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STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN’S GRAVE

Published on 02/27/13

BOOK REVIEWS BY JOAN G. SMITH JGS 366

STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN’S GRAVE BY: IAN RANKIN

John Rebus is back – Ian Rankin wrote some books recently with new characters, but Rebus has been sorely missed by Rankin readers.

Rebus has retired from the police force where he had been a detective inspector. He is an original with a mind that sees the world with different eyes which allows him to solve cases that everyone else has been confused and stymied by.

Out of boredom Rebus went back to work for Lothian & Borders Police, to help close up cold cases. He had always been interested in them, but as a civilian now he doesn’t have access to all the things he used to. Lost causes are his thing and he never gives up, which always managed to antagonize his bosses!

For years, Nina Hazlitt has been trying to find her daughter, dead or alive, who disappeared. The police gave up years ago, and the cold case department has not been of any help so far.

Two more women have gone missing recently and oddly enough from the same road where Sally Hazlitt was last seen. Its a remote road in Scotland and Rebus can see a connection, but adversaries from his past and present are not helping his investigations.

Rebus is an eccentric man, with his love of music and guitars, the many gigs he has attended over the years and his collection of recordings. He is also addicted to cigarettes and liquor which doesn’t interfere with his investigations. Over the years he has made several friends and admirers who appreciate him and his talents, enjoy his company , and manage to watch his back as well, which is a trick.

Ian Rankin and John Rebus are both Scotsman and the novels mostly take place in Scotland. This novel appears on the 20th anniversary of Rankin’s first American publication.

Michael Connolly said this: “Rock ‘n’ Roll, Rankin ‘n’ Rebus, they just go together and the world wouldn’t be the same without them. It wouldn’t be right without them. Ian Rankin has created a hero for the ages.”

Published: Reagan Arthur Books Little, Brown and Company Hachette Book Group 237 Park Avenue New York, NY 10017 Copyright: © 2012 By John Rebus Limited Reviewed: 02/28/13 – 366 Copyright: © 2013 by Joan G. Smith

366

THE PULSE

Published on 02/27/13

BOOK REVIEWS BY JOAN G. SMITH JGS 367

THE PULSE A Novel of Surviving the Collapse of the Grid BY: Scott B. Williams

This is an appropriate time to read The Pulse, when solar flares are actually able to bombard the earth and cause explosions on Earth while others are near misses. My son left this book behind at Christmas and I decided it was time to read it, after after the recent solar caused explosion in Russia.

Casey, a student at Tulane University in New Orleans, must try to save herself and her roommate Jessica when anarchy descends in New Orleans. Grant, a new friend at Tulane when the pulse strikes, is with her, and convinces the girls they must get out now, before the food disappears, the gangs form up and become murderers and everything is total chaos.

The power grid instantly is totally destroyed in North America – no cars unless they are very old, no lights, no power for phones, internet or anything in the modern electronic world. Grants family owns a cabin in the woods in Mississippi and it is always stocked with survival type equipment and food. Grant says if they could get there on their bicycles it is the best place to be until they can sort things out. Each day becomes more dangerous on their journey and it becomes a test of their survival skills in a fight for their lives.

Casey’s father, Artie, is a doctor who is on a sailing vacation when his younger brother, Larry, who has devoted his life to the sea and boats that sail and catamarans. They are in the Caribbean when the pulse hits and everything is gone that is on the grid. They have equipment and sails that work with nature and the wind and tides that Larry knows like the back of his hand. Artie had planned to take a flight to New Orleans and his daughter, Casey, and now no planes are flying anywhere! Larry follows the stars and knows how to live off the wild life and fish as they fight pirates and storms to get to Casey.

The author,Scott Williams, has been exploring wild places and seeking adventure on both land and sea for most of his life. At the age of 25, he embarked on an open-ended solo sea kayaking journey from his home in Mississippi to the islands of the Caribbean – a life changing journey. He knows what has to be done to survive if the Pulse arrived, and put an End to The Electronic Age !

Published: ULYSSES PRESS P. O. Box 3440 Berkley, CA 94703 Copyright: © 2012 By: Ulysses Press Reviewed: 02/28/13 – 367 Copyright: © 2013 by Joan G. Smith 367

KILLING KENNEDY

Published on 02/06/13

KILLING KENNEDY BY: BILL O’REILLY & MARTIN DUGARD

This nonfiction account of John Kennedy’s presidency is filled with information that you don’t expect. It is so well written and documented you have to believe its all true, even though you may have to keep reminding yourself of that fact. There is so much more here than the days before the assassination and the days after it.

