Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Life with Megadeth by David Ellefson

Genre: Biography/Autobiography

Pages: Hard Cover

Publisher:  Simon and Schuster

Reviewer:  Jean Eastwood

This is a true story written by David Ellefson about his life as a musician. He grew up in the Midwest (Minnesota) as a son of a farmer who had no interest in learning the family trade. His goal was only to be a great musician. At a young age he taught himself bass guitar which proved to be very beneficial.

As all “rock-n-roll” bands experience a period of drug abuse, David and his band Megadeth were no different. Essentially David was homeless for several years because he spent all of his money on cocaine and heroin. David has a revelation with G.O.D. which he defined as “good, orderly direction” and his life changed 180 degrees. He got married, had children and became a great dad.  After heavy metal music lost its lure, he left the band to work for the Peavey Corporation for 7 years selling musical equipment to bands.

He moves to Scottsdale, AZ and joins the local church. He starts a counseling group for drug rehabilitation called “MegaLife.” The group would initially meet in the evenings, but then moved to Sunday mornings. He became a minister and felt this was his calling in life. He got joy from sharing his stories and experiences with younger “up and coming” rock stars. He felt that G.O.D.  had chosen him to mentor those who now needed his help.

The book was a good weekend read. Anyone can learn from his story about the dangers of drug addiction and faith in a higher power.

“We received a free copy of this book from Howard Books, for our honest review. The opinions expressed here are our own.” –The Jag Review 

Fifteen Minutes by Karen Kingsbury

Genre: Fiction
Pages: Hard Cover
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Reviewer: Courtney Van Dyke
JAGS: 9.5
Zack Dylan’s family was mostly supportive when he announced he would be auditioning for Fifteen Minutes, a singing reality show.  It was only his Grandpa Dan, and his girlfriend, Reese, who voiced their concerns about the process changing who he is.  Before leaving, Zack promises his family, Reese and God that fame would not change him. He was auditioning because he knew it was what God wanted for him, not because he wanted to be famous.
During his time on the show Zack finds himself breaking all kinds of promises. He is no longer the person he was when he auditioned. He allows the producers of the show to mold him into their idea of a “heart throb”. While on the wild ride that is Fifteen Minutes Zack grows attracted to fellow finalist, Zoey. Zoey is constantly throwing herself at Zack, making it difficult to remind himself of his life back home.  
Chandra Olson, former winner of Fifteen Minutes, joins the judge’s panel this season. She experienced the dark side of fame, when a crazy fan hunted down and murdered her parents. 
Chandra only agreed to judge this season hoping she would be able to save someone, to warn them about the downfalls of this life. Taking Zack under her wing and offering him a sneak peek into the world of fame, and all it comes with, she hopes to help him find his way out.
This was hands down the best book I have read all year.  Kingsbury draws you in to the lives of her characters. You will celebrate their triumphs and feel defeat in their failures. This novel shows how God is able to guide everyone, even those in doubt of their religion.
Kingsbury shows that with God all things are possible. As Chandra Olson’s mom often said, “God is good. All the time.”

“We received a free copy of this book from Howard Books, for our honest review. The opinions expressed here are our own.” –The Jag Review

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What’s so funny by Tim Conway with Jane Scovell

Genre: Memoir

Pages: Hard Cover

Publishers: Howard

Reviewer: Joe Dekyser  

Release Date: October 29th 2013
Rarely will a comedian make Television history, or span a career for more than 70 years. In Tim Conway’s memoir, “What’s so funny?” he explains just that. As an only child, born in a small town in Ohio during the Great Depression to what he considers slightly askew parents with odd tendencies, he grew up with a love of horses and the dream to one day become a jockey.

Known as a prankster throughout his years in school, Tim went on to Bowling Green State University before he went into the army. His break into entertainment was the year 1958, where he started as a Disc Jockey for KYW-Cleveland playing records and telling jokes. Shortly after, a job opening for regular TV spots featuring Rose Marie from the Dick Van Dyke, which ultimately landed him a role on the Steve Allen Show. He was then casted as a regular for the Dean Martin Comedy hour. All these minor rolls lead up to the role that would make Tim Conway a television legend, the coveted part on the new Carol Burnette Show. Looking back on his whole life, Tim realizes how wonderful, unpredictable and blessed his life was. “What a ride!” as likes to say.

What’s so funny, is a memoir describing a life well lived. The humor was laugh out loud enjoyable in certain parts, but dry in others. Knowing, and watching the comedic styling of Tim Conway’s TV career, I found myself enjoying more of his expressions, characters on screen than in the book. Overall, Tim Conway is, and will always be one of the funniest men in show business.

“We received a free copy of this book from Howard Books, for our honest review. The opinions expressed here are our own.” –The Jag Review

Friday, October 18, 2013

Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth

Genre: Fiction

Pages: Hard Cover

Publisher: Penguin

Blood Oath is not your typical vampire novel. Zach Barrows is a 25 year old up and coming White House Aid with his eyes set on being the youngest ever White House Chief of Staff. What he didn’t anticipate, no matter how much you plan in politics, namely your career, can change in an instant. One second Zach’s star is on the rise and he is both cocky and confident, the next, he is being reassigned to what he thinks is a position beneath his political status.

Imagine a branch of Government that has no Congressional oversight, no acronym, and only answers to whoever sits in the office of the President of the United States. Imagine that same branch of government with only one main asset and his handler. Now imagine that asset is a vampire who has sworn servitude for the last 140 years to ensure the survival of the United States of America from all forces seen and unseen-natural and unnatural.

Blood Oath takes political espionage and adds a flare of supernatural to the story that will sure to please any horror or action reader. Some parts are confusing, but the overall plot is refreshing and face-paced. If you are a vampire buff, this will be a fun read. If you are a Tom Clancy fan, you will enjoy. If you are neither, you will still enjoy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Pages: Hard Cover

Publisher: Grove Press

Reviewer: Courtney Van Dyke

Frazier’s Cold Mountain tells the tale of Inman, a Confederate soldier who refuses to die, despite the massive injury he endures during his fighting in the Civil War.  Inman has enough of all the fighting and war, so he abandons the Southern Army and sets off on a long dangerous trip back to North Carolina to reunite with Ada, his love.  

While Inman is fighting in the war, Ada finds herself out of food and money. This makes it necessary to keep her recently inherited farm afloat, however difficult it will be. Thankfully Ruby comes to her rescue and the two work vigorously together.

This book is the poster child for the saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”.  Separated for years they never seem to lose sight of each other.

While I am not a history buff, I did enjoy the way the author took me back in time to the Civil War era. The story was well written and described the scenery so well that I felt like I was there.  It was a bit hard to get into though, being that Frazier wrote the book as it would have been wrote during the Civil War, making the wording something to get used to.

It also took me a while to relate with the characters, which made the first half of the book less enjoyable.  That being said, by the end I was emotionally attached to all of the characters, and rooting for their success.

This is a fabulous novel, based on a true story, which gives such great insight into the lives of those living through the mid 1800’s

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Genre: Fiction

Pages: Paper

Publisher: Quirk Books


Jacob Portman’s life changed the night his Grandfather died-little did he know his world was about to also change and not for the better. Jacob’s journey started long before he found his grandfather murdered in the field behind his house. Instead, it began the moment Grandpa Portman told Jacob all about the mysterious island, Nazi soldiers, and an orphanage that housed strange and magical children when he was a boy.

Ten years later and his grandfather’s death still fresh in his memory, Jacob and his father take a trip to a remote island off of the coast of Wales. For Jacob’s father, this trip is a chance to catch up on his passion of bird watching. For Jacob, this is the opportunity to find the answers about his Grandfather’s past and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

MissPeregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a wondrously filled book of imagination and old photographs. Ransom Riggs perfect blend of vintage photos and an unforgettable story of originality is not only a great read for a young adult, but the perfect read for any book lover.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Bee Society by Georgie Bee/ Illustrated by R. Morris

Genre: Children’s Book

Publisher: The Bee Society

Pages: Soft Cover


If you think you know all there is to know about Bees, think again. Meet Georgie Bee, the only Honey Bee on the planet who can speak both Honey Bee and English, and he thinks it is about time to clear up some misconceptions humans have about bees. Georgie Bee’s  tell-narrative  is about all the hidden secrets of the world of the honey bee.

The Hive and Georgie Bee’s hilarious read, is their petition to humans for a coexistence of peace, harmony and the pursuit of liquid sweet gold. Like his human counter parts, The Bee Society is a farfetched series of stories explaining the connections of the human and bee worlds and how important that we coexist.

The BeeSociety is a cliché of words that would be a perfect read for a parent to introduce their child to not only the wonderful world of reading, but to the life of the Honey Bee.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Not Even the Sky is the Limit by Denise Zarrella

Genre: Children’s Book

Pages: Hard Cover


Not Even the Sky is the Limit by Denise Zarrella is a colorful picture book featuring children with Down Syndrome doing everyday activities like; Playing, Dancing, Baking Brownies, Horseback riding, working on the computer, and even walking the dog. Author Denise Zarrella’s powerful journey showing the world that individuals with Down syndrome can lead productive and well-adjusted lives, is a glowing example of a mothers love.

Inspired by her daughter who was born with Down syndrome, Not Even the Sky is the Limit, is a simple but powerful insight to the world of people with disabilities and how their lives are just like everybody else’s. The beautiful pictures and colorful design will catch the eye of any child, and would make for a great book for a parent to share, introducing their child to the world of reading.

Proceeds from each sale are donated to organizations that improve the lives of people who live with Down syndrome.

Photography by: David Uschold

Graphic Design: David Kiehl

Made in America by Sam Walton and John Huey

Genre: Memoir
Pages: Hard Cover
Published by: Bantam
Reviewer: Virginia Armstrong
Made in America by Sam Walton tells a passionate story of founding Wal-Mart, driven with ambition and competitiveness, while overcoming the odds others have placed against him.  Starting at the very beginning of his retail life, he details the ins and outs of first running a Ben Franklin franchise, to opening a few Walton stores and then Wal-Mart.  From there, he goes on to open a Wal-Mart distribution center, purchases a bank and an airplane, all in order to get the job done more efficiently.
With enthusiasm, Sam gives the reader sound advice for starting a business as he relates his own personal story of growth.  Along the way, the reader is introduced to many of Sam’s business partners who are driven hard to succeed while reaping the rewards as well. Always putting the customer first, he also tells how he had to deal with manufacturers to get the best quality at the lowest possible price for the consumer.
Sam’s story is very well written, leaving the reader feeling as if they know him personally.   It was very clear Sam’s passion and life was surrounded by his work.  At times, the story read like an espionage novel; just replace countries with retailers as Sam went about spying on other stores, stealing the best of their ideas and implementing them, which he readily admits to.
It seemed Sam Walton tried to paint a picture of him in a certain light, yet I could not help but read between the lines.  I found his writing to be passive-aggressive toward other people and groups, choosing his words very carefully. For me, the last chapter summed it all up when he listed all the things he would do if he hadn’t been sick.  He listed his store, his dogs and tennis, but never mentioned spending time with his family.
This book would do well for those raging with ambition.   For those who like to keep their family close, it’s a great reminder of what you have.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon by Larry Millett

Genre: Fiction

Pages: Hard Cover

Publisher: VIKING

Reviewer: The Jag

Holmes comes to America in this revamp classic of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved literary detective duo in; Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon by Larry Millett. An American, working for a Minnesota Railroad tycoon, arrives at 221 B Baker St, pleading for the infamous detective to follow him to the colonies and solve a case that could save thousands of lives.

Holmes is reluctant at first, citing numerous on going experiments, but quickly changes his mind as the American explains the puzzling case of a mad arsonist on the loose in the pine forests of Minnesota. Not only is the local commerce of the town of Hinckley at risk, but also all the unsuspecting citizens who inhabit the logging town. Little do they suspect, they are caught in the middle of a twisted plot of revenge that even the likes of Sherlock Holmes will have difficulty solving.

Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon is a fun read for all Holmes fans. Larry Millett is spot on in his Sherlockology as Dr. Watson, as he takes the detectives into the American wilderness of the Mid-West. Puzzling at times, no pun intended, the camaraderie between Holmes and Watson is lacking, and the subtle clinical approach of Dr. Watson that Conan Doyle used is absence. All in all, a great Sherlock Holmes read.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Preemptive Love - pursuing peace One Heart at a time by Jeremy Courtney

Genre: Memoir
Pages: Hard Cover
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: October 1st, 2013
Reviewer: Virginia Armstrong
Preemptive Love is a memoir of Jeremy Courtney’s struggle to help thousands of children with heart conditions during the Iraqi war.  Believing in love first, ask questions later, he puts his life and his heart on the line as he goes against other’s fears, prejudices and political persuasions.  In his quest, he finds that most people, no matter their race or religion are good, loving people who only want what is best for their families.
Jeremy doesn’t run at the first sign of trouble, not even when a fatwa is issued for him.  Instead, he continues onward, fighting or the children’s lives, pleasantly satisfied when the results are in the child’s favor, heartbroken when they are not.
Jeremy tells not only his story of courage and sacrifice, but that of his wife, children and friends he meets along the way.
Preemptive Love is a story that enlightens the reader to the many similarities in people’s lives, reminding us that we are all built with the same emotions, living similar life’s but with different beliefs and practices.
Preemptive Love opens the reader’s eyes to the damage that war does not only physically, but emotionally as well. 
The story is well written, yet Jeremy seemed to distance himself from his writing as if reluctant to give his entire heart.  This prevents the reader from feeling what he felt during and fully understanding the depth and need of these small children.
Preemptive Love is a must read as a wake-up call to the tragedies of war and the impact it has on the lives it touches.

“We received a free copy of this book from Howard Books, for our honest review. The opinions expressed here are our own.” –The Jag Review


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Emotions – Confront the Lies, Conquer with Truth - by Dr. Charles F. Stanley

Genre: Religion/Christian Life/Inspirational
Pages: Paper
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: October 1st, 2013
Reviewer: Jean Eastwood
Dr. Charles F. Stanley has been the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA since 1971. If you have cable television you can catch his sermon on Sunday mornings. He has written more than fifty books with sales of more than 9 million copies. In this book he shares his fear of flying with his readers with whom a lot of people can definitely relate.
I found this book to be very informative and an interesting read. Dr. Charles Stanley explains how you can break free from the feelings that have taken you captive and regain the purpose for which God gave you emotions in the first place. The five emotions that wound us are: fear, rejection, bitterness, guilt and despair. Dr. Stanley believes that when you admit how these emotions are destroying you, you can be healed by asking for God’s help. Genuine healing can occur if you believe it is possible and never give up. Make it your goal to improve your life.
The book teaches us that most of our negative emotions are ingrained in us as children and take a long time to develop. Therefore, we need to be patient when trying to identify the root causes of our fears and confront them. We need to ask God to help us overcome our fears, anxieties, rejections, and to thank God on a daily basis for his ongoing help from the Holy Spirit.
After reading Emotions, I have become inspired to put some of Dr. Stanley’s suggestions to use and try a “work in progress” attitude regarding some of these “wounded” emotions. Hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.
“We received a free copy of this book from Howard Books, for our honest review. The opinions expressed here are our own.” –The Jag Review

Friday, September 20, 2013

True Believer by Nicholas Sparks

Genre: Romance/Fiction

Pages: Paper
Reviewer: Courtney Van Dyke
Nicholas Sparks strikes gold yet again with True Believer. This wonderful work of fiction tells the story of a blossoming, unexpected love. Scientific Journalist, Jeremy Marsh, specializes in revealing the truth behind supernatural experiences. Following a story that could surge his career to the next level, Jeremy finds himself hunting down ghosts in Boone Creek, South Carolina.
Doris, a self-proclaimed “diviner” begs Jeremy to discover the real reason for the phenomenon before it ruins the small town she calls home. Lexie, the town librarian, assists Jeremy in finding information to debunk the ghost story. During their short time together Jeremy and Lexie find their relationship, albeit hard to describe, full of passion. Lexie, who loves her small town and doesn’t want to leave it behind, also doesn’t want Jeremy, a born and raised New Yorker, to leave behind the face paced lifestyle he loves. This leaves them trying to decide between everything they have ever known, and everything they want.
The first couple chapters of the book move slow and came close to losing my attention. However by chapter three I couldn’t put it down. This old fashioned love story is full of emotions; it draws the reader further in with every page. The characters and scenery are described in such detail that the reader is able to imagine exactly what the characters are experiencing. I personally enjoyed the way Boone Creek was depicted in this story. The stereotypical small town has all the antics you would expect from a small southern town; from the local diner with the flirty waitress, to the manipulative but good hearted mayor, to the jealousy fueled sheriff’s deputy.
This would be a wonderful read for the last few weeks of summer. True Believer will leave you feeling both excitement and joy for the characters.

Finding Pride by Jill Sanders

Genre: Romance

Pages: Paper

Publisher: CreateSpace

Reviewer: Courtney Van Dyke

Megan Kimble is fresh out of a mentally and physically abusive relationship with her ex-husband, Derek.  Add to that losing her brother, the only family she had since becoming an orphan as a young child. Megan travels to Pride, Oregon for her brother’s funeral. 
After much debating she decides to stay in town to find herself. Her new neighbors the Jordan’s befriend her immediately, helping her adjust to life in their small town, and mourning the loss of her brother. Megan finds herself lusting over Todd Jordan, but is not ready, yet, to commit to a relationship.
Todd Jordan is a man who once lost everything. His wife and unborn baby had died a few years ago. He is instantly smitten with Megan, but needs to be patient for her to let her guard down.  After vowing to protect her forever, Todd’s promise is put to the ultimate test.

Finding Pride is a good story with strong characters; the actual writing of the story however is anything but. Personally, I felt like I was reading a rough draft. There were multiple grammar and punctuation mistakes, making it hard to read. The author over used the same describing words, and often switched perspectives without any warning to the reader. I also feel like there are many parts missing from this book, leaving the reader questioning why and how things are happening. The book did not allow me to visualize the setting, or the characters as well as I would have liked, making it difficult to fully get into it. With some simple editing, and proper grammar, this book would have been a much better read. It was after all a great, just poorly wrote, story of personal growth, love, and family.
If this is a book you decide to purchase, I would highly recommend buying it used.

What Once Was Lost by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Genre: Fiction/Christian Romance

Pages: Paper

Publisher: Waterbrook Press

Reviewer: Jean Eastwood


Ms. Christina Willems, following in her late father’s footsteps, is the woman in charge of the “Brambleville Asylum for the Poor” in Brambleville, Kansas. One winter evening a fire breaks out at the asylum and she is forced to find temporary shelter for her only “family.” 
Set in the late 1800’s, times were hard, and the folks in the town of Brambleville took everyone in but the 11-year-old blind boy Tommy. Ms. Willems asks Levi Jonnson, the mill-owner in town to please take him for a short while. Levi reluctantly agrees, not really knowing how to care for the blind boy. Levi is a busy man with his mill business to run, so he sets up ropes so Tommy can find his way from the house to the other buildings. Tommy learns to clothe himself and builds confidence in his ability to take care of himself. Tommy is also learning the art of caning.
The mission director decides that now is the time for Ms. Willems to pursue another career. He not only stops the funding for the “poor farm”, but admits two of her “charges” to the Kansas Asylum for The Poor in Topeka, Kansas. Ms. Willems finds out about this and sells her father’s valuable pocket watch for train fare money to go and get the children and bring them back.

The villain here is a young man by the name of Hamilton Dresden who had also stayed at the “Brambleville Asylum for the Poor” under Ms. Willem’s direction. He is responsible for starting the fire and has been threatening Tommy with keeping that secret.
Mr. and Mrs. Dunnigan, a rich couple who adopted the two children from the Kansas Asylum for the Poor in Topeka buy the property of the “poor farm” and rebuild it. Ms. Willems has her job, her self-worth, and her father’s watch back. Levi proposes marriage to Ms. Willems and finds he can’t live alone any longer now that he has loved and cared for people in his life.

What Once was lost was a very pleasant book to read.  It was not too big and not too small. I enjoyed it and found it hard to put down. I recommend purchasing this book. It was a great weekend read.

Founders by James Wesley Rawles

Founders by James Wesley Rawles

Genre: Fiction

Pages: Paper

Publisher: Pocket Books

Reviewer: Virginia Armstrong

With America’s financial collapse, the entire infrastructure and the American way of life is fast becoming a distant memory. Founders is a fictional reality that threatens to be real in today’s day and age. No longer can anything be taken for granted, as store shelves lay bare and most businesses are closing their doors.  Forget doctors, forget petroleum, if you can find any luxury, will it cost you. Gasoline is now $25 dollars a gallon.
As the government disappears, a false government run by the U.N. takes over, out for power and control of the people.  No one is safe from there evil ways and deceptive practices as they try to take over one city at a time.
In come the Christian soldiers, scattered across America, ready and willing to fight for the life that they had known. Most have been preparing for this apocalyptic catastrophe for some time, others winging it with the knowledge and skills that they have.  Together, they are able to take down the bad guys with hopes of restoring America to its previous ways.
Founders is you typical Christian apocalyptic thriller, where only the faithful can overcome the obstacles faced in this type of situation.  The book skipped from different characters, locations and timelines that it made it truly difficult to keep the timing straight.  The men portrayed were kindly Christians who suddenly were able to pick up a gun and shoot to kill without batting an eye or an ounce of remorse.  The story lacked credibility due to the fact it never mentions the government nor politicians and the role that they play.  It appears as if they just vanish before the story even starts.  More than anything, the story reads as a how-to on how to prepare for an event of this type.  I would probably pass this one up. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Dive from Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer

Genre: Fiction
Pages: Paper
Publisher: Vintage
Reviewer: Virginia Armstrong
Life is not what Carrie Bell had imagined.  At twenty-three she had yet to act on her life.  Graduating from college, she still continued to work at the University library where she had participated in the work study-program while in attendance.  Then there was Mike Mayer, her high school sweetheart.  They had been together for eight years.   The mystery was now gone from their relationship.  Everything was so predictable and boring.
Now, she seemed to be at a crossroad, uncertain of what path her life should take.  Should she stay or should she go?  She knew that Mike had become aware that something was wrong.  That perhaps there time together was coming to an end.  Still, they never discussed it.  Instead, Carrie trudged through her days, her thoughts elsewhere, as Mike worriedly hung on.
Before Carrie can decide how to remedy her dilemma, Mike has an accident which leaves him paralyzed.  Her entire circle of family and friends expect her to be there for him, yet she wants nothing more than to bolt out the door. Now, she faces even more difficulties.  If she decides to break it off, everyone will think it’s because of Mike’s injury.  That’s she’s weak-or worse, a coward.   
The Dive from Clausen’s Pier makes the reader ponder what they would do in a similar situation, yet the answers can only lie within the complexities of a real situation, with so much more knowledge of each of the characters. I thought the story was compelling, deep-seated with feeling yet a bit drawn-out and boring. The writing was done very well, the characters and places true to life, yet it moved along ever so slowly.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Pages: Paper

Published:  RandomHouse

JAGS: 10
Thomas wakes up in complete darkness, in what only can be an old metal elevator ascending up. He has no memories of anything other than his name. When the elevator stops, and the metal ceiling doors open, Thomas finds himself in the Glade-and he is not alone. The Glade has boys of all ages living day to day, and just like Thomas, they don’t remember anything either. Every month, for the last two years, one boy arrives to the Glade with no explanation, and no memories to speak of.
What is more puzzling is, large stone doors open up every morning to the maze, and close every evening like clockwork. The boys of the Glade know one thing for certain; you do not want to be caught in the maze when the door closes at night, because the Grievers will get you.
Everything changes when the following day a girl arrives on the metal lift with a startling revaluation, and Thomas recognizes who she is.
The Maze Runner is a must read. This book is highly entertaining with enough suspense to keep you glued to the pages. A guaranteed start to finish great book that is a must have. Buy new, buy used, but just buy, you will not be disappointed.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Racketeer by John Grisham

Genre: Fiction

Pages: Paper

Publisher: Dell

Malcolm Bannister, a former attorney, is convicted to spending 10 years in federal prison for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A federal judge and his young mistress are found dead with no evidence or apparent motive, and Malcolm Bannister knows who has done it. The only problem, Bannister is in jail, and the FBI has no leads.
Everything has a price, including the ace up Bannister’s sleeve as he plots with and against the FBI for an early release, and to catch a killer. You see, Malcolm would love to help out the FBI, but as the man who is known as the Racketeer, everything has a price, and sitting behind cell bars makes his information all the more valuable.
This is a typical Grisham novel about the redemption of a wayward lawyer who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, except that The Racketeer isn’t as nearly as predictable as Grisham’s previous Courtroom dramas. The Racketeer is a fast-paced read with more than its share of plot twists. Out of all of Grisham’s novels, this one by far is better than most, and has the potential of Hollywood movie magic. Quick weekend read.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr

Genre: Fiction
Pages: Paper
Publisher: Carroll & Graf
The services of Sherlock Holmes and his trusted friend Dr. John Watson are needed once again by the British Realm to solve a perplexing case of supernatural proportions. Enlisted by Holmes’s brother Mycroft under the Queens direct order, the detectives travel to Scotland after receiving a cryptic message from the elder Holmes. Almost immediately, the pair is thrust into what appears to be the brewing of international espionage as the train ride from London is attacked by spies.
Reaching the royal residence of Holyroodhouse, or as it is more simply known by British subjects as Palace of Holyrood, Holmes and Watson stumble on what could quiet possibly be the strangest case yet. The ghost of Rizzo is said to be haunting the West Tower and all of the Queens staff knows all too well the comings and goings of the specter of Holyrood.
Caleb Carr wows readers once again with his poetic styling of 18th century England as he resurrects the famous Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson in The Italian Secretary. Caleb Carr does not have the clinical syntax of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Dr. Watson, but executes beautifully the subtle nuisances of the relationship between the detectives. Carr’s interpretation honors the Holmes legacy and would make any Sherlock fan proud to read. A definite must read if you are a Holmes fanatic.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blood Ties by Gina Whitney

Genre: Fiction

Pages: Paper

Publisher: Arbor Books

Reviewer: Virginia Armstrong


The Valois’ and the Bolingbroke’s, at war for eons, have been in a watchful lull the past twenty-one years, waiting for the awakening to occur.

Unaware of her family history, Grace Valois is going through a time of change and it’s beginning to worry her.  Never one to fit into any crowd, she has never felt normal.  At least, not the normal she perceived in others.  But this?  This was too much.  First, it was the nightmares.  Then, the hallucinations started.  Now, her body seemed to be changing in very strange ways.

After a vicious attack on campus, one that she just happened to dream about, her life goes into a tailspin as secrets from her family’s past begin to unfold.  Not only is her best friend, Julie, a shape shifter, Grace herself is a witch. And not just any witch, mind you.  She is the witch that must save the world from the Bolingbrokes and the evil plan they have hatched.

Gathering with her clan to prepare for the long awaited battle, Grace meets James, who has sworn upon her birth to protect her with his life.  Upon meeting him, her feelings are swift and immediate and she just knows she has found her soul mate. There’s just one problem. James is a Bolingbroke. Now, as she prepares to engage in the battle of her life, she must decide if she can trust him with not only with her heart, but with her life and the lives of everyone else.

Blood Ties was by far the best book I’ve read this summer.  Gina Whitney grabs her readers attention with her on-target descriptions of characters and locations, putting you right there on the scene.  The writing style, character portrayal and interesting dialogue kept me coming back for more.  I say pick up a copy today!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

America Libre by Raul Ramos Y Sanchez

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing  

Pages:  Paperback

Reviewer:  Virginia Armstrong


During a drug bust, a young Latina bystander is fatally shot, spawning nightly raids by the Hispanic community in San Antonio.  The Governor of Texas vows looters will be shot on sight to deter the violence that is escalating.  Retaliating, Octavio Perez a radical community leader, calls to arms the Mexican-American people to react to this injustice.

National Guard Lieutenant Cole and his detachment are dispatched to control the rioting and looting.  The swarming mob fires first, leaving the National Guardsmen to go on the defensive, striking down twenty-three Latinos involved in the rebellion. In Los Angeles, Manolo Suarez wakes us to rioting that has crept into his own neighborhood.  Taking a job as a Security Director for the La Defensa del Pueblo, he decides to take on the United States Military with the help of local Latino gang members. The clash between Latino Americans and the US Government begins.

In AmericaLibre, the author tells the story of the growing immigration crisis and what could possibly take place if it isn’t dealt with.  His portrayal of characters is unbalanced and bias, and as for the writing itself, it was done well enough if you separate all the stereotyping that takes place.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett/Stephen Baxter

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: Paper



Can you imagine a world where all it takes to end hunger and poverty are just a step away-a step to an infinite number of Earths just like our own. Mankind is forever changed when the plans for a simple prototype are leaked online and the results are anything but ordinary. It is evolutionary.

While the world eagerly explores the infinite number of possibilities with this new technology, Joshua Valiente, a natural stepper, embarks on journey to find out if there is a beginning or an end to The Long Earth.

The Long Earth is a brilliantly written collaborative effort by author Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter that explores a different take on the human condition to dominate and the myths surrounding trolls, elves and the collective consciousness.The Long Earth is a must read for all you science fiction and fantasy fans around the world. Who knows, reading this book might convince you that a different tomorrow just takes that first step. The Jag Review is looking forward to future books to this series.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Someone Always Loved You by Brooke Williams

Genre: Fiction
Pages: Paper
Reviewer: Virginia Armstrong
For Jordan James, it all began with the phone call.  It was from the hospital.  She needed to get there A.S.A.P.  Her husband, whom she loved dearly, had suffered a heart attack.   It was imperative that she get there before it was too late.  She had to tell him…
For Jay, it began on his first day on the job as an EMT.  He had been driving the ambulance.  Saving lives, he’d thought proudly as he glanced over his shoulder at the patient.  Just a mere few seconds had passed in that glance.  And in that brief frame of time, a tragedy occurred, impacting his life far greater than he ever could have imagined.
By the time he turned back, it was already too late.  Ambulance collided with pedestrian and Jay could do nothing to prevent it.  From that point on, Jay and Jordan would never be the same again.  As Jordan lay in a coma, Jay stays at her side, agonizing over his guilt and unable to carry on with his life.   Both reflect on their past lives, the good and the bad.  What was and what should have been. It isn’t until Jordan finally wakes from her coma that all the pieces of their lives come together and they find where they truly belong.
Someone Always Loved You is a poignant story of a mother and son separated by adoption only to be reunited after a life-threatening tragedy. The story speaks of sadness, joy, hope and forgiveness as they each search for that missing piece within each of them. The story was well written.  A few times, the author switched points of view which I found frustrating. As for the characters, I found them to be a little too perfect, but likable. All in all, I thought the storyline was touching and worth the read.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Joyland by Stephen King

Genre: Fiction

Pages: Paper Back

Publisher:  Titan Books

Reviewer: Virginia Armstrong

Rating: 7 JAG

To keep his mind off his broken heart and his first lost love, Devin Jones takes a job at Joyland, an amusement park in North Carolina.  There, he meets Madame Fortuna, who eerily predicts his future.  Uncertain if she is for real or not, he ponders her words until, one by one, her predictions prove true.

Looking out for the one with the “sight”, he becomes obsessed with the ghost of Linda Gray, who was said to haunt the Horror House at Joyland.  With the help of friends, Erin and Tom, he begins piecing together the woman’s murder.   Exploring the Horror House, Tom witnesses something that he refuses to speak about.  Something that leaves him forever changed.
As summer rolls to an end, Devin decides to stay on at Joyland.  Its then that he meets ten-year old Mike Ross and his mom, Annie.  As a friendship begins to forge between the three, Devin starts piecing together the murder of Linda Gray.  As he gets closer to solving the puzzle, danger lurks nearby, forcing him to make a frightful decision.  Does he surrender his life?   Or does he sacrifice another’s?
Joyland is a coming-of-age murder mystery filled with youthful notions and innocence.  Not your typical Stephen King novel, yet the characters are engaging just the same.  As the story jumps from a twenty-one year old to the same person forty years later, it’s easy to visualize Devin Jones at both stages of his life.   The story is of friendships made and lost, of life, death and the beyond.  As usual, King’s characters have a way of becoming real, the emotions now shared between the writer and the reader.