Category Archives: Reviews

Book of the Week: Return of the Convict by William Alan Thomas

In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers), and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week.

Return of the Convict

About Author

William Alan ThomasWilliam Alan ThomasWilliam Alan Thomas took a BA in English at the University of Chicago in the 1960’s, and his first novel, Daddy’s Darling Daughter, was published in 1974. Life was to sweep him far from the world of books, as he fell in love with the seafood business, acquired an old fishing boat, and then became a Vancouver longshoreman. Presently a full time writer living in Chilliwack, B.C., he remains involved with Return of the Convict; there’s to be a prequel and two sequels.  He’s just finishing a rewrite of Dangerous Vision, a corporate espionage thriller published in 2005, when he was still working at the docks.


About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

Book of the Week: Now That We’re Adults by Lynn Almengor

In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers) and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week.

Now That We’re Adults

 

About Author

Lynn AlmengorLynn Almengor has been writing existential fiction since 2005 when she wrote and directed her first feature-length independent film. Now That We’re Adults, about the transition from college graduation into adulthood, is her first novel. Almengor holds a BA in video communication from Arcadia University and currently works as a web producer in her hometown of Philadelphia, PA., where she lives with her husband and their four ferrets.


About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

Audiobook of the Week: Bobby Kennedy (The Making of a Liberal Icon)

Audiobooks are ebooks. Listening is learning. In an effort to raise awareness among readers and all who work with books about the versatility of digital literacy, NSR occasionally publishes audiobook reviews of titles of exceptional quality to draw attention to the subtle (but consistent) ways in which formats are blurring in digital environments. Enjoy this week’s pick.

9780735208087[1]Title: Bobby Kennedy 
Subtitle: The Making of a Liberal Icon
Author: Larry Tye
Narrator: Marc Cashman
Publisher: Books on Tape
Release Date: 2016

Duration: 20 hours

 


Reviewed for NSR by Michael Rogers (Babylon, New York)

Almost half a century after his June 5, 1968 murder, Bobby Kennedy still lingers in his brother’s shadow. As Tye ably shows, however, if not for an assassin’s bullet, Bobby likely would be the Kennedy son lauded as the great president. The public remains so ensconced in the “Camelot” myth surrounding JFK/Jackie that Bobby’s more impressive résumé has been ignored. If Bobby lived to be president, the 1960s might not be remembered for the turmoil that roiled the nation. The Civil Rights horrors still making terrible headlines might have been put to rest, and U.S. involvement in Vietnam perhaps would have halted sooner.

But how did this billionaire’s son born into unfathomable privilege who began his political career as a commie-buster for tail-gunner Joe McCarthy morph into the patron saint of liberalism? His journey is a remarkable story of perseverance, tragedy, and personal growth.

He was the runt of the Kennedy litter and deemed “girlish” by mother Rose, a label that made Bobby push himself harder. Bobby was still a small boy when first-born son Joe Jr. died in World War II, causing his father’s determination to have a son in the White House shift to Jack, a sickly, bookish intellectual, who grudgingly accepted the yoke, while Bobby simply was expected to play the lead role in supporting his brother’s political endeavors. No one did it better! Bobby became the campaign manager, personal confidant, and trouble-shooter from hell! He perceived his role as all-encompassing: from sealing envelopes, to knocking on doors, to leaking disparaging information about Jack’s opponent to the press (Tye credits Bobby with introducing the smear campaign). Bobby’s detractor’s labeled him “ruthless” because of his laser-focused determination to win at any cost, no matter how hard, how much it cost, how long it took—or who got hurt.

Whereas Jack, who several times had flirted with death from illness and his noted military service, joyfully embraced the perks of being a rich man’s son with all the splendors of wine, women, and song (especially the women), Bobby was nose to the grindstone, believing that success was achieved through hard work, although he, too, enjoyed his share of un/married affairs and repeatedly utilized his father’s connections to his advantage. After successfully managing Jack’s Massachusetts’s senate campaign, Bobby went to work for his dad’s crony Joe McCarthy. Bobby’s innate hatred of communism fueled his fervor for rooting out reds in the U.S., but clashes with henchman Roy Cohn made his time with the Wisconsin senator short while teaching him the invaluable lesson of covering his ass by doing his homework himself without cutting corners—Bobby always dotted his I’s and crossed his T’s; habits that served him well.

