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coverPower Down was the first book by Ben Coes that I’ve read. I really liked it. The book reminds me of the books of David Baldacci and Vince Flynn. The book is about terrorists attacking the power infrastructure of the United States.

I was caught up with the scenes about life on an oil rig. I’m pretty sure I haven’t read a book with that setting before. Dewey Andreas, a former Delta officer, is the rig chief, so when some of his own men turn out to be terrorists, Dewey fights back and effectively.

As the FBI and other agencies try to stop attacks against major American sites, Dewey finds himself on the run from the terrorists who think he knows more than he does. As he tries to get to safety, his efforts are thwarted by a terrorist mole in the government.

Power Down has lots of action and it was a great thrill ride. My only disappointment was that the character of the energy CEO who was a former Navy seal, seemed to be a loose end. I was looking forward to him getting involved in chasing down the terrorists, but nothing seemed to come of that story line. I’m hoping that the storyline continues in book 2.

The situation gets successfully resolved, but not before there’s a body count that would make Rambo blush. The ending also seems to set up the next book, which is on my to-read list. It looks like Coes has written seven or eight books with Dewey as the main character, and I’m looking forward to reading them all.

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charlatan-9781400136070-lgI wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting when I bought Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam, but the topic caught my attention. I have to say that I loved it. It was a narrative type of non-fiction that I like to read and Pope Brock can tell an intriguing story.

Of course, he also found a great subject to write about, which is half of the battle.

In the early 20th century, confidence man John Brinkley came up with his ultimate money-making scheme. He would use surgery and goat testicles to restore male virility. It makes most men cringe nowadays, but think about some of the odd things we still do to maintain our youth that involved surgery.

Brinkley also developed a sideline of selling potions and pills that turned out not to contain what they claimed to contain. This sort of thing was going on before Brinkley with snake oil salesmen and still continues today.

I found myself reading the book and thinking how could people fall for this, but then I thought about the modern equivalents and wondered how many times I’ve been taken in without knowing it.

Brinkley made a fortune off his quack theories and inspired a lot of copycat “doctors.” He also left behind dozens of dead and maimed people, all the while claiming success.

So, if Brinkley was the antagonist, the protagonist would be Morris Fishbein, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. I’m not sure about other readers, but I just didn’t like Fishbein. I actually found myself hoping that he would fail in his efforts to destroy Brinkley. On the other hand, I found myself cheering for Brinkley at times because he wouldn’t be stopped. He kept reinventing himself to work around the restrictions that were thrown at him. I admired that even though I hated what he was doing.

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“Dr.” John Brinkley looking like a medical professional.

I’ve seen a few movies and read some books lately where I didn’t like either the protagonist or antagonist. Who do you root for then?

Besides his gross medical malpractice, Brinkley also had an impact on politics, radio, and country music.

One reason why Brinkley was successful with his scams was because he was a master marketer. His initial marketing efforts dealt with newspaper advertising and direct mail. He recognized the marketing potential of the new media of the day, radio, and made the most of it.

When the government started to crack down on how the airwaves were used, Brinkley moved south of the border and opened a radio station in Mexico that eventually broadcast more than a million watts. Not only was this more powerful than his Oklahoma radio station had been, it was more powerful than all of the U.S. radio stations combined.

Besides pitches for his products and surgeries, Brinkley also presented entertainment. Many of the performers he chose went on to become pioneers in country music.

When Fishbein started to have an impact on Brinkley’s goat gland empire, he used his radio popularity to move into politics and very nearly became elected governor of Oklahoma as a third-party candidate.

I found Charlatan to be a fascinating story. I kept guessing at what Brinkley would do next to outwit Fishbein and his other detractors.

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The_Sum_of_All_MenI originally read the fantasy novel, The Runelords, when it came out years ago. It caught my attention and I went on to become a fan of David Farland (aka Dave Wolverton). I’ve also gone on to read the other books in the series.

