Subscribe: BLACKFIVE
http://feeds.feedburner.com/Blackfive
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade A rated
Language: English
Tags:
book review  book  characters  cooper read  elise cooper  life  max  people  readers provided  readers  review  story  war   
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: BLACKFIVE

BlackFive



"Teamwork is essential; it gives the enemy someone else to shoot at." - Anon



Last Build Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2017 11:28:41 PST

 



Book Review: Her Last Day

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 11:28:41 PST

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. Her Last Day is the first novel of a new series by T.R. Ragan. She is known for writing riveting thrillers whose antagonist always seems to be a gruesome serial killer. The three sub-plots throughout the story are brilliantly weaved together. The plot has Sacramento California private investigator Jessie Cole drawn to detective work after her sister Sophie disappeared ten years ago. Reporter Ben Morrison who wants to write a series of articles on the still-missing Sophie approaches her. He feels somehow connected to Sophie after seeing her on a TV show about unsolved mysteries. He is hoping that finding her will help him regain his memory that was lost after a horrific car accident a decade ago. Besides finding out what happens to her sister, Jessie is raising her niece, facing charges for shooting a stalker, and is hired to find a mentally unstable girl who is somehow connected to the serial murderer, the Heartless Killer. This novel explores many different types of illnesses, another signature of the author. She noted, “In this book there is a character, Zee, who has schizophrenia. I wanted to explore the different levels, because after taking her medication she functions normally. I also delve into Retrograde Amnesia, which is what Ben was diagnosed with after the car accident. Retrograde Amnesia is when the person does not remember anything before the incident. With the other types of amnesia people are able to remember most of their past, but have a hard time with short term memory. What Ben has is almost the direct opposite.” The characters in the book are extremely well developed. People are able to sympathize with Ben, yet they also have some misgivings about him. Jessie is the poster child for the song in the Annie play, “It’s The Hard Knock Life.” She is impulsive, compassionate, caring, stubborn, and way too serious. Her mother left her when she was very young, her father is an alcoholic, her sister was always in and out of trouble, and then she disappeared leaving Jessie to bring up her niece. On the other hand, the antagonist, The Heartless Killer, is very creepy. He has the traits of being controlling, manipulative, and very dominating. What he does to his victims is extremely horrific and he gets off on making sure they suffer. He could sing the song, “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me;” although he is about the only one who would. Ragan spends a lot of time writing these types of evildoers. “For some reason, the easiest scenes to write were the ones with the serial killer. For me, the creepiest scene in the book is when he threw apples at the injured girl who is practically crippled. Readers tell me they will never go to the setting of my books, Sacramento, because that is where all the serial killers live.” The plot of this novel takes off from the very beginning and never let’s up. There are so many twists and turns that readers could get whiplash. Ragan really knows to captivate her readers and keep their interest level high. [...]



Book Review: End Game

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 11:14:25 PST

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. End Game by David Baldacci brings back two of his best characters, Will Robie and Jessica Reel. Baldacci has a knack for creating a male and female lead that act in a homogeneous manner whether it’s Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, or his most recent series Memory Man with Amos Decker and Alexandra (Alex) Jamison. But, probably the best pair is Robie and Reel, who feed off one another in a cohesive partnership. Reel and Robie are not the typical stereotyped characters. She is sarcastic and is not afraid to get into someone’s face. He is quiet, sensitive, and will hold back. Sometimes her abrasive behavior will cause an adverse reaction. For example, when she tells this to the leader of a neo-Nazi group, “I can see it probably gets you off.” It becomes obvious as the story unfolds, that Robie and Reel care greatly for each other. Robie told her how hard it was for him to figure her out. The conversation, “I don’t get you most of the time.” Her response, “What can I say, Robie. It’s a Mars-Venus thing.” She is a female sniper working for the US government. Is it realistic, to have that as Reel’s profession. Baldacci says, “Yes. They are finding females have better motor skills then men. This is a skill very much needed for snipers. They are also able to lie in one position for many hours a day. I have gone to military bases and fired the rifles so I have an idea what it requires. I put the descriptions in the book. Through Jessica people can understand it is not just falling on the ground, looking through a scope, and firing the rifle. It is actual a science that involves a lot of math and physics.” The first few chapters has Robie on a mission in London where he must single-handedly take out a Jihadist terrorist cell and Reel in Iraq providing sniper support for the military. After the completion of these missions they are asked to find their supervisor, The Blue Man, Roger Walton, who has gone missing in Grand Colorado. Traveling to Walton’s hometown in Colorado they must use their lethal skills under a guise of secrecy to find him. They have faced evil overseas with the Islamic extremists, but now face it on the home front with Nazi wannabes, motorcycle gangs, and a drug cartel. They enlist the help of Sherriff Valerie Malloy who knows the local community, many of whom enjoy the isolated and sparsely populated town. Unfortunately, the three find themselves up against adversaries with superior numbers and firepower and no lead on Blue Man’s whereabouts. Baldacci wants “people to realize wars could be fought in many different types of battlefields whether the desert in Iraq or the urban streets of London or America. These are two very different kinds of battlefields. Because many citizens have no direct engagement with the soldiers and their families they think they could not be harmed. We are never really safe wherever we are. It is an important cliché, ‘see something, say something.’ People should not be listening to their ear buds or staring at their phones oblivious to everyone around them.” The Colorado Tourist Bureau will definitely not use it. The story shows how the state is a magnet for violent groups. Being a large state with many isolationist and unpopulated areas it is popular by those who want to avoid mainstream laws. The geography and undermanned police forces allows for secretive groups. Also, in Colorado are hideaways for the super wealthy in case the world implodes. Reel responds to someone who is touring the facility, “Isn’t that why you bought your little insurance policy here? So they could protect you from the big, bad riffraff banging on the door to get in?” This story is well worth the two-year wait and readers should be delighted in Reel and Robie’s return. This novel has a fast-action story where people realize that there ar[...]



Thank You For Your Service

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 07:19:02 PST

Veteran’s Day is a time for Americans to step up and honor those who have served in the armed forces. From the days of the Founding Fathers to today, those in the military whether enlisted or drafted, made tremendous sacrifices for their fellow Americans. We should offer thanks, but the question is how do we go about doing it? Today many people will tell a veteran “thank you for your service.” During the Vietnam War those who fought gallantly for this country would have welcomed that greeting instead of being spat upon and called baby killers. But for those who fought in the War On Terror is it enough? The recent book by David Finkel, and movie by Jason Hall, Thank You For Your Service, implies the sentiment is great, but more is needed. The movie and book follow a group of US soldiers returning from Iraq and struggling to integrate back into family and civilian life. They live with the horrific memories of a war that threatens to destroy them here at home. Both film and book explore the reality of Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) that affects both the warrior and their family. David Finkel’s first book, For The Good Soldiers, told of his experiences while embedded with the men of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion in Iraq during the infamous "surge." His follow-up book, Thank You For Your Service, and the movie based on the book shows what happens to these men after their deployments have ended. He stated, “They came with various psychological and moral injuries, and some are broken. I think the movie found the true heart of my book, getting the big picture. The war affected these guys, and they came home different, many times unable to talk about it.” Jason Hall the screenwriter and director concurs, “I hope the movie opens people’s eyes regarding the continued war that these guys are fighting, trying to find their way back home. This is very much their second war, as they come home changed and altered by the war. Since I wrote the screenplay for the movie about Chris Kyle, I am calling this film the spiritual sequel to American Sniper.” Some have criticized the book and movie because they say it implies that all soldiers coming home are broken. Finkel responds to the criticism, “I just do not buy it. Of course not every vet is broken, but every vet is affected. When I embedded with these guys for about eight months I saw a lot of them injured and lost. I think it is fair to say that there was not a man of those 800 that was not affected in some way, but this does not mean they were all broken. After my first book, some who returned from deployment contacted me and told of having a hard time with divorces, DUIs, depression, anxiety, medication, and suicidal thoughts. They came home with various psychological and moral injuries, and some were broken. The fact is they were changed and it will take some time to recover, but it certainly does not mean they are broken forever. It is a shame for people to say don’t tell this story because it buys into the broken vet idea.” Hall added, “I am by no means saying everyone who comes home suffers from PTSD. I think it is one in four or one in five. It is certainly the minority. Yet, we have to be aware of those who have the feelings that everything feels different and looks different, with a different texture and meaning.” The book and movie should not be criticized for pointing out that approximately 25% of the soldiers need help because the goal is to start a discussion and make Americans more aware of these veterans who need support. The relatives are also affected. While at war the soldier’s peers became their family, and their family at home was left to fend for themselves. Both appear to be strangers to each other in some way. A scene in the book has one of the returning soldiers, Staff Sergeant Adam Schumann, now retired, cooking pancakes for his daughter, making a happy face with chocolate chips. The problem is that the child does not like chocolate. Another scene has his wife finding a questionnaire[...]



Book Review: Monticello: A Daughter And Her Father

Sun, 05 Nov 2017 14:08:59 PST

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. Monticello by Sally Cabot Gunning is a fascinating historical novel about the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his eldest daughter Martha. Because the author based this book on actual correspondence between father and daughter it is immersed in reality. The book begins with a letter from Martha to her father at the age of fourteen, “I wish with all my soul that the poor Negroes were all freed. It grieves my heart when I think that these our fellow creatures should be treated so terribly as they are by many of our country men.” This sets the tone for the rest of the book where readers see the struggle throughout their life with family, relationships, and issues of the day, including being a good wife, a good mother, honoring her father, and shaping his legacy. The author’s research included, “I poured through her letters to her father and his to her and realized that she and I had embarked on a similar mission, to figure out her father. I read all the letters they wrote each other, letters to other people, and numerous biographies. I searched through endless Jefferson documents online. I learned that as Martha matured she came to spend many evenings at her father’s dinner table in the company of Europe’s greatest men of arts, letters, politics, and science, enhancing her education still further. I took many trips to Monticello and discovered something new with each trip, not just about the people who lived there, black and white, but also about the significance Monticello held for them.” Martha idolized and admired her father and considered him a renaissance man with his greatest accomplishments as author of the Declaration of Independence, founder of the University of Virginia, and an advocate for religious freedom as well as an end to slavery. Telling the story from her point of view Gunning is able to have the characters come alive and takes readers back in time to the early days of America where Jefferson is viewed in a different light, that of father and grandfather. There is a scene in the book where he sends Martha and her children gifts, “books and toys for the children, chinaware, a Turkey carpet, and a pair of chairs...When Martha’s father realized she had no horse to ride, he lent her a gentle bay and paid the overdue mortgage bill.” Monticello is also a character that played a significant role in their lives, the family's beloved Virginia plantation among lush mountains. It was a place where Jefferson escaped his political worries and thrived, and Martha sought security, as it became her haven. Both yearned for it when they are absent, and it became the soul of the family with its seasonal beauty, treasured gardens, walking and riding paths, as well as the Palladian house designed by Jefferson. But it was also the family’s Achilles heel. Their increasing financial strain forced them to continue to own slaves, even as their conscience and beliefs told them slavery was wrong. It became a necessary evil where they needed to have slaves to manage the plantation. He did try to find a way to turn his slaves into tenant farmers, but the Virginian laws did not accept it. Gunning noted, “It definitely was a character in the book. The place itself became so significant in their lives, especially if you think what they did to preserve it. They were hell bent on holding on to it. It was their sanctuary. She actually moved back during her troubled marriage. It explained many things including slavery, the relationship with each other, and the extreme debt of Jefferson. This is just my observation, but I believe had he not inherited slaves from his father and an enormous debt from his father-in-law he would not have been a slave owner. I also think had he not been in such financial trouble he would have freed his[...]



Book Review: King Of Spies

Sun, 05 Nov 2017 09:44:07 PST

King Of Spies: The Dark Reign and Ruin of an American Spymaster in Korea by Blaine Harden delves into the black-ops life of Donald Nichols during, before, and shortly after the Korean War. This biography allows readers to understand the current conflict with North Korea and the necessary steps taken to handle the Kim dynasties through the decades. The regime’s DNA has not changed, as it is still the same system of torture, rape, and murder. Although Nichols did not have much of a formal education, and his training was limited to a short course on spy techniques, nevertheless, he rose in the ranks from Sergeant to Major. His expertise as a master spy came from immersing himself with knowledge of the inner-workings of the North Korean government and military. Harden describes Nichols, “He was an unbreakable war hero whose creativity and energy as a spymaster helped save countless lives in a confused and bloody war. He operated beyond the bounds of legality and morality. He was a superspy with a dark side.” During his clandestine eleven-year career he developed his own base, secret army, and rules. Within Korea there were three centers of intelligence: the emerging CIA, army intelligence, the largest outfit, and NICK, created by Nichols where he supervised up to fifty-eight American intelligence officers and airmen, two hundred South Korean intelligence officers, and more than seven hundred agents comprised of defectors and refugees from North Korea. The Air Force brass quickly recognized him as “the best intelligence agent in the Far East.” Nichols was given open-ended authority to gather intelligence and conduct sabotage, demolition, and guerrilla operations behind enemy lines. Harden emphasized how “US Air Force generals depended on Nichols just before, during, and immediately after the Korean War. He broke codes, found weaknesses in enemy tanks and jets, and identified most of the targets destroyed by American bombs in North Korea. During the war he reported only to the General of the 5th Air Force, Earle Everard ‘Pat’ Partridge. For his accomplishments Air Force Generals gave him an abundance of praise, promotions, and medals.” His accomplishments included helping to find weaknesses in the Soviet tank, earning him a Silver Star, salvaging a Soviet MIG 15, and then finding the electronic secrets on how it worked. This information was sent to the commanders who helped to redesign and modify the US F-86 to better equip them during an air fight. Hardin recounts in the book how in the early days of the conflict as the American GIs were retreating and being killed, Nichols’ “team of cryptographers broke the North Korean army codes, which helped the American forces hold the line, saving them from being pushed off the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula as well as helping in finding the targets for bombings of North Korea.” Another achievement was his prediction of North Korea invading the South. This was much to the chagrin of General Douglas MacArthur’s chief of intelligence, army major General Charles A. Willoughby, who predicted just the opposite. Hardin recounts, “The American Ambassador in Seoul, John Muccio, wrote a response to Willoughby who tried to oust Nichols, ‘In my opinion, there is no other American intelligence unit or agency now operating in South Korea which produces a larger volume of useful intelligence material on Communist and subversive activities than does Mr. Nichols’ unit.’” Harden also delves into the moral question, how far should covert operators go to save American lives, and does that include a legal license to murder? In his own words, Nichols described himself as a “thief, assassin, judge, jury, and executioner.” This master spy entered the dark side when he became a part of, the Republic of Korea Head Of State, Syngman Rhee’s world that included torturing, beheading, and killing tens of thousands of South Koreans. He was not a particularly nic[...]



Book Review: Mind Game

Sun, 29 Oct 2017 17:19:48 PDT

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. Mind Game by Iris Johansen blends fast paced action involving “Super Heroes” with a bit of romance along with a touch of the supernatural. She is able to portray the characters as real-life people that possess some manipulative power. Johansen feels she writes her characters having these powers “within all my books. I think they present more interesting characters. I enjoy exploring how we all have feelings and senses. I truly believe we all have something that is right below psychic powers, although, some have stronger powers than others. We titled the book Mind Game because it is about the mind within an adventurous and romantic plot. I want the characters to control it, understand it, and expand it.” While sleeping Jane MacGuire has a dream where she connects with a young woman, Lisa Ridondo, who frantically asks for her help. She is being held captive and is being tortured. Through a series of drawings Jane connects the dots, determining that Lisa is somehow related to Seth Caleb, a man who both frightens and attracts her. After Seth confirms Lisa is his sister, both he and Jane venture out to rescue her. Taking the kidnappers by surprise they free Lisa who becomes Jane’s BFF. Meanwhile Seth is determined to find who the kidnapper’s leaders are and why they used Lisa to find him. The captors are trying to leverage him into using his unique, dangerous gifts to kill a target in a way that wouldn’t cause suspicion. Believing Seth and Jane are lovers and knowing there is sexual attraction between them, she becomes the next target in a ploy to force Caleb to kill or see her killed. Seth takes center stage in this story on purpose. “I wanted to develop Seth a bit more. I have always concentrated on Jane and her adopted mother Eve. I find Seth a fascinating character that is a force to be reckoned with. He is a work in progress and grows with each book. He can be wicked, cynical, smart, and sexy as hell. He probably would be the ‘bad boy’ of Superheroes. He is a turbulent Superhero. He wants acceptance, but does not know how to achieve it. Because of his terrible childhood, which I explore in this book, he automatically pulls away.” There is also a sub-plot that involves the other featured characters of this series, Eve Duncan, Joe Quinn, and their son Michael. Jane is related to Eve and Joe after they adopted her and Michael is her stepbrother. Although Jane’s family is not the forefront of this story, surprises are in store for the trio. Eve is also prevalent in helping Jane understand how to connect with Lisa. All these characters will remind readers of the X-Men Superheroes rather than the Marvel ones. Instead of strength being at the forefront it is the ability to manipulate. In the case of Jane, she can see actual events and people in her dreams. Seth has persuasive powers along with the ability to control a person’s blood flow. Michael has some psychic powers. Lisa is just finding out and developing her powers that will be determined in future books. This book allows readers to see what it would be like for someone to have talents that are based on biology. The plot and characters are enthralling and likeable with explosive energy that jumps off the pages. [...]



Book Review: The Shadow List

Sun, 15 Oct 2017 10:23:00 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Shadow List by Todd Moss is an international crime novel. Unlike other thrillers this takes place in the non-traditional place of Nigeria with the non-traditional hero, Judd Ryker, heading the State Department’s Crisis Reaction Unit. As a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the African Bureau Moss is able to use his experiences to help with the story. “I am inspired by real people. When I worked at the State Department I knew of true heroes. One was an anti-corruption czar in Nigeria who had to endure many assassination attempts. This is the basis for this international thriller.” Although this story can be read as a stand-alone there are some scenes that will be more understandable if the earlier books are read. It might be more helpful to learning the backstory on the characters and their motivations. The two main characters are married with one working for the diplomatic corps and the other for the CIA, both in specialized units. They try to keep their jobs separate but as the story progresses their paths cross in a deadly way. Moss noted, “The issues the main characters face are very real including the bureaucratic nonsense that prevents things from getting done. A good example was Benghazi, a rapidly unfolding crisis that went very bad because the different parts of our government did not talk to each other very well. Regarding our intelligence agency there are different units. The Red Cell I describe in the book is a special analytical unit and is real. It is the inspiration for the Purple Cell that Jessica heads up, which is not real.” The plot had Judd tasked to rescue a kidnapped Wall Street consultant and a pro basketball player. At the same time his wife Jessica is sent on a mission to discover who is the Russian mobster nicknamed “the Bear” and what are his intentions. Both he and his wife will end up in Nigeria together connected by a Nigerian Judge who is combating corruption in his country. There they realize how far each with go to save the good guys and thwart the bad guys. An interesting part of the book examines the relationship between an operative and their spouse. Since Moss was a senior State Department official “I struggled with handling the classified information. I wanted to show in the book how Jessica had a hard time splitting in her mind what is classified and what is not. Eventually anyone who works with classified information comes to the realization it is better not to talk about anything for fear of saying something they should not.” The main characters are smart and appealing. The plot is exciting, captivating, and intriguing. Readers will enjoy a change of pace where diplomacy intertwines with the action. [...]



Book Review: The Woman Who Couldn't Scream

Sun, 15 Oct 2017 10:17:34 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Woman Who Couldn’t Scream is a classic Christina Dodd novel. Her heroines have some handicap yet are determined in spite of facing adversity. They fight to take control over their life. This installment of the Virtue Falls series brings back Kateri Kwinault, now the sheriff, who ignores her handicap of being physically disabled. The other heroine, a stand-alone character Merida Falcon is mute after a horrific accident. Dodd fabulously weaves together these two women within a thrilling plot and a “who done it” mystery. The plot has Merry Byrd seriously injured in an explosion that meant to kill her. She had to undergo numerous facial surgeries that changed her appearance. To get the financing she had to make a pact with the devil, a possessive old geezer who wanted her for his trophy wife. Changing her name to Helen Brassard she endured nine long years of his abusive, controlling, and manipulative ways. After he died Helen reinvents herself yet again. She disappears and remerges as the beautiful, reclusive Merida Falcon in the coastal town of Virtue Falls, WA. This tourist town has its share of killers, which preoccupies Merida’s childhood friend, the current sheriff. Dodd commented, “I had taken a two-week transatlantic cruise and was able to observe different personalities. I started thinking about different scenarios including what would make someone want to become a trophy wife, having to service an old and disgusting guy. YUK! I wondered if they sought revenge, money, were being blackmailed, or wanted to escape something in their past. Merida was a close childhood friend of Kateri so I also wanted to show how they both used their past association to gain strength from each other.” Sheriff Kateri Kwinault is trying to find a serial killer who slashes their victims to death. Besides dealing with this she is recovering from a drive by shooting which left her needing to walk with a cane, her best friend hovering near death, a series of unexplained murders, a deranged local meth-head criminal, and a complicated love life. It is interesting how both heroines struggle to come to grips with their physical handicap, are unable to have parents that provided unconditional love, are subjected to emotional abuse, and fear that their boyfriends tried to kill them. What Dodd does very well is allow readers to learn more about people who are mute. They enter Merida’s world and begin to understand that not only deaf people use sign language. But people also realize that technology has considerably helped those who lost these senses. Merida introduces herself via sign language or use of a computer tablet, signing or typing, “I am mute, unable to speak. I am not deaf. Please do not shout!” This never interrupts the flow nor detracts from the plot but adds a layer of complexity to the storyline. It might also spur someone to want to learn more about the different ways of communicating with someone deaf or mute. Merida has some mental anguish, but will not let her muteness define her. Dodd feels “people with handicaps are not broken and do not need to be fixed. They are whole people. They were put in circumstances they never dreamed of, but were able to pick themselves up. I want people to consider what it is like for someone who loses one of their senses. Most people ridiculously talk to someone in the same manner they speak with a person who does not understand their language: either raising voices or speaking very slowly. I also wanted to show how someone communicates with sign language. They can hear us, but cannot respond so they sign. Did you know you could say someone is mute, but not ‘a mute?’” This novel blends [...]



Book Review: Last Christmas In Paris

Sun, 08 Oct 2017 10:11:25 PDT

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. Last Christmas In Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb is a unique story. A word of warning, it is not a “sugar and spice and everything nice” novel. The story is very authentic as it covers the triumphs and tribulations that affected the civilian life and those on the battlefield. Yet, it leaves the reader with a good feeling as the book ends with a sentiment of hope. The love and romantic scenes are a great balance against the horrors of the Great War. What makes this book stand out is that the story of World War I is told predominantly in letters and telegrams. The primary letter authors are Evie, Alice, Will, and Thomas. The latter three tell of the tragedies of war: Alice an ambulance driver, Will and Thomas on the front lines, while Evie, represents the civilian population. She if filled with worry, dread, depression, and fear for her loved ones. The writings also show how the attitudes changed through the course of the war. In the beginning the letters are full of excitement, a sense of adventure, pride and thoughts that the war won't last long, yet, as it becomes evident that it will not be over by Christmas, the correspondence becomes more serious and speaks of the atrocities and hardships. Because Evie was not content to sit idly she writes a newspaper column about the war effort and the feelings of those left behind, as well as those fighting on the frontlines. Gaynor describes her as “ambitious, spunky, unconventional, and strong-willed. She had no intention to just marry someone, but wanted to play a pivotal role in the War. This is why we had her write a newspaper column like the famous American journalist Nellie Bly. WWI was the event that changed roles for women. She was trying to find her voice and was talking to the female readers, much like a wartime Dear Abby.” Through the letters between Evie and Alice readers learn how the women took over the male-dominated jobs from delivering the mail, to driving ambulances, being a part of the Auxillary Corps, and even writing newspaper articles. Webb noted, “There is a scene in the book where Thomas, Evie’s best friend who she is in love with, writes that she should not come to the frontlines. He says, ‘I don’t want you here amid the gloom and gore. It isn’t the place for someone like you and won’t be good for you.’ Of course she responds, ‘Your letter disappoints me. That you believe a woman has no place in this war…Do all men believe that women are incapable? Must I return to the knitting of comforts and bide my time like a good girl?’ We intentionally had her sign it as Evelyn, not Evie. She was furious with Tom with an attitude, ‘no sweet pet names for you, butthole.’ We also wanted to show that when not communicating directly and only in writing there can be misunderstandings. The reason he was so upset and angry with her had nothing to do with her being a woman. But, rather everything to do with her safety.” But the exchanges also spoke of the horrific issues of the war. PTSD was either called shell shock or war neurosis and the men diagnosed were considered weak-minded. A powerful quote explains how many thought of these men as faking or frauds. “They walk on both legs without the use of crutches. They swing both arms by their sides. They have no need for facemasks to hide their injuries. These men suffer an entirely different way. They suffer in their minds. The horrors they have seen and the endless sounds they have endured night after night stay with them.” But the war also penetrated those on the home front. The Scarborough raid by the Germans seemed to be a practice run for the blitzkrieg done in [...]



Book Q/A With The Todds

Sun, 08 Oct 2017 09:58:03 PDT

The following 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. A Casualty Of War by Charles Todd is a winner. This Bess Crawford mystery has the war coming to a close. The story explores the impact World War I had on all who witnessed it: officers, soldiers, doctors, and battlefield nurses. Fans of Bess will not be disappointed as she is still as independent, steadfast, intelligent, and resilient as ever. Per usual she seeks justice and works within societal norms where readers are able to absorb events that are researched and steeped in time and place. In this novel Bess becomes the champion of Captain Alan Travis. She meets him near the front lines in France at a forward aid station after he suffered a head wound. He confides in her that he thinks his cousin, Lieutenant James Travis, shot him. To make matters worse after going back to the frontlines he is shot again, this time in the back. Because no one believes him and thinks his rage is due to shell shock, they incarcerate him in a ward for the mentally ill. Being from Barbados without any family support he begs Bess to help him. Although she is not sure his accusations are true, she is sure that the medical diagnosis of shell shock is wrong. With the help of her friend and her father’s former aide, Sergeant Major Simon Brandon, she journeys to James’ home in Suffolk to learn more about the cousins’ relationship and to hopefully enlist the support of the relatives. It is here that the mystery takes off. Elise Cooper: Is seems shellshock is another word for PTSD, or as it is referred to during WWI, War Neurosis. Please explain The Todds: We’ve had to learn quite a bit about wounds in the Great War for the Bess Crawford mysteries. And we’ve seen photos of some of them that were unbelievably horrific. You realize, doing this sort of research, what the cost of war really is. But we have to know what Bess has seen and dealt with. The problem was, doctors were often learning as they worked, especially with head wounds. Today we know more about brain injuries, most particularly concussions from shells exploding too close, and wounds to the head. Amazing surgeries save men who would have died in Bess’s day. EC: But it was not just the soldiers that suffered, but Bess as a nurse as well? The Todds: Bess, like many combat veterans, suffers from PTSD, even if it wasn’t called that then. Her experiences, many of them horrific, will be with her for the rest of her life. This is why we wrote the scene where Simon comes to Bess’s aid after she had a nightmare, explaining to her, ‘The wounded and dead, their faces will stay with you for a very long time. All those you tried to save. They’ll come back in dreams… The dead are gone, except in your memory. There they are still young and whole and safe.’ EC: You explore what happens when someone tells the truth and no one believes them? The Todds: Bess realizes the Captain is a man in torment. She is not willing to just walk away. We wanted to have the readers understand the frustration and how it could lead to suicide. He felt so isolated, which is why we had him from Barbados where it was hard to get messages or send them. It is similar to a man or woman who is sent to prison even though they know they are innocent. EC: You also show the atrocities of the Germans: I guess it is in their DNA? The Todds: We wrote this book quote, ‘But now we were seeing what the German occupation had done to this part of France. Villages had been leveled, orchards cut down, garden walls turned to rubble, and the flowers that once had bloomed there had been churned into the earth. And often what couldn’t be taken away had been burned.’ The Germans had a[...]



Book Review: The Christmas Room

Sun, 08 Oct 2017 09:37:09 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Christmas Room by Catherine Anderson is one of these special stories. A word of warning, it is not a “sugar and spice and everything nice” holiday novel. Yet, it is very realistic, believable, and leaves the reader with a good feeling as the book ends, a feeling of hope and redemption. The story presents different generations. The McClendon’s have come to Montana to fulfill a dream of making a life here in Rustlers Gulch. Three generations of a mother, son, and grandson must learn to battle the Montana wilderness. It plays such a big role that it is like a secondary character. Readers learn of the ranch life, how a Bull Moose can be dangerous to one’s health, and the weather’s unforgiving attitude with horrific winds and knee-high snow levels. Having moved to Montana Anderson wants to incorporate what she was visualizing. “As I looked out my window I knew I had to put this setting into the story. I consider Montana a tremendous place, rich in scenery and with such friendly people. Here I was sitting in the middle of an alfalfa field in a trailer while my house was being built facing this brutal winter and a Christmas without a home. Lucky me, it was a record breaking winter where snow was up to the tops of my boots.” Besides battling the inclement weather the McClendon’s must also deal with the unfriendly neighbor Sam Conacher. Embittered by the death of his wife six years ago has left him possessive of his twenty-six year old daughter, Kirstin. She goes along with his wishes because she has not found a man in her life that is worth fighting over. That is, until she meets Cam McClendon, her possible soulmate. After finding out about the relationship, Sam looks to confront Cameron and warn him off from his daughter. Instead, he meets Maddie, Cam’s mother, who becomes a pit bull, and shows him he has met his match. They totally get off on the wrong foot and become adversaries. Until a horrible accident occurs, where Cam is badly injured saving Kirstin’s life. Sam realizes how wrong he has been and while Cam recuperates, he insists the McClendon’s move into his large ranch house. Maddie and Sam begin to rely on each other and enjoy their talks, realizing they can relate to each other about losing their spouses. A friendship is born as Maddie allows him to see the error of his ways. Very slowly, a sweet heartfelt romance also begins between Maddie and Sam, who have come to rely on each other. A powerful quote is very relatable, “You don’t think of the person for a few hours. Then, bang, it blindsides you. She was my other half in every sense of the word, my guiding light, my advisor, and my comfort during the storms.” Because everything is not always joyful, there were heart-breaking scenes where both families share the devastating loss of a loved one from cancer, but readers also see the healing process and resilience of the human spirit. As the Christmas holiday approaches the story becomes uplifting showing how Maddie’s grandson, Caleb, is caring and considerate, giving his grandmother a gift that is overwhelming. Anderson wants to bring realism to “the story. We should not forget about those people who came to the holidays with strife, stress, or financial troubles. Many people have lost loved ones and on Christmas there are empty places. They do feel sad. Because I did experience grief firsthand I wanted to write about it. I wanted to show how the death of Maddie’s husband impacted not only her but also her son and grandson.” Anderson has done a wonderful job of creating well-developed characters. Her description[...]



Book Review: The Duke

Sun, 01 Oct 2017 14:51:07 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Duke, part of the “Devil’s Duke” series by Katharine Ashe is part mystery, part historical, and part romance. She is one of those writers who allow readers to get swept up in the social, cultural, and political events of the 1800s. Having the setting in Scotland and the West Indies allowed for the intertwining of issues involving equality. There is a definite connection between women of that era who became involved with the abolitionist movement as they fought for equality themselves. Through her main character, Lady Amarantha Vale, readers learn how she sought not only adventure, but also emancipation for those enslaved in Jamaica. Unfortunately, she realized too late that her husband did not have her sentiments as he explained, “They are incapable. Like children and women, they lack the full capacity for reason and therefore the ability to govern themselves rationally.” Ashe commented, “My very first novel included details about the West Indies slave trade, and I’ve touched on it in other novels. In The Duke, it’s embedded in the core of the story. Since the fight for women’s rights in England, Scotland, and France was often intertwined with the abolitionist movement, that plays a part in the novel too. It was an era when women and men of all colors and strata of society fought to change the law so that all could be treated equally under the law.” She made mistakes in her choices for a partner, not once, but twice. She originally thought her first husband Reverend Paul Garland was a libertine, someone like her father, who respected women and who encouraged them to be independent. The other man in her life, Duke Gabriel Hume, was seen as a “bad boy,” a flirt, someone who took advantage of women. Unfortunately, for her she misread their personalities, wrong in both cases. After hearing that Amarantha decided to go through with the marriage to Garland, Gabriel returns to Scotland where he becomes a recluse. Years later, now widowed Amarantha sails to Scotland to look for her missing friend, Penelope Baker, whose trail leads to Castle Kallin, Gabriel Hume’s highland estate. He is known to society as the Devil’s Duke, because of rumors about his kidnapping of young girls. Still in love with Amarantha, he decides to allow her to be his guest. She accepts, intent on finding out the truth about him and her friend’s disappearance, knowing that only Gabriel has the answers. Because he is not willing to let her learn his darkest secret a game of wit and desire begins between them. As with all Ashe characters, the heroine is strong-willed, not content to allow society to dictate her place in it, and is very willing to speak her mind. The hero is always confident, brave, and willing to treat the woman he loves as an equal. Writing about the relationship, “I like my hero to respect women entirely, from the start. He doesn’t have to be convinced that a woman is a worthwhile partner and he doesn’t have to be taught how to love. This is the type of man I love in reality: men who actually believe women are equals. It’s what my husband is like. And in this book my hero, Gabriel, is already engaged in doing good in the world, even before he meets my heroine Amarantha; although she spurs him on to do even greater good. Of course there are intense emotions of desire and passion. But also the beauty of friendship is crucial for a couple in love, and the gentleness of understanding another person. I like my heroes and heroines to learn to see and love the whole other person. My heroes enjoy strong women.”[...]



Book Review: The Names Of Dead Girls

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 11:30:47 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Names Of Dead Girls by Eric Rickstad is the sequel to the 2015’s e-book original, The Silent Girls. These are part of the Canaan Crime series of psychological thrillers set in remote northern Vermont. Rickstand noted that he became a writer due to, “My personal experiences that influenced my writings. When I was fourteen my seventeen year old cousin and I encountered two older guys with shotguns. They ended up shooting at us with a shot going off on either side of my head. This affected me deeply. Another influence was that a friend of mine ended up being a criminal. In high school he was charming, athletic, and just a good guy. Yet, when I was watching CNN I saw him die in a shoot out with the police after he ran over a police officer. I was totally stunned. But I was also spurred to be a writer from my love for reading. I noticed how a string of words could elicit a range of emotions from happy to sad to scared. I wanted to be able to do this, allow readers to escape into a different world.” This plot begins with college student Rachel Rath, the adoptive daughter of former detective Frank Rath. Rachel’s parents died a horrific death at the hands of murderer and serial rapist Ned Preacher. Able to work the system he has been released from prison and has informed Rath he is going after Rachel. Although he gave up his badge to pursue justice as a private investigator, Rath has now been reinstated in the police force. Another sub-plot has Detective Sonja Test investigating the apparent disappearance of Dana Clark, who has failed to materialize at her daughter’s house. Rath begins to connect the dots as he realizes Clark is the last victim of the Preacher before he went to jail. Their investigation escalates along with the body count. The emotional tension ratchets up with each of the character’s motivations. Frank, desperate to protect his own family while seeking justice for the “dead girls,” works within the bounds of his conscience; Rachel, now aware of her identity and also the brutality her parents’ deaths, seeks revenge; and Sonja Test, torn between ambition and her home life, makes decisions that will profoundly impact her personal and professional life. The author played off the title regarding the theme of the book. “I had some detectives try to avoid the mention of victims names when discussing a case, allowing them to remain objective and emotionally removed. This contrasted with Sonja Test who wants everyone to know who the girls were and how they lived their lives. She insists their names are mentioned because she wants to personalize the victims.” Rickstad decided to explore the issues of moral versus legal. “I liked having Frank Roth in the situation where he has to protect his adopted daughter. He is not sure how to seek justice and if he is going to go out of the bounds of the law. I did not want to make him a vigilante, but have him figure out how to capture this guy and prevent more victims. He must cope with a killer who is evil, slippery, and cunning.” He will continue this exploration in his next book, What Remains Of Her. It is a stand-alone psychological thriller also set in Vermont with a whole set of new characters. The plot has a man turned recluse after the disappearance of his wife and daughter twenty years ago. While living in the mountains he finds a girl in the woods the same age as his daughter. He wonders if she is the reincarnation of his daughter. Rickstad’s writes dark, gritty and disturbing plots where the setting plays a huge role. [...]



