Target Omega

Mike Garin is a a member of a special forces unit that is charged with dealing with weapons of mass destruction. After a mission in Pakistan, the men come home and are assassinated – except for Garin, who gets the jump on his killers. He is being hunted and blamed for the murders. He is not only being hunted by the FBI, the police, and someone who assassinated his team, but by his own government.

Target Omega is a non-stop thrill ride. Mike Garin is a prototypical special operator (think Scot Harvath or the Grey Man), but he’s also smart and philosophical. The book is well written with one very large plot twist that I did not see coming. I really, really liked this book. It was well written and I cannot wait for Mike Garin’s second adventure.

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


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Make Your Bed

Make Your Bed comes from a commencement speech at the University of Texas in 2014 given by retired Admiral William McRaven. McRaven was a Navy SeAL and was in charge of JSOC when they killed Osama bin Laden. McRaven used the speech to discuss ten lessons he learned being a Navy SeAL. This short book is an expansion of those ideas. And I will say that it’s going to be my go-to graduation present for years to come.

The lessons in this book are common sense. But they are also needed in today’s “safe space world”. As he plainly says, “It’s easy to blame your lot in life on some outside force, to stop trying because you believe fate is against you. It is easy to think where you were raised, how your parents treated you, or what school you went to is all that determines your future. Nothing could be further than the truth. The common people and the great men and women are all defined by how they deal with life’s unfairness.” His advice? Don’t complain. Just do.

Another lesson? Failure teaches you. It’s not always a bad thing to fail. If you live in fear of failure and embarrassment you will never reach your potential. If you are courageous, nothing will stand in your way. And for me, the most important lesson – stand up to bullies. He says, “Bullies thrive on fear and intimidation. Bullies gain their strength through the faint and weak of heart.” Words that we should definitely heed in today’s climate of hatred and intimidation.

I loved this book. It succinctly states what everyone should do – be strong, don’t fear failure, stand up to bullies, make your bed, and never, never quit. Lessons that kids today desperately need. I might also add that some adults need them too.

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

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Democracy In Black

Eddie Glaude, Jr., has written a really hard book. This book was hard for me to read. It was hard for me to digest. But it was important.

His thesis is that as long as we continue to devalue black lives, we will never truly have a democracy or be free. He contends that we have, since the founding of this country, devalued black lives. Made them less valuable than white lives and as a result, this country is inherently adverse to to black interests and advancements. Being a white woman, I cannot possibly empathize with his point – I have never been where he is. However, this book was hard for me because it forced me to reevaluate my thoughts on race in society. I can say that race doesn’t play a role in my life, but that would be a lie. It does. I see it every day. This book was hard because it made me think about that.

I think this book should be required reading. If for no other reason that it will evoke strong emotions, and, hopefully, a conversation about the current state of race relations in this county and what can be done to make things better for everyone.

I received 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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The Fact of a Body

The Fact of A Body is subtitled A Memoir and a Murder. I was interested in reading this book to see how the two stories would be woven together. I have to say that had the author just stuck to the murder, the book would have been far more interesting.

I was also a bit confused about the format of the book. For the first two-thirds, she alternated between the past of the crime and her past. The last third was written in straight chapters. It was done because the last third was about her investigation of the murder and the second and third trial of the defendant. But to me, the shifting narrative was confusing.

The story focuses on Ricky Langley, who molested and killed a six year-old boy in Louisiana. He was ultimately tried three times and is spending life in prison. The author wanted to be a lawyer and went to law school. She was opposed to the death penalty – until she was sent to a law firm in Louisiana that was helping Ricky. She found out he was molester and her attitude changed because she was molested as a child by her grandfather.

The reason that I gave this book two stars (I would have given 2.5 if I could have) is that I thought it was a bit long and I didn’t like the style switch at the two-thirds mark. I think the book would have been better organized if it was divided into sections. Section 1 about her; section 2 about the crime; and section 3 when the crime and the author meet.

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

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The Hate U Give

Don’t be fooled by the classification – The Hate U Give is more than an YA book. In fact, when I bought it, I thought it was a regular novel. I am glad I bought it and even happier I read it. This is a book that has changed my life. In the way To Kill A Mockingbird changed my life. I am hoping that many people read this book to open a conversation about things that we do not want to admit exist or talk about.

