The Family Lawyer (A BookShot Collection), by James Patterson, Robert Rotstein, Christopher Charles, and Rachel Howzell Hall

Nine stars

While BookShots are a wonderful way to spend a few hours, bundling them together can also be a great way to carry a few spine-tingling stories together, permitting easier comparison in a single review. In this collection of three stories, the reader is able to explore three distinct stories that will keep them on the edge of their seats. From a legal thriller to a police manhunt, to a familial crime cover-up, James Patterson and his collaborators show the distinct advantage of BookShot reading.

The Family Lawyer, with Robert Rotstein

Matt Hovanes is a fairly successful attorney who left the D.A.’s office when a colleague tried to play bait and switch with some important evidence. When he receives a panicked phone call from his daughter, Hailey, he knows there is trouble. Hailey’s been arrested for cyber bullying and the victim, Farah Medhipour, committed suicide six weeks before. Declaiming her innocence, Hailey agrees to follow her father’s direction, though Matt is still blurring the parent-attorney line when he asks his partner to defend Hailey. While they prepare for trial, Matt’s son, Daniel, a troubled soul himself, tells his own version of events, but backs his sister’s narrative. Matt learns that his daughter is not the angel he thinks she is and comes to see that Farah has apparently been stalking his daughter, and Hailey has retaliated by using her own popularity to isolate the victim. As the trial begins, Matt does all he can to deflect the evidence against Hailey, which is mounting, as he seeks to learn what led Farah to hang herself. When the defence rises to present its case, it is an uphill battle, with accusations, texts, photos, and smear campaigns. Now Matt must decide if the truth or negotiated freedom is the better way to go. A chilling legal thriller with strong ties to current cyberbullying and the effects that some teenagers may not consider when using cell phones as swords.

Night Sniper, with Christopher Charles

The streets of New York are not safe with a sniper on the loose. They kill randomly, in all boroughs with victims of many ages. There does not seem to be a link to any of the victims. As an NYPD Homicide Task Force rushes to make sense of this, the Chief is about to insist on a city-wide curfew. The reader sees the sniper’s perspective first-hand, in alternating chapters, as well as their rationale as they play a high-stakes game of cat and mouse. One member of the Task Force, Detective Cheryl Mabern, is not welcomed by all, especially since she’s voluntarily locked herself away in a treatment facility. A shooting gone bad and a life of vices has rounded the sharp edges that Mabern usually shows her team. As the killer hones their sights on Mabern, things take a dangerous turn, one that could cost more lives and leave Mabern with much blood on her hands. This collaboration between James Patterson and Christopher Charles proves exciting for the reader and keeps the story moving effectively until the final sentence.

The Good Sister, with Rachel Howzell Hall

When Dani Lawrence receives a midnight call from her sister, she knows there’s something wrong. Melissa has a panicked sound to her voice, which Dani realises is justified. Arriving at the house, Melissa’s husband, Kirk, is slumped in a chair and it does not look as if his excessive drinking is the case. Dani and Melissa try to come up with something to explain it, only to have Melissa admit that she’s killed her scumbag husband. Dani knows that the authorities will need to be called, but blood is thicker than any legal necessity, or is it? When the police show up, it turns to mayhem, forcing Dani to escort her young nephew away while Melissa faces a barrage of questions. Dani’s long had suspicions that her brother-in-law has a wandering eye and a group of women on the side, but could Melissa really have been pushed to the edge that dramatically? With the evidence seemingly safely stowed away, Dani soon learns that karma sometimes has a way of getting in the middle of the perfect plan to deflect the truth. Faced with added pressure, will Dani be able to keep her cool, or is Melissa destined for an extended separation from her son? Patterson and Rachel Howzell Hall work masterfully here to create a wonderful story that will enthuse the BookShot reader and keep them coming back for more.

All three of these stories were the perfect fit for a collection, as they explore different aspects of the law and keep the reader hooked from the opening paragraphs until the final sentence lingers in the air. The key characters found throughout offer up unique perspectives when faced with legal matters, each choosing to take their own approach. Character development and backstory is effectively used throughout, permitting the reader to feel a strong connection, even if they do not agree with the decisions being made. The secondary characters also help paint an effective image of the law and its various loopholes, entertaining as well as supporting in their roles. All three stories worked effectively, though none could have blended with the others, their premises unique and the approach distinct. Patterson has chosen well, not only to collaborate with these three, but to bundle these pieces together. I am eager to sink my teeth into another BookShot collection to see if it proves as effective in its presentation.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson, Rotstein, and Charles, as well as Madam Hall, for such a great array of stories. These are the types of BookShots I enjoy reading and will recommend them to all who will listen.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Herbert Hoover: A Life, by Glen Jeansonne

Nine stars

In my ongoing attempt to learn more about the numerous US Presidents, I came upon Glen Jeansonne’s detailed biography of Herbert Hoover. I will be the first to admit that, while I knew the name, I had very little knowledge of the man who ascended to the presidency just before the Great Depression. What little I did know, or thought I did, could have filled a thimble, most of which included that Hoover was blamed for pushing America into the abyss of the Depression. Jeansonne guides the reader through the captivating life of Herbert Hoover, while dispelling some of the myths exacerbated by a lack of documentation in history texts. Jeansonne develops a strong narrative throughout, helping the reader to see Hoover as a strong organiser, a compassionate administrator, and a prophetic statesman. Readers who have a passion for political biographies will be surprised by the details of this well-crafted tome, whose narrative is chock-full of many interesting vignettes that may change the minds of those who take the time to learn about the 31st President of the United States.

Herbert Hoover was a born organiser, ready to take the lead on any project put before him. Born in a small Iowa community to Quaker parents, Hoover was raised him to respect the teachings they instilled. While he loved his parents, Hoover hardly knew them when he became an orphan by the age of ten. Hoover began to foster a love for the outdoors after being sent to live with relatives, where he proved to be a shy boy, but thirsted for knowledge at every turn. By the time he won a spot at Stanford, Hoover settled at the California university and studied geology, a passion he would hold for most of his adult life. While he was passionate about his studies, Hoover was a keen organiser in such things as school sports, student politics, and off-campus housing. Jeansonne shows that Hoover was wonderfully dedicated at rallying the disenchanted population, tapping into their interests in all things around them, even when they felt they could not change the results. By the time Hoover left Stanford, not only did he have a passion to use his geology studies, but the love of his life, Lou Henry. They travelled to Australia and China, where the Hoovers gained the reputation for being keen organisers of some of the mining operations, previously untapped or underutilised. These organisational skills helped pave the way for one of Hoover’s greatest positions, as the organiser to help feed the Belgian population during the Great War. While not natural aggressors, Jeansonne argues that Belgium’s placement on the European continent left it in the middle of the fighting. Displaced families, especially children, were the greatest victims of the war, which left pockets of the population isolated from much of the food supply. Hoover entered the war zone and facilitated many of the needed foodstuffs in order to protect a needy population. It was here that, unbeknownst to many, Hoover would begin his meteoric rise to fame around the world for organising and helping those who could not help their plight. Less for the glory and more to actually change the situation at hand, Hoover wanted to offer himself up to ensure that no one was punished for their place in the world. This dedication and compassionate side of Hoover helped pave the way for his second significant personal trait.

Hoover’s organisation paved the way to making him one of the most compassionate administrators of the 20th century, as well as a household name around the world. After the Great War, Hoover’s reputation helped pave the way to make him the U.S. Food Administrator in the Wilson Administration, which allowed him to provide much needed food for most of war-ravaged Europe. Hoover was able not only to organise needed foods, but also pushed to see beyond the victors and vanquished, seeing the people rather than their country of origin. His administrative skills helped him gain notoriety on both sides of the Atlantic, making his choice as Secretary of Commence in Calvin Coolidge’s Administration a brilliant decision. Hoover showed a resilience to stand up to the various commercial communities in America at a time when the world was trying to sort itself out from the War. From farmers to textile producers and the various industries that proved to be the heartbeat of economic success, Hoover tried to bring them into line, as the country recovered. Not always easy to see some of the economic uncertainties that would lie ahead, Jeansonne explores Hoover’s attempts to forecast the greatest path to success, using many of the tools he had honed while working in Europe. This may have been seen as overstepping by some, but Hoover felt he had the best interest of the country in mind. Hoover always had a plan in mind and sought to deliver it to those who turned to him, even when it might not have been what they wanted to hear. The compassionate side to the man shone through, trying to look above social or economic class, while delivering everything that might be needed to make the country run effectively. This permitted Herbert Hoover to be seen as a prophetic statesman, though some would critique his inability to hold onto the reins of power as the one area he could not properly predict.