I recently downloaded the e-book for my Kindle and re-read it. I am happy to say that I still like it.

It starts out like a typical fantasy novel, but then you quickly discover a unique magic system where traits can be transferred from one person to another using rune brands made of blood metal. The traits are called endowments and the rich and knights use the runes to increase their strength, speed, sight, beauty, etc. and become runelords.

The catch with endowments is that the giver of the trait (a dedicate) loses it. So someone giving their sight will be left blind. The care of the dedicate is then the responsibility of the recipient of the trait. It’s a moral responsibility, but also the trait only last as long dedicate lives.

Prince Gaborn Orden is a runelord who is also starts to realize that he is being endowed with another type of magic. Earth magic. He has traveled to a foreign land to try and convince Princess Iome Sylvarresta to marry him.

However, he is caught up in political intrique and a power struggle at the kingdom is invaded and taken by Raj Ahten. Ahten says that he wants to protect mankind from invasion from the reavers, huge monstrous creatures. While his goal is admirable, his method is to take thousands of endowments by whatever means necessary. This had turned him into a force of nature.

Gaborn finds himself on the run, trying to avoid capture by Ahten and save Iome whose has been forced to become a dedicate to Ahten.

Meanwhile, King Orden, Gaborn’s father rushes to try and help his friend, King Sylvarresta. Facing an opponent like Ahten, who can use his endowments of voice to convince enemies to surrender without a fight, forces Orden to make some risky decisions.

What I liked about the book was the characters who were deep and complex. The good guys don’t always win and when sacrifices are made, you feel them deeply because Farland has created characters you can identify with.

There are eight books in the series so far, but the series takes a radical change midway through. It should have probably been called a different series. The second half of the series is good, but not nearly as good as the first four books.

I was looking at some of my reviews on Amazon the other day. Sure, the four-star and five-star reviews are nice to read, but some of the other reviews are frustrating. They make me want to scream because they are contradictory or just plain wrong.

Shallmar CoverSaving Shallmar probably gets the most undo criticism because it is coming from people who lived in Shallmar when they were children when the story took place or they heard things second hand. Because my story doesn’t agree with their memories, I’m wrong even though my information is all sourced. Some of it comes from people who were adults at the time so they have a different perspective then people who were children. I know because I interviewed people who grew up in Shallmar and they have plenty of gaps in their childhood memories. I also have contemporary sources for information that isn’t dulled or altered by time.

I am tempted to respond to some of these reviews when I read them, but I have learned from previous experience that most of these people when given the facts, simply find something else to rail on you about.

I’ve had a book get a bad review because someone thought the title was too close to the title of another book that I had never heard of or because a book didn’t have enough pictures. Worse yet, I had a three-star review from a reviewer whose actual review of the book was positive. These types of reviews just leave me shaking my head.

I can stand criticism. You don’t get to be a full-time writer without having gotten criticism and rejection, but what galls me is that some people feel the need to be mean or get personal about it. It’s like they want to get into an argument and they don’t even know me.

gaithersburg-book-festival-gaithersburg-mdI was lucky enough to have a festival to attend the weekend after my most-recent perusal or reviews. I had a lot of people come up to me and say that they had this book or that book of mine and had loved it. Many of them even bought another title, which certainly backed up what they were saying. It’s one of the reasons that I like selling books at festivals. I can talk with my readers and if they do have an issue, we discuss it calmly and politely.

Now if I could only get all these people to leave reviews on Amazon. That’s a drawback to selling at festivals. Because people didn’t buy the book from Amazon, they don’t think to leave a review there.

By the way, when I have come across a specific criticism, I check it out (even the ones from angry reviewers) and when needed, I make changes. Unfortunately, the reviews don’t reflect the change. That’s not the reviewer’s fault. They don’t know about the corrections. I could e-mail them about, but I’m afraid that could lead to the reviewer going and nitpicking things about my other books to see if he or she can get me to make more changes.

