The Second Amendment: A Biography, by Michael Waldman

Nine stars

Never one to shy away from controversial political and legal issues, I turned to Michael Waldman’s book about the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, dealing with the right to bear arms. A topic that has become extremely controversial and has, quite literally, torn segments of the population apart, Waldman looks to explore the history of the amendment, as well as some of the early thoughts on the provision. The book opens with a lengthy analysis of the Founding Fathers’ meetings and comings together to hash out a constitutional document for the new republic, before they entertained some key amendments to form a Bill of Rights. Waldman looks at these debates and some of the written notes, exploring some of James Madison’s work to decipher not only the wording of the amendment, but to put it into context. The wording is so out of sorts with the other amendments that it baffles the reader (both at the time and now) to understand some of the nuances and how poorly it was cobbled together. Waldman cannot tell why this was done, but does address that the concept was perhaps tied to England’s own Bill of Rights from a century before. Nevertheless, it was enshrined and society accepted the right for citizens to bear arms to form a militia for state protection. Even the courts glazed over it until challenges began in the late 19th century. Waldman explores that the courts, all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) saw the militia aspect for what it was and dismissed anyone seeking personal right to bear or possess arms of most any sort. Pressure began in the mid-20th century with the emergence of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which began the hard push to get personal gun ownership and carve out the part of the Second Amendment that suited their needs (conveniently forgetting the militia part when it inculcated its members). It was only when SCOTUS heard District of Columbia v. Heller that things really turned on its head in the legal community. In a 5-4 decision written by that most wily of Associate Justices, Antonin Scalia, the Court finally came down on the side of the constitutional right of individuals to bear arms. Waldman goes into detailed analysis of the decision, its immediate fallout, and how Scalia’s form of constitutional interpretation seems to be used when it suits him and left shelved when it does not. From there, Waldman looks to the US legal and social world post-Heller and how the mass shootings and push for more gun rights have turned America in a direction that many outside the fifty states (and lots within) would shudder to digest. In a stunning exploration of all things on the topic, Waldman does a wonderful job with this biographical piece. I can only hope that many will read this to better understand the situation, as well as the political influence and brainwashing of falsehoods that is being purported in this election year! Recommended to those who enjoy detailed constitutional analysis, as well as the reader who has a passion for political and legal history.

I actually came across Waldman’s book when it was referenced in another tome I was recently reading about the need to repeal the Second Amendment for its misuse and great misunderstanding. Many of the arguments Waldman presents were also present in there, though this piece explores some of the backstory in greater detail. Waldman tells the detailed story of all aspects of the Second Amendment, as any strong biographical piece should. He lays out not only the arguments, but substantiates things for the reader to better understand context. Without getting tied up in too many knots, he seeks to focus his attention on the cogent parts of history and offers gloss over of other parts, namely those long periods when Second Amendment talk was minimal. I am pleased to see that Waldman does not shy away from criticism, as it gives the reader something to consider while they read, absorbing as well as thinking with an open mind. The book is well-paced and divided into three parts, depicting the build-up to the amendment, how the interpretation became more jaded and eventually codified by a set of conservative justices who seemed to have had their heads in the sand and a certain human orifice, before looking at the subsequent way America turned with Heller on the books. While the book can get quite technical, it is not written solely for the academic, but surely for the reader with an interest in the topic at hand. I am so pleased to have found something readable dealing with the Second Amendment, particularly a tome that offers some thoroughness without drowning the reader in minutiae.

Kudos, Mr. Waldman, for another stunning exploration of a key political aspect in American legal and social history. I hope others will find this book and be as amazed as I have been.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The River Murders (Three Mitchum BookShots), by James Patterson and James O. Born

Eight stars

As I open this collection of three BookShots by James Patterson and James O. Born, I turned immediately to the third and most recent story. Having read the other two beforehand, I post my reviews of them below, as well as the new review for the final story. Enjoy the flashback and some new thoughts, if you please!

Hidden

James O. Born works alongside James Patterson in the first of this BookShot series that will have readers hooked and quite curious as they travel to upstate New York. Mitchum enjoys the quiet life in Marlboro, away from the fast-paced living of NYC, but still surrounded by a community that thrives on the daily bustle. When he learns that his niece, Bailey Mae, has gone missing, this unofficial P.I. takes matters into his own hands. Working with the local sheriff’s detachment and those around town, Mitchum learns that three shady individuals have been seen around town. Bailey Mae’s famous coffee cakes prove a useful trail, though when two elderly residents are found murdered in their home and a fresh cake sits on the counter, Mitchum becomes more concerned. His past training as a Navy SEAL allows him to forge headlong into the search, still trying to determine who these strangers might be and if they are involved in the kidnapping, or if Bailey Mae is somehow involved. Forced to turn to his drug-dealing brother, Mitchum uses whispers on the street to help him track down any evidence that might lead to Bailey Mae’s safe return. Time is running out, but family ties seem to be unbreakable for Mitchum, fuelling his determination to bring a happy ending to this small town. A quick and captivating story for BookShot fans and those who need a little thrill with their coffee. Patterson and Born have a recipe for success here!

I am on a roll with my current BookShots binge, having found some real winners out there. There is usually little time for character development, but the authors have been able to weave the story of Robert ‘call me Mitchum’ Mitchum into the fabric of this thriller. The small town feel to the story is not lost on the reader, as Mitchum combs through the residents to garner enough clues to help solve the case. Additionally, the vast array of characters on offer may prove useful if the series continues past the next-known published piece. The story itself is interesting and the short chapters keep the story propelling forward without the reader feeling too stuck in any single environ. Patterson and Born work well together and bring the story to life, just as I would expect with a BookShot, which leaves little time to catch one’s breath. I need to get my hands on the next story in the series, as I am still highly impressed with what I’ve read.

Malicious

James O. Born returns to work alongside James Patterson again in the follow-up BookShot of the Mitchum series. Readers will likely remain impressed with this piece, as it has all the impact of a great short story without losing any of the needed character and story development. Mitchum enjoys his quiet life in upstate New York, where he can deliver his daily newspapers and run an unofficial P.I. business on the side. When his brother, Natty, calls with a problem, Mitchum seems skeptical. However, when a homicide is involved, the brothers reunite, post haste. Mitchum learns that a high school friend has been slain, potentially by a fellow drug dealer. As one who ‘enhances recreational activities’ himself, Natty can attest to the fact that there are some out there who want nothing more than to bury Peter Stahl, but not before discovering the secret he has about a new and ‘hot’ commodity for the street. As Mitchum works to iron out all the details, he learns that Natty is deeply in love with the deceased’s wife, which could prove to be a problem. Before Mitchum can learn much more, Natty been hauled away to jail, the primary suspect in the murder. It is now a race to find the true killer and clear Natty’s name, forcing Mitchum to look under every rock, where corrupt figures wait for their slice of the pie. A wonderful follow-up piece that pushes the reader into the middle of the action as Mitchum forges ahead at top speed. BookShot fans will surely enjoy this piece, both for its excitement and quick pace.

This weekend of BookShot reading has proven to be highly useful and I have come across a number of wonderful pieces. James O. Born surely has a handle on this series, which continues to build, and avid readers can only hope that Patterson will turn to him many more times in the future. While short, the story allows more character development as it relates to Robert ‘call me Mitchum’ Mitchum, both from a familial perspective and with his own personal sentiments. The reader can enjoy a dash of sarcasm and some heartfelt emotion without missing out on what ends up being something worth the hour of reading time. The story is by no means unique, but it holds the attention of the read throughout, paced with short chapters and quick development. Anyone who needs a decent filler between major reading assignments can turn to this piece and not be disappointed. I can only hope that Mitchum will be back soon, rising to the top amidst the supersaturation of BookShots in the e-book domain. Readers ought to keep an eye out for these and will surely find something to appeal to their thriller side.

Malevolent

James Patterson and James O. Born return for a third short novel (BookShot) in this interesting series. Mitchum continues to work as an unofficial P.I., but the work is less than invigorating in the small community near Marlboro, in upstate New York. When his mother is hit by a vehicle, witness statements make it seem to have been intentional. Working with his reformed brother, Natty, Mitchum tries to determine who would be doing such a thing. Soon, a man from his past emerges to threaten Mitchum and tells him to stand down. During the confrontation, Natty’s shot and the man flees, protected by the feds for reasons unknown. Mitchum takes up a friend’s offer to work security in Afghanistan, which will allow him to keep tabs on this mystery man. However, things take a turn and Mitchum finds himself in trouble in a faraway land with no one aware of his situation. Will Mitchum be able to find the answers he needs and keep his family safe from any further fallout from all his impetuous actions? Another great addition to the Mitchum series, which has worked very well in all three pieces. Recommended for fans of Patterson’s BookShots, as well as those readers who enjoy a quick story to pass the time.

While I have never shied away from sharing my issues with James Patterson’s writing over the years, I have always enjoyed reading his BookShots, which give a full adventure in only half the time. I remember reading the other two books in this series back when I was on a BookShots binge and enjoyed them. This third piece was a wonderful return to what I remembered enjoying. Mitchum is still trying to mix tranquility of small town living with staying mentally sharp. He remains a strong family man, as protective as he can be, but still seeks to find his niche. This story provides him a new opportunity to find his way, which will hopefully work out for the best. Others in the story help propel things forward effectively, complementing Mitchum on occasion, or pushing him to his limits at other times. The story was well-crafted, showing the effectiveness of the Patterson-Born collaboration. I have found they work well together and keep the stories fresh, intense, and poignant as the reader follows the narrative path with ease. Patterson’s short chapter recipe is one display here and it keeps the story moving effectively forward. I hope there are more ideas, Mitchum and otherwise, from these two and will keep my eyes open.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Born, for another wonderful collection of stories that entertain as well as educate the reader in short order.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Lost Hills (Eve Ronin #1), by Lee Goldberg

Eight stars

I was eager to get my hands on this latest novel by Lee Goldberg, hoping that it would be as exciting and full of twists as some of his other work. I was not disappointed with this crime thriller that kept me guessing as the story progressed. Eve Ronin had her fifteen minutes of fame when she took down a criminal and someone posted the entire event to YouTube. That notoriety has made her a household name in the Los Angeles environs and catapulted her into the highest ranks of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. A new detective in the Homicide Squad, Ronin is still trying to get her feet under her, made more difficult when no one will take her seriously. When Ronin and her partner are called to the home of a woman presumed missing, things take a turn for the worse. There are some signs of a skirmish on the outside of the house, but when Ronin enters, things are horrific, with blood covering many of the walls and floors, and slashes over much of the furniture. This dull day has turned into the search for a woman and her two young children, though the crime scene lends it to being a homicide investigation. While Ronin must work with the crime scene techs, careful not to step on any toes, she is also trying to hunt down a killer. Ronin tries to piece it all together when she is attacked at the crime scene. This only spurs her on to find new suspects that might help her solve this case. Could it be her ex-husband, who lives hours away? Perhaps the boyfriend who has made it clear he cannot stand the children? All the while, she has a bad feeling about this case, which seems to thrust her into the limelight when all she seeks is to find justice for the victims. Lee Goldberg has done it again as he keeps the story sharp and the narrative flowing. Recommended for those who enjoy a great police procedural, as well as the reader who needs a quick-read thriller to fill their reading list.

I have always enjoyed Lee Goldberg novels when I have a chance to read them, as they are both full of information and succinct at the same time. The crimes are realistic and there is just enough realism in the situations that I can almost picture myself with the story. This new series could have some great potential and Eve Ronin is a wonderful protagonist. Trying to step away from the limelight that was thrust upon her, she wants to do her job, but is constantly reminded of those fifteen minutes and one million clicks that her video amassed. Still, she is gritty and determined to find her place within the Los Angeles community, even as her mother nags her to ‘get found’. Her skills are such that she never stops working and looking for that piece of the crime that everyone missed. She is surrounded with many interesting characters, some of whom I hope make a return appearance in any forthcoming novels within the series. The story itself flows well and keeps the reader’s attention. There is still a period of trying to get a feel for the scenario, but the plot kept me wanting to learn more and the narrative flows with ease. Goldberg mixes chapter lengths to lure the reader in and keep their attention, which is effective in trying to make sense of this horrible crime. I’ll be back for more whenever new books are added to this or his other series I have come to enjoy. A perfect book for any reader looking to find a new author that might make a blip on their radar.

Kudos, Mr. Goldberg, for another wonderful piece. I am eager to see what you have in store for fans soon!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Fight to Vote, by Michael Waldman

Nine stars

As the next presidential election in the United States approaches, I was drawn to this book by Michael Waldman, which explores this history and importance of voting. Waldman takes the reader as far back as the Founding Fathers and the constitutional conventions to explore some of the earliest sentiments on voting and elections in the early republic. He tackles some of the sentiments about how the Fathers thought of constructing voting eligibility and how the threshold might make for a stronger country, which obviously disenfranchising large portions of the population. The Fathers did not feel that the federal government should take the lead in setting out a system of voting or elections, feeling that deferring to the states was the appropriate answer. It is essential to note at this early stage, there is nothing enshrined in the US Constitution about the right to vote, which serves as an interesting thread for the rest of this tome. As history progressed, other groups found themselves eager to have their voices heard, including the recently freed slave population, women, and eventually those in poorer parts of the country. It is most interesting to see how Waldman explores the continued expansion of suffrage, while also noting that with the power to set the rules in the states, there were also loopholes to keep groups out that did not defy anything constitutional. The latter portion of the book speaks specifically about these ‘tests’ laid out in the South for black voters, in a blatant attempt to keep their voices silent. To this day, there are state-based blockages that keep large segments of the population from having their voices heard, as Waldman explores in detail. On this point, Waldman spends the last bit of the book examining the US Supreme Court’s interpretation of First Amendment free speech and the removal of monetary limits for election contributions, while coming down hard onanistic group seeking special ‘sway’ to gain the upper hand in being permitted to vote. Fascinating to see how deliberately partisan things have become and how many people’s voices remain muted into 2020. An eye-opening piece if ever there was one on the history of voting and the importance that the fight towards true universal suffrage continue in the United States, particularly up to November 3, when there is a chance to return America (and the world) to greatness after four years of embarrassments!

Many will know that I love all things political, especially when history gets added to the mix. I find that in these uncertain times in the realm of geo-politics, it is essential to have a handle on things taking place in my own proverbial backyard. Waldman does a sensational job of laying out all the nuances of voting and elections in America, taking the reader slowly through the progress of events and how they impacted the Republic as a whole. There is so much to cover and yet Waldman lets the narrative flow smoothly and keeps the reader enthralled throughout the telling. From the foundational aspects of an electoral system to ensure a strong new country through to the means of interpreting the base rules to favour one party over the other, Waldman shows that politics is at the core of elections. With substantial chapters and many key examples, the reader will not feel shortchanged, but can easily use much of what is discussed here as a springboard to learn more, should the interest arise. Going so far as to offer a warning of what is to come in US electoral politics, Waldman makes it clear that voting is not being given to Americans on a silver platter, but it must be earned. Moreover, it will be a fight that should not be squandered or an issue dismissed until a later time. Just think what things might have been like in November 2016 had all eligible voters cast their ballots and not been blocked from doing so to tip the balance in one direction (not including the Russian collusion that we all know was rampant). Get out there, Americans and fight for what is yours. The world is watching and eagerly wants to see what your electoral voices have to say.

Kudos, Mr. Waldman, for this excellent examination of voting. I will be reading another of your books, recommended to me, and I hope it is as riveting.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

A Warning, by Anonymous

Eight stars

As the political circus in the United States continues to reach its five-ring splendour, many people look on and shake their heads. There is another incarnation soon to come in the form of a presidential election by the end of this year, which will surely be as intense and full of mud-slinging, as well as a peppering or racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic sentiments in the guise of ‘saying what everyone is thinking’. But, what can you expect when the purported leader of the Free World has no sense of decorum. I approached this book with the same trepidation I have many of the other tell-all Trump books over the past few years. Will something come to light that I can seriously credit to being useful to better understanding how things are being run into the ground as the world watches? Many other tomes have been attempted smears or sour grapes, which I do not deny, while also understanding that there are truths buried in the narratives. This book left me feeling differently and perhaps a little more worried. The author, who chooses not to reveal themselves for well-founded reasons discussed in the introduction, offers the reader insider views of the West Wing and Oval Office, particularly when it comes to the way Donald J. Trump runs his show. Much of it will not shock the reader—he does not read, he changes his mind hourly, his views are expressed in Tweets rather than formal policy announcements—though coming from the inside and not someone who has been scorned on the outside makes it a little more worrisome. Additionally, there are other areas the public is not privy to know about that have turned into major gaffes, saved only by aides and cabinet officials steering the train back on track with a moment’s notice. The author purports that much of the comments made in and by media outlets are true, well-grounded, and not jaded at all. The real Donald J. Trump, as his Twitter handle says, is the one we know so well. Coming into the election cycle, people need to know this and that it is not some mirage or #fakenews. There are solutions, the greatest of which rests in the hands of the electorate, which cannot be ignored. I can only hope enough people heed these warnings and think ahead of November 3, 2020. Told in a balanced manner with many examples, the author uses historical studies and research to substantiate some of these authoritarian traits, as well as the direction the country is headed should they not be nipped in the bud. A great read for those who want fact over smear, as well as a sobering look by someone inside the Storm who is trying desperately to hold things together.

I have never hidden my disdain for Donald J. Trump or his Administration. While some criticise me for speaking out, as I do not live in the United States, I simply remind them that this is a man whose stupidities cause waves all over, especially above the 45th Parallel. The shenanigans that come from the horrible things that are said and done cannot be a slip of the tongue or pen on occasion, this is the real deal. The author supports that and keeps the reader enthralled with examples and comparisons to historical rules as they relate to power, control, and democracy. This is not a study of the man, but of how one man and his sycophants have taken the Office of the President and turned it into their own plaything. Suckling at the teat of Mother Russia, finding new ways to divide the country, and distant the world from this country on the verge of social collapse seem to be on the checklist of this Administration for as long as they are permitted. The author uses these strong examples and a handful of well-crafted chapters to show that this is not a nightmare, but a full-on disaster scenario that cannot be ended with one election. Like a child on a full tantrum, the mess will take a long time to fix, but that kid needs OUT of the store right now. I marvel at how this tome was ‘rushed to be written’, as it is so well done and thought out. It substantiates where there is a need and dismisses some of the rhetoric that some will use to deflate it. The choice to not reveal themselves was brilliant and the reasoning, while it irks supporters and some reviewers who are entranced with Donald Jerk Trump, keeps the spotlight on the man who is banging pots. Americans have a choice this November and I hope they use it wisely. We, in the outside world, await to see what happens, but we are far from unaffected.

Kudos, Anonymous, whomever you may be! I hope your words reach the electorate in time and that much of what you say sinks in.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Passport to Death (Dotan Naor #2), by Yigal Zur

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Yigal Zur and Oceanview Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

When Yigal Zur approached me to read another of his novels, I was intrigued and interested yet again. His Dotan Naor series caught my attention before and with another adventure, there is sure to be a great deal more action. Dotan receives a call that his services are needed in Thailand to help find a missing woman, Sigal Bardon. Landing in Bangkok, Dotan is reminded of the many other times that he has come here over the years. While his initial search is to locate the body of Sigal, he soon discovers that things may not be that simple. In a country where people come to disappear or are made to vanish, answers are elusive. As he juggles the open drug and prostitution trades, Dotan trips upon a lead or two that lead him in a certain direction. Itching to know more about who sent him this mission, he speaks to his colleague, who is anything but forthcoming. However, with a decent sized Israeli population in the city, Dotan soon learns that this may be a game of cat and mouse he wished he never entered. There are some dangerous men around, any of whom might have taken Sigal for their own reasons. As more bodies pile up, Dotan wants to finish the investigation and flee back to the safety of Israel. Sigal Bardon had her reasons for coming to Bangkok, but is her disappearance entirely of her own doing as well? A worthwhile thriller read, though I was not entirely pulled in as much as I would have liked.

I try to keep an open mind when it comes to reading, as one never really knows when the next great book with cross your path. While I was not as drawn into Zur’s piece as I would have liked, there were some great aspects that cannot be discounted. The setting for much of the story is Thailand, that elusive country whose laws differ greatly from much of the Western World. Zur depicts it with such detail that I felt I was there at times, strolling the streets and never quite sure what I would find. The narrative is full of colourful language and off-hand comments that I cannot say enough about how well the story developed from this point of view. The story itself was decent, with a missing girl and am investigator set to find her. I found myself losing some interest with the meandering nature of the piece. I wanted to feel more connected and possessing more care for everyone involved. This is just an opinion, but I do remember relying the same way the first novel I tried by the author. With short chapters and a quick story overall, this was not a painful read, but left me feeling as though I needed more to satisfy my reading experience.

Kudos, Mr. Zur, for another decent book. I may opt out from further pieces, but I will let others enjoy your writing for themselves.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Quando Dormo (When I Sleep), by Edward Izzi

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Edward Izzi for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After recently discovering the work of Edward Izzi, I cannot get enough of his thrillers, which pull the reader into the middle of many heart-thumping scenarios. Dr. David Fazio is an obstetrician in Chicago with quite the reputation. His strong, pro-life views have made his work somewhat controversial, as he refuses to perform any abortive procedures on expectant mothers. This has been made even more controversial with the recent passage of a partial-birth abortion bill by the Illinois legislature. Not only is Fazio known for his strong views, but he is quite the Casanova, having gone through and disposed of many nurses on the maternity ward. His sexual prowess cannot be denied, but he has amassed enough enemies to fill the entire ward. When he wakes from a horrible nightmare, Fazio discovers that his hands are burnt. Not long thereafter, news emerges that a family planning clinic on the other side of the street is up in flames, with people still inside. Fazio’s history of sleeping issues, paired with his arrival in various locales without his knowledge does him no good, as he wonders what might be going on. One of the fire battalion chiefs and a detective with the CPD also begin to wonder if he might have played a role. When a second family planning clinic goes up in flames and Fazio is in the area, unsure how he made it to his car, he heads the list of suspects being considered the Abortion Arsonist. He has all the trademark signs and refuses to back away from his staunch pro-life views. But, with so many who wish to see him come tumbling down, might someone be trying to point the finger at the doctor? In a story that does not allow the reader any chance to catch their breath, Izzi spins a tale like no other. Recommended for those who love high-velocity thrillers, as well as the reader who can handle the politics of the abortion debate.

I cannot say enough about Edward Izzi, particularly his writing skills. Izzi lays the groundwork for a sensational story and builds on it from there, never taking a moment to lull the reader into some form of calm. David Fazio serves as a wonderful protagonist, even if he may not be loved by all readers. His strong views on the abortion question are bluntly presented throughout, but seem overshadowed by his desire to conquer all women with his wiles. Fazio comes from a strong Italian family, but seems more interested in bedding whomever crosse his path. Add to that, his horrible sleeping patterns and dreams that leave him wondering what he might have done. Fazio is surely in a conflicted state and one the reader will want to explore more thoroughly in this piece. Other characters serve to prop up Fazio’s various life choices throughout, while also adding depth to some of the plot lines that Edward Izzi seeks to explore. As with all the novels, there are some returning characters, though they play background roles, not impeding the flow of the story or the strength of the core characters. While all novels are stand-alones, the reader can get a little glimpse of some character development for these returning individuals, should they wish. The premise of the story was quite masterful, serving to address the abortion topic, sleep issues, and one man’s attempt to rise above both. Izzi mentioned having some loose ties to the Fazio character, which makes the story even stronger. I cannot wait to see what else is to come, for Edward Izzi has surely made a fan out of me. Brilliant work and so poignant!

Kudos, Mr. Izzi, for addressing so many hot-topic issues, if you pardon the pun. I love how I can get lost in the story and yet learn so much!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Vagabonds: The Story of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison’s Ten-Year Road Trip, by Jeff Guinn

Eight stars

It is always interesting to learn about people of some fame, particularly when one can trace and note interactions they had with other people of notoriety. Jeff Guinn has penned this quasi-biography about four such men during a decade in the early 20th century. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs—dubbed The Vagabonds—took annual trips together during the decade of 1913-23. During these trips, these men not only took time away from their chaotic business lives, but also spent time strengthening their personal and business friendships. Guinn explores how Ford and Edison, the closest of the group, forged strong friendship as they helped one another in their respective business ventures. These annual trips would garner much media and public attention, creating a caravan of notoriety wherever the group went. That being said, the Vagabonds sought some degree of isolation during their repose, keeping everyone else at arm’s length. Guinn explores how these men would, at times, invite other people of prominence to attend their annual sojourns, only twice allowing wives to attend. While John Burroughs was the odd man out, without a wife and who died before the end of these trips, the other three found themselves bantering a great deal. Guinn mixes in some much needed context and work-related commentary to provide the reader with any idea of what was taking place throughout. If ever there could be an event that encapsulated notoriety, camaraderie, and brotherly love, it would be the annual trips made by these men, who fame held up without the journeys, but was further strengthened when people read of their adventures. Guinn does a wonderful job at connecting the experience with the goings-on in the world at the time. Recommended for those who love American history, as well as the reader who enjoys something a little lighter about these historical heavyweights.

I recently completed a full-length biography of Thomas Edison, which helped me put some of what Guinn discusses in better context. While Ford did find himself mentioned throughout that tome, the extent to their friendship was never fully understood until I took the time to allow Guinn to present it here. Dividing each chapter into a year during this decade of adventures, Guinn tackles events of a single calendar year and contrasts some of the major events found therein. He is able to adequately explore the lives of all four men, including some of the lesser known parts of Edison and Ford’s banter over political goings-on in the country. The jovial nature in which Guinn presents the book keeps the reader wanting to know more. While there is surely a great deal to tackle, Guinn does not overload the reader with too much, choosing more of a superficial or scattered approach to give the reader context and encourage them to explore more on their own. All the same, Guinn, who has a wonderful knack of pulling me in with most anything he writes, is able to recount the needed information and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. This was a fraternity like no other found in history, though Guinn makes it seem more congenial than competitive. A wonderful complement to the aforementioned biography I read last week and now I will look for something on Ford, Firestone, and perhaps even Burroughs as well!

Kudos, Mr. Guinn for a masterful piece of work. I am glad I took the time to explore this one and cannot wait to see what I can uncover about the Vagabonds in the coming months.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Accident, by Gillian Jackson

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Gillian Jackson and Sapere Publishers for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Gillian Jackson is back with another thriller that takes the readers into the middle of a horrible event, then tells of the fallout from a number of perspectives. Sure to pique the interested of the open-minded reader, the story tackles loss bereavement, and new hope all at once. They dubbed this storm the Beast from the East, but Hannah Graham was determined to get to work. When her vehicle lost control on one of England’s motorways, it began a series of events that caused a horrible accident. Vehicles piled-up and injuries to many, including three fatalities, but Hannah can remember none of it. Sitting in her hospital bed, she must focus on her recovery, though is tossed a major set-back as well. Joe Parker was not as lucky, involved in the crash and having his wife, Alison, die almost instantly. Alan and Cassie Jones also lost their son and must pick up the pieces as best they can. As the story progresses, Jackson takes the reader into the lives of all three families to show how the accident drastically changes them, at times for the worse but also provided new and exciting opportunities. Still, that February 2, 2018 will forever be etched on the minds of these three families, as they come to terms with how their lives will never be the same. An interesting perspective for a thriller in this short novel that keeps the reader wanting to learn more. Recommended for those who enjoy these multi-perspective stories, as well as the reader who needs a short book to bridge two reading experiences.

I have read a few Gillian Jackson novels in the past and enjoyed them. Their quick story and fast-paced narrative keeps the reader on top of things as the characters rush through a series of events. While the story does switch throughout, protagonist roles would have to go to Hannah Graham and Joe Parker, whose lives are front and centre throughout. Their losses and new approaches to life are highlighted and keep the reader wanting to know a little more. That they cross paths, first at the coroner’s inquest and then in public, allows for a personal connection between them, particular as they process the events of that day. Others make a lesser impact on the reader, but help to enrich the larger narrative and give the protagonists something towards which they strive. The story was not what I expected at the beginning, expecting the accident to be something entirely sinister and perhaps planned. However, it turned into something of a healing piece, as the fragments are picked up and families seek to pull themselves together. Jackson writes in such a way that the reader races through these chapters to get some answers, many of which remain unattainable. Well done for a short reading experience and I am pleased to have been handed a copy!

Kudos, Madam Jackson, for a great piece. I like how you bring things together and keep the reader wondering at the same time.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Edison, by Edmund Morris

Nine stars

History is full of people whose lives have impacted mine in some form or another. While I have always loved reading biographies, I find particular interest in people whose names I know but whose lives remain a mystery to me. While the name Thomas Edison has always been synonymous with the invention of the lightbulb, there is much more to the man’s life. Pulitzer-prize winning author, Edmund Morris, takes the reader through the life and times of this most complex man. While the lightbulb was surely one of his most well-known inventions, Edison was always thinking up new and exciting things to better the world. Averaging one US patent every 12 days of his adult life, Edison was passionate in his ventures, which seemed to change drastically every decade. By dividing the book into parts that loosely depict these scientific ventures, Morris explores the attention to detail that Edison undertook. He was keen to stay ahead of the trends and use his imagination to bring these ideas to life. With little formal scientific training, Edison baffled many around him with the detail and intricacy of his inventions. He proved to be not only an inventor, but also a businessman, manufacturer, family man, salesperson, and critique of others in the domain. What Morris explores is that Edison was also highly opinionated when it came to his interests, not caring who he upset or their notoriety in the world. Morris pairs this with Edison’s extreme deafness, which led to many interesting interactions with others, as well as curious steps taken throughout the experimental process. In a book that is full of Edison’s discoveries and advancements, the reader will discover just how much of an impact the man had on the world, and all because of his imagination paired with a determination to succeed. Recommended to those who love learning about all things scientific and innovation-related, as well as for the reader whose passion is in biographical tomes.

There is so much to learn about Thomas Edison, as shown in this thorough biography. Edmund Morris, award-winning author, does a fabulous job amassing a great deal of information in this singe tome, telling the wonderful aspects of Edison’s life, while constantly reminding the reader of his independence. Morris tackles the book in a series of parts, dividing Edison’s explorations in decade chunks. This is highly effective, as it gives the reader some context and allows the themes to effectively divide the book. Within each part, Morris explores the scores of inventions and plotting that Edison did, linking different decades together with ease. However, as if in a response to a quote by Edison’s daughter found in the introduction, Morris sheds a great deal of light on the man behind the inventions, offering up a great deal of raw truths about that man’s life and personal connections with other, rather than simply the inventor whose made ideas spilled out so readily. In an oddity that I have not seen in other biographies, Morris works in reverse chronology with these aforementioned parts of the book, beginning with the 1920s and working backwards. This proves to be somewhat confusing for the reader used to linear development of a person’s life, with children and grandchildren appearing in the beginning and turning to babies or non-existent throughout. I have not looked to see what others thought of this technique, but it seemed to work well for me. I picked up quickly on names and locales, looking to see when they entered the narrative later (earlier?) in the book. Each part stands as its own massive chapter, with smaller vignettes within them to keep the reader intrigued and not overwhelmed. Morris shows his superior writing style by presenting a great deal of technical information in an easy to digest format and keeping the story intriguing throughout. I have decided to read a little more about Edison and his life-long friendship with Henry Ford in another tome, but felt this was a wonderful start.

Kudos, Mr. Morris, for a wonderful biography of a sensational man.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons