Saturday, May 25, 2019

Dark City

Sarah Kay Moll
NineStar Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


Jude has a tender heart. Yet he was born into a criminal empire and groomed from childhood to step into his father’s violent footsteps. To survive, he created a second personality. Ras is everything Jude isn’t—cruel, remorseless, and utterly without fear, as incapable of love as Jude is of malice.

But when Ras meets a ruthless socialite, he begins to feel a strange stirring of emotion, a brush of Jude’s passion against his own dark heart. Meanwhile, Jude finds himself with a knife in his hand, the evil in Ras’s soul bleeding into his own.

As the walls between them crumble, they could lose everything—their lovers, their family, and their hold on the dark city itself.

Coming together could break them…or make them whole.

My Review

Sarah Kay Moll is a new author and I’m really glad I took a chance on her first novel. The enticing cover suits this stylish and romantic crime story perfectly.

Dark City is dark, as a story about the Russian mafia should be. Jude, the youngest son of a powerful crime boss, is a gentle and sensitive soul. In order to cope with the violence in his world and fulfill his father’s expectations, he creates Ras, a second personality who can perform those brutal deeds the gentle Jude cannot.

I liked the structure of this story. It jumps back and forth between Jude’s complicated relationships with his family, particularly with his father and older brother, his childhood and the incidents that led to the fracturing of his mind, Ras’ work with the syndicate, and their two loves – the ruthless and ambitious Scarlet who has a great deal in common with Ras, and Ash, the kind-hearted prostitute and drug-addict Jude wants to take care of.

There is a vibrant cast of characters, many of them damaged and unlikeable, but certainly not one-dimensional. The beautiful and vivid descriptions of Jude’s city bring it to life in such a way that it also feels like a character in the story.

Dark City kept my attention from beginning to end. It is a character-driven story that explores Jude’s conflicting feelings about his abusive father, who in his own way loves Jude and wants the best for him, and the rivalry between his older brother, Eli.

If I say any more, I’m afraid I’ll go into spoiler territory, so I’ll stop here. Can Jude/Ras be whole again? Can mafia bad boys have a happy ending? You’ll have to read it and see for yourself.

Though this is an imperfect story, it is a brilliant first effort. I’m honestly surprised at the negative reviews, though I attribute that more to what readers expect from a certain genre rather than the quality of the story. Dark City may be too dark for those looking for a romance and is too sweet for those looking for a crime novel. For those looking for something a little different, you can't go wrong. I am confident that Sarah Kay Moll’s next novel will be a winner.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Age of Legend

Age of Legend (The Legends of the First Empire, #4)Age of Legend by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The war rages on until it reaches a stalemate. Persephone tries to forge a peace only to see her ambassador betrayed and taken captive. An unlikely group seeks a legend in order to save their friend.

Age of Legend is an enjoyable book, but I just don't see how they could end it where they did. Worst of all it caught me completely off guard because I was only 86% of the way through the book according to my Kindle. I can't believe I have to wait another year at minimum to learn what happens next. That just kills me.

Age of Legend has all the usual style and substance of Michael J. Sullivan. Excellent world building and thrilling plot points. I also love so many of the characters. They just complement one another so well. Persephone takes a major back seat as this book is largely carried by Brin and Tesh among others. The devotion between characters is truly touching as well.

Age of Legend is a great book even if I'm disappointed with the cliffhanger ending.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019


Pimp: The Story of My LifePimp: The Story of My Life by Iceberg Slim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“A pimp is happy when his whores giggle. He knows they are still asleep...all whores have one thing in common just like the chumps humping for the white boss. It thrills ‘em when the pimp makes mistakes. They watch and wait for his downfall.

A pimp is the loneliest bastard on Earth. He’s gotta know his whores. He can’t let them know him. He’s gotta be God all the way.”

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Iceberg Slim

Iceberg Slim, AKA Robert Beck, attends Tuskegee University until he is expelled for selling bootleg liquor. What are the rules for capitalism? Supply and demand. During the ludicrous prohibition, he is merely supplying the liquor that his fellow students are demanding. This is only the beginning of his life as a capitalist who always seems to be on the wrong side of the law. ”Why did Justice really always wear a blindfold? I knew now. It was because the cunning bitch had dollar signs for eyeballs.”

Justice is only for rich, white people.

I would have more sympathy for Iceberg Slim, trying to find the best way to hustle, if he hadn’t been such a brutal asshole. The world has never been a fair place, and the rules are never applied evenly. A banker can write a loan and front load all the interest, but a loan shark who does the same thing is breaking the law. The pharmaceutical companies can make trillions pumping out drugs to a population who doesn’t need them, but if a drug dealer does the same thing, he goes to jail. At 18 years old, Iceberg Slim, then known as Young Blood, decides to become a pimp.

I had someone make a point to me recently that, by making prostitution illegal, we are depriving women of a means of making a living. Again, we are a capitalist country, and yet women can not legally supply the demand for sex by taking money for providing a service. Women can have all the sex they want for free, but they risk jail the minute they ask for a fan of C notes in exchange for it. Isn’t that anti-capitalism? So if the morality is about women having sex out of wedlock or not for reproduction purposes, isn’t that happening right now all over the world in bedrooms, back alleys, bar bathrooms, backseats of cars, no tell motels, the boss’s desk at work, golf greens, back rows of movie theaters, etc., etc., etc.? By making it illegal, we also give jackasses like Young Blood the opportunity to impose his will on women to go out in the streets and hump for him.

If a woman leaves one abusive pimp, there is always another one waiting to take his place. It seems to me, we need to make prostitution legal, and just like the current battle for women’s reproductive rights, boot the men out of the equation...well, except for when they want to exchange their cabbage for getting their pipes clean. Men should be customers only.

Making prostitution against the law didn’t make it go away. So who is the customer for a young, black whore looking to score some scratch?

”A lot of them are clean-cut high muckty mucks in the white world. Some of them show me pictures of beautiful wives and cute children. It makes me feel greater than those white bitches living in soft luxury. Those white broads got Nigger maids they laugh at. They think we ain’t good for nothing but clowning and cleaning. It would give them a stroke to see their trick husbands moaning and groaning and licking between a black whore’s thighs.

They coming because those cold-ass white broads in Heaven ain’t got what these black whores in Hell got between their legs. Black and low as I am. I got secrets with their white men those high-class white bitches ain’t hip to.”

Oh yeah, there is demand alright.

First thing Iceberg needs is a whore, and after being made a fool of more than a few times, he finally meets a woman who fits the bill. ”Through the blue mirror I zeroed my eyes in on the target. My ass bone starched on stiff point. Her big peepers were two sexy dancers in the velvet midnight of her cute Pekingese face.”

Runt, as he calls her, is frequently difficult to control. She has opinions. She has demands. Since she is humping all the money for this enterprise, she even thinks at times she should have a say in how the business is conducted. She even threatens to leave. The first line of defense for a pimp is to use psychology. The most important rule of pimping is to find out the life story of every whore under his control. Convince them of the dangers of navigating the streets without his “protection.” Use everything you know about her to undermine her confidence in herself. If psychology doesn’t work, he must move to verbal threats, and if that doesn’t work, he grabs the nearest coat hanger and whales the living shit out of her. She’ll be out humping on the streets again before the heat from the stripes he lays in her flesh has cooled.

Iceberg Slim says he has had over 400 whores working for him at various times, no more than a few at one time, but it just shows that the streets burn them out or they just plain got tired of Slim’s shit. It must have been a relief for many of them the times Slim went down for a hitch in the joint. For all his hard work, Slim never seemed to achieve his ultimate dream, to be like Sweet Jones. ”A gleaming black custom Duesenberg eased into the curb in front of me. The top was down. My peepers did a triple take.

A huge stud was sitting in the back seat. He had an ocelot in his lap dozing against his chest. The cat was wearing a stone-studded collar. A gold chain was strung through it.

