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review 2017-07-15 03:53
HUSH by Tal Bauer (My VERY first book review – yaaay!!!)

 

 

I need to preface this review by telling you that I am a _crazy_ Tal Bauer fan. My love of his writing began when the bff texted me: “Oh. My. GOD. You _have_ to read this series called The Executive Office!” Okay, I may have paraphrased a little, but that’s essentially what she said. And so I did. And… Oh. My. GAWD! You _have_ to read his Executive Office series, but this review isn’t about those books so I won’t gush about them overmuch. 

 

I recently found out that Mr. Bauer has only been writing professionally for 18 months. Whaaat? Shut the front door, not possible, and yet he’s the one who said it so it must be true.

 

Tal’s attention to detail and fact floor me. The massive amount time he has spent researching is what breathes life into Hush and his other books.  His knowledge on a wide array of the subjects he writes about is truly impressive. And knowing that he does a deep dive into those areas he’s unsure about, in order to make the stories he writes authentic, only make the books that much more real. Both The Executive Office series and Hush could be ripped out of multiple headlines in today’s media. He tackles politics, prejudice, racism, climate change, intolerance and persecution head on in a thoughtful and factual manner. 

 

Take Hush, the book this review is about, it came out on July 13, 2017 and the story captivates you from the very first sentence.

 

The book is about Tom Brewer, a _deeply_ closeted 40-something year old US Federal court judge who is a recent appointment to the Washington bench. Tom’s closet was built from past events that impacted him profoundly and caused him to lock that part of himself away for the past twenty-five years. He has channeled all his passion into law, cutting himself off from his community and isolating himself from everyone but his beloved basset hound, Etta Mae, in the process.  

 

But the changing social landscape of the world and an unexpected friendship with co-worker U.S. Marshal Mike Lucciano, as well as a supernova heat of attraction, slowly coax him out of his closet one terrifying and painful step at a time. And you do _feel_ his pain, his fear, and his anxiety with every word Tal puts to paper. But it will make you hurt sooo good.  Tom and Mike will rip your heart out, toss it into a wood chipper, gather up the shredded pieces, and then make you whole again.

 

Mr. Bauer not only lets you see one of the most terrifying chapters in LGBTQ history through Tom’s eyes but he makes you realize how profoundly, and rapidly, the world has changed as he shows you the same world through slightly younger man Mike’s eyes. He makes you see how much just a few short years can impact and change the world. Tom and Mike come from different places in the struggle for LGBTQ rights and somehow manage find common ground in the slow burn of mutual attraction and flared passion; they celebrate together the joy and colours of Pride as Tom takes his first brave steps into outing himself to the world and then…

 

Tom’s world turns on its axis, and he and Mike are thrust headlong into events that neither of them could have dreamed of in their worst nightmares, an assassination attempt on American soil in Tom's judicial district. Their newly formed romance is threatened by events beyond their control; but not just their love is in danger of being destroyed, Tom’s life may be on the line as well as he is thrust into the international spotlight and forced into a role that he never thought he’d find himself in, trial judge for the most important case of his career, one that could have global reprecussions.

 

How far will Mike go to keep the man he loves safe? Will Tom allow his newly found courage to wither and die before it had chance to flourish, chasing him into his Narnian-deep closet once again? Will the world, which teeters on the knife edge of war, tip over to chaos or back into peace?  If the first half of the book was a slow seduction, the second half is a nail-biting car chase that leaves you breathless and constantly second guessing yourself, and the author, with all the twists and turns that come at you.

 

Tal Bauer compliments the main characters with fully fleshed-out secondary characters (and Etta Mae) who will make you fall in love with them, sympathize with their plights or hate and despise them completely.  They fill out the book, add more life  and vibrancy to it's pages and play pivotal roles in the story of Tom and Mike. From cover to cover, Hush will leave you feeling punch-drunk, like you’ve survived the most amazing thrill ride you could possibly imagine; breathless, shaken, exhilarated and wanting more.

 

 And yet, despite the political and legal backdrop and all the thriller aspects of this story, at the very heart of it, this book is about relationships; about accepting oneself, opening up to love, to the possibility of happily ever after and being unafraid and proud to live one's life. THAT message is what makes it such a profound read. Everything else? Icing on the delicious cake. 

 

I cannot recommend Hush enough. Go, buy and read it ASAP! You’ll thank me.

 

(I also suggest you have a fresh box of tissues next to you because this book hits you right in the feels. All the feels!)

 

      5/5  hearts from me! 

 

Also, I want to thank Jamie from Alpha Book Club (https://www.facebook.com/Alphabookclub/) for running the Advanced Reader Copy contest that let me start the book 2 days early! I needed the extra reading time :D

 

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review 2016-12-01 01:26
Dinner Invitation by Henry L. Sullivan III
The American Fathers, Episode 2: Dinner Invitation - Henry L. Sullivan III,Adrianne Cury,Amy Montgomery,Cameron Knight,Fawzia Mirza,Jennie Moreau,Juan Francisco Villa,Karin Anglin,Kevin Theis,Sullivan Serials

Note: Since this is Book 2 in the series, it is better (though not absolutely necessary) to have read Book 1, Swept Away, before reading this book.

Once again, we return to the near future America, where powerful houses run the country from behind the scenes. Irene Daco, the first American dynastic princess, is a current hot topic. Sheila, a smart academic who believes the dynastic houses will ruin the country, has been swept up into an undefined relationship with the mysterious Jasira, a congressional correspondent. Now Sheila is offered a dinner date with this dynastic princess and she’s tempted to go.

It’s been over a year since Book 1 came out in audiobook format, but this sequel was worth the wait. I think it’s even a little better than Book 1 (which I really enjoyed). First, my little criticism about the lack of cutting edge tech in Book 1 has been blown away by the wonderful tech integrated into the story here in Book 2. I can’t tell you all the awesome stuff going on in this book because that would be spoilery, but I was definitely impressed with the cutting edge tech and how it added to the ambiance of the story. I will say one thing: artificial intelligence. Yay!

Jasira and Sheila continue to be my favorite characters. Sheila is so open and straight forward, perhaps even a little naive in some ways. Jasira is full of grace and mystery and I can’t tell what her motives are, but I do hope she’s on the side of good. The chemistry between these two was sweet and intense in Book 1 and it continues to be intense in Book 2. The love scene was fantastic – detailed, hot, and charming all at the same time.

Irene Daco plays an important role in this story and she isn’t what I was expecting. I was glad that we finally get to meet someone from one of the big American dynastic houses. Sheila has pre-formed ideas about Irene and I think that’s going to be hard to shake. Yet I have faith in Sheila because she’s a fair person… and yet I also worry that someone is trying to trick her. Perhaps we’ll find out in the next episode which way that will fall out. This book does end on a little cliffhanger, so that’s another reason to look forward to Book 3.

Just as an side note, I want to give this story credit for bringing the Peters map into play. It’s difficult to portray the Earth accurately on a flat surface and the Peters map shows land area correctly, which looks a bit different from the maps we typically see in American school systems. The conversation between Sheila and Jasira about Sheila’s work on the dynastic houses was pretty intense, and the Peters map was the perfect comparison.

Over all, this is a smart and sexy story and I really enjoyed this second installment. I’m definitely looking forward to what the author will do next with this tale!

I received a free copy this book.

The Narration: The audio experience continues to be excellent. The ladies performing Sheila and Jasira do an incredible job – the accents and emotional inflections are spot on. Also, the love scene is so well done I have to wonder if there’s real chemistry between the performers. All the character voices are distinct. The production includes ambient sounds to add to the over all experience, never drowning out the dialogue. Just a quality production all around.

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review 2016-10-09 22:05
"Conclave" by Robert Harris
Conclave - Robert Harris

I think "Conclave" is the best Robert Harris book so far. He's produced an empathic immersion into the closed world of the College of Cardinals, that manages to be compassionate, truthful and have just enough tension in it to keep you turning the pages while still having the people, rather than the plot, at the heart of the novel.

 

Set in the weeks after the unexpected death of what appears to be Pope Francis, the current Pope, "Conclave" tells the story of the election of next Pope by the 118 Cardinal Electors, sequestered in the Sistine Chapel until the Holy Spirit moves at least two thirds of to select one of their number to be Pope.

 

The story is told through the eyes of Cardinal Lomeli, Dean of the College of Cardinals and therefore responsible for managing the Conclave as well as voting in it.

 

Lomeli  is a wonderful creation: a man who has served the Church mainly in ambassadorial roles as a Papal Nuncio and as Secretary of State, he is troubled by doubt and has recently found it difficult to pray. In his seventies, this Prince of the Church, shows remarkable humility. His ambition is simply to run the Concave in as neutral a way as possible so that God can guide him and his brother Cardinals to make the right decision.

 

Neutrality becomes a less and less viable goal as facts about some of the leading candidates emerge and Lomeli finds himself taking decisions about what to do with information that could directly alter who is chosen as Pope. In these circumstances, Lomeli's guide seems always to be to do his duty to God. Of course, he would be greatly helped in this if God could be a little more directive about what his will is.

 

Lomeli kept a story human that could otherwise have been drowned in the procedural details of the conclave or overshadowed by an exploration of the divisions in the Church about women, homosexuality, Liberation Theology, the return of the Latin Mass, political and financial corruption, the continuing dominance of Italy in a world where most Catholics live outside of Europe.

 

I was a Catholic by birth and education, before taking a leap of faith and becoming an atheist, so I was intrigued to see how Robert Harris would treat the Church. I was pleased that he avoided both whitewash and demonisation. Instead, he presents men of many different backgrounds, personalities and beliefs, who are passionately trying to serve, even if some of them conflate service and ambition.

 

What I found most affecting and most realistic, was the extent to which these men, especially the much troubled Lomeli, found their way through the moral and political maze through prayer. I never mastered prayer but I've known people for whom it is a daily necessity on a par with food and water. I'd like to believe that many of those leading the Church feel the same need.

 

The audiobook version is narrated with great skill by Roy McMillan. Click on the Soundcloud link below for a sample.

 

https://soundcloud.com/penguin-books/conclave-by-robert-harris-audiobook-extract-narrated-by-roy-mcmillan

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review 2016-10-03 07:33
The Candidate
The Candidate (A Newsmakers Novel) - Lis Wiehl,Sebastian Stuart

By: Lis Wieh

NewsMakers #2

ISBN: 9780718037680

Publisher: Thomas Nelson Fiction

Publication Date: 10/4/2016

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 4 Stars

A special thank you to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Lis Wiehl returns following The Newsmakers, (2014) with THE CANDIDATE, a continuation of her riveting series featuring an unstoppable heroine, Newscaster Erica Sparks, we met in The Newmakers #1; Blonde, beautiful, driven and sharp. A mother. A haunted past. A daughter. A second chance.

A journalist who wants to be her best. Uncovering the truth, no matter where it leads. To shine the light of fairness on injustice and inequality. At the same time stand up to the high and mighty.

This time, around, Erica is powerful and respected- she’s the host of the highest rated news show in the country. Someone is watching her. Where things are not as they seem.  The Presidential campaign.  How far will a candidate go to become president?

Erica has a nightly news show, The Erica Sparks Effect, with a superior reputation. From book one we catch up with Greg, the man she loves, currently in Australia, working crazy hours to help launch a cable news network. She misses him – they have been apart for three months. There is also her best friend, Moira Connelly, a fellow reporter – now an evening co- anchor on a local LA station.

Previously, Erica exposed Nylan Hastings, the psychopath inThe Newsmakers and now her new boss, Mort Silver wants to see her show on top. He is not pleased with the numbers.

The presidential campaign is heating up and Erica wants to be a part of it. She needs to keep her career certain at GNN. She needs a big story.

