Greg Zito’s History of Street Cops: Gangs, Guns, and Cabrini Green Snipers

I received this book courtesy of Mr. Zito for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: Mr. Zito spent eighteen years as a street cop in some of the most violent days of Chicago’s history. In that time he’s been shot at, threatened and had to deal with…politics. This is his story.

Story Telling: Memoirs are interesting to catch. They seem to be a bit more emotional auto-biographies. That, and they also seem to be structured around a single timeframe, and not the author’s whole life to that point. Mr. Zito’s timeframe is his police days.

Likes: Mr. Zito made sure that his readers could understand how dangerous a cop’s job is. I appreciate the fact that Mr. Zito showed great restraint in his descriptions. Some of the situations that he found himself in were pretty gross.

Dislikes: Many of the individuals, that Mr. Zito met, would drive me crazy. I also would have preferred to know Mr. Zito’s feelings about legally owned guns, but he was clear on his beliefs on the illegal ones.

Favorite Character: Mr. Zito’s partner, Billie, was a pretty good guy.

Favorite Quote: Here’s why I like Billie. “Bill called them and told them they better make sure they took care of me and covered my back, and that if anything happened to me, they could have to answer to him.”

Favorite Scene: The best part was Mr. Zito’s memories of the wedding photo shoot. It may have cost him, but it hat to have been worth it.

Conclusion: This is a good book. Perhaps those who believe that the cops are just out to get people–based on either their color, creed, or class–should read this. It can only help.

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Janice Virant’s T-Bone’s Traveling Circus-T-Bone the Flying Horse 2

I received this book courtesy of Ms. Virant for the purpose of fair and honest review.

Overview: We start by meeting Rita Bonita, a young pony who gets picked on by the rest of the herd. Let’s see what happens when she comes across T-Bone’s Traveling Circus.

Story Telling: This children’s book didn’t really beat you over the head with the chosen theme. The illustrations are more cartoon-like than realistic, but that’s part of the charm.

Likes: Rita was kind of cute. And the young girl who was friends with T-Bone, showed what kind of friend she was. She continued T-Bone’s legacy.

Favorite Character: It’s a tie between T-Bone, Rita, and Lenny. Lenny is definitely the kind of lion that you would be even more cautious of, or a good friend. I’m not sure which yet, if ever.

Favorite Quote: This one comes courtesy of Scorch. “We’re a band of misfits–always the butt of a joke.”

Favorite Scene: The best part was when T-Bone came by to see the circus.

Conclusion: This was such a cute, and uplifting story. Enjoy it with your child. It’s good enough to have made my library. I hope it makes yours.

Katherine Howell’s Cold Justice-Ella Marconi 3

Overview: We’re heading Down Under in this novel. Ella Marconi is back to work after being shot. Her first case back is a twenty year cold one. A seventeen-year-old Tim Pieters was murdered during a night out with friends. Who killed him? And who sent the letter to the police? Who does the anonymous letter refer to?

Story Telling: Ms. Howell had a good idea for a story. Her style however leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, she wrote a crew of fully fleshed-out characters. But, there didn’t seem to be an adequate break between points-of-view. I would be following Ella, and then I’m with Callum or Georgie. Or even worse, I’m back in the ‘90’s. Throwing my brain in a tumult.

Likes: The concept of the cold case was a good one. Georgie’s attitude seemed to be pretty strong, there were a few instances of weakness. At least the ladies weren’t sown to be superhuman.

Dislikes: There seemed to be this…obsession, for lack of a better word, with sex in this book. We had Freya’s dalliance with her drama teacher. Personally, I believe he should have been shot. We got a little too involved in Ella’s intimacies as well. Even Georgie’s problems were sexual in nature. Seems to me that these scenes belong in erotica novels. Neither did I care for the roller-coaster ride.

Favorite Scene: I did find it funny when Ella mistook her partner’s father for the plumber.

Conclusion: Many people might enjoy the ride here, but I found it quite confusing. This wasn’t as fun of a read as I would prefer. But on a brighter note, I wasn’t flooded wit the Australian slang.

Ray Bradbury’s Stories-The Beggar on O’Connell Bridge

Overview: Let’s head to Dublin. Our husband and wife protagonists seem to have differing opinions on how to deal with the beggars around the hotel. Then there is the one on O’Connell Bridge. He seems to be different from all the rest….

Likes: Remember Jesus’ sermon on giving? This story illustrates the reasoning behind it. You give and then let the recipient take it up with his/her Maker.

Conclusion: Don’t be like our protagonist’s wife. It will hurt you in the long run.

Ray Bradbury’s Stories-The Drummer Boy of Shiloh

Overview: It’s 1869, just before the Battle of Owl Creek. Poor Joby, he’s just the drummer boy and scared out of his mind. Lucky for him, the general can’t sleep either. Perhaps a talk will help?

Likes: It may be shocking to hear, but I liked the general’s attitude. He wasn’t arrogant, and he gave Joby the best piece of advice that he could. It’s good to hear that the little people, the enlisted or those who don’t have any real command, that are the heart of the army.

Conclusion: It’s a good story to show how the horror of war starts before the first shot is fired. I enjoyed it.

Ray Bradbury’s Stories-And The Rock Cried Out

Overview: This is a story that could almost be ripped from today’s headlines. A couple, traveling out of the country, finds themselves in a place where their color and nationality is despised.

Likes: Oh boy. This one made me think. That’s why the review took so long to get out. Personally, I agree with Mr. Webb. Yeah, the nations got rid of their scapegoat. Who are they going to blame now?

Conclusion: I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be moved by this powerful read. Please be careful out there.

Laura Childs’s Bedeviled Eggs-Cackleberry Club 3

Overview: Welcome to Kindred, Tennessee, home to the Cackleberry Club. Suzanne Dietz, along with her friends Toni and Petra are having a special dating night called “read-dating.” Those coming to the occasion get to spend a few minutes talking to each other over the books that they like. It’s an interesting concept, though I’m sure the ladies would have enjoyed their success a bit more if one of the mayoral candidates hadn’t been shot right outside of their door. Who would want to kill the most popular candidate that Kindred had?

Story Telling: Cozy mysteries can be difficult to get right. You have to strike a balance between the amateur detective’s life, and his/her actions in actively solving the case. It just takes a little wiggle to change the style of the story.

Likes: The ladies had a pretty good set of attitudes. Sam and Sherriff Doogie were some of the best guys in town. Oh, and Suzanne wasn’t the typical cozy detective. She had a dog and a horse, no cats to be seen or heard, until you hear from Jane. The Cackleberry Club sounds like a fun place. Eat, work some needlework, and pick up a book in one trip? I like that idea. It sounds like home.

Dislikes: I didn’t get much of the ladies’ humor. Some of it was just mean-spirited. Carmen was a bad example of a published writer. She just had to be the center of attention. Also, the food served at the Cackleberry Club sounded too fancy. I appreciate trying to be different, but what’s so bad about comfort food? There wasn’t enough investigation done in this book. It’s a cozy mystery Suzanne. You’re supposed to snoop. (Deadmen’s houses don’t count–unless you don’t have permission to be there.)

Favorite Character: Petra, for all of her inclination to…healthy food, is my kind of lady. She knits, she cooks, and she has a presence that can be felt.

Favorite Quote: This one came during Suzanne’s stint as a guest DJ. “But if you cross a vampire with a snowman you get frostbite.”

Favorite Scene: The best pat was when Sam and Suzanne were patching up Scruff.

Conclusion: This is an okay book, but it doesn’t strike me as a mystery. A slice-of-life in a small town during a murder investigation, yeah, but not a mystery.

Kelly Leonard & Tom Yorton’s Lessons from The Second City-Yes, And How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration

I received this book for a fair and honest review.

Overview: Mr. Leonard and Mr. Yorton have spent a long time in Chicago’s The Second City, the birthplace of improvisational comedy–according to this book anyway. They believe that the abilities their actors use can help the business world. I disagree, there is a difference between comedy and business.

Story Telling: This is a help book written by some major liberals. As such it will irritate those of us with a conservative or even a moderate bent.

Dislikes: I’m going to be honest. There are over 250 pages in this book, and I didn’t even get halfway through it. This book brought a spirit into the house that I cannot abide by. Most of their ideas were communistic in that they destroyed both individualism and traditional thinking. The authors also have misrepresented a couple of words. Introverts aren’t necessarily shy people. They are drained, emotionally and physically, if they spend too much time around people, particularly large groups of people. But they are normally very intelligent and have a lot to offer the world.

And bullies aren’t those who don’t listen. “Jim” wasn’t a bully, he was a traditional thinker. The bully as The Second City instructor. There was no reason to play a ‘reverse status’ game. There is never a reason to make someone else get physically and/or socially lower than anyone else. For everyman is created equal. Person, for the nit-pickers.

There isn’t a reason for such attitudes. The sad thing is that both Mr. Leonard and Mr. Yorton admit that these skills are ripe for manipulative personalities. Not only that, but some things aren’t a joking matter. Especially if it belittles anyone.

Conclusion: There you have it. I don’t agree with the ends or the means advocated here. It reminded me of the schoolyard bullying taken to a whole new level.

Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells-Waverleys 1

Overview: Claire Waverley has been living in the same house since she was six. The Waverley house is quite famous in Bascom, North Carolina. Everything about the garden has it’s fans, from the flowers, that Claire uses in her catering business, to the apple tree with a mind of it’s own. Not all of the Waverleys believe like Claire does, though. Both her mother and her sister, Sydney, took off as fast as they possibly could. Until now, that is. Sydney is back with a daughter. What are they running from? Are they staying long? And who is that man that has just moved in next door?

Story Telling: Ms. Allen invites us to peek into the lives of the residents of Bascom. This book also encourages us to see the magic in the everyday things of life, as well as the magic surrounding the Waverleys’ garden. The story is a slow read. It’s almost as if Ms. Allen was trying to replicate vibes of a small town life. I believe that she has hit it.

Likes: We have an easy, or light if you prefer, read with “Garden Spells.” Claire’s attempts to run off Tyler were pretty funny. Sydney took a big risk when she ran home. Evanelle, now she was cool, but I would hate to have her gift. It could lead to some embarrassing situations.

Dislikes: What I had the biggest problem with was the concept of predestination that the apple tree represented. Then again, it did have a personality. Just ask David. Man, was he a jerk! Ariel Clark’s meddling in her daughter’s social and love life was near demented. Ms. Allen spent almost too much time on the intimate relationships here. I don’t have anything against any kind of legal couples out there. But allow me to put it simply. You keep your rendezvous behind closed doors, and I’ll do the same.

Favorite Character: Evanelle wins this one easily. She has lived with her gift for a long time, mastered it even. And She has found a way to deal with it.

Favorite Quote: From Bay, her point-of-view at least: “Yes, everything was going to be okay now. Perfect, in fact.”

Favorite Scene: The best par was when Evanelle was telling Fred the story of when she just had to give Luanna Clark condoms. It was great.

Conclusion: This is a great read, but not if you are a fan of action. Small towns aren’t known for it after all.

Steven F. Freeman’s The Devil’s Due-The Blackwell Files 5

I received this book courtesy of Mr. Freeman for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: It’s time to get back to Alton Blackwell. It’s been four months since his and Mallory’s Italian vacation. The wedding is soon to commence, and then they are off on their honeymoon. Remember Mastana from “Nefarious”? Well, she’s in trouble and needs Alton’s help. David and Fahima are joining them on this mission. Can the four friends find Mastana before it’s too late?

Story Telling: Mr. Freeman does a good job on this series. While it helps to read the books in order, it isn’t necessary for understanding. Alton’s flashbacks were handled in a way to keep confusion to a minimum.

Likes: It was something special to see all of these adults, who had nothing in common with Mastana–save that they spent time in her home country, or was a fellow countryman–, drop everything just to try to help her.

Dislikes: Nur Hanif was a cool guy. It’s truly too bad about his fate. Could his captain be the cause of it?

Favorite Character: Nur Hanif was a fun guy to follow. He was willing to do whatever he could to help Mastana.

Favorite Scene: I’m not going to cheat. IT’s too easy to say the point where Alton and Mastana see each other. I’ll go with Hanif’s story about how he and his wife met, and got married.

Conclusion: This is a great, easy, fun and exciting read. Mr. Freeman has outdone himself with this addition to the Blackwell Files. Especially since he accepts that good prevails, and friendships count for something. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.