Tag Archives: Touchstone Books

An Innocent Man

500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars by Kurt Eichenwald (Touchstone, $30.00, 611 pages)

Amazing.   Bush believed that he could establish a new legal system, and then declared his order exempt from judicial review?   Had anyone in the White House even read the Constitution?”

This is a stunningly good, and often sad and depressing, account of the first 500 days of the Bush administration’s response to 9/11.   As detailed in this book, a number of innocent persons were labeled as dangerous terrorists and were either tortured or lost their lives.   However, author Eichenwald seems to be both sympathetic to, and critical of, the people who worked in the White House and in the U.S. intelligence system.

“My God, they’re arguing that the president can do whatever he wants.”

The Bush White House was guided, during these 500 days, by a Berkeley law professor who incredibly advised that, “…we do have the right to violate international law.”   John Woo, a Republican lawyer in the Office of Legal Counsel, asserted that the executive’s power was virtually unbounded; a latter-day acceptance of Richard Nixon’s version of an imperial presidency beyond the review of the courts and Congress.   Fortunately for this country, a number of other government lawyers were fully prepared to take on Woo.   And they did.   One noted of Woo’s position:  “Adopting these standards would invite enemies to torture American soldiers.”

“The call ended without a resolution of their conundrum and with both men befuddled by the difficulty of nailing down Arar’s terrorist leanings.   Neither considered the obvious explanation – the evidence didn’t exist because Arar was an innocent man.”

These were days when fear and hatred led to a trampling of individual human rights; a national tragedy was exploited by extremists.   Let’s hope this account prevents us from repeating such a misguided and unfortunate chapter in our nation’s history.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “A page turner…  Jaw-dropping…  It crackles.”   The Washington Post500 Days (3d)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Coming Up Next…

A review of 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars by Kurt Eichenwald.500 Days (nook book)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

10 Questions

This is the continuation of our interview with Nora McFarland, author of A Bad Day’s Work: A Lilly Hawkins Mystery.

6.  Ruta Arellano (RA):  The ending of Going to the Bad left Lilly in a state of closure with regard to family secrets.   Will there be future books featuring Lilly Hawkins, Rod and her newly-discovered cousin Jack?

There’s at least one more book I want very much to write.   Lilly needed to come to terms with some of her family baggage in order to move forward in her personal life.   Now that she’s done that, there’s a very important day in her future that I’d love to center a book around.   I won’t get into specifics, but that day is set up at the end of Going to the Bad.

7.  RA:  There are notable class distinctions among the various families whose lives and pasts intersect for Lilly in Going to the Bad.   Are they indicative of your take on Bakersfield?   Does the somewhat isolated location of Bakersfield foster those distinctions?

I believe those kinds of class distinctions exist everywhere in our society, but it’s true that things have gotten much worse in Bakersfield over the last five years.   California’s Central Valley has been especially hard hit by the recession and housing crisis.   Double digit unemployment is the norm there and in some cities it reaches as high as thirty percent.   The real estate market was insanely inflated so the correction has been very painful.   Almost everyone I know there has suffered in some way.   Several of my friends lost their homes and jobs.

8.  RA:  The dedication of the KJAY news team to cover events as they unfold is pronounced in Going to the Bad.   Is this because one of their own is at the center of the story?

It’s always difficult when someone who works in news becomes a part of the story.   I like to believe that the KJAY news team would be just as dedicated, regardless of Lilly’s connection.   Where the real difference lies is in the rules Lilly breaks in her pursuit of the truth.   She trespasses, steals, and lies in order to discover who shot her uncle.   No decent journalist would ever do anything like that.   It would be unethical and could even give those that the journalist is trying to expose a weapon to discredit the investigation.

9.  RA:  Lilly has size 10 feet.   Why have you provided her with them?   Is this a metaphor for her earthy, grounded attitude?

I originally intended it as a quirky character trait, but in later drafts of the first book I began to think of it as a metaphor for Lilly’s awkward social skills.   At one point Uncle Bud looks down at her big feet and says that the family always hoped she’d grow into them, but it doesn’t look like she did.

In later books, as Lilly matured, I started to see her big feet as an asset.   She can kick in doors and be tougher because she’s got these giant boots.   It you want to take the metaphor a step further you could say that she’s taken what was once a weakness and made herself stronger.

10.  RA:  On a personal note – Did you encounter Chris Curle at CNN, who has a personality that’s bigger than life?

I didn’t, but my husband Jeff Ofgang did.   He worked with Chris and her husband Don Farmer back when CNN was in its old building on Techwood Avenue.

Thank you to author Nora McFarland!   You can see the first part of this interview here:

https://josephsreviews.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/the-authors-perspective-5/

Joseph Arellano

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Stairway to Heaven

No Rest for the Dead: A Novel by Sandra Brown, R. L. Stine, Alexander McCall Smith, J. A. Jance, Diana Gabeldon, Jeffrey Deaver, Lisa Scottoline, John Lescoart, Kathy Reichs, Raymond Khoury, et al. (Touchstone, $15.00, 286 pages)

Twenty-Six Writers.   One Mystery.

“The lineup of writers who have contributed to this mystery is akin to the Murderer’s Row of the 1927 New York Yankees.   There is not a weak spot in the bunch.”   David Baldacci

Can there by synergy when it comes to writing?   If 26 well-known and admired mystery writers collaborate on one story, can it be as good as, or better than, the work  of just one of them?   That’s the question behind the creation of No Rest for the Dead.   Each chapter or segment was written by one of the twenty-six writers or a combination of them.

The book includes police reports of the crime in question (by Kathy Reichs) and journal entries by the cop who would not let go of an old death penalty case (by Andrew F. Gulli).   The tragedy was that a wife who was the mother of two young children was executed for the murder of her husband, and the policeman had serious doubts he ignored at the time of the initial investigation.

While there are no obvious disconnects among the chapters, there are perspective shifts and slight changes in attitude as each writer adds his or her voice to the mix.   The tone may go from cunning to bullying or from scene description to dialogue.   For example, Faye Kellerman’s penchant for details marks her contribution and Lisa Scottoline’s snappy, terse dialogue is present in hers.

The typical plot elements include super locations in San Francisco that are accurately described and a sinister observer who is designated by an alternate font/typeface.   He/she is puzzling but not quite menacing.   Moreover, there are shifts from characters that are clearly cerebral to ones who are driven by emotions and actions.

Readers of Joseph’s Reviews may have noted that this reviewer is quite fond of the mystery genre.   Several of the authors who contributed to this book have provided a bedtime lights out that stretched into the early hours of the morning because their stories truly kept this reader engaged up to the final page.   Now, together, they provide a bit of magic!

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “…except for funds allocated to author payments, all of our profits from (this book) are going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.”   Lamia J. Gulli

No Rest for the Dead was released as a trade paperback book on July 3, 2012.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Book I Want to Read

Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury by Lesley-Ann Jones will be released by Touchstone Books (Simon and Schuster) on Tuesday, July 3, 2012.   Jones is an award-winning rock journalist and author who has crafted a 350-page portrait of Mercury: the complex man and the myth.   She has toured widely with Queen and has had full access to the band members.   In Mercury she makes use of more than 100 interviews conducted with those closest to the late Freddie Mercury, many of whom are just now speaking, twenty full years after his tragic death.   Mercury was the first major rock star to die from AIDS.

Meticulously researched, sympathetic and yet not sensational, Mercury offers an unvarnished, revealing look at the extreme highs and lows of life in the musical fast lane.   Jones details it all from Queen’s slow yet steady rise to fame, to the creation of ground breaking songs like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, to the decadent, raucous after parties Queen became quite infamous for, to the band’s creative process and their ongoing quest to challenge themselves musically.

To gain a better understanding of Mercury’s early life and his somewhat difficult relationship with his troubled, conservative past Jones traveled to Zanzibar, his birthplace, and India, where he attended boarding school.   She also provides new insights into the great loves of Mercury’s life — long-time girlfriend Mary Austin, chef Joe Fanelli, German soft-porn star Barbara Valentin, and live-in lover Jim Hutton — and what these relationships meant to him.   Mercury provides a compelling, full-screen portrait of this enigmatic performer-entertainer-artist whose magnetic performances once thrilled audiences around the world.

Joseph Arellano

Adapted from information provided by the publisher.   Adam Lambert, a lifelong fan of Mercury’s, will reportedly join Queen in concert at the Sonisphere Festival next month.   Lesley-Ann Jones’s expertise has been incorporated into a screenplay for an upcoming film version of Mercury, which will star Sacha Baron Cohen.  

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Coming Up Next…

A look at a book that I’d like to read.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Starry Starry Night

Objects of My Affection: A Novel by Jill Smolinski (Touchstone, $24.99, 307 pages)

It is very easy to be drawn into this little story with a big message.   The narrator, Lucy Bloom, could be any single mom you know.   She cares deeply about her teenage son who has become a drug user.   As is her pattern in life, Lucy springs to action a little too late.   She sells her house to pay for his drug rehab stay in Florida.   Lucy, who wrote a book about organizing (Things Are Not People), happens to be out of work.   In a move to keep herself fed, she takes on the job of clearing the home of a hoarder.   The hoarder is approaching her 65th birthday and wants to put her home in order before the birthdate arrives.   Lucy has about eight weeks to accomplish the daunting task.

Both Lucy and the hoarder are mothers who have vastly differing views of life.   Each has a son and the sons seem to be similar in their self-centeredness.   While this novel is poignant from the perspective of each of the main characters, it also carries the message that being a mother does not mean losing yourself.   This reviewer found the message encouraging for parents.   It seems to say that realizing you own role in life as well as those around you is very important for each of us.

Author Jill Smolinski’s narrator, Lucy Bloom, is best summed up as self-effacing, yet not a total loser.   Lucy’s newly-found skills learned the hard way while clearing out the jam-packed house, include the value of recognizing true friendship and going after what matters most to her.   There is enough drama and suspense to keep the reader engaged and the dialogue is snappy without becoming a parody of the sensitive characters that populate this tale.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “Simultaneously breezy yet thought provoking, this is a fun read that stays with you.”   Sarah Pekkanen, author of These Girls and The Opposite of Me.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Coming Up Next…

A review of Objects of My Affection: A Novel by Jill Smolinski.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Deacon Blues

Red Cell: A Novel by Mark Henshaw (Touchstone, $24.99, 336 pages)

The president of Taiwan orders the arrest of a set of spies from China, and China retaliates with a military attack.   As the U. S. moves battleships into the war area, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) learns that its top mole within China, “Pioneer”, has been uncovered; and that the president of China is ready to go to war with America.   It seems that the Red Chinese have a secret weapon known only by the code name The Assassin’s Mace.

With the prospect of a war to end all wars on the horizon, The Company turns to Kyra Stryker, a young Jason Bourne-like agent who barely survived her prior mission in Venezuela.   Now she’s called upon to not only rescue Pioneer, but to also – as a member of the select Red Cell think tank, find and destroy The Assassin’s Mace.   Nothing less than the future of the Free World rests in her hands.

Mark Henshaw has written an espionage thriller that can stand beside the very best of its genre.   A former, highly-decorated CIA analyst and member of the Red Cell, Henshaw takes us deep within the world of spies, from Virginia to South America and Asia.   This one will make a great film, and every young actress in Hollywood will vie for the role of Kyra Stryker!

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Red Cell was released on May 1, 2012 and is also available as a Kindle Edition and Nook Book download.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Coming Up Next…

A review of Red Cell: A Novel by Mark Henshaw.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized