a New York Times Op-ed both her worlds as a reporter and parent sometimes conflict. “As a mother and crime writer, I’m two people every day. One is an Italian American mother who carts children to soccer and softball, making pancakes and acting silly. The other sits down and writes about terrible people doing terrible things to others. And sometimes those others are children. I wonder how I can tell my own daughter that the monsters she reads about are not real, when I know better than most just how real they are?”

A powerful quote from the book exemplifies this feeling, “At work, I’m pulled into the depths of darkness talking to people who are grieving or coaxing information out of convicts. When I return home at night, I’m confronted with innocence in the form of my small child who knows nothing of the evil in this world.” Americans tend to forget that policemen, those serving the military, reporters, and first responders must reconcile having to deal with the darker side of humanity.

She wants her readers to understand, “As a crime reporter I understand all those who must confront evil and then go home to hold their children. I began to find it very difficult to do both. I have put in all my books the theme of a child kidnapped and killed because I was haunted by the reality in a story I covered as a reporter. The dedication in my first book is to every girl and young man kidnapped and killed. Unfortunately, the details I draw from are my real life experiences of sitting with parents in the first few days as the search went on for their taken children. Now, as a reporter, I am more guarded, and try not to get as emotionally involved.”

It becomes obvious after reading Belcamino’s books that her character Gabriella is her alter ego. Besides writing a strong, smart, and sassy character; a riveting and intriguing plot; she also writes about the inner workings of a large Italian family, their loyalties and devotion towards each other.

Book Review - "What You See" by Hank Phillippi Ryan

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.

9780765374950_p0_v3_s192x300What You See by Hank Phillippi Ryan blends suspense, humor, and issues of the day. With multiple storylines told by numerous narrations, readers come to understand the workings of a crime scene. These sub-plots include murder, child abduction, and treachery. Also explored are the characters loyalties, having to decide between family and their career.

As with all Ryan’s books Jane Ryland investigates a story while Detective Jake Brogan is solving a crime, bringing both together by the end of the story. The plot begins with Jane having quit a job based upon principle. She interviews for a new job with Channel 2 and is given the task of covering a stabbing in Curley Park, Boston. Once again Jane is put into a position of covering a case her boyfriend Jake is investigating.

Ryan noted to, “Both Jake and Jane are honorable, determined, search for the truth, and believe in justice. In real life there must be a hard line between a law enforcement officer and a reporter, each has a job to do, and each have to protect their interests, their information, and their investigations. But Jake and Jane sometimes cross that line. So what I love about my books is that Jane and Jake in their professional lives are incredibly honorable, but in their personal lives their passion has sometimes overruled their professionalism. Throughout all the books they are trying to figure out how to deal with that ongoing struggle. What will happen to their relationship or how they will deal with it going forward? I have no idea. It’ll be fun to find out.”

The plot insightfully explores the current issue of privacy. With cameras everywhere, including in cell phones, on buildings, and on streetlights, can a crime be easily solved? A powerful quote says, “Life never just happened anymore. Memories had to be indelible, every event captured. And shared.” Because the murder takes place in front of City Hall there must be some surveillance. But this video leads into a dark conspiracy where what you see is not always as it seems.

Having to deal with the political fallout from City Hall Camera Surveillance, Catherine, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, must juggle her job responsibilities with her family. Something any parent can relate to is this powerful quote, “Geographically, her daughter was inches away. Emotionally? Right now, Catherine didn’t have time to fix it.” But Jane also had a conflict between family and her job. While investigating the crime, her sister calls asking for help in finding her future stepchild who appears to be abducted. Ryan vividly writes how Jane is being pulled in multiple directions, forced to switch tasks and put family first. Interestingly when asked hypothetically the title of a future autobiography Jane responds, The Juggler. It is fitting since she must decide when to put family ahead of her job, something most people struggle with constantly.

Readers will also be amused with some of Ryan’s well-placed humor. In a scene there is definitely a take off on the famous “who is on first, what’s on second” skit. More than anything the humorous interludes allows for a relief from the tension packed story.

Ryan noted to that many professions including the police, investigative reporters, and those serving in the military need humor in their lives.

“Oh, gosh, if there’s no humor in our lives, how would we manage? As a reporter, I see relentless sorrow, injustice, violence, and fear. As a journalist, that's the drumbeat every day, sometimes feeling as if television and newspapers are full of only bad news. I was on the job during the marathon bombings, reporting live, within moments of the second explosion. How do we manage to keep equilibrium? On the air, we focus on the story, the listeners, and our responsibility.  A journalist is documenting history, I think of that every moment of the day.

As a result, reporters must be careful not to let fear rule our lives, or sorrow drag it down.  As a reporter, there is a need for a sense of humor, or else the world becomes relentlessly dark, bleak, and sad.  Jake Borgan, as a law enforcement official, just as those who serve in the military, have the same dilemmas: they are putting themselves, as all those in public service do so bravely, in the line of fire, in the path of danger. They run toward the problem, not away from it.

So in my books, I try to leave a little room for humor, pleasure, love, and redemption, because that’s what we need in real life. I am careful to find a way for some of the characters, which as in real life, are faced with danger and grief and situations that are difficult to understand. I want them to be able to look at the world with some hope, and laughter, with love, and a sense of humanity.”

Besides humor, What You See has believable plots based upon Ryan’s experiences as a television investigative reporter who has won over thirty Emmys. Readers become enthralled and engaged with a story that has a hectic pace involving child abduction, murder, surveillance, and political secrets.

Photo - Preparing to land on USS George Washington

151117-N-DM308-733An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter prepares to land on the flight deck of the USS George Washington in the Atlantic Ocean, Nov. 17, 2015. The George Washington was participating in UNITAS, the U.S. Navy's longest-running annual multinational maritime exercise. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Paul Archer

Book Review - "Cheney One" by James Rosen

The following Book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.
Cheney One on One by James Rosen is an important oral record of contemporary America. Cheney discusses five Presidents and many would argue he was at the core of some of America’s most important recent events. Standing at the center of American power for four decades, Cheney was candid about his time in office. This book is an important read to learn more about the man and leader. In addition it is a reminder of the facts that Americans might have forgotten about the events surrounding Dick Cheney’s experiences. With no topic off limits, the former vice president opened up about his complicated relationships with President George W. Bush and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and talks candidly about why his influence in the White House waned over Bush's second term. Cheney One On One contains important and fascinating recollections of one of the most tumultuous periods in our nation's history, from one of its most powerful and controversial figures. Rosen has a quote that summarizes the feeling off the American left who continuously attack Dick Cheney. The author wrote, Cheney’s “gated driveway has seen more than its share of protestors, chanting about ‘torture’ and spray-paining the asphalt… Cheney remains, in many minds, the malevolent power behind the throne-witness President Obama’s joke about Cheney’s being the worst president of his lifetime. (Yet) to many conservatives, however, Dick Cheney was, and remains, a bona fide hero, perhaps America’s staunchest, most unapologetic defender of a muscular foreign policy abroad and fiscal restraint at home.” He explained to, “My chief aim was to rescue this man from the characterization of Darth Vader. We need to remember he is a flesh and blood human being. I found him to be a deep analytical thinker. Since mostly ‘Easterners’ write about him they do not grasp Cheney’s Western background that taught him to speak with an economy of words. The Eastern ear might see this as withholding, illusive, or menacing.” But Cheney is anything but menacing. It becomes evident after reading this book that the former Vice-President is a straight talker, giving substantial answers to very probing questions, including the controversy over the Iraq War. Readers are reminded by Cheney that in December 1998 then President Bill Clinton said, “If Saddam defies the world and we fail to respond, we will face a far greater threat in the future. Mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction, he will deploy them and he will use them.” There was bipartisan support for the American air and missile strikes on suspected Iraqi sites. When asked the dichotomy between the Democrat’s support then and their attitude during the Bush-Cheney administration Rosen stated to, “He always rejected the idea that he and the President sat around and said ‘let’s just do Iraq.’ Under President Clinton the policy of the US was to effectuate regime change in Iraq. When it became the idea of the Republican administration the Democrats effectively piled on and sounded a different tune.” There are many more instances in Cheney One On One where readers learn and are reminded of historical events and the enormous impact this man made on many of those events, including being the most powerful Vice-President ever. Cheney comes across as a man having qualities of being loyal, dedicated, and honest. This book is an important read to gain an understanding of where this country has been and where it is headed.

Photo - Somewhere over the Med

151112-D-HV319-331A KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-15E Strike Eagle over the northern Mediterranean Sea, Nov. 12, 2015. The Stratotanker is assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing and the Strike Eagle is assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing. Both wings will work together supporting Operation Inherent Resolve while deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kate Thornton

Photo - Tank Resolve

151119-A-BS310-022U.S. Soldiers load the .50-caliber machine gun of an M1A2 SEPv2 Abrams main battle tank during a combined arms live-fire exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Nov. 19, 2015. The exercise was the culminating event for Combined Resolve V, a U.S. Army Europe-directed multinational exercise with more than 4,600 participants from 13 NATO and European partner nations. U.S. Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger

Photo - Reagan Carrier Group Formation

151123-D-HV319-749The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group steams in formation with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships during a photo exercise in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 23, 2015. The ships were participating in an annual training exercise aimed at increasing interoperability between Japanese and American forces. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burk

Photo - Bolt Hosing

151122-D-HV319-669U.S. Navy Capt. Christopher Bolt reacts to being sprayed with a fire hose aboard the USS Ronald Reagan in celebration of his final arrested landing as the ship’s commanding officer in waters south of Japan, Nov. 22, 2015. The Ronald Reagan and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 5, provide a combat-ready force to protect and defend the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane