Author: Roberta (page 2 of 20)

Three True Crime Books from @ChiReviewPress

Are you a fan of true crime books? Then you will want to take a look at these new titles from Chicago Review Press.

Even if you aren’t a fan, if you write mysteries, suspense or thrillers, you might want to check them out as research materials. All three books describe in detail both the “law” and the “order” of criminal investigations. If nothing else, you become familiar with the process and  the vocabulary through reading real world stories.

True Crime 1

Convenient Suspect: A Double Murder, a Flawed Investigation, and the Railroading of an Innocent Woman* by Tammy Mal

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Author Tammy Mal is a journalist who wanted to write a book about a horrific double murder that happened in a small town in Pennsylvania. In December of 1994, someone killed a young woman named Joann Katrinak and her baby boy. Three years later another new mother was arrested, one who had never met the victims in person. The suspect, Patricia Rorrer, was quickly convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Because she was curious about the case. Mal figured others would be, too. When she started gathering background information, she thought Patricia Rorrer was guilty. After she began to go deeper, however, she found inconsistencies. By the time she wrote the book, Tammy Mal was convinced that the woman who had been convicted was not the killer and the true criminal is still at large.

Although the topic is a difficult one, Tammy Mal’s writing style is clear and fast paced, so it is relatively easy to read. There is a short note from Patricia Rorrer in the back matter.

True Crime 2

The Trials of Walter Ogrod*: The Shocking Murder, So-Called Confessions, and Notorious Snitch That Sent a Man to Death Row by Thomas Lowenstein

 

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

In a similar fashion, author Thomas Lowenstein says he did not start out to write about someone who was innocent of the crime he had been convicted of. He originally started the book with the idea he would delve deeply into all sides of a death penalty case. In fact, he chose cases at random, and his only criteria was that the inmate agree to communicate about the crime. The case he found turned out to involve another Pennsylvania murder, this time in Philadelphia, and another prisoner who is likely to have been wrongly convicted.

This book brings up the issues of coerced false confessions. The suspect did confess, but only after thirty-six hours with no sleep.

[Side note:  I am interested in false confessions. After reading about a case in Beatrice, Nebraska where six people were wrongly convinced they were involved in a case, I played around with some ideas about using the topic as the centerpiece of a novel. I did some deeper research and found out there’s a lot of information about this topic. In one 2015 study, 70% of subjects subjected to suggestive and repetitive interviewing techniques could be convinced they had committed a crime, when in fact they had not. Talk about power of suggestion.]

Unlike the previous book, The Trials of Walter Ogrod has extensive notes in the back matter.

True Crime 3

Freeing David McCallum*: The Last Miracle of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter by Ken Klonsky

 

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Ken Klonsky is an English teacher. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was a boxer who had been wrongly convicted, and kept in prison for nineteen years. After reading an article Klonsky wrote about Carter, a convict named David McCallum contacted them, saying that he had also been wrongly convicted. As they went through the case, they found there was DNA evidence that other suspects were involved. Unlike the previous books, David McCallum, has been released after nearly thirty years behind bars.

This book also involves false confessions. The back matter includes an appendix of contrasting false confessions, a helpful list of key figures, and also an index.

Discussion

Admittedly, it is difficult emotionally to read this trio of books in succession. In all three, decisions were made to pursue suspects based on personality or race with little or no evidence to back up the belief of that the person was guilty. For two of the cases, the suspects were coerced into confessing, which sealed their fates.

In addition to difficult subject matter, it is also difficult at times to keep all the various names straight. Each case involved many people, including victims and their families, other suspects, witnesses, law enforcement officers, lawyers, and prosecution. Having a list of key figures in Klonsky’s book made me wish the other two had a similar list.

Overall, all three books were well written, and compelling. Try them and you might end up a changed person.

 

Disclosures: These books were supplied by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

 

#BestsellerCode100: Number 70. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, 70. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz.

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

This novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008, along with many other major awards.

Summary:  We follow the story of Oscar Wao, a young man of Dominican Republic descent who lives in New Jersey. All he wants to do is find love and write like J.R.R. Tolkien, but will his family’s curse destroy his dreams?

Have you read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 69. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (2013) – Discussion begins January 9, 2018
Literary fiction, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014

#BookBeginnings The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

We’re starting the next book in The Bestseller Code 100 challengeThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hurwitz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

This novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008, along with many other major awards.

Summary:  We follow the story of Oscar Wao, a young man of Dominican Republic descent who lives in New Jersey. All he wants to do is find love and write like J.R.R. Tolkien, but will his family’s curse destroy his dreams?

First Sentence:

They say it came first from Africa, carried in the screams of the enslaved; that it was the death bane of the Tainos, uttered just as one world perished and another began; that it was a demon drawn into Creation through the nightmare door that cracked open in the Antilles.

Discussion:

I have been playing catch up all week, while I put out fires and dealt with emergencies. Our last book, The Bourne Betrayal was a perfect choice for that kind of week. I’m not sure this one, which I can already tell is going to require some heavy lifting to read, is going to be as good a fit. Maybe things will be quieter next week and I’ll be able to concentrate on it.

And off I go again…

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Have you read anything by Junot Díaz? Have you read any of his short stories?

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Review of The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader

It’s time to take a look at The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader from a writer’s perspective.

This post may contain spoilers.

The Bourne Betrayal* by Eric Van Lustbader

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Jason Bourne is a spy who has lost his memory. Now he fights to stay alive while he figures out his real identity and pieces together his past.

Robert Ludlum wrote the first three novels in the Jason Bourne series: The Bourne Identity (1980), The Bourne Supremacy (1986), and The Bourne Ultimatum (1990). After Ludlum passed away, Eric Van Lustbader continued the series, starting with The Bourne Legacy (2004). The Bourne Betrayal is the second novel written by Van Lustbader.  The novels have also been made into a popular movie series starring Matt Damon.

Summary:  In this novel Jason Bourne goes to rescue his friend, a CI deputy director, who has been kidnapped. The chase takes him to Africa where he discovers he might be a pawn in a plot to destroy America.

Genre:

Van Lustbader’s novel is the epitome of a thriller. The pacing is incredibly fast. The action starts strong and just keeps coming. Plus there’s plenty of twists and turns as nothing is what is seems and nobody is who he or she appears to be.

As a thriller we learn about the antagonists early in the book. Now the mystery is whether Jason Bourne will be able to defeat them.

Characters

Jason Bourne is the quintessential thriller main character. He has a mostly flat character arc. Instead of the world changing him, he’s out there changing the world with his daring rescues and superior cunning.

In addition, there’s an extensive cast of supporting characters. Some of the characters are part of Bourne’s back story, such as his wife Marie and his mentor Alex Conklin, who have both died. In fact, it seems like anyone who gets close to Bourne ends up dead.

Jason Bourne’s friend Martin Lindros serves as the impact character. His disappearance while out “in the field” sets the events of the story into motion.

Most of the characters are clear cut, but a few have incredibly similar names, which is confusing for the reader. When Martin Lindros goes missing, Matthew Lerner steps into his position as deputy director.  Jason’s wife was Marie, and Martin’s girlfriend is Moira. The bad guy is Fadi, but Bourne gets help from Feyd. It is a kindness to readers to vary the length and letters in names so the brain can discern them based on only a glance.

Jargon

In this novel the characters often speak in acronyms, which adds a bit of realism because that’s what people in the intelligence field do. The organization Lindros works for is CI, or Central Intelligence. As deputy director he is DDCI. His boss is the DCI (director of Central Intelligence). Another character is an AIC (agent in charge). They are chasing the purchase of TSGs (triggered spark gaps).

“Of freelancers, former NSA operatives now in the private sector.” The DCI shook his head. “That idea is DOA…”

You get the idea.

Extensive use of acronyms can be difficult to carry out. The author must not assume the acronyms are well known, so must define them or give the full name at their first usage. Even then, readers may be jettisoned from the story when an acronym is used later on and they’ve forgotten what it means.

Discussion

The first question we have is why might the computer algorithm have picked this particular book out of all of the series. Although Bourne is mourning his wife and looking for his friend, I don’t think human closeness is really a central theme here. One factor it does have in common with the other novels we’ve read so far is the up and down beats and the fact it is narrated by multiple characters. Perhaps those factors override some of the others.

Eric Van Lustbader has taken on the difficult task of continuing the Jason Bourne series. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to satisfy the expectations of super fans of the original trilogy by staying within the boundaries set by Robert Ludlum, yet move the story along with your own vision. In The Bourne Betrayal Van Lustbader has done a good job with both.

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 70. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (2007) – Discussion begins December 26, 2017. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008.

#BookBeginnings The Whispering Room: A Jane Hawk Novel

Today we are featuring  The Whispering Room: A Jane Hawk Novel by Dean Koontz for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hurwitz

(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Even though Dean Koontz is a super popular author, I haven’t read anything of his before. When I saw a review for his most recent publication, The Whispering Room: A Jane Hawk Novel, I had to pick up a copy.

Blurb:  Jane Hawk is an FBI agent who has uncovered evidence of an evil organization which is brainwashing innocent people and forcing them to carry out crimes. Things go wrong when she tries to expose their plot and she becomes a fugitive from the law.

First Sentence:

Cora Gunderson walked through seething fire without being burned, nor did her white dress burst into flames.

Discussion:

Does this sentence seem a bit awkward? I think it jolts because I’m expecting a parallel sentence structure, like:  “She walked through the seething fire without being burned and without her white dress bursting into flames.” I wonder why he doesn’t use the same verb form throughout?

The image is still compelling to me. I want to know how this is possible and what is going to happen.

What do you think?

Are you a Dean Koontz fan?

#BestsellerCode100: Number 71. The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader.

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Bourne Betrayal* by Eric Van Lustbader

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Jason Bourne is a spy who has lost his memory. Now he fights to stay alive while he figures out his real identity and pieces together his past.

Robert Ludlum wrote the first three novels in the Jason Bourne series:

  1. The Bourne Identity (1980)
  2. The Bourne Supremacy (1986)
  3. The Bourne Ultimatum (1990)

After Ludlum passed away, Eric Van Lustbader continued the series, starting with The Bourne Legacy (2004). The Bourne Betrayal is the second novel written by Van Lustbader.  The novels have also been made into a popular movie series starring Matt Damon.

Summary:  In this novel Jason Bourne goes to rescue his friend, a CIA deputy director, who has been kidnapped. The chase takes him to Africa where he discovers he might be a pawn in a plot to destroy America.

Have you read The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 70. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (2007) – Discussion begins December 26, 2017. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008.

#BookBeginnings The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader

Today we’re starting the next book in The Bestseller Code 100 challengeThe Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader, for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-lustbader

 

The Bourne Betrayal* by Eric Van Lustbader

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

This novel is part of a series that features Jason Bourne, a spy/assassin who has lost his memory. Throughout Bourne fights to stay alive while he figures out his real identity and pieces together his past.

Robert Ludlum wrote the first three books in the series. After he passed away, Eric Van Lustbader took over.

The Bourne Betrayal is the fifth in the series. In it Jason Bourne’s friend, a CIA deputy director, has been kidnapped. When Bourne heads to Africa to look for his friend, he finds out he might be a pawn in a plot to destroy America.

(Also made into a popular movie series featuring actor Matt Damon.)

First Sentence of Prologue:

The Chinook came beating up into a blood-red sky. It shuddered in the perilous cross-currents, banking through the thin air. A web of clouds, backlit by the failing sun, streamed by like smoke from a flaming aircraft.

First Sentence of Chapter One:

“When did this particular flashback begin, Mr. Bourne?” Dr. Sunderland asked.

Discussion:

I like the first sentence of chapter one better than the prologue, but in this case it’s important to read the prologue because it reveals what happened to Bourne’s friend.

Although this is the fifth book, we’re reading it out of order because it was picked by the computer algorithm in The Bestseller Code as one of the 100 best. Hopefully the novel works as a stand alone.

Have you watched any of the movies? I liked the movies. Now I envision Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, though.

What do you think? Do you like the Jason Bourne series?

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Review of The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst

Let’s take a look at our latest book from The Bestseller Code Challenge,  The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst, from a writer’s perspective. (The discussion began here).

This post contains spoilers.

The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Alexa Maria McKenzie needs money badly. Billionaire Nicholas Ryan has to have a wife right away. She is his sister’s childhood friend, so getting married as a business arrangement seems the best solution.

Characters

The Marriage Bargain has the smallest cast of characters of any of the books we’ve read so far. The main character is Alexa Maria McKenzie, a young woman who owns and runs a bookstore. She wants to help her parents keep their home by giving them money, but she doesn’t have any to spare.

The male lead is Nicholas (Nick) Ryan, whose uncle left him a business with the caveat that he get married right away or he won’t inherit. He is willing to marry someone as part of a business arrangement, with the idea that the wife will get a certain amount of money and the marriage will dissolve in a year.  He has a girlfriend, Gabriella, but for some reason he’d rather marry Alexa, who he hasn’t seen in years. Gabriella’s main role seems to be to make Alexa jealous.

Nick’s sister, Maggie Ryan, has been Alexa’s best friend since childhood. Michael Conte is a businessman whose main role is to make Nick jealous. Add in her parents and his father, Jed, and that’s about it.

The story is narrated alternately by Alexa and Nick in tight third person point of view.

 

marriage-bargain-bookstore-owner

Public domain photo found on TrendHype

Setting

This novel could have been set anywhere, but the author describes it as “a trendy upstate New York college town.”

Discussion

Romances tend to follow certain formulas, and this one has tropes* galore. The irreverent TVTropes website Romance Novel Tropes page has an extensive list of the different types, and some of the obvious ones in this book are Marriage of Convenience, First LoveWill They or Won’t They, and of course, Happily Ever After. As a writer, I did love how Probst prolonged the “unresolved sexual tension” by having the police show up in one scene. I’m working on a mystery novel where I’m stewing my brains to come up with believable scenarios to keep two characters from becoming involved. I have to admit I didn’t think of having the police arrive at a crucial moment.

Regardless of the tropes, the voice in The Marriage Bargain is fresh and enjoyable. The novel is an easy read, and I was able to finish in essentially one sitting.  I like that it doesn’t take itself too seriously and the main character isn’t prone to angst. She takes her knocks, gets up, and keeps going.

For Readers:  The Marriage Bargain is the first in a series. If you are a fan of romance novels, particularly romance with a bit of heat, then you might want to give them a try.

For Writers:  Jennifer Probst also has nonfiction book, Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success. And if you have a minute,  she has a funny story about her writing muse on her blog. Writers will totally relate to her experience.

(*A trope is a writing device or construct that readers readily recognize. You can think of tropes as shorthand storytelling devices, but they also might qualify as clichés. )

Have you read The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 71. The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader (2007) –  Discussion begins December 11, 2017
Thriller

#BookBeginnings The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst

Today we’re starting the first romance novel in The Bestseller Code 100 challenge, The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-marriage-bargain

The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Alexa Maria McKenzie needs money badly. Billionaire Nicholas Ryan has to have a wife right away. She is a convenient choice because she’s  his sister’s childhood friend, and therefore getting married — as a business arrangement — seems the best solution.

First Sentence of Chapter One:

She needed a man.

Discussion:

I had a brief “fling” with romance novels when I was in my teens, so I’m familiar with some of the tropes. So far this one seems to cover them all. Of course there’s a rich, hot guy who needs to marry someone to inherit something. Yes, of course it’s a marriage in name only. And, of course, I’ll get sucked in and  keep reading.

Have you read any of Jennifer Probst’s books? What do you think?

__________________

What are we reading next for The Bestseller Code challenge?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 71. The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader (2007) –  Discussion begins December 11, 2017
Thriller

#BestsellerCode100: Number 72. The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst.

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Alexa Maria McKenzie needs money badly. Billionaire Nicholas Ryan has to have a wife right away. She is his sister’s childhood friend, so getting married as a business arrangement seems the best solution. Or is it?

This novel is part of the bestselling Marriage to a Billionaire trilogy.

 

 

Have you read The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Have you written about The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 71. The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader (2007) –  Discussion begins December 11, 2017
Thriller

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