The details about the Bay of Pigs and Cuba are fascinating, as well as the on going cold war with the Russians, East Berlin, and Communism. Vietnam and its politics and war are covered in a way that is much clearer than usual. Organized crime in the U,S. enters the picture, and Sinatra’s Rat Pack and Marilyn Monroe.

The portrait of Jackie and their family life is presented with care and Martin Luther King and the movement for true equality is carefully done.

Of course Lee Harvey Osewald and his peculiar life of insecurity and failure in marriage is an eye opener.

More than two million readers have already thrilled to this best seller and to Killing Lincoln as well. It is well documented how Lincoln and his beliefs and presidency led the way for many of our current leaders to study,believe and carry on work of our democracy to this present day.

Camelot was filled with heroism and deceit, but it was unique and certainly not boring. The world figures in this presidency present a picture that keeps the reader turning the pages,smiling and then being horrified with what was going on in so many other parts of the world.

In short, it brought the history of Kennedy’s presidency to life in a remarkable way. The Sources section at the end of the book go chapter by chapter through the entire book – a valuable and important way to summarize things for the reader.

Published: Henry Holt and Company’ LLC 175 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10010 Copyright: © 2012 By Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard Reviewed: 01/30/13 – 364 Copyright: © 2013 by Joan G. Smith 364

ELSEWHERE

Published on 02/06/13

BOOK REVIEWS BY JOAN G. SMITH JGS 365

ELSEWHERE BY: RICHARD RUSSO

Richard Russo has been a favorite of mine for several years with novels such as Straight Man , Bridge of Sighs , and That Old Cape Magic . When his memoir, just out in 2012, was published, I ordered it and was not disappointed. Elsewhere paints a picture of his life that is a window on the characters and locations in the novels he has authored.

Gloversville, in upstate New York, was the town Russo grew up in and was famous for tanning leather and making leather products. It was not an easy life for those in the trade, but family and neighbors were closely knit. His father was charming, but not a family man and his mother always wanted more out of life, so they divorced, and Richard Russo was faced with a life of caring for his mother – always !

Gloversville came upon hard times in the 1950’s, as new machines and inventions for making leather products were introduced.

Richard’s mother was most anxious to try new territory and for awhile always had some kind of a job and was attractive to men. However she was a perfectionist and had an extremely nervous disposition that made it hard to live with and manage, but mother and son always loved each other and she lived close by in various towns even when Russo went to college and graduate school, married and fathered two daughters and was a professor and then an author. His wife, Barbara, was wonderful about it all, which is a miracle in itself!

The various moves around the country are often hilarious, heartbreaking, interesting and even comic. They are back and forth to Helwig street in Gloversville and eventually wind up in Boston, always keeping track of family and showcasing how his success as an author finally provided enough money to make it easier, but still complicated. This is a beautiful memoir, by a Pulitzer Prize winning author!

Published: By Alfred A. Knopf THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK New York, NY Copyright: © 2012 By Richard Russo Reviewed: 01/31/13 – 365 Copyright: © 2013 by Joan G. Smith 365

Death’s Door

Published on 12/04/12

DEATH’S DOOR BY: JAMES R. BENN

Death’s Door, the newest book in the Billy Boyle World War II mystery Series, is out in 2012. Billy Boyle finds himself in Brindisi, Italy, in February of 1944. The Allies are not yet in charge in Rome, although the Allies are in italy and knocking at the door.

An American Monsignor is found murdered at the foot of Death’s Door, one of five entrances to St. Peter’s Basilica. Monsignor Corrigan had friends in high places and General Eisenhower is putting Billy in the position of finding who murdered him. Billy has been just about everywhere in WW II, as a Lt. Detective sent to find the answers to high level cases affecting the Allies. To solve this one, Billy has to be smuggled and led into Rome in priestly robes. Kaz his Polish friend, is with him, but this situation is tricky. The Nazis are still in charge in Rome and the Allied bombs and Gestapo are both to be avoided at all costs.

The Vatican has status as a neutral territory inside Rome’s boarders, and the Vatican is filled with politics – some pro-Allied and others pro Nazi.

Billy has discovered that Diana Seaton is in Rome and is a British spy. She is also Billy’s lover, and she has gone missing while undercover in the Vatican. Billy is faced with orders to solve Corrigan’s murder, as well as his own resolve to rescue Diana. When he discovers she is being held in Regina Coeli prison, a short walk from the Vatican border, his desperate choice is to try and rescue her. Their own safety is at risk, but if he fails it would alert the Germans of his mission and risk an open violation of the Vatican neutrality.

This novel might just be the best in this series, although I have enjoyed them all. The Vatican has secretly been able to help many Jews and help the Allies, but they must appear to be neutral. The stakes are enormous and James Benn has done it again by giving a clear picture of the risks and politics at this time and place in WW II.

Published: Soho Press 853 Broadway New York, NY 10003 Copyright: © 2012 By James R. Bean Reviewed: 11/30/12 – 363 Copyright: © 2012 by Joan G. Smith 363

Back to Blood

Published on 12/04/12

BACK TO BLOOD BY: TOM WOLFE

Tom Wolfe hadn’t written for awhile, so I was delighted when Back To Blood hit the shelves in October, 2012.

This novel takes aim at Miami, and gives the reader a birds eye view of the various groups that now call Miami home. This is a good look at our postmodern era whose multicultural languages and backgrounds are not really interested in melting into one pot! At least not in Miami!

The main hero is Officer Nestor Camacho, a Cuban cop who made it into the police department and becomes famous over night when he was on patrol on a police launch speeding across Miami Biscayne Bay.

Nestor has many talents, but they are all put to the test when his whole neighborhood thinks he is a turn coat when he saves a man’s life in an impossible hilarious rescue out on the Bay.

Through Nestor’s eyes we meet the Cuban Mayor, the black police chief, an anglo sex addiction psychiatrist and his Latina nurse and girl friend and his wealthy patient who is porn addicted. As the plot proceeds we also meet the Miami Heralds hot young reporter and his boss the editor who both went to Yale, and are spreading the news about Nestor in newspaper headlines. Nestor finally, also meets Ghislaine, who he saves from the drug crowd while she is volunteering her help to the children of these drug addicts. Her father is a Haitian professor who thinks he’s really French and wants his daughter, who is beautiful and kind, to be French. His son is in with the wrong crowd , and Nestor finds himself trying to help this high school boy.

Onward we glide to get a view of the Columbus Day Regatta “spectators” and their interest in the apr’es-race orgy. The group of shady Russians are next, who are cheating the Art Museum and art dealers and buying public!

Tom Wolfe’s on scene high energy reporting that put his previous best selling novels at the top,is brilliant, serious and yet hilarious. Beneath all the rhetoric, the reader gains a view that is unique of Miami and its clash of cultures. This author of a dozen books, including The Right Stuff , and Bonfire of the Vanities, still lives in New York City. Published: Little, Brown And Company Hachette Book Group 175 Fifth Avenue 237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Copyright: © 2012 By: Tom Wolfe Reviewed: 11/30/12 – 362 Copyright: © 2012 by Joan G. Smith 362

ROAD TO VALOR

Published on 11/07/12

ROAD TO VALOR BY: AILI and ANDRES McCONNON

A true story of World War II in Italy, The Nazis, and the Cyclist who inspired a nation

Gino Bartali, won the Tour de France in 1938, and again in 1948, after World War II. He was an Italian cyclist who loved his bike all his life and used it in many different ways, especially in World War II when he saved many lives by hiding a Jewish family in an apartment he paid for with his cycling winnings. He was also a Roman Catholic who used the church to help him smuggle counterfeit identity documents hidden in his bicycle past Fascist and Nazi check points because the soldiers recognizes him as a national hero in training.

The authors, Aili and Andres McConnon , based their book on ten years of research in Italy, France and Israel. They also interviewed Bartali’s family, former teammates, and a Holocaust survivor Bartali had saved.

Bartali also had to fight Mussolini’s Fascists who tried to use him for propaganda purposes. Bartali grew up in a poor and rural Tuscany, where he slowly saves enough money to buy a bicycle – and not a very good one!

The McConnons have written a non-fiction untold story of one of the great athletes of the 20th century. Aili McConnon has earned degrees from Princeton University, Cambridge, and Columbia University. Andres graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University and was a history major. They both have many credits writing and researching as journalists. While researching this book he lived in Paris, Florence and the Italian Riviera.

Road To Valor is the inspiring, against -the-odds story of Gino Bartali who made the greatest comeback in Tour de France history and aided the Italian Resistance during World War II.

Published: Crown Publishers an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group a division of Random House, Inc.,New York Copyright: © 2012 By: McConnon LLC Reviewed: 10/31/12 – 359 Copyright: © 2012 by Joan G. Smith 359

SHINE SHINE SHINE

Published on 11/07/12

SHINE SHINE SHINE BY: LYDIA NETZER

Maxon and Sunny met when Maxon was 7 and Sunny a bit younger. They were different from other people and immediately liked each other. Sunny had been born in Burma and her father was a strange minister. When her father was killed, Sunny’s mother took her to the USA and Nu her mother’s and housekeeper came along. Sunny had two loving , smart women to raise her and be her family. Maxon had a cruel father, brothers and mother.

Sunny and her family brought love and fun and sense to Maxon’s life. It was inevitable that Maxon and Sunny would eventually marry. Maxon was a genius engineer, on a NASA mission to the moon and programming robots for a new colony. Money was no problem so Sunny decided to have a perfect home, on a perfect street and be normal. They now have a son, Bubber, who is very bright as well. He is also autistic, so the doctors have him on medicine.

Sunny was born bald, but she decides, in her 30’s, to match her perfect house and life, with perfect wigs. It takes having Maxon on his way to the moon, her mother ill in the hospital, being pregnant again and taking Bubber off his medicine to decide to ditch the wigs and be totally herself!

I will close this review with this quote from the fly leaf of this novel: ” A debut of singular power and intelligence.” Shine Shine Shine is a unique love story, an adventure between worlds, and a stunning novel of love, death, and what it means to be human!

Published: St. Martin’s Press 175 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10010 Copyright: © 2012 By: The Netzer Group LLC Reviewed: 11/01/12 – 361 Copyright: © 2012 by Joan G. Smith 361

THE RACKATEER

Published on 11/07/12

THE RACKETEER BY: JOHN GRISHAM

The Racketeer was a successful attorney in real life until some weird circumstances put him in prison for 10 years. His name, at the moment, is Malcolm Bannister, he is 45 years old, and has already served 5 years. His good behavior and lawyer background finally got him lucky enough to wind up at The Federal Prison Camp near Frostberg, Maryland. I found out about the various kinds of prisons in this novel, and on a list of bad to better to best, Frostberg Prison Camp would be best.

Malcolm has become a jailhouse lawyer and was able to help out some of the inmates at Frostberg. He has special privileges that make life better with a small office in the library. However, his wife has divorced him and remarried, and he is not looking forward to 5 more years at the camp.

It is remarkable in the history of this country, only four federal judges have been murdered. Judge Raymond Fawcett has become murder number five. He was found dead with his young secretary at his remote lakeside cabin in the woods. A large safe was opened and emptied.

Malcolm Bannister has always kept his eyes and ears open, and his mouth shut, and he knows who killed Judge Fawcett and he knows why! If he plays his cards right and helps the FBI out, he might be a free man, but its a tricky deal. Malcolm would love to help them out. but only if he gets exactly what he wants. It’s very embarrassing for the FBI to be at a dead end for so long.

Grisham is at his best with a cast of characters that emerges in this wickedly clever plot that fools the reader right along with the FBI. Everything is fair game and John Grisham doesn’t disappoint with this latest legal thriller. He lives in Virginia and Mississippi and continues to be a great storyteller!

Published: Doubleday a division of Random House, Inc., New York, NY Copyright: © 2012 By: Belfry Holdings, Inc. Reviewed: 10/31/12 – 360 Copyright: © 2012 by Joan G. Smith 360

Gone Girl

Published on 09/13/12

BOOK REVIEWS BY JOAN G. SMITH JGS 356 GONE GIRL BY: GILLIAN FLYNN

Nick and Amy Dunne – an attractive couple happily married and they are full of secrets. One reviewer said it was ” the most frightening portrait of psychopathy she’d ever read ”. Now that I have finished reading this novel, I agree.

Amy is a beautiful and intelligent woman. She is also diabolical, inventive and sadistic. Her failing marriage becomes a game of “getting even”. and the plot is frightening.

Nick is popular, easy going, and a writer. He is totally unprepared for the surprise his wife has been planning for their anniversary.

Nick is a twin, and his sister, Go., is a remarkable, kind woman who loves her brother unconditionally.

The cast of characters in this book are finely drawn and the reader feels compelled to finish reading this book, even while being disgusted with the plot!

My book group chose Gone Girl for September’s novel, and I can’t wait to hear all of the opinions!

Gillian Flynn knows how to put the words together, and has written the New York Times best seller, Dark Places, and was the Dagger Award winner, with Sharp Objects. She lives in Chicago, with her husband and her son.