Convicted: A Crooked Cop, An Innocent Man, and An Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship

Convicted tells the story of Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins. Jameel got a ride with an acquaintance to a  store to get milk for his son. He was arrested and convicted of being a drug dealer when he was truly in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was arrested by Andrew Collins, a crooked cop. Eventually Collins got caught. Both McGee and Collins went to prison. They met up again after they both got out. This book is their stories, told in alternating chapters – one from Jameel’s point of view and one from Andrew’s.

I liked this book because it was truly a story of redemption and forgiveness. Both men were earnest forming a friendship and being able to walk away from their past. It also made me sad because I have a feeling this type of thing happens a lot more than any of us would be willing to admit. A dirty cop framing an innocent man.

While the state of policing in this country wasn’t the main theme of this book, it sits front and center through most of the story. And it really made me think about being a person of color in a society where it doesn’t matter how good you are – if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, you have to prove you’re innocent rather than being presumed innocent. For me, having gone to law school and believing in our form of government and justice, that is a bitter pill to swallow. It also made me think that we need to seriously look, not only at criminal justice reform, but at how we treat minorities and people of color in general. This book definitely provided a lot of food for thought.

I recommend this book.

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Y Is For Yesterday

Y is for Yesterday is the penultimate book in the Kinsey Millhone series (assuming Sue Grafton doesn’t continue it after Z.) I have read all of the books in this series and, while I haven’t always loved each individual book, I have loved the series. So I was particularly excited to read Y. And I was not disappointed.

The book opens with Kinsey being hired to investigate an extortion scheme. Her clients are the parents of a boy who served eight years at the California Youth Authority (as it was called then) for murder. The murder took place in 1979 and the story takes place in 1989. There is a sex tape of Fritz, the man whose family Kinsey has been hired by, and three other boys were involved in taping and/or sexually assaulting Iris. Fritz’s parents do not want to pay the blackmailer, but they cannot go to the police because the tape is explosive and will likely send Fritz back to jail.

In addition to Kinsey investigating the blackmail plot, Ned Lowe, a serial killer who attacked Kinsey is back in town. Two homeless people she dealt with in the past are camping in her octogenarian landlord’s backyard. And her cousin is pregnant – by one of the men Kinsey also had an affair with.

It sounds like a soap opera with a lot going on. But, despite its length, this book flies by. It is so well-written that you can visualize every single thing. I am not going to give away any spoilers except to say that this book is fantastic and the ending is so very satisfying. There are some loose ends, but no cliffhangers.

I really adore Sue Grafton’s writing. She is descriptive, without being wordy. And I adore Kinsey and her independence and practical nature. I have grown up with this series and if Z is, indeed, the end, I will be so very sad. But I will also be happy in the knowledge that I got to read all of them. I should also mention that while it is a benefit to have read X prior to Y, it is not completely necessary. She gives enough background to let new readers in on the story, but no so much that readers of the series will be bored.

This book is well worth the read and I highly recommend it. I won this book from Goodreads and received no other compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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The Heirs

I loved Susan Rieger’s The Divorce Papers. I like epistolary novels and that one was really good. So I was excited to get The Heirs. It’s a book about five sons and their mother and what happens when their father dies.

I would love to tell you more about the book. But, I didn’t finish it. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. Whereas The Divorce Papers was easy to read and funny,  The Heirs was stilted and too stuffy for me. I very rarely put books down before I finish them, but this one, I just could not finish.

I got this book from Blogging for Books and received no other compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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How to Fall in Love With Anyone

Ugh. I am so on the fence about this book. It falls into the same category for me as “Eat, Pray, Love” and “Wild”. While I had my own issues with those two books (really, who can afford to disappear for an extended period of time to get their shit together?), this one was a bit different.

Mandy Len Catron writes about love in a series of essays. That is the first difference. This book isn’t meant as one continuous discussion of a particular time. She bounces around to different points in her life, but the organization is still linear. I suppose I’m on the fence about this book for two reasons. First has everything to do with the author’s tone. The second has to do with me.

Catron’s tone throughout the book strives to be academic, but I couldn’t help but feel at times it was a bit whining and needy. I did find interesting her reactions to love and to dating. She, like a lot of modern women, myself included, reacted to love and dating the way she thought everyone expected her to and not in a way that was genuine to who she was. We have spent so much time being told how to act and what to expect that we conform our thoughts to outside forces and don’t allow that inside, we might feel differently. Most importantly, even if we do recognize that we feel differently about marriage, love commitment, etc., we do not feel comfortable or that it is ok with society that we show anything different than what is expected.

And that is why this book bothered me. It made me think about my own feelings and expectations. The difference is that I am not a thirty-something year old woman. So some of what she says I find useful for women who are younger and in that phase of life. Overall, this book was okay. I would recommend it to people who are trying to figure out their version of love and relationships.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no compensation in exchange for my review. The opinions contained herein, confusing as they are, are mine and mine alone.

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The Rules of Love and Grammar

I loved this book. Grace Hamilton lost her job, her boyfriend, and her apartment (temporarily) at the same time. She goes home to Dorset. Connecticut to stay with her parents. During her stay in Dorset, she deals with her sister’s death, her best friend/almost boyfriend from high school, who is now a famous movie director – in town making a movie, her female best friend, and Mitch, the son of the bike shop owner.