He was sitting between two spectacular high-yellow whores. His diamonds were blazing under the streetlight. Three gorgeous white whores were in the front seat. He looked exactly like Boris Karloff in black-face.”

That sounds more like a freak show at the carnival to me. Who’d want to be that?

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By the time he hits his 40s and he is doing another jolt in yet another steel casket, he realizes that his time is up. Pimping is a young man’s game, and he can’t stack no more time behind bars. He turns to writing his life story in the 1960s, and Pimp is the first of several books he publishes. His influence on gangsta rap is undisputed. Several films have been made based on his books. Most of his reading audience are black initially, but as word got out, his readership continues to grow. I’ve always wanted to read Iceberg Slim to experience the colorful vernacular of his writing style. My peepers were often popping out of my head over his poetic use of street slang. There is a glossary in the back if his meanings are not immediately apparent.

”Scottish author Irvine Welsh offered that ‘Iceberg Slim did for the pimp what Jean Genet did for the homosexual and thief and William Burroughs did for the junkie: he articulated the thoughts and feelings of someone who had been there. The big difference is that they were white.’"

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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Seventh Inning Stretch

J.M. Snyder
JMS Books
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


Every year, a local hospice hosts a charity baseball tournament played by four gyms in the Richmond area. This year, the gym where Matt diLorenzo works is chosen to compete. When Matt misses another staff meeting because he’s “busy in bed,” his co-worker Roxie signs him up to captain one of the gym’s two baseball teams. The first person Matt plans to recruit is his lover Vic Braunson -- who somehow gains superpowers from their lovemaking -- and those superpowers will definitely help out on the field.

Unfortunately, the gym has segregated their teams into staff and members. Matt works at the gym; he heads the staff team. Vic, a member, is asked to play on the members’ team.

Disappointed, Matt suggests they abstain from sex for the next week to avoid giving Vic any powers that might help his team win the ballgame. But before long, Matt discovers that keeping his hands to himself is easier said than done. And when the two teams face off against each other, he finds it almost impossible to keep his mind on the game.

Through the mental connection they share, Vic picks up on Matt’s lustful thoughts. They ruin his concentration, and threaten to throw the game. Matt wants him, badly. So Vic corners his lover in the locker room during the seventh inning stretch to find out just what Matt has in mind ...

My Review

Seventh Inning Stretch is fifth in the Powers of Love series. Matt and Vic are fast becoming one of my favorite couples. Their telepathic ability is strong and enables them to avoid the communication problems that exist in other relationships and forge a deep bond.

When Matt is a half hour late to his job at the gym and misses a staff meeting, he learns that the gym has been chosen to compete in a charity baseball tournament and he is the captain of one of the teams. Unfortunately, the teams are broken up into “staff” and “members”, so Vic will be unable to play on Matt’s team.

Matt suggests they abstain from sex so that Vic doesn’t have an unfair advantage in the game. Matt is not too thrilled about playing against Vic and even though he suggested abstinence, a week is just too much.

I loved how Matt used their psychic ability to thwart Vic’s concentration during the game. Who knew Matt had such a competitive streak?

This was a funny, sexy and very enjoyable story.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mapping Fate: A Memoir of Family, Risk, and Genetic Research

Alice Wexler
University of California Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


In Mapping Fate, Alice Wexler tells the story of a family at risk for a hereditary, incurable, fatal disorder: Huntington's disease, once called Huntington's chorea. That her mother died of the disease, that her own chance of inheriting it was fifty-fifty, that her sister and father directed much of the extraordinary biomedical research to find the gene and a cure, make Wexler's story both astonishingly intimate and scientifically compelling.

Alice Wexler's graceful and eloquent account goes beyond the specifics of Huntington's disease to explore the dynamics of family secrets, of living at risk, and the drama and limits of biomedical research. Mapping Fate will be a touchstone for anyone with questions about genetic illness and the possibilities and perils of genetic testing.