Jeansonne makes an effective argument that Hoover was a prophetic statesman, showing how he fit right into the political machine, but was never the monster or partisan hack. Hoover’s passion for the country and ability to lead helped pave the way to his success and place in the White House, though his presidency would he marred by economic disaster. Seeing what was coming down the pipeline, even as Secretary of Commerce, Hoover tried to call out and halt some of the economic practices America was undertaking in the late 1920s, showing his attempts to rally citizens and lead them through these tough times. By the time of Wall Street’s major crash in October, 1929, it was too late to stop the economic train, which would soon derail and lead to the Great Depression. Like a belled cat, Hoover could never shake the Depression’s effects and his presidency was forever tied to the start of this. It was only when FDR was given the chance to turn things around that the New York Governor was given all the credit, though much of the attempt came from Hoover’s ideas, as Jeansonne discusses at length. Hoover could not, however, get the country to see what they needed, as the bottom fell out from under it and destitution became the word of those four years. Hoover successfully brought other parts of America together, appointing some key justices to the US Supreme Court and sought to develop international ties within the larger Americas, but these were lost to footnotes in American history texts, forcing Hoover to suffer through a lack of being heard or recognised. Still, in those years after he left the White House, many turned to him to offer a well-grounded opposition to New Deal politics, going so far as to wonder if he might make another run for the GOP nomination in ‘36 or ‘40. However, new wings of the Party sought fresh blood, happy to keep Hoover on the sidelines, though many GOP politicians turned to him in the lead-up to campaigns. The man who made such a name for himself, before entering the political fray, served as an envoy on the international scene to promote American sentiments ahead of the new military conflict brewing in Europe. Jeansonne effectively argues that Hoover’s time in elective office may have been his least effective years, but he was respected and found passion in helping others, above the mudslinging.

As Jeansonne asks at the outset, was Herbert Hoover’s life unfairly judged based on his time as president? Surely, he had wonderful ideas and sought to serve the people to the best of his abilities. He did not lead America down the path to ruin, nor did he blindly turn away and hand over the White House to FDR to fix the problem. Jeansonne repeatedly argues, supported by quotes throughout the tome, that Hoover’s time in office was marred by an economic crisis that branded him a poor leader. No one looks to his time as an organiser or administrator, where he single handedly saved more people on his own than many world leaders did through watered-down policies. However, it is easier to point the finger at Hoover and forget that his ideas were recycled by FDR, whose success could surely have been built on the time in history he rose on the Democratic ticket. The reader will likely leave this reading experience to see different sides of Hoover and all he did for the world. His dedication to the people cannot be easily ignored, even if it is easier to place the blame at his feet. It is this type of biography that interests me more, where I can not only leave with new information, but also change my mind in a significant manner about a person of history.

Turning to the biography as a communicative vessel, I am wholeheartedly in agreement that Glen Jeansonne led the reader on a thorough and well-rounded piece, able to justify his ideas through research with numerous sources. Jeansonne develops Hoover as a man and a political figure, without bogging down the narrative with too many inane anecdotes or trying to offer a single-sided argument. Jeansonne provides the reader with a complete arc when it comes to Hoover’s life and utilises some of the early lessons to show how these shaped Hoover until his death. While the chapters were long and, at times, drawn out, their content permitted the reader to better understand the man behind the grandiose gestures. That Hoover was belled with being responsible for the Great Depression is disheartening, all the more so when others took the credit that he tried to develop when he saw all the warning sides. Jeansonne effectively argues at each turn, proving to be a calculating and high-caliber biographer, who could be trusted to portray the life of many others, given the opportunity.

Kudos, Mr. Jeansonne, for such a riveting piece on this lesser known president. I can only hope that your work helps dispel some of the black mark that history has used to brand Herbert Hoover.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Kill and Tell, by James Patterson and Scott Slaven

Eight stars

In a BookShot that has a ‘pulled from the headlines’ feel, James Patterson and Scott Slaven offer the reader something with twists throughout. While on his way back from Australia, first-rate movie director Wayne Tennet learns that his step-daughter has just gone public, accusing him of molesting her. Panic setting in, Tennet calls for his PR firm to begin the spin as they get to the bottom of this disaster. There’s no way that he could have done this and Tennet is suspects he knows who is orchestrating this, seeking to bring him down for some unknown reason. While Tennet tries to hide himself away, his PR agent handles the narrative from hereon in, which includes feeding the media just enough without admitting to anything. When a young reporter makes her break covering this story, things begin to heat-up, before Tennet appears to cave to the pressure of everything that’s been going on. With numerous players involved in this circus, everyone is providing their own version of events. Is Wayne Tennet a child molester or has he been used to help elongate the news cycle on this flamboyant story? It’s not until the final twist that the reader will learn the truth, though there’s no way anyone saw it coming. Patterson and Slaven redeem themselves after a somewhat less than stunning previous piece that I read. BookShot fans and those who enjoy something that speaks to the current Hollywood blame game situation will surely enjoy this piece.

Patterson and Slaven work well together and have some interesting ideas to keep their BookShot collaborations moving smoothly. While many men have had their careers crippled by recent allegations, it is interesting to get behind the scenes and see how these two writers depict the process. Wayne Tennet seems to be less than central character, but his actions cannot be removed from the limelight, making the careers of others at his own expense. It is the story that leaves an indelible mark, impossible to take back after its come out, that propels the secondary characters to race around and do their thing. The story explores all aspects to the allegation and how, honestly, new stars are born as soon as accusations hit the news cycle. Whether they are true seems secondary and retracting them, well, the stain cannot be removed. Patterson and Slaven provide an interesting story here, which is worth sticking with, even though it gets slow and somewhat dramatic. In the end, it’s the message that resonates with the reader, leaving them to judge innocence once and for all!

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Slaven, for a great story that plays with the mind and forces the reader to filter through what is being spoon-fed on a regular basis. I look forward to seeing what else you two have in store for readers in the coming months.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Steeplechase, by James Patterson and Scott Slaven

Seven stars

Returning for another collaboration, James Patterson and Scott Slaven have created this historical BookShot that will keep the reader guessing as time switches between two distinct periods. Steeplechase Park draws large crowds to Coney Island, even as far back as 1907. With the most exciting and innovative rides, crowds rush to enjoy their time and take in the atmosphere. Katie Silver has helped design much of the layout, unheard of at that time, though her reputation precedes her. Flashing forward to 2017, Silver wakes from what must be a very strange dream, as she can vividly remember herself on the grounds of Steeplechase one hundred and ten years before. As Head of Security, Silver has a lot of responsibility to keep the crowds under control and the patrons safe. However, a series of ‘accidents’ over the past few weeks has Silver wondering if she will soon have a job. As the story alternates between both times, Silver finds herself in the middle of a plot to take control of Steeplechase Park and wrestle it away from its current owners. Gangsters and low-lifes have plans that not even Silver can stop. Confused about these dreams and their meanings, Katie Silver must stop something from happening in the past so that it does not ruin things for her 2017 self. Patterson and Slaven have their work cut out for them in this piece, as they try to sell the reader on this piece of historical fiction. Some will surely enjoy it for its mysterious meandering, but I could not get a firm grasp of the story or characters depicting it.

Patterson and Slaven have taken things in an interesting direction with this piece. While I may not be the story’s largest fan, that is not to say that it was horrible by any sense of the word. I enjoy stories that transcend a single time period, but I felt I may have missed some nuances that could have helped strengthen this piece for me. Katie Silver was certain the glue that held this story together, though my missing something surely kept me from being able to enjoy either incarnation of her or the larger place she played in the story. Her dual roles surely provide both a beacon and foreshadowing for what is to come. Complemented throughout by two sets of secondary characters, Patterson and Slaven have helped to create a distinct narrative that tells of this amusement park and some of the tragic happenings that befall it over a century apart. The story seems decent and the delivery is strong, but I feel as though I missed something in receiving it, though it is entirely possible that I simply did not pay close enough attention. I have another BookShot with this duo to read and can only hope that we’re all on the same page with that one, before I pass judgement too harshly.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Slaven, for an interesting premise. I hope you find many fans who adore this, as it has potential.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Dead Man Running, by James Patterson and Christopher Farnsworth

Eight stars

In this political thriller, James Patterson and Christopher Farnsworth team up to create a high-impact BookShot story to entertain the reader for a few hours. Dr. Randall Beck enjoys his work as a psychiatrist, helping some of the most stressed out people who are keen to save the world. When a new client enters his office, Beck senses that there is something especially troubling going on. As the client departs, he is gunned down on the sidewalk, uttering a single word to Beck before he expires. Beck, uncertain what he ought to do, is soon approached by the Secret Service, though will not reveal anything passed along during patient-doctor exchanges. Beck finds himself placed under arrest for reasons that remain unclear to him, though he gets the feeling there is something he’s not being told. After he is able to escape, he tells his story to a friend and colleague, before trying to communicate with his client’s wife. Things become a massive game of cat and mouse, before Beck is accused of trying to kill the president at an upcoming debate. Now on the run for his life and unsure who he can trust, Beck must hope that the terminal tumour in his brain kills him before a bullet to the back of the head. Explosive in its delivery and quick-paced to keep the reader hooked from the early going, BookShot fans and thriller junkies alike will love this piece.

These are the types of stories I feel BookShots were made to depict. There is so much going on that only the rapid succession of short chapters and cliffhanger moments can truly give the story the justice it deserves. Patterson and Farnsworth pack so much into a short piece that the reader has no time to breathe or even blink. Randall Beck is an interesting character, plucked from his day job and placed in the centre of an assassination plot that has parts of the Secret Service turning on one another. The pace permits the reader to learn nothing of Beck’s backstory, but a little development as he faces death on a few occasions. The secondary characters keep the story moving and pave the way for the explosive finish that is to pass by the final few chapters. The story, by no means unique, is told in a wonderful way to keep things moving and leaving little to the imagination. The reader will love the quick turns, though the bodies pile up as the plot takes unexpected turns. Still, I can only hope there are more BookShots out there that tell of something equally as exciting.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Farsworth, for such a wonderful piece. It buoys my spirits and has me hoping you’ll come back soon to work on another project.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

You’ve Been Warned—Again, by James Patterson and Derek Nikitas

Seven stars

Back to try another Patterson-Nikitas collaboration, which pushes the BookShot into the realm of the paranormal. That being said, this one was at least palatable. Joanie Whitmore is dreading this Thanksgiving gathering in rural Rhode Island. Her family is quite pretentious and judgemental, just what she wants for her new fiancé, Nate. As they arrive in a storm, Joanie’s fears are soon substantiated, with a cold-shoulder greeting by her father and an equally stiff mother. As the storm gets worse, Joanie and Nate are unsure if now is the time to make their announcement, but with the wedding only a month away, they have little other time, if at all. When a knock comes at the door, a stranger appears, wondering if he might be able to use the phone, as his car’s broken down. Reluctantly, the Whitmores invite him in, only to discover that the phone lines are down, which is soon followed by all the power in the house. As Joanie begins to scour the house, she discovers that its history is anything but uplifting, having been where an entire family met their fate in a murder-suicide. Soon, members of the house begin to follow that same path adding a creepier element. This will surely be one Thanksgiving Joanie Whitmore will never forget, though it may also be one she never survives. Patterson and Nikitas fare well with this piece, though some of the paranormal aspects seem more subdued than one would expect in a short story. A well-crafted piece for those who like the genre and open-minded fans of the BookShot collection.

I admit that my previous attempt with this collaborative team proved to be a disaster of epic proportions. Perhaps it was that the story rang truer as a psychological thriller than completely paranormal, but it might also have something to do with the fact that I was less on edge while reading. Joanie Whitmore’s character serves the story well, pushing it in many directions as her emotions seem to shape the way the narrative turns. There are times of high drama and others of absolute fear, which are usually seen effectively through the filters Joanie presents the reader. While a short piece, the secondary characters and the interactions they have with our protagonist prove key to pushing the narrative away from a simple A to B scenario. From loving fiancé to standoffish father to this mysterious stranger who appears at the door, all of these types of characters pepper the narrative in interesting fashion. The story was fairly strong and the reader can lose themselves in the slow development of the plot, but there comes a time when things take a turn away from the normal and into a realm of pure oddity. Still not my favourite genre of BookShot, but it’s growing on me.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Nikitas, for this better effort. I can see some stronger potential with this and hope you’ll keep working together to hone your skills as a team.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Avalanche, by James Patterson and David Inglish

Eight stars

Espionage is always something that BookShots help make even more intense, with the quick changes in the narrative and only a short time to develop the plot. James Patterson works with David Inglish (a relatively new face, to my knowledge, in the BookShot family) on this piece of espionage that occurs in the mountainous region of Switzerland. Dr. Robert Monroe and his wife are on their way to Gstaad to deliver a series of lectures on art. Monroe is well-known for his pre-war painting knowledge and has a reputation for being quite personable. After coming into contact with a mysterious American on his travels, Monroe arrives for the conference at a glamourous hotel, only to be surrounded with others who seem to have an unusual interest in him and his specialised skills. When Mrs. Monroe goes missing, Robert learns that the man they met the night before may have slipped him a USB filled with highly-controversial computer code, pushing him into the middle of an international incident, with his own wife a collateral. Now, many groups have placed a target on Monroe’s back, determined to retrieve the USB and use it for their own nefarious activities. With his focus on trying to find his wife, Monroe learns of a sadistic killer by the name of Pumpkin, who has his wife, but is willing to barter her life for the USB. Thus begins a series of events that pit Monroe against everyone, and all for a bit of code. How could a lowly art history professor become so entangled in this mess? Patterson and Inglish have a wonderfully entertaining story on their hands here, perfect for a snowy day or to pass the time over a few cups of tea. Recommended to all those who enjoy BookShots that delve into the darker world of spies and double-crossing.

Another successful story that kept me hooked until the very last page. Patterson and Inglish seem to have found their niche, developing this story in short order and not letting go. As they layered more within the narrative, the reader can only wonder what will happen and how the ever-increasing cast of characters will play off one another. Robert Monroe is, as the review above suggests, a mere art history professor, but finds himself pulled in the middle of a battle between numerous agencies. He loves his wife, but can surely sense that there is something going on between them. Some of the more sinister characters who grace the pages show a heartless desire to destroy all for their own betterment, no matter the means. While not entirely able to foster a strong connection with the reader, their antics do counterbalance Monroe’s goodness. The story is decent and keeps moving, which is essential in the BookShot formula, permitting the reader to remain in constant movement as they try to decipher what awaits in the coming chapters. A successful premise that is effectively executed against the backdrop of the Swiss Alps.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Inglish, as you have kept your readers entertained. I am eager to see what else you two have in store for readers in the coming months.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Shut-In, by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski

Eight stars

Just when I thought Patterson would run out of BookShot ideas, he returns for another collaboration with Duane Swierczynski to reveal this timely piece that meshes technology with something from the thriller genre. Tricia Celano is forced to live inside during daylight hours, as she suffers from a rare condition exacerbated by sunlight. Her night phobia has forced her to develop a isolating lifestyle, with her computer the only means of communicating with the outside world. Tricia’s one extravagance is her unmanned drone, which she enjoys flying over the skies of Philadelphia. She uses the camera function to peer down on locals as they go about their business. During one routine drone flight, Tricia witnesses a woman kill an unsuspecting man with an arrow, though no one seems to believe her. Already labelled ‘different’, Tricia faces an uphill battle as she tries to convince the authorities. After a second reconnaissance mission, Tricia runs snack dab into the killer, but the drone is damaged and Tricia’s anonymity is blown. The reader learns that the killer has a major plan and Tricia’s discovery may ruin everything. Tricia has little time and few people in whom she can trust to ensure the body count stops increasing. Being a shut-in, she is not sure where to turn, or who might take up her cause. Patterson and Swierczynski present a wonderful story here and keep the reader enthralled until the very last page. BookShot fans will revel in this, particularly those who like quirky thrillers will no time to slow things down.

My head is spinning with all the BookShot reading that I have been doing, but I have come to enjoy this process. I am learning so much about the writing styles of many authors, as well as the far-reaches of where short stories can take the reader. Tricia Celano is an interesting character and her unique characteristics offer the reader something interesting to explore. Isolated from the outside world, Tricia uses her internet connection and this drone to keep tabs on the ‘real world’, but once she learns of a dastardly plot, she cannot sit idly by. Some of the other characters who cross the pages of this story prove interesting, if only because they are either skeptical or trying to negate her progress. The premise of this piece is great, like the crime with no apparent witnesses caught on screen by an innocent bystander. From there, it’s time to erase any evidence, as well as the witness who could spoil everything. Told in such a way that the reader will never have a chance to rest, Patterson and Swierczynski provide all the elements for a successful story. Proof that you never know what a BookShot has to offer until you get to the core of the story.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Swierczynski, for this entertaining piece. I loved everything about this story and hope you’ll collaborate again soon.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, by Joe Biden

Nine stars

At a time when many politicians climb onto soap boxes and publish pieces to extol their own greatness, former Vice-President Joe Biden released this short book that seeks to rise above the fray and offer a story of hope, despair, and personal reflection. It is perhaps the first book I have read where a politician talks of their choice to turn away from high office, but it is much more than that, as the attentive and dedicated reader will discover. At the heart of the story is the struggle Biden had with his eldest son’s brain cancer diagnosis. This realisation puts everything into perspective for the vice-president, as well as the entire Biden family. Wanting to keep things private, no one would share the news publicly and Biden was still trying to serve the Obama Administration as effectively as possible. Woven into the story are countless international crises that Biden was required to handle, sometimes an eager distraction while at other times an anchor that kept him from the focus on family and loved ones. Added to that, there was the 2016 presidential election to consider. Would Biden, a capable long-term politician and hands-on member of the Executive Branch, toss his hat into the ring? Those in Democrat circles watched and waited, the country soundlessly tapped their collective foot, still unaware of the chaos that brewed for the Biden family below the surface. When Beau Biden did pass, it was both a relief and a blow to the entire Biden family, as the glue that held them all together was lost. The elder Biden tried to remember all the promises he made to his son, some in passing and a few heart-felt pleas to carry the torch. The most important of these was the promise not to let 2016 pass without a Biden running for president. The latter portion of the book, with Beau gone and Joe trying to wrap his head around it all, turns to the 2016 race. Would he run? Should he run? Could he run and make a difference? It would seem that while Biden pondered his options, the country had already placed him as a front-runner. As Biden confides, it was his decision and his alone. GOP members and the media would only offer kid gloves for so long, as well as the Clinton camp that began cursing another heavyweight to neutralise. In the end, Biden chose what he felt was best, a promise to Beau that he would do his best to be the man everyone knew. The Joe Biden who used compassion over a club, integrity over vicious words, and intelligence over knee-jerk reactions. This is a wonderful piece, suited for all readers who like the more human side of politicians, though can understand the rhetoric that goes along with having a role in the machine. Touching at times, Biden pulls out all the stops and tells a story that will not soon be forgotten.

When I picked up this book, I had just finished a thorough examination of the 2016 presidential election, one in which I was left gagging at the atrocious actions of people vying to represent the entire American population. However, I wanted to see more about the narrative from the Biden perspective, the man who chose not to put his hat in the ring. While I expected a strong political discussion throughout, I was happy to find something more complex. Within these pages rests a narrative that wove together the power of American politics, international clashes, family interactions, and a man’s struggle to come to terms with his son’s eventual illness. The reader is in for a strong piece here, forced to handle emotions and see how world events shaped the man who sought to keep it all together and away from the public eye. Biden does not pull punches in this piece, but does not make excuses either. He tells of world events (ISIS, ISIL, Ukraine, Russia), as well as domestic policies in the Obama Administration, but he also injects strong ties to family and the love they bring him. This is a piece that helps shape a man and his love for country, family, and self. It is impossible to divorce any of it effectively.

