July 4, 2019

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


Book Review: Blood Oath

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Blood Oath by Linda Fairstein has Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper returning to work after taking a hiatus to recover from double personal traumas.  She has no time to ease back into a routine because she is presented with a very formidable case.

Alexandra (Alex), the chief prosecutor of the Special Victims Bureau, oversees and prosecutes sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and related murder cases. After returning to work she is presented with a case by a young woman who has come forward to claim she was assaulted ten years ago, when she was just 14 years old. The name of her attacker comes as a huge surprise to Alex, a respected colleague and someone she knows well. Alex, along with NYPD detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace must decide if the now twenty-four-year-old victim, Lucy Jenner, is telling the truth.

"As a prosecutor, I never use any of my own cases but do pull stories from real cases.  The villain in this story is based on someone who is real, a man I know personally.  I was on the board of a non-profit organization and served alongside this very distinguished gentleman.  Three years ago, someone came forward to say he had molested her twenty years ago. The seed for this one came from a tragic story involving a powerful man I knew well, who had done something terrible in his young professional life.  I was haunted by the victims’ perspective, and by his downfall. I could not imagine the profound impact of his actions on his victim who said her life was derailed.  I couldn’t shake the whole idea of it, so I got to work creating my fictional version of a similar case.”

Besides this devastating accusation Alex must deal with a Judge who she has had scrapes with in the past.  His separated wife is suing him for a divorce and is accusing him of choking her and being abusive in other ways.

Alexandra also faces a tragedy when her friend, Francie Fain, collapses on the street on the way to Alexandra’s welcome back party. At first it seems a tragic accident, but soon it begins to look more like attempted murder. Alex and her boyfriend Mike Chapman question what led to her friend’s current condition.

History is always weaved into the story whether through a Final Jeopardy question where Alex, Mercer, and Chapman generally stop whatever they are doing to watch on TV and make their own wagers regarding the correct answer, or historical architectural and cultural landmarks in New York. The Tombs, the city prison, and the “Bridge of Sighs,” pictured on the book cover, and New York City medical research facility, Rockefeller University, becomes a part of the story.

“In this book, I concentrated on Rockefeller University.  At a dinner, I met a very interesting person who is a visionary scientist.  He works there.  As detective Mike Chapman would say, “It is not a university in the sense we think of it.” It is actually the country’s largest medical institute.  I was invited to give a DNA lecture there.  After I spoke to the scientists, I was able to take a tour of this 100-year-old campus.  It has very unusual dark corners and underground tunnels.  Of course, I had to embellish it when I made it a safe house.” 

This plot has non-stop action where all three incidents come together in a thrilling and riveting conclusion. It is nice to see a prosecutor and the police work together to bring justice to those who experienced violence.


Book Review: Dark Tribute

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Dark Tribute by Iris Johansen shows why she is such an amazing author. The story has a riveting plot, very likeable protagonists, and a completely evil antagonist. 

Fans of Johansen finally get their wish. This book highlights Cara Delaney, whose guardians are forensic sculptor Eve Duncan and Atlanta Police Detective Joe Quinn. Now as a grown woman she desires to pursue her love of playing the violin with her love of longtime friend, Jock Gavin. He was solely her protector when Cara was younger, but throughout the years the bond between them has only strengthened and their feelings for each other have increased. Yet, Jock is afraid to act on his feelings because he feels like Cara deserves better than him, and a relationship with him will just put her in danger because of his being a cold-blooded killer. But their desires for each other have been put on hold after a mysterious man, John Svardak, kidnaps Cara, pay back for what happened to his family.

Manipulation versus persuasion is present “in all of my books.  Clever characters can be manipulated, but then know how to overcome it.  I do think there is a difference between manipulation and persuasion.  Manipulation is deliberate, and has an undertone that could be good or bad.  I think persuasion is softer and silkier.”

Many years ago, Svardak’s father and brother broke Cara's grandfather’s Sergai Kaskov's fingers in the gulag where they were imprisoned together. Kaskov settled the score by murdering Svardak’s sister Anna, his father, and his brother. Now the kidnapper wants revenge and plans on torturing Cara, while hiding out in the wilds of West Virginia. Eve, Joe, Jock, and Kaskov race against time to find and rescue her.Even her ten-year-old step brother, Michael, gets involved because of his telepathy and psychic skills. They all must use their skills and instincts to find Cara before something dreadful happens to her.

Music also played a strong role. “Music is a strong part of Cara’s life.  I used it as a dark, dark draw into the retribution. I think the violin is very important to Cara, and she has a strong bond with it.  She says, “I love it because it makes beautiful music.  We complete each other.  We make beautiful music together.” During dark times people turn to music for comfort.” 

This book as with all Johansen novels shows how strong family bonds can protect each other.  It also has a criminal that is immoral and psychotic. Readers will not want to put the book down.

 


Book Review: Cold Stone Heart

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Stone Cold Heart by Laura Griffin brings suspense to the forefront, sprinkled with some romance. The Tracer series shows the different aspects of CSI investigators, where each book highlights the approach to solving a crime.

Griffin noted, “I have been fascinated by this field for a number of years.  I have read a lot of books and interviewed those in the field. The inspiration is a research center in Central Texas that helped me to come up with the fictional Delphi Center Forensic Lab.  The heroine, Sara, is a bone expert that can identify the type of bone and then uses it to unravel the murder.  Her field is somewhat like an archeologist, but with a crime solving twist. She gets called in when bones are found, or the decomposition of the body is so advanced that identification cannot happen. They can identify the difference between human and animal bones.  They can also use the bones to see if the cause of death was violent or from natural causes.” 

Sara Lockhart is a forensic anthropologist with the Delphi Crime Center in Texas. She is called in after human bones are found in a park by police detective Nolan Hess. He wonders if these are the bones of a local teenage climber who vanished a year ago. The mystery ratchets up when more remains are found.  After more bones are discovered, Sara and Nolan race against time to find the serial killer before he abducts, tortures and kills more young women.

“I wrote Sara as someone committed and smart, much like her father.  He was in the Coast Guard and like him, she has a mission to bring closure to families whose loved ones are missing.  This story starts out with hikers discovering bones in a gorge. Sara is trying to provide answers for this family because they are unable to grieve and are stuck in this limbo.  I wrote this book quote, ‘(Sara) couldn’t imagine the nightmare of having a child disappear and going without answers for many months or years.  The discovery of bones was reason to hope.’  She can be headstrong, pretty, assertive professionally, a science expert, thorough, dedicated, and empathetic.”

During the investigation, Sara and Nolan become attracted to each other. Nolan is a workaholic who is well-known for his integrity and his compassion. As a detective, he has great insight and judgment. While Sara has turned into a loner, wanting nothing more than to solve cases. She is strong, independent, and a workaholic that tries to avoid relationships. Although intelligent, spunky, dedicated, and willing to forge her own career path, she is the direct opposite when it comes to getting close to someone.

Readers will be on the edge of their seats as the mystery unravels. The search to find the serial killer is riveting and as an added bonus Griffin develops an intriguing connection between Sara and Nolan.


Book Review: Desert Vengeance

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Desert Redemption by Betty Webb is the tenth and final installment of the Lena Jones Mystery series.  Wanting to go out with a bang, Lena will have to encounter cults, deaths from malnutrition, and scenarios that force her to remember her past.

Webb noted, “I am very sad, since Lena is the daughter I never had.  I have two boys and wanted to write her as I was, a tomboy.  She came to me in a dream one night in which she told me the story of her life that included the entire last sentence of this book.   Because I am taking the loss of Lena so hard I have decided to make the protagonist of my next possible series her great, great grandmother who has the same temperament as Lena.I just cannot let Lena go. I am thinking of writing a prequel when she was eighteen.  There were four months between when she started at ASU, with a full scholarship, and when she had to leave foster care.” 

 Harold Slow Horse, one of Arizona’s leading artists, asks Lena to investigate the Kanati Spiritual Center, where his flighty ex-wife, Chelsea, has taken up residence. It is a compound promoting a mixture of Native American symbolism and philosophy. Seeing that Chelsea is thriving on fresh air, sunshine, and the gourmet food Lena dismisses Harold’s claims.  That is, until she discovers the body of a woman starved to death, with a possible link to the spiritual center. She begins to think that there is “something more horrific than religious plagiarism going on at Kanati.”

“I came out here in 1982 from New York City, and moved next door to the reservation that I talk about in my books all the time.  I can actually walk to the reservation.  Every day when I used to work at the newspaper I would have to drive through the reservation.  I shop at the grocery store that all the Pima Indians shop at.  I even made one of my characters, Lena’s boyfriend Jimmy, a Pima Indian.  I wanted to show that some of the nicest resorts were put up by the Pima Indians. I saw buildings on the reservation go from shacks to pretty nice homes. When I first started writing my stories, none of the other writers talked about the Indian tribes of Scottsdale.  I learned about them while working for the newspaper where I wrote stories on how they fought to put up casinos even though the then Governor Fife Symington was against it.  They won because of the overwhelming public support.”

A consequence from the investigation has Lena rememberingthe murder of her father and younger brother by a cult leader named Abraham, who then vanished along with her mother. All she could remember up to now is being left to die, at the age of four, after being shot in the head, and having to endure years in the abusive foster care system.

Always a welcome added feature of a Webb book is her vivid descriptions of the Arizona terrain. Readers are treated to the beauty of the area along with the resident ground squirrels, jackrabbits, deer, and a bald eagle, while a chorale of birds sang from mesquite and ironwood trees. A book quote, “I took a moment to enjoy the million-dollar view.  It was a clear day and I could see the high-rises of downtown Phoenix, the lower rises of Scottsdale, and the no-rise Pima Reservation.”

Besides a riveting mystery, readers are treated to a bit of history, locations, and geography that will draw them deeper into the story. Although Lena has found her happy place, fans will yearn for Webb to continue Lena’s story in the future.


Book Review: Run Away

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Run Away by Harlan Coben proves once again he is a master storyteller.  The novel explores how seemingly good parents could have a child go astray and must face the nightmare that they may not be able to save their child. The characters in this story must face the nagging question, how many things could have been done differently that might have helped sway the child toward a better path?

Coben stated, “I had a bunch of different thoughts in my head: drug abuse, genealogy websites, and cults.  It all came together as I was sitting in Strawberry Fields in Central Park. This is the exact same place as my protagonist Simon was sitting when he spotted his daughter.  I actually thought then of the very first sentence in the book.  There was a panhandler singing and manhandling Beatle tunes.  I thought, what if that strung out singer was my lead character’s daughter who he has not seen for awhile.  Here was his chance to rescue her.  This is how this novel starts.”

Parents, Wall Street financial advisor, Simon Greene, and his pediatrician wife, Ingrid, thought they had everything, while raising their three children.  But hardship hits them when their college aged daughter, Paige, turns to drugs and has run away. Following a tip, Simon sees her playing guitar in Central Park as a panhandler. As he tries to talk to her, her enabler, dealer and boyfriend interferes.  Desperate to catch her as she runs away Simon punches the boyfriend, Aaron, all caught on cell phone videos. Fast-forward three months where Simon and Ingrid find out that Aaron was brutally murdered. Their search for Paige becomes frantic after finding out she is still strung out and has been abused. They are now following a trail fraught with danger, surprises and secrets.

Both parents are devoted to their family. They are vulnerable and full of guilt, unable to help their oldest daughter. The feeling of failure allows the reader to sympathize with the parents making them both relatable and realistic.

“I wanted to write about parents where there is always that tremendous guilt.  Any child who is a junkie has to be careful for the rest of their lives even if they are rescued. Questions I love to raise in all my books is nature versus nurture. Simon is constantly asking himself what did I do wrong and what could I have done differently? Was he too easy or too hard on Paige? She is in trouble and her father, Simon, is trying to figure out how to rescue her from the drugs. I think it is a story about a family fractured by an incident that has come back to haunt them.  It is Simon, Ingrid, and Paige’s story.  They must put their lives back together. I think crime fiction is rarely about the crime. It is really about the effects the crime has on the relationships, family, and the social construct.”

The story is exciting and riveting. Readers will be unable to put the book down. Typical of Coben are the thrills and ending bombshell that keeps people guessing.


Book Review: Treason

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Treason by Rick Campbell has plenty of suspense and action in this military thriller.  Once again National Security Advisor Christine O’Connor is put in imminent danger and must use her skills, experience, and mind to outwit the Russians who are intent on killing her and destroying the US.

The Cold War is back. “In 2014 I went to my first Thrillerfest.  One author said the Cold War is hot again.  It took fifteen years after the Berlin Wall fell that people realized Russia is not our friend.  Their mindset is that they want to be a superpower and will pursue that at the detriment of others.  I wrote books 3, 4, and 5 in this series because I wanted a military power that the US could go up against and Russia could still give us a run for our money, along with China. I put the US in a bind and do not make it obvious how they will get out of it.”

The plot has some rogue Russian military generals, after initiating a coup against the Russian President, Yuri Kalinin, decide to implement the Zolotov option, rendering American’s B2 bombes and ballistic missiles useless. Without the US to worry about they swiftly invade the Ukraine. To make matters worse Christine is trapped in Russia after she had accepted a date of sorts by Kalinin. Now she and he are on the run after escaping those that tried to depose him.  The American President has issued orders to send in a SEAL team led by Jake Harrison to rescue both Kalinin and Christine. 

As with most military/political thrillers at times readers must suspend belief. Although for the most part the plot is based on probable reality: the tactics used, the paramilitary armies, the Russian coup, arms reduction, and the American response are possibilities that could happen. 

Campbell states, “Up to now I wanted to make my books completely realistic, but in this book, I made up the submarine.  It does not exist in real life.  Regarding Christine and Yuri, my thoughts are when it comes to men and women attracted to each other, people sometimes go beyond what is imaginable. Just look at Helen of Troy where an entire nation went to war over one woman. The Russian coup could happen considering Boris Yeltsin was overthrown, although not by the military but by the KGB.”

This series is different than the others in that a female lead can fend for herself and actually save her male counterparts. Having an overwhelming survival instinct, she has beat lethal odds, including in this story. The other difference is that the Russian President is not a Putin look-alike. Readers can actually sympathize with him, realizing that he is a moderate amongst extremists. He is not the typical Russian antagonist and is full of surprises.

This is a compelling story with compelling characters.  The probable scenarios make for a riveting plot. 


Book Review: The Puppy Who Knew Too Much

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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The Puppy Who Knew Too Much by V. M. Burns is a dog lover’s delight.  The three dogs in the story will make readers laugh and sympathize with the main character Lilly Echosby.  Beyond the dog antics the story has a good mystery with many twists and thrills.

Burns bases on the character dogs with her real-life ones. “I have dogs, toy poodles, and I just love them.  This is why I had the protagonist Lilly adopt a little black toy poodle, Aggie.  She named her after her favorite writer, Agatha Christie. A couple of years ago I adopted toy poodles and named my dog after my publisher Kensington.  Her name is Kenzie, who is 4 years old.  A lot of Aggie’s antics are drawn from my real-life experiences.  I wish I could say Kinsey is better behaved than Aggie but she is not. I have gone through a lot of situations that my characters have gone through without the murders of course.  I thought what would happen if… For instance, my dogs like to dig when we are out for a walk. I wondered what would happen if they dig up a dead body.”

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It appears that Lilly is a murder magnet.  The first book in this series has her in the middle of a divorce, when her husband is killed.  She becomes a person of interest and a widow in that moment. Now, in this second book she is also a person of interest when murdered bodies seem to pile up around her. First, her dog Aggie digs up a buried body and then her neighbor is found dead.  It seems she cannot catch a break after moving from Indiana to Tennessee to be closer to her best friend, Scarlett "Dixie" Jefferson. Having the perseverance to move forward, Lilly finds a new house, new job, and new people in her life. She is thrilled when her attorney daughter Stephanie and her current boyfriend, detective Joe Harrison, agree to come down and spend a week with her. Joe hires TBI investigator, Dennis “Red” Olson to keep the daughter and mom safe and to get to the bottom of the murders.

This delightful cozy mystery combines murder and mayhem, with a healthy dose of humor, friendship, and intrigue. Adding icing to the cake is the role the dogs played in solving the mystery.The P


Book Review: American Princess

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton delves into the larger than life of America’s darling, First Daughter Alice Roosevelt.  As the oldest child of Teddy Roosevelt, the press swarmed upon her as they do the Royal family today.  The book describes how Alice became a rebel having to endure betrayals, scandals, and tragedy; yet through it all maintained her wit and composure.

The author found Alice to be, “Bombastic, a larger than life figure just like her father. Alice was brash, bold, and non-apologetic.   She never hid her emotions but a Roosevelt family trait was not to talk about their personal grief.  “TR’s” death had to be a pivotal moment in her life; yet, even in her memoirs she did not write about it.  The way she coped with all the tragedies was to throw herself into something. People said of all the children she was the most like her father, intellectual and charismatic. She pushed the envelope and broke all kinds of boundaries like her dad.  I think she was a woman a little ahead of her time.”

Feeling that she must compete for her father’s attention Alice, “did crazy and wild things publicly to get her dad’s attentions.  In my research I found how Alice, as a two-day old, “TR” passed her to be raised by her aunt because he was not coping with losing his wife and mother on the same day.  Once he remarried, Edith, she insisted that they take Alice back and raise her.  Alice and her family never talked about her mother.  Possibly because she was a constant walking and breathing reminder to “TR” of the wife he loved so much and lost.” 

Alice was described as unapologetic, unconventional, beautiful, headstrong, fashionable, and influential.She was someone who did not take kindly to societal norms as she shot a gun, chewed gum, smoked cigarettes, played poker, and participated in car chases. But she also used her celebrity status, becoming savvy at using her political influence.  After all she was a President’s daughter, wife to the Speaker of the House, mistress to an influential Senator, and became a Washington fixture.

Readers feel as if Alice is speaking directly to them as she explains her life of ninety-six years. Overflowing with political history, scandal, and societal norms, this novel gives insight into the life and times of Alice Roosevelt.


Book Review: The Victory Garden

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen brings to life women’s roles during World War I.  As with her other historical novels she beautifully blends in historical facts, likeable characters, and a mystery.

Emily Bryce meets Australian pilot Robbie Kerr while she volunteers to pass out cookies to those wounded in battle.  She is not allowed to sit and talk to the young men or write letters for them, and can only serve buns from silver trays with crystal tongs. It is against the rules to talk to the men other than pleasantries.  But Kerr has other ideas and as an Australian he is willing break the rules. As he gets to know Emily he encourages her to become more independent. They start to become very close and after he is transferred to another hospital, she decides to disobey her parents, and join the Women’s Land Army to do something to help the home front and feel worthwhile. The extra bonus is that she will be close to Robbie until he is called upon to fight again. Knowing that pilots in that era had only a life expectancy of six weeks the mystery becomes whether Robbie will ever return.  Meanwhile one of Emily’s assignments is tending to the neglected grounds of a large Devonshire estate. It’s here that Emily discovers the long-forgotten journals of a medicine woman who devoted her life to her herbal garden. Emily now has a profession of sorts as well. 

“I wanted to show how just fifteen years before, the Wright Brothers invented the plane.  It was basically paper and had fabric wings, tied together with wire.  There was a high rise of crashing, not to mention the dog fights of the pilots.  Remember the Red Baron was during this era. It is quite understandable there was so much PTSD among all those fighting.  Those boys living in England got on a boat and crossed the Channel for an hour. Then they were in hell, knee-deep in the muddy trenches surrounded by rats.  They had to endure grenades and rockets firing on them.” 

Bowen also noted, “In England, the War literally wiped out a whole generation.  I thought if the men were off fighting who would become the blacksmiths, carpenters, and gardeners?  Of course, it was the women who stepped up.  Women showed they could do tasks people thought beyond them. Those in the Women’s Land Army wore bloomers, boots, and army jackets.  They threw away their corsets and cut their hair.  They wanted to show women were no longer subservient. Also, class barriers broke down for those women in the WLA. Normally, people Emily worked with would not have been those she associated with.  Yet, the cockney girl, those raised on farms, and Emily, a middle-class girl, all became friends and had incredible support for each other They came through beautifully.  After the war, because ten million young men died, many of the women remained in jobs because the men were not coming home.  It was shortly after WWI that women in England were given the vote.”

Interestingly, the contrast between women at the home front versus women on the warfront shows how society was changing. Many women have taken jobs once denied to them, replacing the men fighting. Clarissa Hamilton is an example of an aristocrat who had taken on a very intense job, becoming a nurse and directly tending to those wounded on the battlefront. Emily, living in England, had to wait until she turned twenty-one because during that era parents controlled their children.  But once that age, Emily contributes in her own way to the war effort.

This story is informative and readers take a journey with Emily. They see her grow from someone solely dependent on her parents both financially and emotionally to a headstrong woman who is determined to make a life of her own.

 


BOOK REVIEW: The Things We Cannot Say

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer delves into how loved ones are never forgotten within the backdrop of WWII.  At the drop of a hat someone’s life can change all of sudden, which is what happened to a family after the Nazis occupied Poland.

Based on her own family, Rimmer tells how “my grandparents were Polish Catholic.  They never spoke a lot about what happened to them before they immigrated to Australia. We did not know about how they lived.  They would not talk about the war and seemed to put it behind them.  I saw this picture of my grandparents in the sunshine and so relaxed.  This got me thinking about their story, how they had hope and despair.  I decided to travel to the village where they lived in Poland with my aunt and sister. I was able to capture what life was like including Auschwitz and Birkenau, which was such a shocking experience. It is impossible to get my head around the violence of that era, the utter brutality and cruelty.”

The story alternates between war-torn Poland in the 1930s and 1940s and modern-day Florida.  The main characters are Alina, having to endure the horrific Nazi occupation; Alice, and her grandmother Hanna, who has made a dying wish, find Tomasz, her soul mate in Poland.

Alice is living in Florida, juggling between being the mother of a six-year-old boy, Eddie, who has autism and her ten-year-old daughter, Callie, who is extremely gifted. Hanna, her grandmother, at the age ninety-five, has suffered a debilitating stroke where she can no longer speak. These present-day characters are somehow related to the past through Alina. 

Enduring the Nazis, Alina is struggling to survive and find hope that she and Tomasz can marry at the war’s conclusion. But as their situation gets worse hope begins to dwindle and they wonder, after being separated, will they ever see each other again. This story does not spare the reader all the horrors of the Nazis where they killed in cold blood and used the tools of starvation, rape, and disease.

What makes this story stand out are the relationships.  It is heartwarming to read how Eddie has connected with his grandmother and the love between them.  Alice and Hanna also have a special relationship since she was the one who gave her granddaughter unconditional love and support, while Alice’s mother became a career mom.  Alina and Tomasz also had a special love that was deep and touching.

“I wanted to write about autism and how Eddie is a real person who had the people around him benefit from his life. He and Hanna understood and accepted each other. I also wanted to show how technology helped both he and Hanna communicate through an App. I had some experience with not being able to communicate.  Just before I left for Poland I collapsed from a seizure of temporal lobe epilepsy, and was not able to speak for half an hour.  I realized how frustrating it is and how scary.” 

This emotional historical novel brings together the present and the past. It encompasses loyalty, love, and devotion.

 

 


BOOK REVIEW: Bones Behind The Wheel

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Bones Behind the Wheelby E. J. Copperman blends a mystery with plenty of humor. It is a ghostly tale that will keep readers smiling throughout the story.

Copperman noted, “Some people believe the dead continue to exist in some way and others believe it is silly.  Everyone wishes they could experience the presence of those who have passed away.  Those that do believe in ghosts think that they can communicate with their lost loved ones.”

In the first book of the series, Alison Kerby has purchased an inn on the New Jersey shore.  But she got more than she bargained for after finding out it came with some ghosts. This haunted guesthouse included Paul Harrison, her resident ghost detective and Maxine Malone, a twenty-eight-year-old budding interior designer until she was poisoned. The only ones that seem to be able to communicate with the pair are Alison, her mother, and her daughter.

“I based the ghosts on the old Topper series.  They essentially exist to irritate the main character and push her into areas she does not want to go. I think Maxine is a bit self-centered and not very mature.  She pushes Alison’s buttons more than anybody else. Paul is the complete opposite since he is cerebral, quiet, sensitive, and has a high regard for people’s feelings.”

Because Alison wants to devote herself to bringing guests to the Inn she has no time for detective investigations. Yet, she is thrown into it again after the exposure of a 1977 Lincoln Continental buried in the sand, behind Alison’s guesthouse, with a skeleton still belted in behind the steering wheel. The ghostly Paul is delighted he will have more investigative work. Insteadof Alison he pairs up with her new husband, Josh, who is most interested in the case. He might not be able to see or hear the ghosts, but he's found a way to communicate through texting. In probing, what happened with this Cold Case murder everyone in the Inn becomes endangered and the detectives must get to the bottom of it before someone else is murdered.

 “I love writing humor into the stories. This is why Iwanted to make sure I wrote Alison as a real Jersey girl who grew up at the Shore. She has a lot of attitude and will tell people the natural language of New Jersey is sarcasm.  She speaks it fluently. I had a conversation with an editor who wanted me to write something serious.  I do not have that muscle, nor am I capable of writing something serious.  This is partially due to my own reading habits. It does not work for me to read something completely sober. I think my stories are comedies with a mystery surrounding it.”

The author does a good job with the dialogue.  Alison’s sarcasm and quips will keep the readers spirits up. This character-driven story features amusing, quirky ghosts and a strong family connection. 

 


Book Review: Top Gun

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Forget the movie “Top Gun.”  This book, Top Gun: An American Story, by Dan Pedersen soars into the readers’ minds. On the 50th anniversary of the creation of the "Top Gun" Navy Fighter Graduate School, its founder shares the remarkable inside story of how he and eight other risk-takers revolutionized the art of aerial combat. Pedersen, known as the “Godfather of Top Gun,” is credited with establishing the Navy Fighter Weapons School with the help of eight other passionate and talented officers known as the “Original Bros.” (For the purpose of consistency, the spelling will be Top Gun instead of “Topgun.”)

The book is an autobiography as Pedersen reflects on his childhood, why and how he decided to be a flyer.  There are also bits of his love life and family life, his military career, and his post-military life. He stated why the book was written, as “a legacy for the Top Gun school and teachers and what they accomplished.”

His soul mate, Mary Beth, who Pedersen has been married to for twenty-seven years noted, “They are very opinionated guys.  Very, very intelligent.  Handsome with a certain swagger.  They are natural leaders.  Very disciplined, focused, confident, humble, self-assured with a good sense of humor. At the time of Vietnam, they did not get any recognition.  It was horrible that they could not even wear their uniforms when they came home because people would spit on them.” 

But the most interesting parts of the book is the discussion on how he became the man assigned to creating the school. Many today, can reflect on similar situations with the War on Terror.  The bureaucrats and many high-ranking Generals thought they knew best.

Pedersen gave as an example, “McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk, on orders by LBJ, sent the next day’s targets to the Swiss Embassy in Hanoi to let them know where the US would be bombing. The rationale was that there will not be collateral damage and civilians killed. But the Vietnamese used the information for other purposes, instead of moving the civilians away from the targeting areas. But in reality, they moved the guns and missiles into those targeted areas to shoot at us.  The high command was rigid and inflexible. They cared more about the headlines than protecting American pilots.  At the time, we never knew we were being used like that.”

Some of the problems included pilots fighting in Vietnam receiving limited training, having faulty Sidewinder and Sparrow missiles, and not learning the skills they needed to outmaneuver the enemy. This became abundantly clear with the kill ratios: In World War II the kill ratio was approximately 14 to 1, during the Korean War about 10 to 1, but in Vietnam before the Top Gun program it was as low as 2 to 1. Captain Pedersen (then a lieutenant commander) was the first officer in charge of Top Gun. He was chosen because of his experiences in the air battles over Viet Nam where he received a first-hand knowledge of the shortcomings of American tactics and equipment. The "high tech" weapons failed about 90% of the time, and the latest fighter plane didn't even have a gun! American fighter pilots were being shot down by a third-world air force using Soviet aircraft, MiGs. The Navy moved toward radar-guided missiles and aircraft to fire them instead of dogfighting.

He wants Americans to understand, “Industry designs our weapons and planes.  This is still going on today, where no one ever goes into the cockpit and faces the enemy.  Those doing the actual fighting do not have a lot to say.  The planes did not even have guns because someone in the design industry decided they were not needed.  There was a reliance on the missiles, but they never worked. This is what we changed with the founding of the Top Gun graduate school. If a war is to be fought guys are asked to risk their lives flying an airplane, competing in real life combat, decisions should not be made by politicians, but by people on the ground. Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War, and President LBJ mandated what went on.  World War II was fought completely different where the war in the Pacific was run by two 4 star admirals and carrier skippers. They had a lot to say in the daily operations and tactics.  The motto should be to never send an American into combat unless the intention is to win.”

The Top Gun School ended up being very successful.  The 2 to 1 ratio changed to a 24 to 1 ratio.  It became and still is run by people with combat experience.  It is obvious that Top Gun saved lives and turned the air war around. 


Book Review: Blood Echo

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Blood Echo, by Christopher Rice,is the second in a series about a sometimes-super human who pursues serial killers. These books are not the typical straightforward thrillers, but do have some traces of sci-fi aspects. As a victim herself, Charlotte “Charley” Rowe wants justice and vengeance against those who perpetuate violence by working closely with the CEO of a pharmaceutical company, Cole Graydon.

“I wrote Charley as Confidant and determined. I did not want to write her as the female Incredible Hulk. The drug she takes to give her superpowers only lasts for three hours, after that she returns to a sense of normalcy. She questions when should she take the drug, how to use the power it unleashes, and should she take it? I do embrace when people make the comic book comparison. I would compare it to the Avenger series that has deeply human relationships. There is also an organization that has no bounds.” 