We also catch up with Jenny, Erica’s daughter, now a pre-teen. Jenny feels neglected and sometimes can be resentful, but Erica has to work hard in order to pay for her school and their apartment. She recently transitioned from her father and friends in Massachusetts to New York. The demands of her job are staggering, a pressure cooker. She has to find more time for Jenny. She has an excellent staff but needs a personal assistant.

There are also the dark things. When introduced to Erica in the first book, she continues to hear haunting mocking voices from her mother. It spreads like a toxic spill deep into her psyche. She always feels like something terrible is going to happen. The slip in her ratings and the driving pressure she feels to deliver a big story has only exacerbated her night terrors.

Celeste went to Stanford and then Stanford law, and then the Harvard B-school, and then into international banking where she became Wall Street’s go-to person (with friend Lily Lau) making her own vast fortune.

And now she is married to California Senator Mike Oritz,who stands a very good chance of becoming the next president of the United States. Which of course, will make Celeste the most powerful person in the world. With Lily Lau—who will be named President Oritz’s chief of staff by her side.

Celeste is a powerful an intriguing woman in her own right—heiress to a car dealership, and international banker specializing in China markets. She has put her own career on hold to work for her husband’s campaign to which she has donated twenty million dollars. The couple is glamorous and powerful.

Mike is a war hero, a marine in Iraq and was elected to Congress. Determined to return to Iraq and was kidnapped. He escaped. He has enormous political talent.

A bomb. Erica was there. Dead and injured. Evil in the world. Fifteen people died in the Buchanan bomber attack, forty-two injured, eight in critical condition. The country is reeling. She flashes back to the Staten Island ferry crashed that launched her career. Is it possible this horrific act was also orchestrated by unseen forces who want Erica to be on the scene? Can she trust the people at GNN?

Something happened before the bomb blast, she cannot put her finger on it. She can’t remember. Something is not right. She tries to recall what stuck in her mind. Something to do with Mike Ortiz. But, what? It was also like the possible next President of the US needed his wife’s permission to speak.

She hates the network’s obsession with ratings at a time like this. She is ambitious but she never wants it to cross the line into ruthless. The Erica Sparks Effect is treated with respect and integrity. No games.

The bombing upended the presidential campaign and needs to be ready to hop on a plane at a moment’s notice. The FBI, CIA, and Department of Justice are trying to identify the bomber. Who stands to gain the most from the Buchanan’s death?

What is with Celeste and Lau's relationship? Power? Erica knows evil and power from nailing Nylan Hastings. She is having trouble sleeping and jumps at every noise, worried about Jenny’s safety on the streets of New York.

Erica begins studying her file on Mike Ortiz. His working class upbringing, an activist, community organizer, his tour duty in the second Iraq War, his subsequent election to Congress and marriage to heiress and banker Celeste Pierce.

Also his capture and incarceration by Al-Qaeda while on a humanitarian mission to Iraq. His subsequent escape made him a national hero and propelled him into the Senate. A compelling story – one which may carry him to the White House.

She still is fascinated with the power dynamics with his wife. His wife seems to have a great deal of control over him. She seems strange. Brilliant and driven but Erica senses rage lurking behind the polished surface.

Mike says he was tortured and threatened and once he escaped made the decision to fight. A purpose, a mission. To inspire every American to join him in the fight to make their country a more, perfect union. What really happened when he was held, prisoner? Who is in control? Why? Erica is determined to find answers.

Someone is threatened by her investigation, as Erica closes in. The debate. The moderator. A race against the clock.

With the nation’s future at stake, Erica is determined to bring down the conspiracy, and psychopath attempting to take over the presidency, and at the same time puts herself and her daughter in danger, while her own past threatens her. Will she be able to outsmart them before it is too late,and bring the truth to light?

An action-packed political suspense thriller of power, and intrigue! A nice balance of personal/professional with Greg and Erica’s relationship. (a happy ending). She has grown tremendously since the last book with her demons and enjoyed the mother/daughter dynamics with Jenny. Also, fun catching up with BFF, Moira. A smart chilling suspense series with a dynamic protagonist!