A few things that I took away from this book include the knowledge that life does not stop when tragedy knocks, promises to those who are going before us mean more than a simple nod of the head, and there is more to life than tossing mud in the eyes of one’s opponents. Anyone who has been through a personal tragedy will know that while they are numb, a simple look out the window will show that life is not prepared to stop for grieving, it moves along. Such is one of the key sentiments that Biden shares with the reader. Terror still occurs, state sovereignty is not respected, domestic issues do not solve themselves. Biden was forced to juggle all of it in order to mix his public and personal lives. It is obvious (but nice to hear) that others struggle with this as well. The list of promises made to the dying can be heart-wrenching, as the reader may know. One always promises to do this and that, if only to bring a sense of ease to the one who will soon be gone. However, Biden did not take his promises to Beau as simple window dressing, those “yah, umm, sure…” moments. He felt that he owed it to the son who always supported him and whose political light shone just as powerfully. Biden shows that he is a different sort of man, looking to others rather than his own greatness, to shape the future of his own legacy. Finally, one cannot deny that 2016 was one of the most divisive presidential election campaigns in recent history. That Biden sought to enter the race is commendable, especially looking at those with whom he would cross paths. The decision not to run, where he would be forced to face Clinton, Sanders, and Trump (and countless others), may have been determining factors. But, Biden seems less interested in gouging out the eyes of others and more about trying to build the country up. Few readers would deny that 2016 was less about policy and more about how to denigrate others in the hopes of tearing them down. Did a newly-wounded Biden really need that in his life? It is the ultimate sacrifice to bear one’s self to the electorate, especially in these days when no one holds back with their mud slinging. While there will be some readers who want dirt-only with their political stories, I would recommend this piece to anyone with a heart or who has been touched with the loss of a loved one. It seeks to unite, as much as politics usually divides, and tells of the powerlessness one can feel at the hands of cancer, but offers the strength to persevere.

Kudos, Mr. Vice-President, for such a wonderful piece. After reading this, I would strongly like to read a thorough version of your memoirs, should you choose to pen them.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Scott Free, by James Patterson and Rob Hart

Eight stars

Just when you think you’ve explored all the interesting angles that BookShots can take, a new collaboration pops up and something exciting coms of it. James Patterson and Rob Hart have developed something intriguing and entertaining here in this aptly-named short story. The story opens on the day Thomas Scott is released from prison after a judge rules his constitutional rights have been violated. After Scott became the prime suspect in the kidnapping and killing of three small children from a daycare at which he works part-time, an overzealous NYPD Detective is found to have illegally entered his apartment to plant evidence. With media broadcasting the news and continuing to lynch him, Scott wants out of the limelight at away from this city. The parents of the three victims are outraged and feel that the loophole has allowed a killer to go free. The detective, while on paid leave, is equally convinced that the constitutional violation was nothing more than a way to cover the truth; that Thomas Scott is a hardened murderer. Prepared for some vigilante justice, these parents want Scott dead once and for all, but they will have to catch him first. Sometimes the truth cannot set you free, if society has already drawn-up the verdict. Patterson and Hart have this masterful piece ready to impress the reader at every page flip. BookShot fans and those who like a little legal drama in their reading will surely appreciate this piece.

It is refreshing to find new pathways of enjoyment with these short stories. Patterson has a vast array of talent helping to create these stories and there’s nothing like a strong collection of writers to entertain dedicated readers. While Thomas Scott may be the central character here, the story switches constantly, allowing a handful of central characters to share the spotlight. The backstory is minimal and the development is mainly focussed on the chase for justice, but there is a better sense of these characters as the story progresses, from their angst to anger and all those points in between. There is certainly a lingering question around which character might know more than they are letting on, though it is up to the reader to forge ahead and piece the mystery together. The story is an interesting concept that grows with each passing chapter. I can say that I loved the varied points of view and the captivating slow reveal as vigilante justice takes hold and common sense melts away. This game of gangland justice shows the reader that truth can sometimes take a backseat, especially when media outlets help fan the flames and take no prisoners (alive!).

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Hart, for this piece. I will certainly revisit your work soon, given the chance. This may be one of the top five BookShots I have tackled in the last year or so!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: