Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Marcia Clark: Guilt By Association

In her debut novel former prosecutor Marcia Clark, brings to the front to age old question are things always what they seem and just because you know someone does that make you guilty too?

Rachel Knight is one of the top D.A. Prosecutors in the L.A. and she hates to loose a case. She has been in the D.A. office for years now and has formed friendships with her fellow prosecutors, but something tragic is about to happen to the office. One of Rachel's coworkers is dead and it looks like a murder suicide with her coworker looking like the murderer. If that is not enough, the event involves the victim being a young teen. Evidence is pointing towards Rachel's friend having a very shady side outside of work and taking advantage of disadvantage youth. Rachel finds herself questioning who her friend really was and if he was capable of such things. Rachel wants to get to bottom of her friend's death, but she is also handed his toughest case of the sexual assault of a young woman who is part of the prominent family. The father states he knows who the offender is, but Rachel has a funny feeling about this case too. Rachel struggles to focus on her cases and her friend's death, but there is someone who does not want Rachel to find the truth and as bullets start to fly, Rachel needs to figure which case someone is willing to kill her over.

Clark should know a thing or two about working as a district attorney as she was the prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trail, therefore, when she writes about lawyers and case loads and what happens in the D.A. office I would say that she know what she is talking about. So we know that Clark has the background to write a mystery book (some people may classify this book as a thriller but i do not think it has the suspense and action that is associated with the thriller genre) but can she actually write? Yes she she can, for a debut novel, I felt that there were many of the key aspects needed within a mystery novel that Clark was able to hit. There were twist, turns and I really enjoyed how Clark had the plot unfold in this book. I think that she did a really good job in showing the actual process of an investigation and how evidence is discover and followed by an investigator. I like that evidence did not just fall into Rachel's lap and that she has set backs and dead ends through out the book.

I liked Rachel as a character, she has some attitude but I appreciated that she was able to keep some of her retorts and thoughts in her head and not always make some snappy or snide comment. There was actually a filter and it showed that she actually thought before she spoke, which is a change from some other strong female protagonists. This, to me, showed that Rachel to be a little bit more sophisticated and intelligence than those other typical female protagonists. I enjoyed that Rachel had the ability to ask for help when she needed it and was able to take advice from other. I also liked that Clark allowed Rachel to have access to her friends who are willing to help her as well as having her friends discover some of the evidence and not making Rachel out to be extra ordinary. I think all these aspects made Rachel a very real character.

The one aspect I questions in this book is the investigative powers of a DA. It seemed to me that Rachel was running a police investigation for Baily (her police friend). I think it would have been more believable if Baily had been the main character and relied on Rachel for law knowledge and contacts that she has made through being a lawyer. However, this fact did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. Additionally, I'm not normally one to critique covers, but this one is really lacking, there is nothing there to draw someone to pick the book up other that Clark's name and if you don't know who she is there is really nothing that says "Pick Me". I think that in the future Clark needs to rethink the cover art for her novel, especially because I enjoyed this book.

I really enjoyed Clark's venture into fiction writing and I think that those looking for a good mystery book (that is not littered with bodies and more about a more "typical" investigation) should pick up Clark's debut novel. This book is fairly fast past and was able to keep me entertained throughout and even guessing what was going to happen next. I think that Clark may have just found her second calling. I look forward to reading another book by Clark.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

William F. Brown: Amongst My Enemies

William F. Brown takes the reader back to World War II and the cold war era where the keys to a WWII mystery lay at the bottom of the ocean.

 Michael Randall is a door gunner of a B-17 bomber in WWII, that is until it was shot down over Germany, however, Mike and his friend Eddie are "lucky" as they are assigned to forced labour camps instead of a POW camp. All Mike can think of is escape and letting the world know about what he and Eddie suffered in the war. An opportunity presents itself when Mike is assigned to help load a German U-boat full of mysterious crates. Mike is able to stow away on the vessel and his presence on the U-boat sets off a chain reaction that some will loose and some will take the opportunity to exploit and it is up to Michael to make sure that everything is set right and that the world knows what really happened to U-582.

I have not ventured into too many WWII/Cold war based novels and  after reading this book I do not know why I do not read them more often. This book had me invested in the first chapter. Brown really knows how to draw the reader in with the description, that you actually feel the cold, heat and fear of the character and the surrounding scenery. Mike and Eddie's story is heartbreaking and like I said above the first chapter really drew me in and Brown was able to keep me very entertained and interested, it did not quit after a great start.

The character development was really well done, you get a sense of who Michael is and surprisingly Nazi Heinz Kruger as well. I was really happy that Brown took the time to allow the reader to get into Kruger's head, as he is a very interesting character. I actually think that it is Kruger as the villain that really makes this book for me. His cold, calculation and takes vast amount of enjoyment in killing and he is disappointed that the war is ending because it afforded him access to lots of victims and less questions about his methods. Brown does an excellent job of describing Kruger's emotions and face as he is killing shows him as a true psychopath and just makes him such an interesting character. Kruger really made this book for me. Michael was portrayed as an All-American hero who saw and did things that he would like to, but never will forget. Michael feels cursed and that all the people that died around him it was his fault. This is a big burden to carry around with him and it hinder his reintegration into a normal life. I think this is an aspect that many soldier that return from war face, as it becomes a question for them why them and not me (and Michael asks himself this many times). I appreciate that Brown has done research on both the PTSD of soldiers and sociopath/psychopath aspects

This book has everything that you would want from a book based in this era, U-boats, guns, gold, stolen treasure and of course Nazis. All of this combines to make a really good thriller novel. I do wish there were a few more twist and turns within this novel and a little more suspense, but i think all in all the novel has everything one can ask for thriller.

This was a really good thriller novels and has reopened me up to reading books from this era (which my husband with love, as it means I will get more of these types of books and they are his preference). I think if you are looking to get into the thriller genre in this era that this book would be a great place to start as it does not over whelm you with historical facts and relies on description instead. There is no doubt that I would read another book by Brown, as i really enjoyed Amongst My Enemies.


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Saturday, May 12, 2012

M.J. McGrath: White Heat

In her debut fictional novel M.J. McGrath takes readers to the far Canadian north, where the nothing is able to rot, therefore, nothing is ever forgotten.

Edie Kiglatuk is a half Inuit, half White hunter and guide on Ellesmere Island in the settlement of Autisaq. Although due to the fact that she is a woman, many of the elders would like to put a stop her practicing these "man" occupations. Edie is on a regular guiding expedition when she hears gun shots off towards camp where she left her charges. Edie returns to camp to find one of her charges shot, dying and the other man unable to handle the situation. Edie does not believe that the shooting was an accident but as she returns home, the elders are determined to sweep the incident under the rug as it could be bad for business to state that the death was possible a murder. This begins Edie's journey into the corruption of the government and Inuit world, where she is the only voice willing to stand up for justice of those who have been deemed to get in the way of "progress".

This was a very interesting read for me. McGrath has done a great amount of research about the Canadian north, from the weather and land scape to the culture and language of the Inuit. I liked that McGrath used Inuit language as well as English when Edie and other Inuit characters interact. McGrath excels in the descriptive nature of the book, she uses fantastic imagery that you will feel like you are on Ellesmere Island (you will have to make sure that you have a sweater near as you are going to feel the cold of the Tundra). I also liked that McGrath used the Inuit way of life to describe what was happening within the investigation or the interaction with nature, the weather, or the past. It was verys interesting to learn just a little bit of the Inuit culture while reading this book.

McGrath is well researched in this topic, though her personal opinion about how the Inuit got to Ellesmere Island and what the Canadian government has done to the Inuit and their culture, is present throughout the book. McGarth is definitely drawing on her discoveries of her non-fiction novel The Long Exile which is a novel about Inuit Betrayal and Survival in the High Arctic. This is very evident in the voice that is used throughout the novel, from the disdain of Edie the main character about the mayor wanting to revolutionize the village she lives in as well as how McGrath portrays of the RCMP officers as lazy, incompetent, their willingness to sweep things underneath the rug and one of the officers obsession in Lemmings.

Edie was an interesting character, she had the ability at times to be her woman self, but also the hunter self when she need. Edie would pull out the hunter side of her when her own survival depends on it I like that McGrath let Edie have a self destruction side when she was younger and that the need to drink is ever present in her everyday life, which is true for all additions and recovering addicts. Edie was a nice unpredictable character, as you never really knew what path that she was going to take and whether she was going to be pulled back into the destructive nature of alcoholism.

My one main criticism of this book is that it goes through several slow parts, where it can be a struggle to continue reading, but if you push through you are always happy that you continue on. I think the slowness was caused by McGrath attempting to put as much Inuit culture information as possible, that often the story was left behind in these facts and we lost the investigative side of the novel. Additionally, I think in the second half of the book McGrath lost her way a little bit and wanted to put as many red herrings in her novel as possible to start you guessing of who as involved in the murder. I think she was attempting to make up for not having the facts and clues earlier in the book.

This book is for those who want more from a novel than the over sensationalized violence associated with a pile of bodies of a serial killer in the thriller and mystery genres, for these readers White Heat will be a welcome change. McGrath has a way with words and description that you find yourself lost in the imagery throughout the book and you will feel like you are in the Great Canadian North.


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Friday, May 4, 2012

Janet & Greta Podleski: The Loonyspoons Collection

Okay, I know that this is a very Random review for my website, but I really feel the need to pass on the word of this cookbook. This cookbook is fantastic, it was introduced to me by a lady at work, who brought in one of the snacks for everyone, it was fantastic and it was made even better that it was healthy.

The book's premise is to get people making their own healthy and great tasting food. The recipes are simple, fairly fast to make and you normally have all the ingredients within your house. We own some Jamie Oliver cookbooks as well, and they are fantastic every once in awhile but often there are some obscure ingredients or spices that I have never heard of and I have to go on the hunt to try and find or more often give up making that dish. However, in Looneyspoons if you have a spice rack you will have the spices they use. I think the only thing that I have had to buy extra is a ginger root (as they use fresh grated ginger in dinner in quite a few of the entrees), which you can find in any grocery store in the produce section. The other thing about Looneyspoons is that they go through all the different types on food preparations from appetizers to salads to soups to chicken to seafood to red meat to ground meat to desserts to snacks and even sinfully delicious once a year desserts. This book really has it all in it and did I mention that the food in here is healthy and tastes great. Each recipe has a break down of how much good and bad fat, sodium, calories, protein, and cholesterol are in each serving, which makes it easy if you are trying to watch what you eat.

I have had this cookbook for about a month and a half now and I have not just made one or two things from this cookbook before writing this review I personally have cooked the following: (note the names are kind of funny/play on words, so I’ll put what they are as well)

1. Thai One On (Exotic sweet potato and coconut soup with Shrimp- My husband keeps requesting this one)
2. Dilly Beloved (Baked Chicken breast with maple, mustard, lemon and dill)
3. Barbecutie Patootie Chicken Pizza (Fantastic)
4. The Thigh's the Limit (Marinated backed chicken thing in gingery salsa sauce)
5. Celine Dijon Chicken (Mildly flavoured Dijon chicken with a c creamy herb sauce)
6. Sesame Sweet Chicken (Asian grilled chicken thighs basted with stick-sweet sesame sauce
7. Honey, I Shrunk My Thighs (Marinated grilled honey-garlic chicken, the sauce was so awesome that there was none left over in the end
8. Hook, Line & Simple (Easy broiled salmon with creamy dill sauce)
9. The Soprawnos (Scrumptious Italian Shrimp dish with Tomatoes, Zucchini and Feta Cheese- so good, it works by itself or you could put it on anything from crackers to pasta)
10. Beijing Beauty (Asian glazed grilled pork tenderloin)
11. Cowabunga Beef Burgers (Thick, juicy, smoky beef burgers with a kick)
12.Shepherd's Pie with Squashed Potatoes (Seasoned Beef and vegetables topped with cheesy mashed potatoes and squash-another one my husband keeps requesting)
12. Loafstyles of the Rich and Famous (Deliciously different ground turkey loaf with apples, onions and herbs)
13. Bananaberry Bombs ( Moist Banana Blueberry muffins with oasts and flaxseed, these lasted maybe 2 days in the house and are going to be made again and again.
14. Berry Maniloaf (Easy Lemon Loaf with raspberries or you can use blueberries instead or too)

This list does not include the dishes that my husband has cooked and yes even my Dad has picked up the cookbook too to try out a recipe (I think that says something). My grandma has also had a look at the book not to cook but to read all the interesting facts that are on each page. She kept stating that she does not read cook books, but then she would just continue reading and did not want to put it down when dinner was ready. I think she would have taken it home with her if I would have let her, but I was making the Lemon loaf the next day for a work potluck, which was a great hit, and they never even knew it was low fat till it was gone, there were a few shocked faces.

My one criticism is that some of the dishes have a similar flavour between them. I think this is due to the fact that they want to get as much healthy aspects into the dish as possible or maybe I just have made a few too many Asian inspired foods from the book. But as I stated above there are quite a few recipes that will call for ginger root or lemon juice, however, for the most part all the dishes are really nicely seasoned, nothing was ever Bland.

I think that this cook book has made cooking dinner, fun and interesting again. Each page has little insightful tips to food and loosing weight and how to keep a healthy body by starting by what you are putting into it. If you are looking for all your favorites plus developing some new ones, that are all healthy for you, this book is for you. This book is for you if you are looking for an easy to follow recipe book. This book is for you if you are looking to get a start on your healthy lifestyle. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys cooking.


Note: I got my copy of this book from Costco in Canada for $20.00 (steal of a deal). I was there last weekend and there were still some copies there. Trust me the best 20 bucks you will spend on a cookbook.