My eighty-second podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it I interview Scott Kaufman about his new biography of America's 38th president (which I reviewed here). Enjoy!
***copy provided by publisher through NetGalley***
Reya Sinclair is a "redeemer"; her mission is to find people before they die and offer them redemption and forgiveness if they want it. She's not doing it for selfless reasons, though, her own redemption and salvation is on the line.
Unfortunately, her mission is thrown into peril by a detective that happens to notice the trail of dead bodies she leaves in her wake. Thane Driscoll also isn't as pure as fresh snow, exacting his own style of justice in his quest of finding his father's killer...And the woman he's tracking just might be the key to that most important investigation.
I liked the premise of this one with the whole redemption/forgiveness theme and the heroine delivering both in order to save her own soul.
Unfortunately, the execution left much to be desired. It was a little too "preachy" for me with its religious undertones, the info dump was simply that instead of sprinkling information here and there throughout the story, the suspense was lukewarm, and the characters didn't really resonate with me. Both Reya and Thane left me cold, and the romance between them was a real stretch. I felt they were more friends than lovers, and as the "romance" evolved and progressed, the whole thing felt a little icky.
Gerald Ford is unique among presidents for a number of reasons, but perhaps most so for the circumstances of his presidency. Alone among the forty-four people who have held the office he was never on a national ballot prior to occupying the office, as he owed his elevation to the presidency to the provisions of the 25th Amendment. Defeated in his own bid for the office in 1976, he had remained an anomaly every since, overshadowed by the more dramatic tenures of those who preceded and followed him.
This helps to explain why there have been so few biographies written about Ford. In his introduction Scott Kaufman identifies three, all of which suffered from a variety of limitations, In this respect Kaufman's book is the first to do full justice to the span of Ford's long life, assessing it with access to his records and benefiting from the perspectives of time. It's a solid study that is written in an unpretentious style and reflects considerable archival labors, which makes it in many respects a mirror to its subject. Kaufman tinges his analysis with nostalgia, noting that while Ford was an ambitious politician who remained a devoted party man, he often worked with his Democratic opponents to achieve balance on the issues before them. He makes it clear that his career ambition was to be speaker of the House of Representatives rather than president, a goal that he regretted not achieving even after occupying a much more consequential office.
In that respect Ford's career is infused with the irony of being the rare politician who achieved a higher position than the one for which he aimed. And while Ford's political career ended with the humiliation of defeat, it is one that receives its due in Kaufman's book. For while it may have lacked the excitement of war or the tension of constitutional crisis, Kaufman shows it was one in which a fundamentally decent man grappled with the problems with his time and worked to solve them as best as he was able. Thanks to Kaufman, readers now have the judicious assessment that Ford has long deserved and one that will likely remain the dominant work on Ford's life and career for some time to come.
A multiple murder from the past that remains unsolved and a current death that may or may not be murder in a town whose very name is synonymous with witches. Add to that a growing suspect list and a boatload of secrets. Brunonia Barry is quite talented and that shows in The Fifth Petal. The writing is descriptive, the characters are interesting, and the suspense builds as the story progresses. The supernatural element does add something to the mystery, and most of the solving process is done through visions and memories rather than actual investigation. Nevertheless, Chief Rafferty is an engaging character in spite of having little to go on with these cases. I did have trouble warming up to Callie, but she did grow on me as her story unfolds and the author does a good job of eliciting sympathy for her situation. The story does tend to ramble at times with unnecessary information and some chapters end rather abruptly, both of which become a distraction from an otherwise good story. On a positive note, I did enjoy the bits of history from the witch trials sprinkled throughout the book, and the twists and secrets revealed kept me turning pages to find the answers.