The book opens with intense action.  Charley is pursuing a serial killer and after capturing her prey she returns to Altamira California to rest and meet up with her friends and lover. But her peaceful R & R is interrupted when it becomes obvious something sinister is happening. The girlfriend of one of the town’s richest developers is accused of criminal activity.A vast and explosive criminal conspiracy is developing in Altamira. As the fate of Charlotte’s hometown hangs in the balance, and everyone she cares about is in danger, she has no choice but to use her powers to go after the bad guys.

Anyone who has not read the first book might want to in order to understand the back story.  Charlotte was kidnapped and raised by serial killers until she was rescued. Known for being “The Burning Girl,” she has no peace and quiet. She has become an experiment, gaining superpower strength after taking the drugZypraxon.  This enables her to go after the evil doers, ending their violence. Knowing she can literally rip someone to pieces she tries to control it, preferring to capture and have them punished then to kill them. 

Rice noted, “I think many of the jail house interviews of them were based on lies.  Ted Bundy tried to blame pornography for his actions.  The term for this kind of argument is “mistaking correlation for cause ability.” As a writer, I like to speculate on what really makes a monster tick. I read a book about the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez, who killed a lot of people in a short period of time. Right after his arrest he told how he waited until 2 AM because people were asleep.  He did not have the attitude ‘I am a victim,’ and did not commit these crimes because he thought of himself as a victim.  I think the reasons for killing are simplistic, like a Great White Shark. I am more interested in the survivors than the killers.  This includes Charley’s world.  She and the developer of the drug, Dylan aka Noah, now have a sense of rage.  They feel there will never be closure when someone close is taken away by a murderer. These survivors are working their way out of the darkness created by the killer.”

The author writes these cast of characters as very complex and unique. It is a fascinating read where people will not want to put the book down.

 


Book Review: Judgment

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Judgment by Joseph Finder takes an occurrence and uses it as a jumping off point.  He has a knack for having an incidental event magnify into a riveting conspiracy mystery. 

Finder noted, “I met a judge socially and spoke with her about the pressures she faces.  I started to think, what would happen if her children get into trouble, or what if she gets many speeding tickets?  I interviewed five women judges practicing in Boston for this book.  The sense I got was that they went through a lot to become a judge, having to go through interviews and making sure they do not step on toes as they climbed the ladder. Then I thought how vulnerable judges are in the courtroom.  Unexpected and explosive things could happen.  It is almost as if they are all alone and on their own.”

The plot begins with the protagonist, Judge Juliana Brody, in a rare error of judgment, having a one-night stand at a legal conference in Chicago with Matías Sanchez, who claims he’s a businessman from Buenos Aires. Because of this incident her life will swell out of control.  Sanchez is not who he made himself out to be, but is one of the lawyers for a defendant on a high-profile sex discrimination case Brody is presiding over. To make matters worse, he threatens to blackmail her with a video of their encounter unless she rules in the defendant’s favor. It becomes clear that personal humiliation, even the possible destruction of her career, are the least of her concerns, as her own life and the lives of her family are put in mortal jeopardy. She discovers her adversaries include powerful and ruthless criminals who will kill anyone who stands in their way. Brody decides to investigate her enemies and to play their game, becoming cunning and fearless.

 

“I wanted to write Juliana as a kickass.  As a former prosecutor, she is tough and persistent. At the beginning of the story Juliana is someone who always followed the rules, but now is willing to break the law to achieve a greater good. I like writing about ordinary people who are suddenly caught up in something extraordinary. There is a Russian word that bests describes this story, kompromat. It means compromising materials.  The Russians are very good at blackmailing people. This includes the oligarchs who are dangerous and should not be trusted.”

Brody is someone readers will connect to and root for, especially after it is revealed that she is fighting those in the Russian oligarchy. Finder has Brody wonder if the Russians are working on their own or puppets for Putin.  She is an admirable person who has always played by the rules and had no sympathy for those who donot. Yet, after her one lapse in judgment she realizes way too late that the attempt to cover up is often regarded as even more reprehensible than the original deed.

This briskly-paced story explores how those in positions of power can be susceptible to blackmail. At every turn, the reader takes a journey with Brody as she becomes involved in double crosses, espionage, financial impropriety, corporate corruption, and sexual harassment.