Review of Hands Up by Stephen Clark @StephCWrites @widopublishing #crimefiction #mystery #fiction #BlackLivesMatter #BlueLivesMatter #journalist #Review

Hands Up
by Stephen Clark
Rated 5 stars *****

About the Author

Stephen Clark is a former award-winning journalist who served as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and as a politics editor for the D.C. bureau of FoxNews.com.

As a reporter for the Utica Observer-Dispatch, he won a New York Newspaper Publishers Association Award of Distinguished Community Service for his investigation into the financial struggles of non-profit service. He also won a Society of Professional Journalists Award for Investigative Reporting at the Stamford Advocate.

Stephen is also the author of critically acclaimed Citizen Kill, which explores the dangers of Islamophobia through a government conspiracy to end the domestic war on terror…

Stephen grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and now lives in North Jersey with his wife and son. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Arcadia University and a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University.

Hands up cover

Blurb

Officer Ryan Quinn, a rookie raised in a family of cops, is on the fast track to detective until he shoots an unarmed black male. Now with his career, reputation and freedom on the line, he embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to confront his fears and biases and choose between conscience or silence.

Jade Wakefield is an emotionally damaged college student living in one of Philadelphia’s worst neighbourhoods. She knows the chances of getting an indictment against the cop who killed her brother are slim. When she learns there’s more to the story that the official police account, Jade is determined, even desperate, to find out what really happened. She plans to get revenge by any means necessary.

Kelly Randolph, who returns to Philadelphia broke and broken after abandoning his family ten years earlier, seeks forgiveness whilst mourning the death of his son. But after he’s thrust into the spotlight as the face of the protest movement, his disavowed criminal past resurfaces and threatens to derail the family’s pursuit of justice.

Ryan, Jade and Kelly – three people from different worlds – are on a collision course after the shooting, as their lives interconnect and then spiral into chaos.

Hands up cover

Review

I was excited to be contact via my blog by Stephen Clark to review his book. He kindly sent me a physical copy from the USA (I am based in the UK) and told me a little about his book. This piqued my interest because it is about issues that are still being talked about and happening now. With him being a journalist (and award-winning), I figured he would really know what he was talking about. I am honoured that after coming across my blog that he has chosen me to review for him. This has not in any way swayed my opinion of his book. My review is not biased.

From the first few lines of readers know what has happened. This book focuses on the aftermath of a shooting. I like that. It really works for this book as instantly Officer Ryan Quinn is met and clearly not only trying to convince himself he is not a murderer, but also the tone and the doubting himself is so convincing and brings a bit of humanity to him and instant intrigue as to what really went on, on the fatal day he shot an unarmed black man, but felt his life was in enough jeopardy at the time. I like that it isn’t quite a simple as that. There are complexities to this story that has a black man shot in traffic. It gives a realism to the story.

The book alternates its chapters to bring each character into the story. This really works. The first is Ryan, who then gets interviewed about the incident. The second introduces Jade who has just broken up with her boyfriend and works in Mac’s Tavern and comes across the police and shot man. There is Kelly, who readers meet a little later, who hopes to reunite with his family. It’s well laid out and instantly readers can get a feel for the main characters and the story. It soon becomes clear how all their own lives are interconnected.

Officer Ryan’s world is turned upside down. He was supposed to be planning his wedding to Kaylee, his career was being fast-tracked and now things were not looking so rosy for his present or future.

The contrast between Ryan Quinn, Jade and Kelly is brilliantly done as there is the story from the officer’s point of view, but also his life out of work and then there is the story from Jade’s point of view – the one that even in the UK, we are becoming accustomed to seeing on the news with what happens in the US with the press being around wanting to know what happened and people wanting justice for the person who was shot. Then there’s Kelly’s who shows the scene, again one that we all see on our tv screens of what has now become sadly becoming known as “the usual reaction” and similar, with the prayer vigils, teddy’s, flowers, candles.

The book continues with a shooting of the cop’s house and depicts, what sadly seems to be the cycle of revenge by violence, that is just as sad as the death of Tyrell.

The chapters with Officer Ryan in therapy are also very poignant and adds depth to his character.

Part Two of the book takes the story to the aftermath of the trial of Ryan Quinn. The format is the same as part 1 and there is still the emotion, but the story takes the characters even further and there are some unexpected turns of events and I was still hooked, as I am sure others will be too. This second and final part is as well written and as well-paced as the first part. The twists and turns keeps it all going very well and it has a good, well-written ending.

The book gives a great insight into the aftermath of American life when a shooting happens and the lives of people. There is a depth throughout this book, with issues people face, lives being complicated. There is emotion and characters to care about. This story is one that I feel anyone reading it will want to read to the end to see how it all concludes. I certainly did. It is an absorbing book and one that I didn’t want to put down.

Whether readers are American or not, this is an important and thought-provoking story that Stephen Clark is telling. I really get the sense that he is telling it like it is. News like this is sometimes international, so no matter where you live in the world, there will be recognisable parts. There will be some parts of the story that are just part and parcel of the character’s day-to-day lives may also be relatable to people, wherever they live. The book, although fiction, fits in well with current affairs from all the different angles.

The book would be great for everyone to read and would be one that would be very good for a book group too as it would really spark conversation about the subject matter raised within this book (so long as it didn’t get too heated of course as civil conversations are always best).

Links:

Click here for Stephen Clark’s Website

Click here for Stephen Clark’s Twitter

Review of Ka-E-RO-U – Time to Go Home – A beautifully written book about the repatriation of a flag, history, culture and love by B. Jeanne Shibahara #Time to Go Home #B.JeanneShibahara #Review #WW2 #Japan #UK #USA #History #Culture #ModernTimes #fiction #Mystery #Humour

KA-E-RO-U – Time to Go Home
by B. Jeanne Shibahara
Rated 4 stars ****

About the Author and Book

B. Jeanne Shibahara studied fiction writing from Mark Harris (Bang the Drum Slowly) B Jeanne Shibharaand copywriting from Beth Luey (Editorial Consultant, Chicago Manual of Style, 16thEd.) in the MA program for creative writing at Arizona State University.

In Japan, B. Jeanne has taught English at a private university, written articles for research groups, and created jazz lyrics for composer Hajime Kitamura.

Daughter of a US military officer, she married into a family of calligraphy, ikebana, and tea ceremony teachers, shamisen player, kimono fabric artist, business entrepreneur, and architect. Her home is in Nara City, the ancient capital of Japan.

Time-slip to my Osaka life, 1995, fifty years after the end of WWII—bubble economy ready to burst and the seed to KA-E-RO-U falls into my hands. A WWII Japanese flag. A widow of a US veteran in Akron, Ohio sends the flag to a colleague of mine, asks him to find the family of the fallen soldier who had carried it into the battlefields.
Please click on the website link for more information about the author and the very interesting backstory to the book.           Link:    Website

Meryl is a Vietnam War widow who misses her grown son, feels left out after her father’s recent marriage. A WWII Japanese flag falls into her hands. The gentle push of a love-struck professor starts her adventure to take the flag home. From the neon of Osaka, to the ancient capital Nara, to the forests of Akita, the trail follows British and US expats, a newspaper reporter, factory manager, ikebana teacher, a Matagi hunter and winds through Japanese culture, past and present. A story of shared humanity and love “in the simplest things.”

Kaerou

Review

The book is well organised and split into 6 sections – Desert Flower M, The Backstreets of Namba, Day 2 in Japan, To Meryl To Atika, Returns and Finale.

The opening sentence is  “Everybody who knew the secretary knew she couldn’t resist any chance at serving up beefy gossip—seasoned, well done, sizzling and sputtering the latest, the most titillating, the just-gotta-tell.” I must say, it is instantly intriguing and I wanted to know a bit more and it is written so excellently.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the book as a whole really, but I was intrigued enough to really want to read it. I started to enjoy it from the outset in the office and getting to know the characters. The letter interested me as do the Shakespearean quotes. I like that there is some humour mingled in with history and people’s lives.

Kaerou takes readers along with Meryl, who is a war widow from the Vietnam war, on a  journey to Japan. She discovered a Japanese flag of a fallen soldier from the second world war and wants to deliver it back to the family. She meets many interesting characters who I enjoyed reading about, including a professor and a writer. The book is very character driven. The premise of the actual plot is fine and interesting enough. Sometimes the grammar isn’t at its best, but somehow that doesn’t detract from the actual story and the richness in culture. It really is fascinating to read about the cultures and how they sit in people’s minds as the book isn’t just about Japan, it covers the UK, Vietnam and the US.

The scenery is beautifully written and picturesque.

The book is nicely written and it is interesting as there are some quick, short chapters, yet the pace is smooth and gentle. The way it goes between past and present is beautifully presented and flows well and in an unconfused way. With all the complexities of the book, everything marries up well on the whole, leaving a pleasant satisfaction.

The book is a love story and one of discovery. It is also one of history and how it can join up with the present as there is a journey to join up the flag of the fallen soldier with his family. It’s about moving on, but not without making peace first with what was lost in the war. It’s also about life ever-moving onwards and it’s there to be really lived and embraced and trying to overcome and bridge that which divides us. So, as much as this is Remembrance Sunday and we think of our war dead and the veterans who are still alive, this book is about love too and there is something to learn here as well, even though Japan wasn’t an ally nation. In this book readers can learn about the past and more present times of Japan through the characters that are written about.

I think B.Jeanne Shibahara has achieved what she set out to achieve. She has a book that has a story, great characters and I get the sense of most importantly, one that tells the world about Japan.

Overall, I recommend this book. Take a leap, take that chance and read about the familiar and the perhaps, lesser well-known and learn something from this story that, although is fictional, is based on fact. So, I recommend to try this book for something new. Sometimes we get into reading very similar books time and time again, this book brings something new, or if you like reading about people’s lives or family sagas even, or learning about different cultures and thoughts and feeling emotions and history in terms of where it also sits with the present,  then I would recommend Ke a rou. Bascially, I say give it a go for a pleasant, satisfying read.

I have to say I enjoyed reading the book. Thanks to B. Jeanne Shibahara for contacting me on my contact page on my blog and for giving me this amazing opportunity to review her book. I thank her also for buying me a copy of her book and sending it to me.

Review of Hemlock Jones & The Underground Orphans by Justin Carroll @CazVinBooks @WriterJustinC #YA #Christmas #Adventure #Mystery #BlogTour #Review #Crossover

Hemlock Jones & The Underground Orphans
by Justin Carroll
Rated: ****

I was pleased when Caroline Vincent approached me to be part of the blog tour for what turned out to be not only a delightful Christmas read, but also an adventurous detective story all rolled into one that will make a great bookish Christmas present for any 10 and YA reader. Today is my turn to review this book.

Hemlock Jones Blog Tour Poster (1)

About the Author

Hemlock Jones Justin Carroll Author ImageJustin Carroll is an author who balances his love of comic books and games with a passion for martial arts and musicals.

Ever since he stopped wanting to be a dinosaur, Justin wanted to be a writer. He graduated with a degree in English Literature and Language from King’s College, London in 2004 and now, when not writing, he fritters away his time on all manner of geeky things.

Shortlisted for several international short story competitions, Justin was a finalist in the 2010 British Fantasy Awards with “Careful What You Wish For” (Wyvern Publishing) and placed in the top twenty of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge twice.

December 2012 saw the birth of Justin Carroll’s first novel: Everything’s Cool – a dark, psychological thriller.

His second novel, Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death, is a Young Adult novel and the first in a series featuring Hemlock Jones, the fiery 12-year-old demystifier whose brain easily equals and surpasses that of the famous consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes. “Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death” won a Silver Medal in the 2017 Wishing Shelf Awards.

Now, Justin has published the second book in the Hemlock Jones Chronicles: Hemlock Jones & The Underground Orphans, perfect for all fans of 10 years and above of adventurous detective mysteries!

Blurb

When orphans vanish from their beds across Victorian London, twelve-year-old demystifier Hemlock Jones and her companion, Edward, take the case!

This time, the trail will lead them from their Baker Street home, along lost rivers and into the heart of the city, to face exotic enemies and a charming man with dark plans…

 Hemlock Jones & The Underground Orphans is the second of the Hemlock Jones Chronicles, the award-winning series of detective adventures for children and adults.

Hemlock Jones The Underground Orphans book cover

Review

A children/YA story that is perfect for Christmas, It certainly isn’t fluffy. This is a quick paced mystery that will keep readers involved, but it is very much set around and during Christmas.

The cover is eye-catching and immediately spells out trepidation, action and adventure. I already started to have expectations of a good thrilling detective story. It takes place in the north of London, where readers will be transported back in time to workhouses and an orphanage, where readers meet Mr and Mrs Thicke who work there and have reported the disappearance of orphans. It already has a very Victorian air about the story.

Hemlock Jones, has a flat – 211B Baker Street – all very Sherlock Holmes, not a criticism, just got me thinking a lot about Sherlock Holmes, just slightly different number of address.

The story is intriguing and keeps a decent pace and the style of writing is what draws the imagination and desire to read further into the mysterious Victorian London, Justin has created, blending fact and fiction so well.
There’s adventure to be had and a mystery to solve, that takes Hemlock down a sewer. The atmosphere and the descriptions, such as beady eyes looking on are well done and in a way that sets the tone.

There may be pirates afoot and there’s mild trepidation as the orphan’s lives may be in danger. There’s some swashbuckling that bravely goes on. The pace by this time, I decided was terrific. The story just keeps moving on and the time (or pages), between the orphans going missing to readers actually “meeting them” is good, but not too fast that anything is missed. There is the journey above to under London to find them.

There is some welcome humour within the book as Hemlock Jones and her associate try to decide just who the pirates are and if indeed they are and there is quite a mystery surrounding this.

Whether above or below ground within the story, the geography for setting each scene is great and well-written, but still keeping up the pace of the mystery.

The elements of the story that don’t involve the mystery, such as Christmas Day is just as well-written. Christmas Day sounds delightful. The story keeps moving onwards with a mysterious interruption to proceedings and a concern that it could be due to N – their nemeses.

All in all, it is a good story, fairly reminiscent of Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan-Doyle’s stories, which I hope one day the readers will venture into as well, but it sits pretty well in the detective genre and it feels right for the era it is set in. Hemlock Jones sits somewhere nicely in-between those 2 famous authors works and sits well for the aged 10 plus YA age groups and is a good series for readers to get stuck into and explore London and follow the main characters to see if they can solve the mystery and find out who the pirates are and what happens to the orphans.

The conclusion is great and keep reading onto the epilogue because there is more to this mystery than meets the eye as it isn’t just about the missing orphans. There’s more to be solved and to discover that, there is another book too, just waiting to be read.

I recommend this book. It will sit well within the reading for pleasure trend and will make a lovely Christmas present for all genders.

Author website:         www.justin-carroll.com/

Twitter:                       https://twitter.com/WriterJustinC

Facebook:                   https://www.facebook.com/JustinCarrollAuthor/

Amazon:                      https://author.to/JustinCarroll

GoodReads:                https://www.goodreads.com/JustinCarroll