RSS

Tag Archives: 4 stars

Review – Angel of Death Row – Andrea D. Lyon

Angel of Death Row
Author: Andrea D. Lyon
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
Nineteen times, death penalty defense lawyer Andrea D. Lyon has represented a client found guilty of capital murder. Nineteen times, she has argued for that individual’s life to be spared. Nineteen times, she has succeeded. Dubbed the “Angel of Death Row” by the Chicago Tribune, Lyon was the first woman to serve as lead attorney in a death penalty case. Throughout her career, she has defended those accused of heinous acts and argued that, no matter their guilt or innocence, they deserved a chance at redemption.

Now, for the first time, Lyon shares her story, from her early work as a Legal Aid attorney to her founding of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases. Full of courtroom drama, tragedy, and redemption, Angel of Death Row is a remarkable inside look at what drives Lyon to defend those who seem indefensible—and to win.

There was Annette who was suspected of murdering her own daughter. There was Patrick, the convicted murderer who thirsted for knowledge and shared his love of books with Lyon when she visited him in jail. There was Lonnie, whose mental illness made him nearly impossible to save until the daughter who remembered his better self spoke on his behalf. There was Deirdre, who shared Lyon’s cautious optimism that her wrongful conviction would finally be overturned, allowing her to see her grandchildren born while she was in prison. And there was Madison Hobley, the man whose name made international headlines when he was wrongfully charged with the murder of his family and sentenced to death.

These clients trusted Lyon with their stories—and their lives. Driven by an overwhelming sense of justice, fairness, and morality, she fought for them in the courtroom and in the raucous streets, staying by their sides as they struggled through real tragedy and triumphed in startling ways. Angel of Death Row is the compelling memoir of Lyon’s unusual journey and groundbreaking career.

Review:
Its always interesting to see where my Goodreads challenge reading takes me, since I know that the Angel of Death Row is likely not a book I would have picked up, if I wasn’t looking for a non-fiction book with a specific theme. These theme (in homage to the pioneering women in Hidden Figures), a non-fiction book about a women who was first to do something significant (which Ms Lyon most definitely did). I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical going in – I mean, when I think about Death Penalty cases – visions of people like Jodi Arias come to mind or the scene from The Green Mile (where they are using the electric chair) and my thought pattern was how can she defend people who seem indefensible (yes, I know that everyone deserves the best defense they can afford by our constitution), but its still hard for me…but that wasn’t what I got.

As soon as I started reading Angel of Death Row, I felt drawn to Ms Lyon – it was interesting seeing how when she made up her mind on her career pathway that nothing derailed her and seeing how she knowingly made choices that would set her career on the trajectory to become the first female to try a death penalty case in the US. Added to that, her experience as the only female on Task Force Homicide which was part of the Public Defender’s Office (which by the way, why do we never see anything more than the slovenly public defender on TV who is quickly replaced by a high-powered shark of a lawyer, who swoops in to save the day) – made her career progression all the more intriguing – I haven’t read a lot of biographies about individuals in the legal field (lawyers or judges) – so I can’t say what I expected a typical career to look like, but this isn’t what I expect (yeah, I know, totally vague there)…

It’s hard to go into the different cases that were mentioned in Andrea’s book – several of them are mentioned in the books description – but in so much more color/detail – at times, I felt like I was sitting in a kitchen with Ms Lyon while she interviewed a witness or trudging the streets with her while she tried to find that one person who would be able to exonerate her client. But her career wasn’t all roses, she had her ups and downs and in the writing of her book, she didn’t shy away from talking about those issues – including the impact that such a career has on a personal life.

I believe that Angel of Death Row should be a required reading book for law students, especially those who are maybe considering defending or prosecuting individuals charged with homicide. There is something that everyone could learn from reading it. I’ll be interested to see what derivative recommendations I get based on my reading of the Angel of Death Row.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 14, 2017 in Book Review, Review

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Review – The Valiant – Lesley Livingston

The Valiant
Author: Lesley Livingston
Series: #1 in the Valiant series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
Princess. Captive. Gladiator.
Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.
When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.
Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.
Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.
Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

Review:
A couple of months I received an email from Netgalley (as I do quite often) about a new young adult historical fiction book that was due to be released in February. Normally, I take a quick scroll through these emails but don’t pay a lot of mind – but this time something caught my eye – maybe it was a rather unique time period (ancient rome) or the cover that just showed a single young woman standing in a stadium – but I knew that if I didn’t request it, then I was going to ask my library to purchase it (which they so kindly did). Anyways, I had had a long week and so I curled up in bed with the pups one Saturday and pretty much read the Valiant in one sitting – which is something that I rarely do.

Ancient Rome is definitely not a popular time period in historical fiction, and a book featuring a female gladiator (gladiatrix) is even rarer (honestly – I can’t even think of a recent book featuring male gladiators). Fallon has to be one of the most kick-ass heroines I’ve read about in a long time – especially considering the time period that the book was set – where women were often seen as little more than chattle. From the get go, I knew that Fallon was a character that I was going to be drawn to – like many other well-known females in history, she bucked the traditions of her time, and pushed the boundaries of proper behavior.

While there were the undertones of a potential romance between Fallon and one of the Roman soldiers (or male of significant rank, I can’t remember exactly what his position was) – it wasn’t overwhelming (and thankfully there was no love triangle!). It was more of an adventure/coming of age than a romance – but I believe that is a second book in the works, so that could change. I know that I will be looking forward to reading it when it does come out. I wish in general there were more books set in time periods like Ancient Rome (or similar civilizations). The Valiant got 4 stars from me with a heavy recommendation for anyone who likes historical fiction with kickass female characters!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 19, 2017 in Book Review, Review

 

Tags: , , , ,

Review – Living Death – Graham Masterton

living-deathLiving Death
Author: Graham Masterton
Series: #7 in the Katie Maguire series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
DS Katie Maguire is at a loss. Last year, she and her team destroyed the biggest drug trafficker in Cork. So how is the city’s drug trade at an all-time high? Meanwhile, a spate of violent attacks which leave victims severely disabled has brought confidence in the Garda to an all-time low.

As Katie investigates, she realises that the two cases might be connected. Someone is using brain-damaged victims to smuggle drugs into the country. And the only way to find out more is to go in undercover…

Review:
Sometimes I want to curse my local library because of their awesome selection of new books – even when I just dart on it to grab something that I had reserved – I can’t resist doing a quick browse through the new book shelf and typically I end up adding one or two books to the epic Mt TBR. Living Death was one of those books that just caught my eye when I did a quick browse one day. I’m not exactly sure what it was that caught my eye because there isn’t anything unique about the cover that really makes it stand out – but it was a chunkier book and I was kind of in the mood for something longer – so maybe that was it…

Admittedly I didn’t check ahead of time to see if it was part of a series and I think I could have enjoyed it slightly more having read at least a couple of the previous books (since this was the 7th book in the series) – but honestly, the storyline was well-developed enough (with the exception of the background behind Katie’s Significant Others health issues) that I didn’t feel like I was missing anything significant. In fact, I thought Masterson did a solid job of getting into the dark underbelly of the drug smuggling world and the length that some people will go to get drugs into a country. Because, damn, there was some seriously sick/depraved characters in this book – it actually made me cringe a few times.

I’ll admit that i’m curious enough about both how Katie ended up in the position that she was in in Living Death and also where she might go in the future – that I am definitely going to check out my library for the rest of the books in the series. I know that Graham Masterson could easily end up as an auto-read author for me if his other books are as dark and depraved in places as Living Death. A solid 4 stars from me.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 2, 2017 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , ,

Review – Scythe – Neal Schusterman

scytheScythe
Author: Neal Schusterman
Series: #1 in the Arc of a Scythe series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Review:
There is no doubt in my mine that Neal Schusterman writes some of the most through-provoking YA dystopia that I’ve read in recent years. It might not be as viscerally blood and gore like the Hunger Games; but he manages to impact the reader in ways that will make you cringe just from the power of the writing. There is one scene from his first book that I read (Unwind) that to this day makes me shiver when I think of it. When an advertisement for his newest book, Scythe, popped up in my Goodreads feed – it was a done deal that I was going to be getting my grubby little paws on it (and huge thanks to my local library for having such great librarians who buy awesome books like that).

What would you do in a world where there was no death? no cancer, no car accidents? where you could opt to reset your life and start over? where if you did “die” (or go splat) that your body would heal itself? that is the world that Schusterman has written about in Scythe. Yet, in any kind of world, there must be some form of population control and that is where the Scythe’s come in. Scythe’s are those special people who have been trained in the art of taking lives – do they do it by poison, or by beheading, by stabbing or some other form of death. There are even Scythe’s who specialize in mass death…The first book in the Scythe series is the story of 2 teenagers who are apprentices to become a Scythe and their journey through the process.

In typical fashion, Schusterman raises many questions – the main ones for me focused around the idea of causing purposeful death? when you don’t call it murder in the societal sense. How would you pick who to kill? and in what method? how would you ensure that you aren’t focusing too much on any specific gender/race/religion when choosing your victims? In between the training that the apprentice Scythe’s undergoing, is the hint of a revolution in the core of the Scythedom – there is a reason behind the quote – ultimately power corrupts ultimately (John Dalberg-Acton) – what is more powerful than holding the life and death of an entire world in your hands?

I will admit that I was left with many questions after finishing Scythe – but that just means, I’ll have to wait impatiently for the next installment. If you are looking for a thought-provoking dystopia with death being forefront, then Scythe might be the book for you.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 14, 2017 in Book Review, Review

 

Tags: , , , ,

Review – Dirty Like Me – Jaine Diamond

dirty-like-meDirty Like Me
Author: Jaine Diamond
Series: #1 in the Dirty series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by the Author

Description:
Struggling barista Katie Bloom doesn’t even know who Jesse Mayes is until she inadvertently wins the coveted role of sex kitten in his hot new music video. But by the time she’s in bed with him, she knows his reputation.

Love maker. Heartbreaker.

Making out with a stranger in front of a camera crew isn’t how Katie imagined herself getting over a broken heart, but when Jesse touches her, sparks fly. The sex is fake but the chemistry is real, and soon the steamy video is blazing up the charts.

Then Jesse makes Katie an irresistible offer: act as his girlfriend for six weeks while he promotes his new album. The only catch? Their sizzling make-out sessions will be for the cameras only.

Which is fine with Katie, since she’s not about to trust her heart to rock’s most legendary lover. Her body? Maybe…

Review:
It seemed kind of like fate that the same day I started reading Dirty Like Me, that I saw the facebook video featuring auditions for the live show of Magic Mike…trust me when I say this video is worth your time…Magic Mike Live Audition YouTube or Magic Mike Live on the Ellen Show. Anyways, when I picked up Dirty Like Me, I had some great visuals in my head after I read the opening (and found myself fanning my face a bit because it definitely got a bit steamy in the car where I was reading).

So early on in the book, not only was I drooling over the cover (because just look at it), I had a solid visual of Jesse and Katie’s first(ish) meeting and it was a relationship of convenience…yeah, I knew I was either going to have a great reading experience or I’d eat my hat (or is it cover, since I was in uniform while I was reading?) One of the things that drew me to Katie early on was that she was independent but at the same time, wasn’t afraid to ask for help if she needed it (and had a solid family support system too). It was something that was slightly different from many of my recent reads when characters have needed help but were too stubborn to ask for it.

To say that the hotness of Dirty Like Me was chartable would be a lie…there were so many times when the chemistry between Katie and Jesse was like a volcanic explosion. But the smexy scenes (both the UST build-up and the actual scenes themselves) weren’t overdone and felt natural (and not forced or overpowering the rest of the story). Not only that, but the whole traveling with the band portion of the story was well done – there was drama but wasn’t drama for drama sake! If you are in the mood for a rock-star romance with the right touch of smexyness and unresolved sexual tension, then Dirty Like Me might be a book for you.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 15, 2016 in Book Review, Review

 

Tags: , , ,

Review – Ashley’s War – Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

ashleys-warAshley’s War
Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Description:
In 2010, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command created Cultural Support Teams, a pilot program to put women on the battlefield alongside Green Berets and Army Rangers on sensitive missions in Afghanistan. The idea was that women could access places and people that had remained out of reach, and could build relationships—woman to woman—in ways that male soldiers in a conservative, traditional country could not. Though officially banned from combat, female soldiers could be “attached” to different teams, and for the first time, women throughout the Army heard the call to try out for this special ops program.

Review:
Over the last few months, there has been a lot of discussion about the opening of combat roles in the military to women. Discussions about should women be allowed in these traditional male roles? can they carry the same weight? various services have conducted different studies to see how women perform in these training pipelines – but few people know that women have been in combat roles for several years – serving alongside men in the special operations, including Army Delta forces. In fact, while I had heard of these women in passing, I knew next to nothing about these ground breaking women, so when I came across Ashley’s War in the library, it seemed like a good choice for something to read.

ashleyAt its heart, Ashley’s War is a fairly simple read, but the depth of emotion held within resulted in me crying and nearly crying several times throughout. Its a story of sisterhood; or pushing yourself beyond what you believe capable; or providing evidence that women do have a place in direct combat roles. What started out as a “social experiment” as many anti-women in combat folks like to say, soon emerged as a way for the US to tackle the empty cavern that was the female half of population in the villages, soldier’s often ended up in their pursuit of Taliban. The women of the Combat Support Teams (or CST’s) aided in identifying members of Taliban hiding in the general population because they were able to talk to female members of the population, who previously were not included in interrogations. There wasn’t anything special about these women – they were daughters, wives, and sisters; Academy graduates and ROTC, regular Army and National Guard – but each of them were special in their own way. Each of them were trail blazers for the women in the military today and the into the future.

memorial1-jpegBy the end of the book I was a blubbering mess – even though going into it, I knew what was going to happen to the title solider (thank you huge spoilers in the description!). But reading how she died and how the unit that she was supporting did their best to save her and the others that were injured in the IED detonation; the reading of the recollections of the other members of the CST who had trained with Ashley when they realized she had been killed…I think I’m almost glad that I was reading this book and not listening to the audiobook like I had originally intended.

This book is a must read for anyone who wants to learn about what our Combat Support Teams did in Afghanistan; and anyone who wants to see what the role of women in combat can truly be.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 16, 2016 in Book Review, Review

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Audiobook Review – The Duke’s Holiday – Maggie Fenton

Romance nominee banner

the duke's holidayThe Duke’s Holiday
Author: Maggie Fenton
Series: #1 in the Regency Romp series
Rating:

Narrator: Sue Pitkin
Run Time: 15hrs 11 minutes
Audiobook Producer: Brilliance Audio
Narration Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
The cold, precise Duke of Montford demands things his way: neatly ordered, in place, and adhering closely to the rules. So he is furious when he learns that the tenant of his ducal estate has been dead for a year, and a stranger has been running the Honeywell business–which, by contract, is now Montford’s. When he arrives in Yorkshire to investigate, he discovers that the estate is being run by an unruly, tomboyish woman–and a bluestocking at that!
Fiery redhead Astrid Honeywell is independent and educated. She’s been handling the Honeywell family business for years. And she’s not about to relinquish it to anyone–not even Montford–because of some archaic contract.
Montford and Astrid have an instant hatred for one another…and an undeniable, unspeakable attraction. They must resist this improper desire–after all, Montford has a fiancée in London. But when Astrid’s life is placed in terrible danger, Montford finds he may be willing to risk everything to save her.

Review:
It’s hard to describe my overall reaction to The Duke’s Holiday, with the exception of, it was totally not what I expected. I mean, I went into the audio of this book, expecting a very traditional historical romance, staid characters with a fairly predictable storyline (because unfortunately after reading/listening to so much historical romance over the years, it all starts to blend together). What I got was a historical romantic comedy that had me laughing out loud for a good portion of the book and by laughing out loud, I mean like serious, belly clutching laughter.

Not only was The Duke’s Holiday full of antics that reminded me of something you would see on a comedy show, but it departed from the norms of the time period with Astrid, the heroine, running her families brewery, under the guise of her father, who was unable. Enter, the Duke of Montford (because he was NEVER called by his real name of Cyril…not that I blame him), who owned the estate (although that was up for debate if you asked any of the Honeywell’s) and who liked things very proper – in fact, at times, I wondered if he maybe had a touch of obsessive-compulsive behavior with his need to control things. It was fun listening to the Duke shed his properness (is that a real world) as he became more relaxed and free at the Honeywell’s. I’ll admit the scene where the author went into great detail about the foot race that is held every year and involves drinking a pint of Honeywell Brew approximately ever 1/4 mile, made me nearly run the car of the road, i was laughing so hard. That is totally something I would sign up to do in my insanity and the following scenes where the Duke is singing druken limericks was just as entertaining. The author had the raunchy nature of drunken shenanigans pegged perfectly. As another reviewer on Goodreads stated, both Astrid and the Duke were perfectly unperfect (or was is unperfectly perfect)…either way, that statement sums up my thoughts almost perfectly on the book.

Once again in my Audie’s listening I came across a new to me narrator (which seems to have been the theme for this year). As with others, I can safely say that I will be adding more narration by Sue Pitkin to my listening future. Its honestly hard to pinpoint exactly what i liked about her narration though – it wasn’t one specific thing (you know, somehow its how the narrator differentiates characters or how they handle pacing of the story etc)…for me, it was just a solid combination of everything that made The Duke’s Holiday an all-around solid romance audiobook. As mentioned above, one of my favorite scenes, due in part to the narration, was the druken duke – in fact, i remember tweeting the narrator after I had gotten done listening to that chapter because I had to let her know how much I had enjoyed it. While I know that voices of the opposite gender are at times a struggle for narrators, I thought Sue Pitkin handled not only Monford’s narration perfectly, but also that of his companions (one a well described fop and the other a walking train-wreck). I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to them because I have a feeling the other two books in the series will be about them.

A solid 4 stars for both the book itself and the narration – this is a book that probably never would have caught my eye if not nominated, but will be an author that I watch out for in the future. Warning to all listeners, driving while listening to this book may result in distracted driving from laughing so hard you card (just so you have been warned…)

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 29, 2016 in Audiobook Review, Review

 

Tags: , , , , , ,