I liked this book because I liked Grace. She’s flawed and goofy and smart and insecure. Grace is also a planner. She likes to know what’s going to happen before it happens. Her mother tells her, “Let life unfold, or you’ll miss the chance to be surprised.” Probably the once scene I loved the most was when Mitch and Grace go for a bike ride and they have a conversation about knowing to remember something because it’s special.

I liked this book because it wasn’t predictable and tells a good story. I could relate to Grace and her life and how she feels about it. Mary Simses wrote a really good book. A lot of people will probably call this “chick lit” and if they judge it based on that description, they are missing a really wonderful story.

I loved this book. I recommend it. I won this book from Goodreads and received no other compensation for this review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.

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Pink Slips

I am not going to talk much about the plot of this book. If I do, it will give things away I think you should discover from reading. Betsy Ryan has a stalker. She lives in suburban Chicago and someone seems to watch her and know everything about her. Complicating the matter? Betsy is eight months pregnant and her husband is away on business…..

Pink Slips has an interesting hook that I thought was odd at first, but then really enjoyed. Along with her neighbor and friend, Misty, and her parents, Betsy’s best friend is Barney, her canine companion. The book is a thriller, but it’s also about love and family and friendship.

It will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is well-written and I really enjoyed it. I won this book from Goodreads and received no other compensation for this review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone. (

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The Physics of Everyday Things

I am torn about this book. I really, really wanted to like it and got it because my son is good at science and is taking physics next year and I wanted to have a basic understanding of physics as I never took it in school.

The explanations provided were not complete. I felt that the book was a little dry and needed something. Something was missing. Some people may enjoy this book more than I did, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

I received this book from Blogging for Books and did not receive any other compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.

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The Garden of Small Blessings

This book is about Lillian, her sister, Rachel, her two daughters, Anabel and Claire, and a gardening class she is forced to take. Lillian lost her husband, Dan, in a car accident four years ago. She is struggling to maintain. She was in a hospital for a few months after Dan’s death and is trying to maintain her existence. But life keeps throwing her curve balls.

The first is Edward, the gardening teacher from Holland, who Lilli is attracted to. She hates herself for being attracted to him and does everything in her power to push him away. But Edward likes Lilli, too, and tells her he will wait.

The second is her job. Lillian works at a small publisher of text books. They announce they are laying off the art department. Lillian is faced with having to find a new job. But as an illustrator, she’s in demand.

I loved this book. Lillian is the kind of person I would have as a friend. She’s sarcastic, messy, disorganized, and utterly human. I love her voice. I love that her sister, Rachel, is there to put her in place when need be. Her children, Clare and Anabel, are two of my favorites kid characters because they are written as real kids. If you have kids, you know what I’m taking about. Kids who one minute say the most insightful, brilliant things and the next minute are throwing a temper tantrum because you don’t have the right music in the car.

And let’s not forget the supporting cast. Mike, Angie, Gene, Eloise, Frances, Bob, Richard, Maggie, Berto, and Lillian’s in-laws. Abbi Waxman writes so well. She is so good at developing even the most minor characters, like Rachel’s boss. She is a two-dimensional character, but you still find out something surprising.

I cannot say enough great things about this book. It’s charming and funny and sassy. It is well-written. You slip into the story like a well-worn pair of jeans and it is immediately comfortable and comforting. I really loved this book and I am sure you will, too.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no compensation in exchange for my review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.

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The Operator

I have read several books about Navy Seals and the killing of bin Laden. I have enjoyed all of them. The Operator is another in that collection and I enjoyed it as well.

Robert O’Neill is from Butte, Montana. He talks about joining the Navy and deciding to become a Seal. He spends two-thirds of the book telling the story of his training and deployments with different Seal Teams. The last third is about killing bin Laden and his life after the Navy. He was involved in the operation that saved Captain Richard Phillips from Somali Pirates. He has been awarded a bunch of medal including to Silver Stars, the second highest combat award.

While I enjoyed the chapters that dealt with killing bin Laden and the fallout from that, I actually liked the first two-thirds of this book more. O’Nell is a good story teller. He shares stories about the men he served with who were dedicated to serving their country and making sure 9/11 never happens again. He tells his stories with wit and humor. He isn’t the wordiest author I have ever read, but that seems to fit who he is.

If you are someone who is interested in military history, the wars in the Middle East, or the killing of Osama bin Laden, then you will enjoy this book. One note – the Navy asked O’Neill to redact some information for national security. As far as I can tell, the only thing he redacted is the number of the seal team that killed bin Laden, which is common knowledge that it was Team 6. So, there is redacted information, but very little. In fact, I was kind of surprised about how much they allowed him to tell of the mission to kill bin Laden. It was truly informative.

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The Gatekeepers

I was a political science major in college. And I constantly have to explain to people that it is not the study of politics. It is the study of government. If I were teaching political science today, I would have my students read The Gatekeepers by Chris Whipple. It is a fascinating look at a position in government that, while wielding a ton of power, isn’t discussed often – Chief of Staff of the White House.

I think my favorite part of the book was at the beginning when Whipple describes a meeting between the new Chief of Staff and the former, living Chiefs of Staff. The list of attendees is a who’s who in Washington. Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Leon Panetta, to name a few.

The book is entertaining and readable. I do not know how Whipple kept it to a reasonable length, given he was covering the Nixon to Obama presidencies. But he did. This book provides rich history and deeper understanding of one of the most difficult and often reviled positions in American government. I highly recommend this book.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books and received no other compensation for my review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.

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