My Review

“The ambiguous condition of 50% risk is extremely difficult to maintain in one’s mind, if not impossible. In practice, a 50-50 risk translates to a 100% certainty that one will or will not develop the disease.”
― Nancy Wexler, Genetic Russian Roulette

Before reading this book, I was aware that singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie died of Huntington’s disease in 1967. What I didn’t realize until after I read this book was how cruel this disease is. Symptoms usually develop between 30 and 50 years of age. In the early stages, patients may experience mild cognitive symptoms and psychiatric changes. Later on, they experience chorea, or abnormal involuntary movements, in different areas of the body. In later stages of the disease, individuals may have difficulty walking, speaking, and swallowing. Pneumonia and heart disease are the leading causes of death for people with Huntington’s disease.

Daniel Mundy’s (1976-2014) battle with Huntington’s disease:

This scientific memoir is utterly fascinating, despite the fact that some of the science went over my head. Still, I feel that Alice Wexler did an admirable job writing a compelling story about family, living with the risk of disease, and the innovation and efforts by her father, her sister, Nancy, and the scientific community that led to the discovery of a genetic marker for Huntington’s in 1983.

Alice’s mother, Leonore Sabin, was 53 in 1968 when she was diagnosed with the disease. Her father and three brothers had already died. Her husband, Milton, started the Hereditary Disease Foundation, and dedicated his efforts to inspiring researchers and caring for his sick ex-wife.

Nancy’s work with the foundation took her to the fishing villages near Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, where about 1 in 10 people have Huntington’s disease.

Despite the grim subject matter, I found this very hopeful and optimistic. Even though there is still no cure for Huntington’s disease, there are drugs that can help alleviate certain symptoms and the option for those at risk to undergo genetic testing to find out whether they will develop HD in the future.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Texas Ranger: The Epic Life of Frank Hamer, the Man Who Killed Bonnie and Clyde

Texas Ranger: The Epic Life of Frank Hamer, the Man Who Killed Bonnie and ClydeTexas Ranger: The Epic Life of Frank Hamer, the Man Who Killed Bonnie and Clyde by John Boessenecker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Texas bred tough men, and none came nay tougher than Frank Hamer. He was to the Lone Star State what Wyatt Earp was to Arizona and what Wild Bill Hickok was to Kansas.…Mexican smuggler, the Ku Klux Klan, corrupt politicians, the Texas Bankers Association, and Lyndon B. Johnson. His iron courage was forged in the flames of fifty-two gun fights with desperadoes. In an era when crooked police were a dime a dozen, he could not be bought at any price. Though a white supremacist of the Jim Crow era, he saved fifteen African American from lynch mobs. He was the greatest American lawman of the twentieth century.”

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Frank Hamer

If not for Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, nobody but Texas historians might have remembered Frank Hamer, Texas Ranger. The Barrow gang, between 1931 and 1934, robbed stores and banks across the Midwest and the Southwest. They killed at least nine police officers and numerous civilians in their reign of crime. They were lauded by the press and loved by the public. They were two poor kids from the urban slums of West Dallas. They were never going to be famous any other way than to become Bonnie and Clyde.

Barrow and Parker were running rings around law enforcement. They were on the move constantly and never stayed in one place for very long. They had an enhanced feral sense to know when law enforcement was closing in, and even when it looked at several points they might finally be trapped, they still managed to find a way to get away. By the time the state of Texas came to Frank Hamer to ask for his help in apprehending them, there were hundreds of law enforcement personnel who were already out looking for them. Frank Hamer was retired and running a successful security business for the oil industry, so the state of Texas had to put him on the payroll as a Special Investigator. The $130 a month was laughable, but this wasn’t about the money for Hamer; this was about nine police officers who were no longer going home to their families.

We all know how the tale of Bonnie and Clyde ended, but if you don’t know the story, it is compelling reading. I really enjoyed Jeff Guinn’s book Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde. Guinn peels away the myth and glamour; and yet, even after being shown the warts and psychotic behavior, I still couldn’t help but feel an immense sadness for what happened to them on that road in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.

The memories of that day made Frank Hamer shift in his seat, too. He would talk about his other exploits, but he never wanted to talk about Bonnie and Clyde. ”Soon after the ambush, a publisher contacted him with a proposal to produce a book about his life. When he declined, the editor asked, ‘How much would $10,000 mean to you?’

Hamer’s blunt response: ‘No more than a Mexican dime.’”

Hamer was famous in Texas during his lifetime. His exploits were well recorded in the newspapers of the time. He was in fifty-two gunfights during his illustrious career, and he didn’t always emerge unscathed. Hard to say how much lead was still residing in the folds of his flesh, to be buried with him when he finally succumbed to the passage of time. Yes, even legends die, but their legacy can continue to live well beyond them. John Boessenecker took that part of the job very seriously.

The story of Hamer’s life was filled with near death experiences and derring do, but one of the most impressive things that I discovered about Hamer was his willingness to put his life on the line against angry white mobs intent on harming black prisoners. He did it time and time again. I shouldn’t have been so flabbergasted, but I must say that I was when I learned how often Texas mobs were still storming jails to perform acts of vigilante justice on accused black prisoners. I was well aware of all the atrocities perpetrated during slavery and even during Reconstruction, but it was frankly appalling to see how frequently it was still happening in the decades right after the turn of the century.

One situation, which will remain in my mind forever, happened in Sherman, Texas, in 1930. The Texas Rangers, including Hamer, were called in to protect a prisoner accused of raping a white woman. Thousands of people gathered around the court house, demanding that Hamer let them have the accused. He refused. They stormed the court house, and Hamer and the Rangers held them off by using their gunbutts to knock them back down the stairs. Hamer decided to lock the accused in the vault so that, if the mob did overcome the Rangers, at least he would have had a chance.

The mob burned down their own courthouse.

”As flames roared out of the courthouse windows, the frenzied mob changed, ‘Roast him! Roast him! Roast him! Burn him alive! Burn him alive!’” This was the sanitized version of what they were actually chanting.

It wasn’t just the many wars we fought in the twentieth century that made it one of the bloodiest centuries in history. Texans must not have had much faith in their justice system or were too impatient to see punishment administered to those they thought were guilty. Hamer failed that day, but there wasn't much he could do against people who were willing to die to see the object of their hatred destroyed. These mobs weren’t burning a rapist. They were burning a black man who had the audacity to touch a white woman. They were carrying forward the torch of racism.

During the 1948 Democratic primary for a senate seat, Frank Hamer was called in to investigate election fraud. His friend, Coke Stevenson, was announced the victor with a 362 vote lead, but as the night continued, more votes started trickling in, and somehow Lyndon B. Johnson emerged the victor by 87 votes. Hamer realized very quickly from looking at the late returns that precinct 13 in Alice, Jim Wells County, was where the biggest flip happened. When he finally acquired the tally sheet (the precinct captain did not want to give it to him), he discovered that 765 votes for Johnson had be crudely turned into 965.

Despite discovering this outright fraud, Johnson was still seated as the victor. Needless to say, Hamer was furious.

How important was this election? Johnson wouldn’t have been in a position to be tapped by John F. Kennedy for the the vice president nomination in 1960 and probably would have never been president of the United States.

Boessenecker made a good case that Hamer was the greatest lawman of all time. Hamer found himself in numerous tight spots, and most of the time he came out on top. The author didn’t shy away from writing about the times that Hamer got it wrong or when he might have even bent the very laws he was sworn to uphold.

”One day he might be remembered as the greatest lawman of the twentieth century. But history can be cruel, casting a blinding light on some deeds while relegating others to the shadows of oblivion. In our collective memory, Frank Hamer still remains the man who killed Bonnie and Clyde. Perhaps this book can help restore him to his proper place in the American story.”

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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Jonathan de Shalit's "A Spy in Exile" is about an Israeli hit squad actions in Europe

Jonathan de Shalit’s “A Spy in Exile” is not going to be one of my favorite spy novels of this year. I had problems with the title. I had problems with the story. I had problems with the introspection and retrospection. In general it was an okay read.

Starting with the title, it’s a bit of a misnomer. Although there is some spying, the novel is essentially about special agents of Israel, who are tasked with taking out Israeli’s enemies- that is killing them. Assassination, wet work and counter intelligence. Spying is generally considered government sanctioned watching and recruiting of people for the purpose of ferreting out information that may be harmful to the country the spies work for. There is another group of special forces that work for countries as well. Seal Team 6, Delta Force and other counter- terrorist forces of the USA are tasked with fighting external threats. But they are uniformed soldiers. Not a hit squad who operates in the shadows.

Which brings me to the latest book by Jonathan de Shalit, the misnamed “A Spy in Exile”. De Shalit, a former Mossad agent writing under a pen name, latest novel is about Ya’ara Stein and her assassin squad. Clearly, the title could be better, but, its likely calling the heroes assassins or a hit squad would be problematic. So I am sure that is why it’s called “A Spy in Exile”.

The novel has two main operations set in the near present involving Stein’s hit squad. But de Shalit, also has tied Stein’s story to another story set in the past, which naturally links up to Stein’s story plotline in the last part of the novel. The past thread in the story is about Yosef Raphael, a sculpture in post-World War II London, who has been recruited by Israeli intelligence to help the nascent state against its enemies. It’s a winding thread of a story episodically interspersed during the main novel parts. The tie-in does make for an interesting digression and casts some of Stein’s actions in a more positive light at the end of the novel.

Stein, who has been kicked out of Mossad for taking vengeance into her hands in a prior book, is asked by the Prime Minister of Israel, to recruit a hit squad of special agents, who will go after Israel’s enemies and take them out. The squad will be “off the books” only beholden to the Prime Minister. Israel will show that it is a force that punishes its enemies. De Shalit does a good job of fleshing out his characters. There is Ann and Helene’s romantic relationship, Sayid, the Arabic Jew, who is trying prove himself and Nufar, the daughter of a criminal, who became a hacker for Israel cyber forces and now is looking for more. The members of Stein’s squad are a diverse group, who have real feelings and thoughts. De Shalit clearly captures these feelings. But all of this fleshing sometimes turns too much to introspection and a psychological deep dive into the characters. It’s a little bit of a slog to get through all of this introspection and feelings. Interspersed in the novel are two or three instances of ruthless violence. But it’s not enough to sustain the idea that this is a “thriller”. It’s a slow read at best.

After learning about the members of the squad, Stein takes them to Germany to train. While training, Stein is approached by an old colleague, Matthias Geller, who is the head of BND’s Hamburg Station. Geller has lost a lady love, who entered his life, lived with him briefly and then disappeared. Stein understands that this woman could be a problem. If she was a spy, Geller’s career could be in jeopardy. So she starts to look into the woman and her squad investigates her background. Using Israeli assets and other tools, Stein and her team discover that the woman has a familial relationship to a famous terrorist group that operated in Europe in the past. They also discover that she may have been recruited by Russian operatives, who are planning to use old terrorist’s family members to commit bombings and other atrocities in Europe. Russia wants to show the West that it too can act with impunity but not be tied to the acts. Stein’s group ends up thwarting the woman’s individual group’s plan for an attack, but not before Stein takes extreme actions and torture against her to thwart the plan and to protect Matthias. It is cold blooded but that is why Stein, who was chosen exactly because of her ruthlessness, was recruited by the Prime Minister.

In the second operation, Stein’s group is given what appears to be two kill orders against enemies of the Israeli state. Although it’s not completely clear whether there was one kill order and one operation just decided on by Stein because the target hurt her family. One of the targets is a convicted felon already in custody in Europe. The other is an Iman, who has spread hate and discord. Stein plans two operations to take them out. In one of the operations, a young child in Britain will be killed, and although Aslan and other members of the squad are troubled by the inadvertent death, Stein feel this “collateral damage” is warranted. War is messy. But you do not expect your allies to kill innocents. You will have to make up your own mind about whether this is an acceptable outcome.

The British are not happy with the operations or deaths of their citizens on their home turf and will go hard to find the culprits. Meanwhile Mossad will also investigate the operations, as the outcome against the Iman took out a valuable British double agent. So the last part of the novel will be Israel’s investigation of Stein and the tie-in with Raphael in the past.

The novel was a bit of a slow read. Not that thrilling. Too much introspection for my taste. While the writer surely knows the trials and tribulations of the special agents that make up the spy organizations of the world, it was not that enjoyable to read about it. Stein displays an inherent ruthlessness that stands in marked contrast to the more introspective members of her squad. In some ways the novel punctures the belief that Israel acts heroically. De Shalit makes the point that some innocents’ deaths are acceptable in order to keep Israel safe from its enemies It’s a hard lesson, that de Shalit tries to lessen with the final actions of Stein, who acts to keep Raphael’s last secret safe.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Lavender in Bloom

Lily Velez
House of Capet Publishing
Reviewed by Nancy
3 out of 5 stars


A heartbreaking tale about love and loss...

It’s the year 1802 in Avignon, France.

Noah Capet has spent most of his young life living simple and unvaried days in the hushed countryside of southern France. Quiet, reserved, and diffident, his preference for existing is to do so in solitude, keeping to himself both in town and on his family’s farm—a predilection that’s altogether disrupted when a newcomer to town by the name of Jeremie Perreault begins an unremitting quest to befriend him.

Jeremie is everything Noah is not. Charismatic and gregarious, he leaves a trail of charmed admirers in his wake wherever he goes. Expressive and idealistic, he talks without end about his deep love for old books and his spirited dream to one day travel the world on a literary pilgrimage.

Over the course of a single summer, the two form an unlikely friendship, but just as quickly as it develops, it soon entirely dissolves as they’re forced to face the truth of what has unexpectedly emerged between them.

Lavender in Bloom is a tender and tragic coming-of-age story about first love and self-discovery, and a poignant reminder that time is fleeting and always takes with it the choices we’re too afraid to make.

My Review

This was a lovely, sad story about the doomed love of Noah Capet and Jeremie Perreault in 1800's France. The writing was wonderfully evocative and I enjoyed the lush descriptions of the French countryside. Noah was naive and reserved, while Jeremie was charming and passionate about everything, especially books. While I can understand that Noah’s tragic past has made him virtually a recluse, at the same time I was frustrated with him throughout most of the book for his paralyzing fear. I wanted him to embrace life, express his feelings, and fall in love.

I went into this knowing it was going to be a tragic love story. And I was OK with that, because sometimes I enjoy reading sad stories that break my heart and allow me the physical and emotional release of a good cry. Sadly, this didn’t deliver.

I liked the slow burn of their relationship, the tentative touches, the sweet kiss, but the love mostly felt one-sided until much later on in the story and what should have been a heart-wrenching ending made little impact, as I was not fully invested in Noah’s character or convinced of his feelings for Jeremie. I was expecting the author to tack on the very predictable Romeo and Juliet ending rather than a realistic open-ended one that hopefully will lead to Noah’s growth.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Sixth Kingdom

The Sixth KingdomThe Sixth Kingdom by James A. Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Bron McNar, king of Stennis Brae, teaches his young son of the gods, their servants, and the sixth kingdom the gods destroyed.

The Sixth Kingdom provides a snippet into the world of the Tides of War. It also serves as a lesson and warning about obeying the gods. I'm at a bit of a disadvantage as I had already read the entire series by the time I read this short story. All the information it contains has been explicitly explained in the series. I would have appreciated this much more if I read it earlier.

The Sixth Kingdom is a solid short story that fits between The Last Sacrifice and Fallen Gods.

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