Review For The Whistler

<a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29236280-the-whistler” style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”><img border=”0″ alt=”The Whistler” src=”https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1462899985m/29236280.jpg” /></a><a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29236280-the-whistler”>The Whistler</a> by <a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/721.John_Grisham”>John Grisham</a><br/>
My rating: <a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1943848229″>4 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
The Whistler is the first Grisham book I have read in quite some time. I enjoyed it and felt it deserving of a 4 star rating. <br />In The Whistler, two lawyers from an obscure state judicial conduct agency begin an investigation of a corrupt judge. Tipped off by a disbarred lawyer who spent time in prison before regaining his license, the lawyer claims to have information that will lead to the conviction of the corrupt state judge. Money, of course, is the source of motivation, with the lawyer representing a client who hopes to gain a windfall under the state’s whistleblower statute. The lawyer, Greg Meyers, claims a murky underworld organization, dubbed “The Coast Mafia”, controls a casino operated by a small tribe near Florida’s Gold Coast. With fingers in condo’s, golf courses, bars and restaurants, the Coast Mafia skim millions from the casino, paying off the judge and officials of the tribe to keep the illegal profits flowing and below the radar of state officials. Murder and intimidation are used when money is not a sufficient inducement to keep things quiet.<br />The Whistler is a fast-moving and straight-forward novel. If you are looking for plot twists and unexpected developments, you will be disappointed as there are none. Nonetheless, it is a good, solid story. It kept me reading, always a good thing regarding a book. Four solid stars!
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Sequel and Series To The Treasure Hunt Club

I am working on a series which will be sequels to “The Treasure Hunt Club”. Hank Harper, the eccentric and mysterious owner of the antique shop in The Treasure Hunt Club, will reprise his role in the sequels. Hank, although dwarf-sized, is a larger-than-life figure who gifts certain visitors to his shop with special objects or artifacts. Often, these objects have otherworldly or magical properties. As with The Treasure Hunt Club, these “gifts” don’t always work out the way the gifted person wants. Stay tuned!!!

 

This is my 3rd Place Short Story from the 2016 NETWO Spring Writers Conference Short Story Contest

Click this link to read my short story: Regi Vitam Short Story

 

 

Review of “The Martian” by Andy Weir

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I haven’t given a book I’ve read 5 stars in a long time. It’s been even longer since I had time to write a book review. The fact that I am doing both should be a good indication of what I thought of “The Martian” by Andy Weir.

The basic premise of The Martian is actually an old one-a castaway on an island (think Robinson Crusoe)-except instead of an island, the castaway is on Mars! In The Martian, the “castaway” is Mark Watney who is part of a manned mission to Mars.

Watney and his fellow astronauts are on Mar’s surface when a horrific dust storm strikes. In the confusion, Watney is struck by flying debris and carried off by the storm. Evacuating Mars, Watney is left behind by the other astronauts who presume him to be dead, killed by the storm…but in fact, he is very much alive!

The bulk of the novel is then devoted to Watney, an engineer by training, on how he uses his MacGyver-like ingenuity to use the technology and facilities left behind by the current and previous manned missions to survive. The science is solid, the writing superb, and the storyline fabulous. This book is the real deal and a page-turner you will find hard to put down.

A VERY enthusiastic 5 stars for The Martian!!!

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The Longest RideThe Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Longest Ride was an enjoyable read. It is what I would describe as a “comfortable” read. It is not going to knock you off your feet as say, The Notebook or Message in a Bottle, but if you are a Nicholas Sparks fan, it contains all the characteristics one comes to expect from his books. The Longest Ride has excellent character development, a great story line, and of course, the plot twist or “jolt” at the end. Perhaps the greatest strength of The Longest Ride, is that Sparks spends a great deal of time shaping and developing the relationship between the two main characters, Luke and Sophia. That’s why I like Nicholas Sparks. He has a way of connecting two totally disparate individuals who despite their differences, fall in love. Here we have Luke, a bull riding Cowboy, and Sophia, a sorority girl majoring in Art at Wake Forest, who meet and fall in love. Their journey, and how they fall in love is, of course, the meat of The Longest Ride. If your looking for a Fifty Shades of Grey type book, steer clear of The Longest Ride…as well as all of the books Sparks has written.

The Longest Ride is actually two stories which are intertwined. On the one hand, you have Ira and Ruth, and on the other, Luke and Sophia. Their stories, one of a past relationship, the other of a current and developing relationship, form the bulk of The Longest Ride. Sparks does an excellent job of unspooling each story in a more or less parallel fashion until the climatic ending. At that point, the paths of Ira and Ruth, Luke and Sophia, finally intersect. I found this ending to be a pleasant, if not a somewhat milquetoast conclusion.

A major source of disappointment and irritation to me is Sparks’ insistence on tragic endings in most of his novels. Thankfully, his “formula” in The Longest Ride is not typical, nor does Sparks resort to a ham-handed, cheesy metaphysical presence as he did in The Best of Me. With that said, I would have liked to give The Longest Ride at least four stars, but I could only muster three. There just wasn’t the “pop” that many of his previous books have. Kinda like a soft drink that still tastes good, but the carbonation is somewhat flat.

The Longest Ride is a solid three stars and I recommend it to any fan of Nicholas Sparks.

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a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13573622-the-last-man” style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”>The Last ManThe Last Man by Vince Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Last Man was another great thriller by Vince Flynn. So far, I have read every book written by Flynn, and I have yet to read a bad novel. They are all fast-moving, fast-paced action thrillers.

In The Last Man, the CIA’s top-counterespionage agent in Afghanistan has mysteriously disappeared in an apparent bloody kidnapping. Because this particular agent has intimate knowledge of among other things, the names of covert agents in Muslin countries such as Pakistan, Mitch Rapp is called in to determine what happened to the agent and track him down before he is forced to reveal the names and locations of the CIA’s covert assets.

As is usual with Flynn’s story-lines, Rapp’s efforts are hampered by power-hungry U.S. officials, corrupt foreign agents, sadistic government officials, and religious fanatics…and of course, the clock is ticking! Rapp must solve the mystery of the disappearance of the counterespionage agent before he reveals the identities of U.S agents and they are killed!

Also as usual, Rapp’s methods are straight forward and violent, and the body count rises with each turn of the page. The Last Man builds to a heart-pounding climax, and it includes a “twist” which I found very satisfying.

I liked The Last Man, and if you are a Vince Flynn fan, you will not be disappointed. Four Stars for The Last Man!

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The Black BoxThe Black Box by Michael Connelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Black Box was a great book! In this latest Harry Bosch novel by Michael Connelly, Bosch is back on the trail of a twenty-year old cold case in which a young female foreign war correspondent is murdered during the height of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. Bosch had originally been assigned the case as a young detective twenty years earlier, but because of the riots and the numerous deaths and murders that occurred at that time, he had not been able to do a thorough investigation…something that has haunted him during that entire 20 year period.

Thinking that the cold case was hopeless, Bosch learns that a murder weapon in the course of another investigation is, in fact, the same gun which killed the young woman those twenty years before. As Bosch digs deeper, he begins to uncover a conspiracy which began the night the woman was murdered.

As Bosch closes in on solving the twenty-year old cold case, he finds his direct supervisor as well as the Chief of Police both putting obstacles in his way. Both want his investigation stopped and stopped immediately. Refusing to back down, Bosch incurs their wrath and soon finds himself the object of an internal investigation.

One of the things that I really like about Michael Connelly’s books is that he always keeps me guessing until the end. The Black Box is no exception, and he has another great climax and fantastic finish.

Four Stars for The Black Box!

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Book Review For The Help

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Help was a delightful, thought provoking book. Set in early 1960’s Jackson, Mississippi, it is actually the story (told in first person), of three different characters; Skeeter-a twenty-something white female whose parents are well-to-do cotton farmers; Aibileen-a black maid and nanny for a white family; and Minny-a tart-tongued black maid with five children and an abusive, alcoholic husband.

The Help chronicles the lives of these three people through the turbulent times of the segregated south and the birth of the civil rights movement. Their paths cross, and inexplicably, despite the wall of segregation, all three women find themselves collaborating on a book which records the stories of black maids and nannies and what it is like to work for rich, white families.

The Help is at times touching, as Skeeter recounts the close, loving relationship she had with her own maid, Constantine; at times heart-rending as Aibileen tries to instill a sense of self worth and esteem in Mae Mobley, the toddler she is nanny to because her mother, Elizabeth, thinks she is too fat and ugly and therefore shows her little love; and finally, The Help can be cruel, as Minny loses not only her job but her ability to find a new job based on a lie spread by the manipulative and vindictive character Hilly Holbrook. It has been quite awhile since I have come across a character in a book that is as vile and distasteful as Hilly.

Kathryn Stockett does a masterful job of describing the south that existed in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963. The “verbage” used by Aibileen, Minny, and the other maids, the attitudes about race and race relations, and the documented and sometimes violent history of civil rights, all were weaved together in The Help.

Three things stand out for me in The Help. The first was how Stockett was able to essentially tell three different individual’s stories and integrate them seamlessly into one novel. That was no easy task. The second was balancing an authentic and accurate portrayal of the period that The Help was based upon, such as the vernacular used by poor blacks in the south and the attitudes toward race that existed at this time. It was a fine balancing act, and could have easily come across as patronizing on the one hand, or too “preachy” on the other. Finally, Stockett gave what all good writers do…a human feel to her characters and to their story. Skeeter, Aibileen, Minny, despite their differences in class, status, and race, still shared many of the same wants, desires, hopes, and dreams.

And that really is the point of The Help. When you boil it down to the basic complexities of life, race becomes irrelevant, and there really isn’t that many differences between us.

Four very solid stars for The Help!

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KETK Interview

Click the link below to watch my interview with KETK.  I was honored to be interviewed and am excited to have it posted online for you to enjoy.

http://www.ketknbc.com/east-texas-live/etl-treasure-hunt-club

Be Careful What You Ask For


Have you ever come across a story which chronicles the lives of people who suddenly become rich? For example, someone who wins the lottery and becomes a millionaire overnight? Or how about someone who suddenly comes into a large inheritance? What happens to these people once they are wealthy beyond their wildest dreams? In our society, we often associate happiness with material possessions, yet time and again, how many times do we read of the misery, the unhappiness, and the downright bizarre that happen to those who come into sudden wealth.

Lottery winners are perhaps the best examples of individuals who become overnight millionaires.  While many have benefited from their sudden wealth and gone on to live solid, productive lives, there are some glaring exceptions.  Reflect if you will on the following unfortunate lottery winners:

Consider Andrew Jackson Whittaker.  Until 2012, Whittaker was the single largest lottery winner in US history when in December, 2002, he won a $314.9 million dollar jackpot.   Robbed several times, including once when he was robbed of over $500,000, Whittaker  started drinking heavily, wrote hot checks to Atlantic City casinos, and even had a granddaughter (whom he supported with a weekly $2,000 stipend) die of a drug overdose.  Hardly the circumstances Whittaker could have imagined when he won his huge jackpot.

Other examples include:

(1) William “Bud” Post who won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania Lottery in 1988.  His own brother tried to hire a hit man to kill him for his inheritance, a former girlfriend successfully sued him for a share of his winnings, and ultimately, he was forced to file for bankruptcy.  Today he lives off food stamps and Social Security

(2) Winning the $31 million Texas Lottery in 1997, Billie Bob  Harrell Jr. committed suicide two years later.

(3) Evelyn Adams won the New Jersey Lottery not once but twice in 1985 and 1986.  Gambling and high living caused her to spend all of her winnings, and today, she lives in a trailer.

(4) Jeffery Dampier won $20 million in the Illinois Lottery in 1996.  Seven years later, he was kidnapped by his sister-in-law and her boyfriend who demanded money from him.  He was found in the back of a van dead after being shot through the head, and his sister-in-law and her boyfriend were charged with his murder.

Now these are extreme examples, but you cannot pass a magazine rack in the supermarket or a newspaper stand that doesn’t chronicle the dysfunctional and often, sad lives of numerous movie stars, celebrities, or otherwise famous and successful people.  By all accounts, they should be happy; they have wealth, fame, and success.  So why are they often so desperately unhappy?

I attempt to answer this question in my novel, The Treasure Hunt Club.  You see, I believe that many times, our values are misplaced, and that what we ought to place a high value on, we often take for granted.  As Thomas Paine once said, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly”.  Those intangibles that make life worth living such as family, friends, love and acceptance ought to take precedence in our lives.  But money, fame, and material possessions are routinely how we measure happiness and success.  So this begs the question; what value would you place on such things?

As the saying goes…be careful what you ask for.