An avid fan of Lis Wiehl, and Wiehl of Justice FOX News Radio- One of the nation’s most prominent trial lawyers and highly regarded commentators, she is also the host of the podcast which is always fun and juicy--featuring other crimes, and crime authors.

In addition, I have enjoyed reading Wiehl's previous books: Mia Quinn mystery series, and Snapshot an enthralling tale of good versus evil, inspired by actual historical events, civil rights movement, and injustice-- landing on my Top Books of 2014 —while anxiously awaiting her next upcoming new release.

Wiehl’s books are plot-driven, edgy, fast-paced suspense; featuring strong yet, flawed heroines, faced with numerous obstacles, striving for justice. From lies, deceit, menace, corruption, and power. You can come to expect to meet an evil twisted villain.

JDCMustReadBooks

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/#!The-Candidate/cmoa/5758ed6f0cf2a5fcbccca363
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review 2016-08-31 13:14
"Split Second - Sean King & Michelle Maxwell #1" by David Baldacci - fun thriller -light but inventive
Split Second - David Baldacci

My only other experience of David Baldacci was the rather unfunny seasonal comedy "The Christmas Train". Given how successful David Baldacci is, I figured that I probably hadn't seen him at his best and decided to give one of his mysteries a try.

 

"Split Second" is a tense, page-turning, puzzle-solving book that delivers a plot that is original, if a little far-fetched (but hey, I read books about vampires, werewolves and aliens - how much of a stretch can the plot of a thriller be?).

 

The plot revolves around two Secret Service agents who, more than a decade apart are each guarding different Presidential candidates when they make career-ending mistakes.

 

Of course, it turns out that the two sets of events are related in complicated and fun to unravel ways that bring the older male ex-agent together with the younger female ex-agent to save the day.

 

The book is at its best in creating tension before the action, especially when it's inside the head of one of the ex-agents. There's lots of misdirection and unexpected plot twists, gunfights, a couple of explosions and relatively high and mostly female body-count.It's actually pretty good at hiding the bad guys and then revealing them in a way that makes you slap your forehead for not having seen it already.

 

It was all very entertaining as long as it was taken at breakneck speed.

 

I found the two ex-agents hard to like.

 

The man, Sean King (how do Americans end up with Irish first names and Jewish family names?) is, of course, tall, handsome, moderately athletic. He knows how to build a house, cook a meal and choose the right wines. He also seems to have been married to his job, cheating on his wife and taking no real joy in anything prior to the sudden death of his career. Then, with an unconscious sense of entitlement that only those with generations of middle-class background have, he becomes a lawyer, builds a fabulous house, makes a lot of money, buys a lot of toys and doesn't really get involved with anyone or anything except keeping his house excessively neat. Why should I care about this guy?

 

The woman, Michelle (call me Mick) Maxwell, is, of course, small, blonde and beautiful. She's also an over-achieving ex-Olympian (rowing), from generations of police officers (senior police officers of course) with a good degree, a natural ability with guns and a martial arts black belt. She's on the fast track in the Secret Service but seems to have no idea why she wants to be there. She's too glossy and too shallow for my tastes but she has skills that allow the plot to move along quite nicely.

 

The two of them blunder through the book, trying to fix the mess they're in and getting a lot of other people killed in the process.

 

But, if I let go of my distaste for all-American heroes with an inbuilt sense of entitlement and an unexamined patriotism, I have to admit that this book kept me entertained all the way through.

 

Scott Brick did a good job of the narration, keeping the pace moving and making the dialogue live. He wasn't helped in this by the curious production standards Hatchette Audio, who played background music at apparently random moments and seemed to toss a coin on how to deal with transitions, sometimes leaving a pause so long that I checked my player was working and sometimes moving from one scene to another so fast that I became confused about who was talking or where I was. The cover art is so bland, a brown-paper wrapper would have been more interesting. These guys seem to be asleep at the wheel.

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