The story is about Starr Carter. She is in high school. She lives in a rough neighborhood, but she goes to a private school that is mostly white. She attends the school with her two brothers. She has a white boyfriend, that her dad doesn’t know about. Her mother is a nurse. Her dad owns the neighborhood grocery store. He used to be a King Lord – one of the local gangs in their neighborhood. Now he’s not, after he went to prison to save the leader from a long sentence. Starr has an older half brother and younger brother. Her uncle lives in a nice neighborhood near her school. He is a cop and his wife is a surgeon.

Starr goes to a party in her ‘hood. She is there are runs into her old friend, Khalil, who she has not seen in a while. While at the party, shots ring out and Starr and Khalil leave. They are driving in Khalil’s car when he is pulled over by the police. The stop escalates and Khalil is pulled from the car. He is shot by the officer and Starr is the only witness. She is afraid to come forward publicly.

As she struggles with this issue, and with people making accusations that Khalil was a thug and a drug dealer who may have deserved to get shot, her mother tells her, “Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.” Truly words to live by.

A little later in the book, she is talking to her father. They are discussing why Khalil may have been selling drugs. Starr suggests lack of opportunity. Her father agrees and then says, “Corporate America don’t bring jobs to our communities, and they damn sure ain’t quick to hire us. Then, shit, even if you do have a high school diploma, so many of the schools in our neighborhoods don’t prepare us well enough.” That paragraph alone is cause for a long discussion about race, poverty, privilege, economics, and education. It should spark a conversation.

Later in the book, Starr and her mother are talking about one of her close friends, who she finds out is really a racist. Her mother says to her, “At an early age I learned that people make mistakes, and you have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them.” Ultimately, Starr decides that her love for her former friend is not enough to overcomes the girl’s very racist statements, that she claims is really joking.

I cannot say enough about this book. It made me feel like Starr. It made me think about all of those words that have become buzzwords in recent years – white privilege, police brutality, opportunity, prison, drugs, gangs. More than a political statement, this book is lyrical and so well-written. I found it astonishing that this is Ms. Thomas’ first novel. It is a gem. If I were an English teacher at any level, I would assign this book. It is just phenomenal and it will stay with me for a very, very long time. Like I said, this book changed my life.




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Aftercare Instructions

I do not think I can say enough great things about this book. I do not think I can quantify how much I loved it. Aftercare Instructions is the story of Genesis Johnson, who is a senior in high school. Her father has died of a heroin overdose – which the entire school has found about. Her mother is not recovering from her father’s death. Her sister lives with her mom’s religious parents. Her life is her best friend, Rose, and her boyfriend, Peter, whose mother us uber religious and uber judgmental.

The book opens with Genesis getting an abortion in New York City and being left there by Peter. She is struggling with everything in her life. Peter’s disappearance is worsened by the fact that he isn’t talking to her. Her ex-best friend, Vanessa, likes Peter and leads Genesis to believe that Peter left Gen for Vanessa. There is a fight. There is a suspension. There is adventure. There is drama.

What made this book so great to me was Genesis’ voice. She is strong, but vulnerable. She is tough, but has a soft heart. She misses her father, but knows she has to function for her mother’s sake. She is an old soul, with a teenager’s view of love. She is quick and witty and sarcastic. Most importantly to me, she is real. Very, very real. Bonnie Pipkin did such a fantastic job developing all of her characters in this book. Even the two dimensional characters pop off the page and come to life.

Don’t read any more of my gushing about this book. Just get it and read it. You will love it.

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

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Timothy Snyder writes a short, accessible book that EVERYONE should read. Right now. He takes lessons from tyranny in the 20th century and tells us how to avoid it here. Which, if you do not believe we are on that road, you have not been paying attention.

I loved this book because it was full really important concepts, but was written in an very accessible way. Mr. Snyder backs up his assertions with examples – from Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, mostly. He does use some other examples. But he takes each point and tells a story or uses an example to illustrate his point.

If I were teaching political science right now, I would assign this book and it would remain in my curriculum until I stopped teaching. It’s that important. It is short – just over 100 pages, but I cannot again state how important this book is given the current political climate.

I will leave you with this reminder – well-meaning people who do nothing are as complicit as those who participate.

I received this book from Blogging for Books and received no other compensation for my review. The opinions expressed herein – while important – are mine and mine alone.

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The Tunnels

I grew up in the 1980s. I vividly remember the Berlin Wall coming down in 1989. Prior to that, I remember Ronald Reagan giving his speech in which he said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” I was given a piece of the wall by my neighbors who knew of my obsession with the Cold War and the Kennedy Administration. So I was really excited to read The Tunnels. And I was not disappointed.

East Germans decided they wanted out after the wall was built and groups were tunneling under the wall to the west and escaping the brutal East German Regime. CBS and NBC filmed these people finishing the tunnels and escaping from East Berlin. The State Department and Kennedy got wind of this and moved to have the shows stopped from airing. They were partially successful.

I was enthralled by this book. It was a really excellent history of the Cold War in Berlin and the spying and trickery that happened. I loved the personal stories of those who built the tunnels and escaped. I also got to watch the author discussing the book on C-Span which gave an added perspective into the story.

If you want to read a really good Cold War book and a really good history of the Berlin Wall, I highly recommend this book.

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

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The Dry

Wow. What a well-written, page-turning mystery. I really, really liked this book and am looking forward to reading more from Jane Harper.

The story revolves around what looks to be a murder-suicide in a small Australian ravaged by drought. Aaron Faulk returns to Kiewarra for the funeral of his friend Luke Hadler, his wife, Karen, and their son, Billy. It looks like Luke has killed Karen and Billy and then himself. Aaron doesn’t really want to be there because when he was a teenager, his friend, Ellie Deacon, committed suicide and there was a question of whether it was murder – and whether Aaron did it. Luke and Aaron made up an alibi and lied – they said they were together and they weren’t. The town thinks Aaron did it and there is still resentment toward him.

The book looks at the two happenings – Ellie’s suicide and Luke’s death – and whether they may be related. Was it really murder? Did Luke kill Ellie and then kill his family? Was it because of the drought? Money? Guilt? Aaron agrees to stay in Kiewarra and look into the murders with the local cop at the behest of Luke’s parents, whom Aaron was close to. Their investigation leads to the resolution of both cases, but not necessarily with neat and tidy bows wrapped around them.

I can’t say enough good things about this book. Jane Harper brings Southern Australia alive. It is a fantastic tale and it is masterfully told. I highly recommend this book.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no other compensation for this review. This review contained my opinions and they are mine alone.

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The Terror Years

I read The Looming Tower shortly after it was published and i consider it to be one of the best books about the road to 9/11. The Terror Years is Wright’s latest book about the war on terror. It is a collection of his writings from The New Yorker. And it is well worth the read, if not sometimes repetitive.

Each chapter is about a different person or subject. There are eleven chapters and an Epilogue and I learned something new in each one. The hardest chapter for me to read was “Five Hostages”. This chapter dealt with the American hostages taken by ISIS: James Foley, Theo Padnos; Steven Sotloff; Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller. This chapter was heartbreaking. It focuses on David Bradley, publisher of the Atlantic, who tried, in vain, mostly, to get them freed despite the U.S. Government’s admonition against negotiating with ISIS. I felt for the parents, friends and family of these men and woman who were being held.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of this chapter was the U.S. Government’s seeming inability to do anything to get them back. I voted for and supported President Obama. But I am frustrated and saddened by his lack of ability to act when it comes to the middle east. Never was this more apparent than in this chapter. Such futility and lack of coordinated effort hastened the hostages’ deaths. It angers me that these people lost their lives trying to do some good in the world.

In the Epilogue, Wright talks about Audrey Kurth Cronin’s book How Terrorism Ends, which is high on my to be read list. He discusses terrorists and terror groups and talks about why they are not successful. It’s a really interesting discussion. I look forward to reading more in her book.

Overall, I recommend this book as it was insightful and informative. Some of the chapters repeat themselves, but for those unfamiliar with the middle east or terrorism, it will not be annoying. If you are interested in a more specific look at 9/11, I highly recommend The Looming Tower. Either way, you really can’t go wrong with Lawrence Wright.

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