Tye shows that Bobby was stubborn, unforgiving (Joe Sr. observed that, “when Bobby hated you, you stayed hated”), and entered politics with a trunk full of biases but learned quickly to keep an open mind and change his opinion based on knowledge acquired first-hand. In principle he was vehemently anti-Communist but travelled throughout Russia to learn for himself what life under Soviet rule was like by going among the people, an act repeated in Japan and other locales. Unlike many in power, Bobby was interested in the thoughts of the young and visited colleges to meet students wherever he went.

Bobby liked to fight—he claimed it cleansed him—and never backed down from trading punches (literally and figuratively) with bigger, tougher opponents from college football bruisers to teamsters czar Jimmy Hoffa. His iron determination and ability to withhold judgment until researching the issues made Bobby a champion of causes unlike any other. When hearing that Americans were living in astounding poverty and squalor in the south, he investigated, visiting black families in dirt-floor shacks with only molasses for every meal. He knew the wealthy and privileged turned a blind eye to the sufferings of others less fortunate, so he forced himself to look and to act.

Tye details how Jack’s death emotionally destroyed Bobby—he lost his brother, confidant, and best friend. The blazing fire of his will was reduced to smoldering ash that took years of stoking to reignite. JFK’s death also halted Bobby’s influence with the White House—Lyndon Johnson kept him as attorney general but hated him (the feeling was mutual).

Bobby never fully overcame Jack’s death, but learned to move forward with a determination of keeping his brother’s legacy alive through his own actions. Clinching the NY senate seat was his path back to Washington (although LBJ already had passed many of the Civil Rights, education, and anti-poverty legislation Jack started).

As Tye amply illustrates, Bobby was a doer; promises meant nothing unless fulfilled. He worked hard, played hard, and was equally loved and hated by his political peers and the populace he served. The narrative, which incorporates much new information, is well balanced; Bobby’s achievements are praised while his many faults are equally well cataloged. It’s a detailed, even-handed portrait of Bobby as a hard-charging, no bullshit politician and a loving and dedicated husband and father. Narrator Marc Cashman reads in a documentary-style tone that is a perfect match for the material.

In the current, seemingly insane political climate gripping America, Tye’s account couldn’t be more timely, and is a strong addition to biography, history, and political science collections.


Special thank you to Michael Rogers, former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal, for contributing this and other reviews to NSR. Publishers/producers interested in getting their (newly released) audiobooks reviewed on NSR should contact Michael directly at mermsr@optimum.net.

No Shelf Required supports independent authors (and libraries should, too)

NSR Book Reviews logo - Copy

In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers) and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR has for the past two months highlighted  an author reach week (as recommended to NSR by the editors of BlueInk Review). The goal of these “Book of the Week” features is to give face and voice to the writers out there taking the process of publishing their work with a  dignity, dedication, and professionalism.

In the sea of books that are ‘self-published’ each year (over half a million now), it is becoming increasingly more difficult to keep up with what is out there. It is also becoming increasingly more difficult to keep up with what is good out there. NSR admires the efforts of BlueInk Review to sift through independently-published books and provide unbiased reviews upon request.

Librarians, if you are looking to augment your collections by supporting local authors — or independent authors in general — please note that you can learn about a new independent author to support on NSR each Thursday. We not only link to the review of his or her book on BIR site but also provide comprehensive bios and other necessary background information about each author and the topic of the book.

SELF-e_IndieAuthorDay_Logo_v2Please also note that NSR is a media supporter of Indie Author Day, to take place on October 8th, 2016. Libraries across North America will host events all day long, designed to bring local writing communities together in their libraries and invite them to participate in author panels, book readings and signings, workshops, and presentations. Then, at 2 p.m. EST everyone is invited to join a digital gathering featuring Q&A with writers, agents, and industry leaders that will bring together the larger indie community. More information on Indie Author Day 2016 is available on its official site.

These books and authors have been highlighted so far on NSR [or you may go directly to NSR’s Reviews page].

Unmoored by Jeri Parker

The Olive Picker by Kathryn Brettell

Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall by Aaron Safronoff

Danya: A Woman of Ancient Galilee by Anne McGivern

When We Were Invincible by Jonathan Harnisch

Prader-Willi Syndrome by John Hernandez-Storr

Deliver Virtue by Brian Kindall

Grace Period by Melinda Worth Popham


 

NSR Book of the Week: Grace Period by Melinda Worth Popham

In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers) and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week.

Grace Period: My Ordination to the Ordinary

About Author

Melinda Popham

Melinda Worth Popham is a writer, spiritual director, and retreat leader. Her third book is a memoir about her spiritual journey of finding God after going through a divorce and watching her daughter battle depression. Popham earned her B.A. in English from the University of Chicago and her masters in English/Creative Writing from Stanford University. She spent two years at Yale Divinity School earning her second masters degree and searching for spiritual growth. She lives in the Los Angeles area.

 

About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

NSR Audiobook Review: Charcoal Joe (An Easy Rawlins Mystery) by Walter Mosley

cover_9780735208742Title: Charcoal Joe: An Easy Rawlins Mystery

Author: Walter Mosley

Narrator: Michael Boatman

Publisher/Producer: Books on Tape, 2016

Duration: 10 hours


Reviewed for NSR by Michael Rogers (Babylon, New York)

This 14th outing in Mosley’s award-winning Easy Rawlins series finds the48-year-old L.A. private investigator as firmly wedged between a rock and a hard place as a man can get and still draw breath. He’s not crushed—yet—but space is getting real tight!

With his WRENS-L Detective Agency—formed with partners Saul Lynx and Tinsford “Whisper” Natly—gaining momentum, Easy is hired by his sociopathic friend Raymond “Mouse” Alexander on behalf of gangster Rufus Tyler, a.k.a. Charcoal Joe, to prove a young African American physicist innocent of a double murder. The cops caught Dr. Seymour Brathwaite standing over the dead bodies of known criminal Peter Boughman and a hitman named Ducky in a beach bungalow, but the scientist claims to have stumbled upon the crime while searching for his housekeeper mother and was about to notify the police when they appeared with guns drawn.

Brathwaite is as unlikely a killer as possible, but he’s a black man poised over two white corpses and that’s good enough for the police. Nursing a broken heart, Easy prying an innocent youth from the LAPD’s iron grip provides the perfect distraction, but nothing in a PI’s day is ever what it seems. Seymour’s problem is the proverbial tip of the iceberg—Easy very quickly finds himself among several very bad men and equally dangerous but physically alluring women. Along with the usual cast of characters populating the Easy mysteries (Mouse, Mama Joe, Jackson Blue, Feather, Bonnie, etc.,), readers are treated to the huge bonus of Fearless Jones (star of his own Mosley series) lending much-needed muscle.

Despite being well dressed and more articulate than most men of any color, Easy strikes deep-rooted fear in most white women and ire in white men (especially cops), but 1968 society is taking baby steps towards racial tolerance, and the PI does his bit to further the black cause, although, as he notes, the hammer is always poised to drop.

Narrator Michael Boatman has a strong voice, but his reading is a bit flat in the book’s opening (it evens out as the story progresses). His pacing also is a tad slow—Mosley unfurls the story in short, quick-moving chapters, so the reading should be equally energetic. However, if the listener is driving or performing another activity requiring constant attention, the slower pace might be perfect, so ear of the beholder.

A new Easy mystery is always a pleasure, and series’ fans will have a fine time catching up with old friends.


NSR now publishes reviews of audiobooks. The reason is simple: we believe audiobooks are ebooks, and that listening is learning. Read more about it here.

Special thank you to Michael Rogers, former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal, for contributing this and other reviews to NSR. Publishers/producers interested in getting their (newly released) audiobooks reviewed on NSR should contact Michael directly at mermsr@optimum.net.

 

NSR Book of the Week: Delivering Virtue by Brian Kindall

In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers) and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week.

Delivering Virtue

About Author

Brian KindallBrian Kindall has written one adult novel and two middle-grade books: Blue Sky, the story of a girl who lives among a herd of ibex in the high Alps, and Pearl, about a girl made of stone who has been resting on the floor of the sea for a thousand years—until a boy pulls her from the waves and her life transforms. The author’s writing style blends adventure with humor and emotion.  His third novel, Delivering Virtue, was a finalist for an IndieFab Book of the Year Awards and takes readers on a journey through the American West in the 1850s. Kindall lives with his wife and three children in Idaho.

About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

NSR Book of the Week: Prader-Willi Syndrome by John Hernandez-Storr

In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers) and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week.

Prader-Willi Syndrome: How Parents and Professionals Struggled and Coped and Made Genetic History

About Author

Hernandez-StorrJohn Hernandez-Storr’s daughter, Naomi, was diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome when she was a newborn, but it wasn’t until 2009, when she reached kindergarten and struggled, that he realized how much PWS would affect her life. His book details the tremendous challenges parents and their PWS children cope with daily. It took six years to track down and interview the parents, doctors and researchers mentioned in the book, but the effort was more than worthwhile. “From these parents and professionals I learned about the power of love, curiosity, and persistence,” he notes. Hernandez-Storr has a BA in history from Brown University and a JD from Columbia Law School. He lives in the Los Angeles area.

About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

NSR Book of the Week: When We Were Invincible by Jonathan Harnisch

In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers) and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week. This week’s pick is particularly poignant:

When We Were Invincible

About Author

Jonathan HirschAs an author with schizophrenia nd Tourette’s Syndrome, Jonathan Harnisch is ideally placed to share the unusual perception commonly defined as “mental illness, and his myriad books often revolve around a protagonist who shares his afflictions.  An all-around artist, Harnisch also writes screenplays, is a produced filmmaker, fine artist, and musician.  Originally from New York City, Harnisch is now living in Corrales, New Mexico.

 

About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

NSR Audiobook Review: Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick

Subtitle: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution
Narrator: Scott Brick
Publisher: Books on Tape
Release Date: 2016

Duration: 13.5 hours

Reviewed for NSR by Michael Rogers (Babylon, New York)

More than 200 years after our nation’s founding, Benedict Arnold remains the leading boogie man of U.S. history. But what spurred a patriot who sacrificed his personal wealth and suffered the most dire hardships of war, including the near loss of a leg to a British musket ball, into becoming the Judas of the American Revolution? In short, a huge, easily bruised ego; a taste for life’s finest without the financial means to procure it; and a sexpot wife with a mercenary heart beating within her substantial bosom. Continuing the history begun in his 2013 Bunker Hill, Philbrick (Mayflower, In the Heart of the Sea) further dispels the notion that American colonists were united in shucking the British yoke to form a nation of equals. The class system was in full vigor throughout the colonies, with those at the top quite content to keep all others languishing on the bottom. For most of society’s elite, the war was fine as long as someone else fought it (and suffered, starved, and died), and they sure as hell weren’t going to finance it! Even within the military Arnold wasn’t alone in endeavoring to boost his own career and social standing (and bank account) at the expensive of other officers.

Philbrick contends that Arnold enjoyed taking risks and possessed a battlefield genius for swiftly analyzing both forces’ strengths/weaknesses and emerging victorious, making him a superior field officer to Washington. A fierce warrior, Arnold fought alongside his adoring troops (he had two horses shot out from under him) while fellow generals commanded from the safety of the rear. Continue reading NSR Audiobook Review: Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick