Last Build Date: Thu, 23 Feb 2017 02:15:10 PST
Thu, 23 Feb 2017 02:15:10 PSTListen to this voice. Listen Again. Imagine that you know something bad is about to happen to you, and that you have no effective means to prevent it. You know nothing can stop it, but you activate the video feature on your cell phone not to help you, but to help police find the person or persons who did those things to you. 14-year-old Libby German did just that in the moments before at least one male ordered her and her friend -- 13-year-old Abby Williams -- "down the hill" and ultimately to their deaths. She showed a clarity and courage that I'm not sure many adults could or would match under the same circumstances. The least we can do is spread this far and wide, so that the killer or killers are brought to justice. Somebody, somewhere, will recognize the photo or the voice. Share it far and wide. Light. The. Bastard. Up. Cross posted at Laughingwolf.
Mon, 20 Feb 2017 16:48:06 PSTThe 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. Stolen by Carey Baldwin is a riveting thriller. It intertwines issues involving family and mental illness within relationships, a murder, and a kidnapping. What makes this psychological story even more compelling is the mind games the characters play with each other. Baldwin appears to be influenced by her fascination with the old time movie Gaslight starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. “In this movie that I just love, Ingrid Bergman is a psychologically vulnerable women who’s been through a tremendous trauma, witnessing the murder of her aunt. Charles Boyer is her villainous husband who tries to make her question her own sanity. This is a classic and speaks of mind games where over time she grows to believe what is told to her even though it contradicts what she actually saw.” Right from the very first page readers will be swept up into the plot. Baldwin is one of those authors who has a knack for keeping people guessing as to where the plot is headed by building suspense and intrigue. Because an important Senator’s daughter, Laura Chaucer, has disappeared, Dr. Caitlin Cassidy and FBI profiler Atticus Spenser are called in to investigate. Through it they find that thirteen years ago Laura and her nanny had been kidnapped, with the end result of Laura being rescued and the nanny found dead. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Grady Webber, tries to lead the investigators to think she is unstable, a danger to herself, and capable of murder. What Cassidy and Spenser must sort out, is Laura a killer, or is there a monster lurking who is out to get her and others? Many of the supporting characters were very interesting and will draw strong emotions from readers. Dr. Webber gives psychiatrists a bad name. Not only did he have a short affair with his resident, Caitlin, but is also a manipulative jerk. Anyone that knows the story of Brian Wilson’s psychiatrist can believe how Webber tries to foster dependence as he plays mind games with his patient. A quote hammers the point home, “Laura Chaucer’s been walking around with a time bomb inside her. And Grady Webber has the nuclear codes.” Part of the reason the author made Webber so evil was to “throw my pet peeves into Grady’s behavior. I really hate Polypharmacy where drugs are given for all reasons. I put in the book how Laura was prescribed drugs for anxiety and as a sleep aid. With all of these it is a wonder Laura did not sleepwalk through life. Webber gave drugs in lieu of therapy.” As much as readers will hate Webber, they will gravitate towards Laura. The center point of current and past investigations, she felt people were constantly pointing fingers at her. Growing up under those circumstances of having a stigma hanging over her she became addicted to therapy and the drugs handed to her by Webber. Eventually, she begins to wonder if her manipulators world view is correct, or are there other answers, realizing just because people say things does not necessarily make it true. Baldwin noted, “I enjoyed writing Laura’s character. She is someone extremely damaged, but has survived. She has an inner strength. A lot of people would have crumpled with the pressure she was under, but she did not.” Fans of Caitlin and Spenser will enjoy their working and personal relationship as it develops in this book. They become a more formidable team, battling Caitlin’s past with Webber and the murderer. As the relationship becomes more serious, Baldwin believes “I can have the constant tease, the romantic tension that is so organic. But I do not like playing the game as we saw between the Friend’s characters Ross and Rachel, after awhile it becomes frustrating. In my next book they will have some rest and relaxation in Tahiti. Then all hell breaks loose as they are dragged in by the local authorities after witnessing something.” Also, s[...]
Sat, 18 Feb 2017 12:48:49 PSTThe 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. Gunmetal Gray by Mark Greaney is an engrossing thriller. After reading this series Greaney will definitely become a favorite where people can’t wait for the next installment. The main character, Courtland Gentry, known as the Gray Man, is a former CIA agent, an assassin turned contractor, who always takes readers on a great ride as he battles the bad guys. Greaney describes it as “a cat and mouse adventure story as people go after this particular guy. Everyone is after Fan, the Chinese government hacker, because if he defects he becomes like a virus to the Chinese. Because Gentry is a contractor the CIA can use him as a deniable asset, remaining on the periphery. He utilizes the CIA and vice versa for them.” The action begins on page one and never lets up. The CIA has hired Gentry to find Fan Jiang, a Chinese hacker and an information technology specialist, who is trying to defect to Taiwan after he escapes from the Chinese government. Geo-politics comes into play as both the Russians and Americans race to capture him for his knowledge of the Chinese systems. But also in the mix are Chinese agents who are attempting to assassinate Fan before he divulges any state secrets. He used the Asia setting to give a shout out to Vietnam veterans. “I wrote Gentry’s father as a Marine Scout sniper who fought combat missions around Da Nang. I wrote Gentry traveling to this area because it is a connection between him and his father. When someone mentions Vietnam you don’t think of a nation, but of a war. I also wanted to show that currently Vietnam is a place where many westerners travel. I wanted to travel to Vietnam, but needed ankle surgery so I could not go. While writing a Clancy novel I did a lot of research on Hong Kong and Beijing. These are all interesting places to me and I knew I wanted them all as a setting for a Gray Man book. The people, buildings, architecture, and crowds would be fun to place in an action-packed novel.” Against seemingly overwhelming odds Gentry must use his wits and moral code to complete the mission. The characters in this novel are very well developed. The Gray Man is a complex figure that allows readers to root for someone with integrity. He is a good person who must do some bad things to succeed. The female lead is Zoya Zakharova, the beautiful Russian foreign intelligence agent assigned to bring Fan Jiang to Russia. She’s Gentry’s one adversary who is his equal, a female “Gray Man,” a kindred spirit. Readers will hope that she and Gentry are put together in future books because the interaction between them is superb. The Gray Man is “based on individuals who never stand out. I found out about this term when I did my research. It is someone in the military or intelligence that moves around in a low profile. He physically moves around without drawing a lot of attention to himself. Regarding his personality, his moral compass does not always point North. Not a black hat versus a white hat; there is a lot of gray. Even though he sometimes does bad things he is still seen as a good guy.” As with all of Gray Man books, the excitement, tension, and action are never ending. There is never a dull moment. [...]
Sat, 18 Feb 2017 12:41:42 PSTThe 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. Racing The Devil by Charles Todd is a vintage novel. This mother/son team returns to the scenario that made them so well read. They have an action packed plot with characters that are intensely well liked or disliked. As in all their books many of the characters bear the internal and external scars of the War. World War I becomes a reality with its impact on the English society at large. The setting places a prominent role in the book because it adds to the powerful plot. The Todds noted, “We wanted to write a story around this setting. As we came up with a plot it was like solving a puzzle, putting in what fits and taking out what doesn’t.” The book begins with a group of English officers promising to return after the war to meet in Paris to race their motorcars to Nice. In 1919 that promise becomes a reality until serious mishaps mar the reunion when two vehicles are nearly run off the road. Nothing comes of it until one year later when another mishap with a car kills the rector of a village of Burling Gap in the South Downs. After the local constable asks Scotland Yard for assistance, Inspector Ian Rutledge is sent in to investigate. He uncovers a possible connection between the deaths of the rector and those in the race. He has to put the pieces together to find out who was the intended target, was it mistaken identity or was the rector the intended victim? The theme explores why a perfectly normal human being will resort to murder. “As we wrote this novel we wondered what has changed them so drastically in their life that they see no other way out but to kill another human being. It goes back to one of the seven deadly sins. It was fun to write how the different interactions and relationships of the characters intertwined depending on their life experiences.” Each character in the book whether main or a supporting was extremely well developed and played an intricate role in the plot. The antagonist is very evil as he lurks in the shadows. This faceless killer is willing to strike again as he attacks Rutledge to stop him, and kidnaps a child. Rutledge realizes he will need all his skills to stop the murderer before other lives are sacrificed. The female characters show the reality of how the Great War affected society. Jen, a teenage girl, had to grow up way too fast after having her brothers killed in the war. She lost her childhood as she helped her mother tend to the land of a retired Captain, an aristocratic employer. He broke off his engagement because of war injuries and his former fiancé had no other suitors. Ginger the dog showed how animals can read people and their loyalty is a trait to be admired. A cameo appearance by Melinda Crawford fits perfectly into the plot. The Todds commented, “England lost an entire generation of men who either died or were severely wounded. Many women ended up as spinsters for the rest of their lives, while others never remarried. If you look at the registries there are entire lines of titles that ceased to exist because there was no one to pass it on to.” When asked the importance of dogs, the authors said that it was a way “for us to speak with a person in England. Since the culture will not allow you just to go up to someone, we were able to do it if they had a dog. We started a conversation by talking to the dog, telling it how cute it was. The next thing you know they are telling you about their great uncle and how they suffered in World War I.” Racing The Devil is a gripping novel that readers will not want to put down. The many twists and turns add to the gripping plot. Readers will see the many sides of Rutledge as he helps solve the mystery. This psychological thriller includes murder, fear, and suspicion, all set up by a chance meeting. [...]
Wed, 15 Feb 2017 09:54:55 PSTIt is the thirty-second year of Japanese occupation in Korea and tens of thousands of young women have disappeared from the peninsula. Like so many others, Ki-Hwa Kim’s parents imposed a lifelong seclusion on their only daughter, but a tragic error in judgment ended their cautious life. Forced into sexual slavery as a ‘comfort woman’ for the Japanese Army, Ki-Hwa is shipped to the South Pacific island fortress of Rabaul to be the mistress of a legendary Cavalry Officer. Allied Forces pummel the island in preparation for an inevitable invasion. Paranoia grips the garrison when Admiral Yamamoto, the architect of Pearl Harbor, is killed in an Allied ambush shortly after leaving Rabaul and fingers are pointed in every direction. Within this chaos, life for Ki-Hwa and hundreds of others in the comfort stations is survival of the fittest. Once a farm girl afraid of her own shadow, Ki-Hwa discovers people are callous, sadistic, and deceitful and must find the strength to resist the mighty and unforgiving Empire along with her one true friend. But when an imposter threatens to unravel the group's carefully laid plans she is forced to make an impossible choice between guaranteed security and a shaky promise of freedom. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Told from various perspectives – Japanese pilots and soldiers, Americans, prisoners of war, sex slaves and others – The Comfort Station, by New York Times best-selling author, Kelly Crigger, is a historical fiction novel written that draws you into a world that few of us even were aware about. Fast paced, emotional, and suspenseful, the story is about the plight of Ki-Hwa Kim and those engulfed in the Pacific during World War 2. Ki-Hwa grows through the experiences of being abandoned and taken prisoner by the Japanese Army, traveling across the sea and forced into slavery, and swept up into intrigue and war. One amazing part of the book is when a malevolent Japanese sergeant attacks Ki-Hwa and the two of them fight in a bunker during an air raid…bombs exploding and shaking the bunker as the back drop to a fight to the death. The other characters are exceptionally developed and fascinating, as well. The Allied spies and coast watchers determined to rescue POWs held with Ki-Hwa work, suffer and fight. The Japanese characters run the gamut of professional soldiers and pilots to horrific villains – all challenged by their military orders, Japanese heritage and sense of humanity. The complex plot is paced like a spy thriller, with breathless action and suspenseful intrigue set amid enthralling historical locations. While the story is about war and revenge, it is more about hope and courage. The Comfort Station is nothing less than a page-turning triumph. The best indicator of its value that I can give you is that, when I finished the book, I realized that I wanted the author to keep going, and I wanted to learn more about the history of the comfort stations and the plight of those women forced into slavery... [...]
Sat, 11 Feb 2017 15:29:41 PSTThe 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. Readers had to wait two years for the latest Deborah Crombie book, Garden Of Lamentations, but it was well worth it. This plot follows the unanswered questions from Crombie’s last novel, Dwell In Darkness. People might remember how Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid had not solved the loose ends in the last novel. He is still troubled by a grenade attack, a devastating fire, and the odd behavior of his boss, Chief Superintendent Denis Childs. The author had the idea from “an article about the undercover British police officers for the special branch. It referred to the abuse of power by the police with no oversight. I thought it fascinating to explore those who thought it morally wrong to do what they were asked to do. They had undercover spies in campaign groups.” Crombie explained why the long delay, “This book just was really hard to write. I struggled in how I would wrap up the continuing story arc. It was hard to figure out how all the different parts of the story would fit together and how other parts would be resolved. I did not want to make it boring for those who read the previous books and to make sense for those who would read it as a stand-alone. It is really a delicate balance to provide the backstory without slowing the current plot down.” All the unanswered questions come to a resolution in this story including Kincaid’s investigation of police corruption. But there are also sub-plots that stand on their own. His wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James is investigating the death of a young nanny in the locked Cornwall Gardens, in Notting Hill. These two investigations create an intense mystery, especially since this lack of communication added to the tension in the novel. Commenting on the setting, “I made the Gardens fictional. The general place is now a housing complex at this stop. I used my writer’s power to make the place pretty. It serves as a character in the book. I chose to make the houses and gardens the way I wanted.” Duncan and James are no longer working together, which meant that they didn’t interact very much throughout the book. He is hiding his growing suspicions for fear of endangering his family, which creates an emotional divide between them. Gemma misreads her husband’s attempt to protect her, believing instead that they are drifting apart, originally caused when they started to each put their career and children before one other. The author said, “Relationships take a beating in this book: Duncan and Gemma, Duncan and Doug, Doug and Melody. I am thinking in the next book to send them off to the country house of Melody’s parents where they must all work together to solve a case.” This novel has plenty of twists and surprises involving the cautionary tale about the abuse of power. It is not only plot driven, but character driven as well where both the relationships and story make for an intense read. [...]
Sat, 11 Feb 2017 15:22:58 PSTThe 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. Law And Disorder by Heather Graham is a mystery set in Florida. It blends suspense, romance, and action. What make this book standout are the clues spread throughout the story so that the reader can try to find the buried treasure along with the characters. For those fans of the actress who starred in Austin Powers this is not her. The story begins with the kidnapping by a group of thugs of a well-to-do Floridian, Kody Cameron. She is taken to a historical house and becomes a victim with the rest of the working staff. Each thug has decided to use the 1930s gangster names as their alias. Their goal is to have Kody translate a map and find where the stolen money has been placed. After some time her instincts lead her to believe it is buried in the Everglades. What makes matters more intense is that some of the kidnappers are ruthless, crazy, and unpredictable. Lucky for her, one of them is Nick Connolly, an FBI agent who has gone undercover. His decision to follow his own rules makes for many action scenes. Graham has included many historical details about Florida, which allowed the reader to feel as if they were there. “Florida is my home and I used very unique properties. The house in the beginning of the story is loosely based on an Italian mansion. I also used as inspiration the Biltmore Hotel since Al Capone stayed there. I drew upon local lore and legend. I hope the setting was as unique as the characters.” The actual crime in this novel is very intriguing. It is definitely plot based with the setting a major part of the story.
Wed, 01 Feb 2017 10:00:00 PSTStarbucks says it will hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years, a response to President Donald Trump's indefinite suspension of Syrian refugees and temporary travel bans that apply to six other Muslim-majority nations. In his statement, he speaks of hiring refugees not only in America but in many of his stores worldwide. Let’s get that clear. One smart move could have been to address the thousands of homeless vets in America and offer them jobs or for that fact, the hundreds of thousands of unemployed current citizens in all the countries that has starbucks coffee shops. Starbucks “says” they support veterans, why, to get your donations. https://www.starbucks.com/responsibility/community/veterans Sure, starbucks has made the claim that they would hire vets (back in 2014) but didn't even come close to hireing the true numbers of vets it said it would. "Schultz (Starbucks CEO) has long been vocal about his political beliefs. He endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for president in September and reportedly would have been Clinton's pick for secretary of labor had she won the election". But no, this was a direct retaliation attack on President Trumps recent “travel ban” and yet another Starbucks cry baby move that screams “Anti American”. I should tell you, starbucks coffee has really loss my interest about 10 years ago. They never really were the “holy grail” of coffee for me anyway. I know a couple of Marine Gunnery Sergeants that can make a wicked cup of joe and guess what? It doesn’t cost freaking $5. This from a recently deployed Marine: Recently Marines in Iraq wrote to Starbucks because they wanted to let them know how much they liked their coffees and to request that they send some of it to the troops there. Starbucks replied, telling the Marines thank you for their support of their business, but that Starbucks does not support the war, nor anyone in it, and that they would not send the troops their brand of coffee. Sgt. Howard C. Wright 1st Force Recon Co 1st Plt PLT The Starbucks corporation is helbound on “coffee” world domination. When a starbucks opens up near a “local” coffee shop, they quickly put them out of business because of their buying power. They also are a fad that mainly cry baby Hollywood actors go to get their coffee. Do you? Starbucks Corporation is an American coffee company and coffeehouse chain. Starbucks was founded in Seattle, Washington in 1971. As of November 2016, it operates 23,768 locations worldwide, including 13,107 in the United States, 2,204 in China, 1,418 in Canada, 1,160 in Japan and 872 in South Korea. I guess I’m just tired of this monster “coffee” corporation who is aiming for a monopoly on coffee worldwide, is big enough to dabble in politics, continue to make anti-American moves and cries when it doesn’t get its way. BatDad agrees! If you happen to check it out, since this cry baby coffee corporation made the statement of hiring refugees, their stock has continued to sink as of Jan 31, 2017. Shocker..... guess they didn't figure on the true Americans deciding to go elsewhere. Instead of going to buy yourself an overpriced, dorked up cup of coffee at starbucks filled with “I don’t get my way tears” why not try some of these veteran coffee companies? http://www.blackriflecoffee.com/ http://rangercoffee.com/ https://alpha.coffee/ There will be some out there that may disagree with me and say “are you kidding me, starbucks is saving the world” and I would tell you are brainwashed, you probably don't drink enough water and need to get your coffee somewhere else. Try it, I bet it doesn’t cost you $5 and tastes better. But that’s just One Marines View….#BoycottStarbucks Time for a C-Gar [...]
Mon, 30 Jan 2017 08:21:47 PSTThe 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. Three Days In January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission by Bret Baier is a very informative book. Readers learn about the time, not by being pounded over the head with facts and figures, but through the personalities themselves. The issues discussed in the book come right out of today’s headlines. Mr. Baier is the Chief Political Anchor for Fox News Channel and the Anchor and Executive Editor of Special Report with Bret Baier. What is fascinating is how he takes readers on a journey of the time period between Eisenhower’s last days in office and JFK’s inauguration. The book also reflects on the influences in his life from growing up in Kansas to the Supreme Commander during WWII to the election of 1952. The book opens with the meeting on December 6th, 1960 between the outgoing President Eisenhower and the incoming President-elect JFK. Thinking Kennedy too green he dismissed the younger Kennedy as ineffective. JFK with his charm, young family, and ready to implement the New Frontier was the direct opposite of the older and less flamboyant Dwight Eisenhower. Baier noted, “The media storm around Kennedy was so effective and biased it swept the general public up in its wave. People were persuaded that Eisenhower was nothing more than a historical artifact.” The book also compares Eisenhower to America’s first President, George Washington. They shared the same qualities of being good listeners, reflective, confident, persuasive, and understanding of the larger picture. Baier feels they “were kindred spirits. Both were generals who did not seek out the public limelight, but eventually chose to run for President. They wanted to empower people. What Washington expressed in his farewell address resonated with Eisenhower, the need to protect the freedoms of Americans.” Throughout the book there are similarities between the election of Dwight Eisenhower and Donald Trump. “I wrote how Ike was not a traditional politician, something that appealed to his supporters. He criticized on the campaign trail the bureaucracies. In fact he joked before a trip to Philadelphia about a thirty-five page set of logistics, ‘politics is a funny thing. Thirty-five pages to get me into Philadelphia. The invasion of Normandy was on five pages.’ Another comparison is that both elections were referendums on the Democratic Party that had been in power for a long time.” Eisenhower was told not to go into the Democratic stronghold of the South, while Trump was told the same about Michigan and Pennsylvania. Interesting how neither candidate took the advice and forced their opposition to devote more time and money in those areas. He describes the similarities between past and present candidates: “Both are outsiders, non-politicians. In fact, Eisenhower was the last one before Trump. They are unconventional Republicans, despise labels, despise political ideology, and operated out of patriotic feelings. The difference is in tone, tenor, and how they communicate.” There is also the comparison in that both attempted to drain the swamp. Eisenhower favored practical tacticians, a matter of getting people who could get things done. Sound familiar? “I describe in the book how Eisenhower had picked a cabinet of eight millionaires and a plumber, the Secretary of Labor Martin Durkin. He also chose as his Secretary of Defense, Charlie Wilson, the former CEO of General Motors, and businessman George Humphrey as Secretary of the Treasury. The one contrast was that he did not have any other military people in the cabinet, other than himself.” Baier furthermore explained to blackfive.net that the reason for not having any other[...]
Sun, 22 Jan 2017 07:17:20 PSTThe 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. Silver City by Jeff Guinn is a fascinating historical western that blends action and adventure with factual information. He is not a stranger to westerns, having written two other novels in this series and a non-fiction book about the shootout at the O.K. Corral. In this story revenge and vengeance take center stage. Readers might remember that the male lead, Cash McLendon is on the run, as he tries to hide from a murderous thug, Killer Boots. His former employer, a powerful St. Louis businessman, wrongly blames him for the death of his drug-addicted daughter. In addition, Cash is attempting to win over Gabrielle Tirrito, the woman he initially wanted to wed but spurned when he was pressured to marry into wealth and prestige. After being seen as a reluctant hero of the epic Indian battle at Adobe Walls, he has journeyed to Mountain View in the Arizona Territory with one goal: to convince Gabrielle Tirrito that he is a changed man and win her back from schoolteacher Joe Saint. Killer Boots, aka Patrick Brautigan kidnaps Gabrielle to force Cash to trade himself for the love of his life. He, his good friend Major Mulkins, and his rival for Gabrielle Joe Saint hit the trail in pursuit of Killer Boots, hoping to make a trade before it’s too late. The book has very well developed characters. Gabrielle is seen as a tough, intelligent, and independent. Cash is an opportunist, caring, who grows in character with each book. Joe Saint is resentful, manipulative, who uses guilt to get his way, and spineless. The antagonist Killer Boots is fierce, frightening, without any moral code. He subdues his victims using overwhelming intimidation, both psychologically and physically. There is also the terrain, which in many ways is a character as well. It plays a role with the overwhelming dust, mountain range, and floods. Readers get a sense of the setting, feeling as if they were there, while getting a flavor of what the Arizona frontier was like. The provinces displayed are mining towns where prospectors were able to hike into the nearby mountains to find silver and gold. Guinn describes Silver City as “a seedy hell hole run by a corrupt sheriff. Towns that sprung up around mineral strikes either aspired to sophistication or descend into anarchy. I hoped I provided real historical context that contrasted Mountain View and Silver City. Mountain View was a sophisticated town that had bowling alleys, ice cream parlors, and eventually libraries. There was also Clantonville where Newman, Ike, and Finn tried to establish a town controlled by them. They are typical of a group of individuals who came into the frontier to make their own fortune.” Quinn furthermore pointed out to blackfive.net how “the women throughout the frontier are the ones who actually made the settlements something more than bare subsistence. The men brought in the economic system while the women brought in the culture and lifestyle. In this book Gabrielle is working at a hotel at the same time she is helping to organize a library system for the community. In the first book, Glorious, the character Sydney Chow provided laundry services, but also much needed medical care. By the way she is not gone and will be heard from again.” Readers will enjoy an action packed book, but also enjoy how the author intertwines into the plot the Western history, culture, and influences. These books of western fiction are based on real history that gives readers a feel for the frontier. [...]
Tue, 17 Jan 2017 08:42:01 PSTThe 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. Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel is a study of the high-school admissions process with perspectives by four women who are connected by blood, friendship, and ex-boyfriends. The story is enduring for those who understand about entitlement, but beyond that there is the personal story of Kate, the main character. The author created the story about eight years ago, “After we moved to New York City we started the interview process to see which school was best for our children. Unfortunately, my husband and I were really bad at it. After thinking about it, I started writing comedic parent interviewing scenes. Using humor for dialogue I turned those into a play for the Actor’s Studio, and then into a novel. My experiences led me to take prospective parents on tours at the school we sent my son to. One thing led to another and I ended up applying for a job in the admission’s office. Then all of a sudden I was on the other side of the desk, as I was seeing it from the school’s perspective instead of the parents.” The plot begins with Kate being dumped by her fiancé. Her life is in disarray where she prefers to stay hidden in her apartment until her sister gets her a job interview. Although Kate gives completely inappropriate and not politically correct answers she somehow gets the job. This becomes a springboard for Kate getting back on her feet as she uses the position to regain her confidence. She takes the job as an assistant admissions officer at the prestigious private New York Hudson Day School. Readers are taken on a hilarious ride as they explore the absurd competitive world between the prospective students and parents. Kate begins to understand that she was wallowing in self-pity and decides to change her life around. She starts to piece her life back together and figure out exactly what she wants. Between Kate’s relationships and the different personalities of the children/parents, as well as the school, it becomes obvious this book is an examination of human nature. Poeppel hopes readers will get out of the book, “A fun peek at this crazy private school world. I tried to show humor in the situation where people get into such frenzy over it. Readers should question, what are the criteria in how we evaluate people financially, socially, and educationally? What are our priorities? Who do we want to impress and with what matrix?” The exploration of the different personalities of each character enhances the plot. Kate is intelligent, unorthodox, and caring. She is contrasted with her ex-fiancé who is narcissistic and does not care if he hurts those around him. Her sister Angela is like many older siblings who always has their younger ones best interests at heart; even though at times they can be seen as overbearing. The rest of the characters, college friends of Kate, have their own heartbreaks and hidden secrets. Poeppel told blackfive.net, “Kate is imperfect and makes mistakes, but overcomes adversity. She must handle acceptance and rejection in her professional and personal life. She took three steps forward and one step backward. Because of her job she gained confidence and accomplishment. The springboard of her job forced her to talk and listen to people.” Small Admissions is not just about the process of applying to a private school it is also about how each character looked within to find their faults and strengths. The core of the story is about friendship and family, disappointments and joy. [...]
Sun, 15 Jan 2017 15:12:43 PSTThe 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. Duplicity by Ingrid Thoft is an informative and gripping novel about abuse. It brings back Fina Ludlow, an outcast in her own family, and a fighter for justice. It is very interesting how Thoft intertwines a murder mystery while having readers question organized religion and abuse. There are many similarities where people learn facts about a community or person; yet, choose to ignore it. These two seemingly unrelated plots come together as Fina must convince those who have this information and facts to act upon it. It is a wonderful story about what is right and wrong within the context of religion and life itself. Thoft got the idea for the story in reading about “a Seattle Church that imploded. Although the Covenant Rising Church was Evangelical what was put forth in the book could be applied to any religion. I wondered what happens to people when the cornerstone of their experience doesn’t turn out to be what they thought. I am fascinated with the idea of mega churches where it is about faith, but also is about money and power, especially those personalities that rise to the top who are very charismatic. I also thought of what happened in Penn State. So many people chose not to do anything because of money, position, and power. It blows my mind how people got this information and chose to ignore it. They did their minimal duty and had the attitude of washing their hands from it. It was as if they did not want to upset the apple cart.” The story begins as Fina and her dad, the head attorney in the high-powered personal injury law firm, meet with his old flame, Ceci, who asks that they investigate the Covenant Rising Church. Ceci’s daughter wants to bequeath a large amount of expensive property to them. Fina finds the Church has a slick chauvinistic pastor whose wife has her own infidelities. In addition, both have suspiciously used the donations for luxury cars, a vacation home, and a fancy house. After a prominent Church member dies unexpectedly, one Fina was to meet with; she becomes more suspicious of the Church’s undertakings. The investigation uncovers misguided loyalties and questionable motivations. This is rivaled only by Fina’s own family problems, her abusive brother Rand, who she is trying to build a case against. According to the author, “The common thread is where lots of people knew things, but did nothing about it. I questioned ‘at what moment do people speak up and say something is wrong?’ The dynamics of power, status, and social interaction influence how people make difficult decisions. You cannot always believe with blind faith and look the other way. We must keep our moral compass and allow dissent. Should you subvert your critical thinking to fit in or subvert your judgment?” Fina is someone that not only stands up for herself, but also for those who she feels cannot speak for themselves. She has a strong sense of justice that spurs her to, at times, act above the law. She is independent, headstrong, focused, and loyal. Being a non-conformist, even within her own family sometimes makes her feel lonely and unaccepted. In this book she is not left in a good place as she tries to deal with family issues and why she prefers not settling down to a typical domestic life. Duplicity delves with serious topics, but the banter between the characters and Fina’s sarcastic demeanor present a welcome release. Readers will question along with Fina the true meaning of faith and are given access to all the dynamics within her dysfunctional family. In addition the murder mystery is very riveting. [...]
Mon, 09 Jan 2017 06:54:47 PSTEnhanced Interrogation by James Mitchell with Bill Harlow discusses the EITs. Having spent years training US military personnel to resist questioning he explains the procedures, safeguards, and the results from the interrogation program. Being on the front lines Mitchell personally questioned thirteen of the most senior high-value detainees in U.S. custody, including Abu Zubaydah; Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the amir or "commander" of the USS Cole bombing; and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. Mitchell is a psychologist who served twenty-two years in the Air Force and who helped develop the CIA’s interrogation program. He only dealt with the top-tier terrorists and by his own admission has spent more time with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) than other interrogators. He helped incorporate some of the harsh techniques employed by the US military SERE schools. He told blackfive.net, these survival, evasion, resistance, and escape techniques had been used for over five decades without significant injuries to “train warfighters to protect secrets. I had been subjected to them myself, had used them to train others, and helped the Air Force Survival School revise its approach to resistance training after the first Gulf War.” Readers will understand that EITs, when applied correctly, were useful in drawing detainees to cooperate, and, when applied incorrectly, they were counter-productive. He was particularly critical of Ali Soufan, a former FBI special agent who first interrogated Abu Zubaydah at a CIA black site in Thailand. Soufan, a darling of the Left, said the rapport-building techniques he used when he questioned Abu Zubaydah resulted in a huge intelligence score: the identity of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed versus what the CIA was doing in using “borderline torture techniques,” which made Zubaydah not cooperate. Not true, says Mitchell, and recounts in his book, “Zubaydah shut down after Soufan called him a son of a b---- and then tried to bribe him. He thinks he buddied up with him after offering him spiritual guidance. This is ridiculous. Zubaydah later told me he did it because if talking about religion then he was not speaking about operations.” Mitchell thinks “too much has been made of waterboarding. Of 1623 days in CIA custody only 14 days was he subjected to EITs. People are focusing on two weeks out of years. The CIA made sure to have doctors to evaluate the detainees before and after the interrogations to prevent long-term mental and physical problems. When you hear about Zubaydah’s mental problems, remember he wrote in his diaries about how he faked mental issues.” What did work, according to Mitchell, was President George W. Bush’s response. “The swiftness and veracity put the terrorists off balance. KSM told me, ‘How was I supposed to know that cowboy George Bush would announce he wanted us ‘dead or alive’ and then invade Afghanistan to hunt us down?’ He made it clear that had the US treated 9/11 like a law enforcement matter, he would have had time to launch a second wave of attacks.” KSM also predicted how those in the press and some in the political arena would turn on the interrogators who took aggressive action to prevent other attacks on Americans. Mitchell is especially critical of the Democrats, notably Senator Feinstein who “set us up as the fall guys. They were writing things in official reports that were inaccurate and misleading without giving us a chance to defend ourselves. Her report has stirred up the crazies and Jihadists, essentially issuing a Fatwa against everyone and me, past or present, working to protect Americans from Jihadist terrorist attacks. In fact, Feinstein staffers on ‘deep bac[...]
Mon, 09 Jan 2017 06:51:07 PSTThe Guests On South Battery by Karen White is part paranormal, mystery, historical, with a little romance. Readers will be kept enthralled with the scenes of historic Southern houses and spooky happenings. White has done a lot of research on the subject of ghosts. “I describe this series as ‘my Sixth Sense meets National Treasure meets Moonlighting series.’ There were certain parameters I wanted to include in this series: It had to be in the South with the city old, charming, and having a lot of historical significance. I wanted to set the plot around haunted houses. Every culture, every religion has them existing. I think there is a lot about the universe we do not understand. So yes, I do like the possibility. I do think people can communicate with the dead and I find it fascinating.” The mystery begins after a young woman, Jayne Smith, is bequeathed a home in Charleston by someone she does not know. Questions arise as to why she randomly inherited this house and what is her relationship with the spirits who do not want her to inhabit it? She seeks out Melanie Middleton, a Charleston realtor, who specializes in historic real estate. She also has a hatred for old houses because she sees dead people come alive. White’s details about the architecture, history, old historic houses including hidden passages and other fixtures, make the story even more riveting. Jayne and Melanie become kindred spirits after Melanie hires her as a nanny. Intertwined within this ghostly story is also the theme of family. The different relationship dynamics are fascinating. Both Melanie and Jayne have abandonment issues; Melanie is insecure about her husband Jack; and her mother is struggling to make up for lost time now that she is back in her daughter’s life. According to White, “Melanie, as a young child, was abandoned by her mother, but it was done to save her. Because Melanie’s alcoholic father raised her she had to be the adult in the relationship. Her sense of insecurity stems from this. She has two personalities, the public and private. Outwardly she appears strong and competent, but inside she is like a quivering bowl of Jello: neurotic, OCD, and a control freak.” This book is an excellent read. It seems any Karen White book never disappoints with her spellbinding plot and cast of characters. The charm of the series is the relationships the main character Melanie has with friends and family. [...]
Mon, 09 Jan 2017 06:48:06 PSTThe 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 Every Fear by Peter Swanson delves into the human psyche and the mind of a serial killer. The story’s strength is with the character’s thoughts. By having four different narratives readers are able to understand the complete picture of the disturbing circumstances of the plot. Swanson noted, “The idea for this story has been rattling around in my head for awhile. Originally I was going to write it as a romance where two people swapped apartments, never met, but somehow fell in love. The more I thought about it the more I thought it should be a murder mystery. Then it all clicked, where a woman moves into her cousin’s apartment and the day she arrives a corpse is discovered next door.” There are just a few times in the story that people might need to suspend belief, as the main character, Kate Priddy, becomes a psychopath’s magnet. After being traumatized by an abusive boyfriend she escapes to Boston, MA to try to gain some perspective. Kate is able to leave her home in London when she and her cousin, Colin, decide to exchange apartments. Soon after her arrival she finds her neighbor, Audrey, has been murdered with the person of interest, her cousin Corbin. To make matters worse she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. He confesses to Kate that he was drawn to Audrey and basically stalked her from afar. The suspense ratchets up when Kate’s fears, brought on from her intense panic attacks, become well founded as a serial killer, Henry, targets her for his next victim. This story is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock. Rear Window, Dial M For Murder and Wait Until Dark come to mind. Drawing inspiration from other movies and books Swanson commented, “When growing up I loved Roald Dahl, The Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew. I also watched my first Hitchcock movie, Rope, around the age of ten. It had a scene in it where two college students strangle their victim. I wanted to play off this relationship in my story, having an alpha and beta psychopath with Corbin as the beta and Henry as the alpha. This is definitely a story about the damage men can inflict on women. Besides Rope the other Hitchcock movies that influenced the story are Rebecca, with the setting becoming an important element, and Dial M For Murder where the villain does not look like a villain. Since I have seen all 53 of his films I hope to put in my books his mode of suspense.” This book has readers invested in the characters. It is a psychological study of obsessive relationships that include Allen with Audrey, Corbin and Henry, and her ex-boyfriend George with Kate. It is a story of betrayal and revenge where monsters lurk under every bed. [...]