Category Reviews

Too Close to Home: The Samantha Zaldivar Case Review

5-star rating

It’s hard to say I “enjoyed” this book. After all, how can one “enjoy” a book about the real murder of an eight year old girl by her mother’s boyfriend? Indeed, at times there were tears in my eyes.

That said, there’s a lot to like—or maybe “appreciate” is a better word—about Too Close to Home. Let me set the scene first.

Too Close to Home book cover
Cover design and photo by Jesaro Photography. Used with permission.

Samantha’s home life was anything but easy. Her mother, Rachel Stra, had been divorced by Samantha’s biological father. Samantha and Rachel had moved with Rachel’s boyfriend from Florida to western New York to “get a fresh start.”

Angel Colon, the boyfriend, was no angel...

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25th Anniversary, Liberation of Kuwait Review

Liberation of Kuwait book cover

Let’s get this clear from the start: this book is not a history of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and of Operation Desert Storm. Oh, superficially it is, but far better ones have been written.

Second, while the subtitle of the book is, “Honoring the Veterans of Desert Storm,” it does not honor, or even much mention the tens of thousands of Airmen, especially from the U.S. Air Force, who crushed the Iraqi Air Force in days, crushed many of the Iraqi Republican Guards ground forces, even during the middle of a historic sandstorm, and who in general made the famed 100-hour ground war possible.

Third, potential readers should know who sponsored and paid for this book: six of the seven sponsors are either wealthy Kuwaitis or the Kuwaiti Royals, the al-Sabah family...

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This Voice in My Heart review

3-star rating

This Voice in My Heart cover

This is the first autobiography I’ve read, which makes it hard to evaluate. The book is the story of the life of Gilbert Tuhabonye, from the central African nation of Burundi, up to about 2005.

Like its neighbor Rwanda, Burundi has suffered from serious conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes for decades. The genocidal spasm that afflicted Rwanda was well known at the time, but Burundi has had its own troubles as well, and Tuhabonye was nearly killed in one in October, 1993.

Tuhabonye presents his life growing up on a farm in southern Burundi as idyllic, and given that he knew little of the world beyond his local community, that’s not a surprise...

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The Tides of Time Review

[No rating]

I’m really not sure how to respond to this odd little novel by John Brunner. For the first three-quarters, it seems like a different take on the standard time travel story. Then it gets weird.

Rich white girl Stacy and her black boyfriend Gene are fleeing something. Prejudice because they’re a biracial couple? Maybe. It’s never made clear. In any case, they have signed up to travel through time and space, and are initially sent back to a Sphinx-shaped Greek island called Oragalia in their present day or close to it. But the next morning, they have magically jumped back in time to something like the 1980s. They spend the day exploring the island and its one small town. The next morning, they’ve jumped again, this time back to WWII.

The pattern continues: in each “Part,” ...

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Close Range Review

Close Range coverI came to this book with some unease. My first encounter with Annie Proulx’s collection subtitled “Wyoming Stories,” was the final one, “Brokeback Mountain,” in which a cowboy discovers, as an adult, that he’s gay. Uh, yeah, sure. The story was a “political” assignment by one of my English professors, and it set my expectations when, probably 15 years later, I finally picked up the book again.

Proulx starts “A Lonely Coast” late in the book this way:

“You ever see a house burning up in the night, way to hell and gone out there on the plains?… And you might think about the people in the burning house, see them trying for the stairs, but mostly you don’t give a damn.”

That seems like a fitting metaphor for the entire book...

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Damian and Mongoose Review

3-star rating

“Danny, if I find you’re a threat to my family, I’ll put a bullet between your eyes. Family is everything.”

“I understand that, Clyde. If I were in your position, I would say the same thing—and mean it.”

“You would; wouldn’t you?” He smiled as he studied me.

Those are the opening lines of Damian and Mongoose, Danny Williams’ memoir of his central role in taking down one of the most notorious spy rings ever to afflict the United States military. They promise a real-life spy thriller, better than anything John le Carré, Robert Ludlum, or Ken Follett could have dreamed up.

Unfortunately, the promise is not kept.

The reason is simple: Williams, who spent most of his Army career as a counter-intelligence agent, treats the memoir as if it were another debriefing wit...

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Lilith’s Fall Review

4 star rating

It’s fair to say that I don’t read erotic science fiction romances very often—like almost never—but hey, it’s good to broaden your horizons, right?

Lilith's Fall coverLilith’s Fall is the first book in Susan Trombley’s Shadows in Sanctuary series. Lilith Galeron is a mild-mannered (her best friend Stacia calls her “boring”) but highly skilled computer programmer living in Dome City, a collection of large, connected domes on an unnamed planet. The society is tightly controlled by a religious leadership called the Diakonos, whose rule is enforced by police known by the Orwellian name of the Peace Keepers.

But there’s trouble in paradise and Lilith is suddenly arrested by the Peace Keepers, who wrongly allege that she’s involved with a shadowy revolutionary group called the Commemoro...

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Spirit Walk Review

Best novel I’ve read in quite a while. And a debut novel at that.

Jay Treiber is a rare individual: a college English literature professor who can also write it, and write it well.

College English professor Kevin McNally has been struggling for decades with his guilt over an incident that happened when he was a teenager. This is the kind of subject that could lead the author and reader down a rat hole of angst, self-loathing, and neurotic navel-gazing but  Treiber avoids this trap. Instead, he chooses to have McNally seek resolution of that guilt, and forgiveness for what happened, through a skillfully interwoven series of story lines that mix McNally’s present and past.

By itself, that’s not unusual, but the story’s location and characters are...

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“A Chain of Events” Review

4 star rating

I’ve known, since even before I reluctantly purchased this book in the early 2000s, that it would be a difficult read. That’s why it sat, unopened, on a bookshelf in three different houses, until now. In part, the reason might be obvious from author Joan Piper’s subtitle: “The Government Cover-up of the Black Hawk Incident and the Friendly-Fire Death of Lt. Laura Piper.” The other reasons require some up-front disclosure.

  • I am a retired Air Force officer.
  • I was a Mission Crew Commander (MCC) on the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft.
  • On the date of the shoot-down of the two Black Hawk helicopters over northern Iraq—April 14, 1994—I was deployed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to fly missions enforcing the southern no-fly zone over Iraq for Operation Southern ...
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Children of the Thunder Review

Dark, dystopian, and deeply flawed. And yet….

Author John Brunner’s late 20th century England is a mess: the economy is collapsing, environmental degradation is rampant, the government is corrupt, religious fundamentalists are taking over, and a renegade general is advocating xenophobia and racism at home and nuclear war abroad. Things in the U.S. are similar, minus the general. Meanwhile, Japan and continental Europe are doing fine, or better.

Peter Levin is a freelance reporter. Few newspapers will buy his work and they are in danger of closing. Claudia Morris is an American sociologist. She made her name with a provocative book, but she now thinks she might have gotten her thesis wrong, and has come to England on sabbatical to do research and write a new book...

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