Book Review: The Way To London

Sun, 24 Sep 2017 19:32:44 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Way To London by Alix Rickloff is very much a relationship story with the backdrop of World War II. Instead of having the military aspect the author concentrates on how the civilian population endured the war. It is the flip-flop Cinderella story about a rich girl and poor boy. The book starts out in Singapore in 1941, just three months before Pearl Harbor, where the population is still free of any concerns. Lucy Stanhope, the granddaughter of an earl, is living a life of pampered luxury in Singapore until one reckless act will change her life forever. Exiled to England to stay with an aunt she barely remembers she sees the devastation first-hand as the Nazis blitzkrieg London. Her companion, Bill, a twelve-year-old boy, journeys with her as both escape the English countryside heading for the city. She hopes to meet up with a Hollywood producer as she seeks fame and fortune, while at the same time helping Bill to find his mother. In the course of their journey they encounter a soldier, Michael, whom Lucy originally met in Singapore, He takes on the responsibility of getting Lucy and Bill safely to London. What stands out in this story is the stark difference between the social classes. The have-nots are unable to enjoy a normal meal and cannot escape the ravages of war. On the other side are the haves that are able through their privilege and money to still experience some comforts. A powerful quote hammers the point home, “I suppose I felt almost criminal eating in one meal enough ration points to serve a family of four for a month…You know just this afternoon, I was watching them pull bodies out of a collapsed building. Now, hours later, I’m in a world of caviar and cocktails.” But the author also makes the point that regardless of class the English people had a determination and grit to defeat the Germans. Whether it is sending their children off to the countryside to live with total strangers, or to endure the constant bombing, while trying to live as normal a life as possible, readers understand why this was called the “Greatest Generation.” She noted, “They had a quiet resolve with an all out effort to win the war. I am not sure this could ever be replicated. Everybody felt honor bound to do their part and pull their weight and make the necessary sacrifices. WWII is the catalyst that sets all three characters on their respective journeys. I wanted to explore how they had to get through the every day indignities of war, what the citizens had to go through. Despite all the violence and sorrow, what gave them the ability to cope?” Yet, Lucy is not seen as part of that group until the middle of the book. In the beginning she is a self-indulgent young woman desperate for attention, a spoiled brat who is an outsider always looking in. But as the story unfolds she grows and becomes a caring and responsible person. The Way To London is a journey taken by Lucy to find her way and place in the world. Bill and Michael show her that there is more to life than being a prickly uncaring individual, and help her along the way. Through them she finds her happily ever after. [...]



Book Review: Shattered

Sun, 24 Sep 2017 19:26:17 PDT

Shattered by Allison Brennan combines her two series together in a powerful read. Although billed as a Max Revere book, Lucy Kincaid takes over the crime scenes. As Max, an investigative journalist, utters a number of times in the book, FBI Agent Lucy has taken control. Brennan does consider it a Max book. “I started and ended with her. Lucy took it over when the case was center stage. But remember Max ends up solving the original case. Since they each have their own world I will only bring them back together if it fits into the story. I enjoy writing a Lucy and Max book every year so I do not get bored. I am not going to go out of my way to put them together unless it flows within the story. The next Max book uses the clues from this book given to her by Sean, Lucy’s husband. If Lucy and Sean do appear in it, they will be off page.” These two alpha women attempt to work together to solve the case of a serial killer. When first brought together Max was very hesitant and not very happy to have to work directly with a partner since she is used to calling the shots on her own. Now, at times, she must follow Lucy’s direction, lead, and suggestions. The FBI Agent has agreed to work the case after Max shows her the pile of evidence connecting Lucy’s nephew’s killing, which happened twenty years ago, to other cases. Her research along with Lucy’s connections, training, and experience, allow the investigation to move forward at a rapid pace. The other sub-plot is directly connected to the investigation. Max first heard about all these cases from her one-time college lover, John Caldwell. The police suspect that John’s wife, Blair, murdered the couple’s eight-year-old son, but John believes that a serial killer is to blame and wants Max to solve a trio of similar cold cases in the hope that it will exonerate Blair. Because this is what Max does for a living she agrees to reach out to the family of the possible first victim, Justin Stanton. Andrew, Justin’s father, agrees to cooperate with Max’s investigation, but only if Max partners with his sister-in-law, FBI agent Lucy Kincaid. As the two featured characters are paired together readers cannot help but compare the two personalities. Max is a loner, a ‘know it all,’ straightforward, and a control freak. Lucy is polite, quieter, a thinker, and is used to working within a team. But the one thing they both have in common is the drive to seek justice for the victims and their families. But over the course of the book Lucy seems to influence Max. Suppressing her desires, Max decides to respect her wishes and resists her natural temptation to dig into Lucy’s past. An indirect influence is how Lucy and her husband, Sean, treat each other with an intimate understanding between them. Max sees their unconditional love and knows that she wants a similar relationship. Brought into the case for his expert opinion as a forensic psychologist, Lucy’s brother Dillon hit it off perfectly with Max. Too bad he is hitched because he seems like someone Max could have fallen head over heels with. Brennan feels, “Nick blew it and I was not happy with him after the previous Max book. She did not want to break up with him, but refuses to be treated as a doormat. She will never compromise to have her ‘happily ever after.’ I know a lot of readers liked the chemistry between Max and Lucy’s brother, Dillon. But he is married so this will not happen. If he were single he and Max would be great together.” Brennan does a wonderful job of creating an intricate dynamic between her two main characters, Max and Lucy. This engrossing story will keep readers on the edge of their seats. [...]