I like this quote from actress Octavia Spencer:

“You cannot live to please everyone else. You have to edify, educate and fulfill your own dreams and destiny, and hope that whatever your art is that you’re putting out there, if it’s received, great, I respect you for receiving it. If it’s not received, great, I respect you for not.”

 

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to_the_far_blue_mountains_9780553276886I read all of Louis L’Amour’s novels when I was a teenager and loved them. Now that they are on Kindle, I’ve been picking them up here and there. I was reading them early enough that Bantam started marketing the Sackett books as a series and numbering them. I had some that were numbered and some that weren’t depending on when I bought the book.

I, like many other people, enjoyed the storied of a family that believed in the strength of family no matter how far apart you were. I remember one novel where one of the Sacketts was cornered and holding out against a large number of bad guys. His position was strong and he could hold them off, but he knew he couldn’t win the fight. Then other scenes in the book showed Sacketts all over the west as they heard a story about a many named Sackett in trouble. No matter their walk of life, they dropped what they were doing and set off to help their kin.

Most of the Sackett novels are set in the old west, but as the family gained popularity, L’Amour began to explore the family tree and why the Sacketts had such strong family ties.

Sackett’s Land and To the Far Blue Mountains tell the story of the first Sackett in America. Sackett’s Land brought Barnabas Sackett to America. To the Far Blue Mountains explored how Barnabas established himself.

To the Far Blue Mountains was not my favorite Sackett novel (that would Jubal Sackett and The Daybreakers), but it’s a necessary book for any L’Amour fan. The book has L’Amour’s great sense of detail and storytelling skill, but it seems unfinished.

Part of the reason is that two-thirds of the Sackett series are in the Old West while five books cover the family’s history before then. You don’t get as familiar with the characters as you do with the westerns.

L’Amour’s web site says that he had intended to write another seven or

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James Rada, Jr. and Louis L’Amour in Minneapolis, MN, in 1984

eight Sackett novels, including ones that covered the Sacketts in the Revolutionary War and Civil War. I would have loved to have read these books.

Read Sackett’s Land and To the Far Blue Mountains together. They are considered the first two books in the series. Then go on and read the others in the series. You’ll get a sense of the type of men and women it took to tame a wild land and thrive. They may not have been a wealthy family, but they were a strong family and exemplified the best in Americans.

 

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Kill Zone by C. J. Lyons is the third book in the Lucy Guardino series. I read the first book in the series, Snake Skin, as well. While you can enjoy this book on its own, you’re going to get more out of it by reading the books in order. While I was reading, I could tell there must have been some things that happened in the second book that affected some of the characters in this book.

Kill Zone begins like a typical thriller. FBI agent Lucy Guardino is called to the scene of a brutal double murder of two young Afghan girls. As Lucy sets about to unravel the mystery, she begins to suspect that the oldest girl may have been killed as part of an honor killing.

Before the investigation can get too far, Pittsburgh, Pa., suddenly becomes the target of a large, coordinated attack between a Mexican cartel and Pittsburgh street gangs. The city becomes a war zone that leaves Lucy and her husband trying their best to stay alive.

The story moves quickly and is an exciting read. I like the character of Lucy. She seems very realistic in how she deals with work and family. Add into that, she tries to keep both separate from the other, which is not always possible.

I was a bit skeptical to start this series at first. I thought Lyons wrote medical thrillers and romance, neither of which are genres that I read. The description of Snake Skin sounded interesting, though, so I took a chance and I wasn’t disappointed. Lyons knows how to deliver a great story.

 

Vanished_massmarketBefore I read this book I decided to try out a short story by Joseph Finder and his series hero, Nick Heller. I enjoyed the short story enough to give Vanished a try. This is the first book in the Nick Heller series, and as I write this article, I’ve also read the second book.

Nick Heller is a typical thriller hero. He’s tough, smart, and has Special Forces training. As this book opens, he is working for an investigative firm as their top fix-it man. As with many heroes, he has a back story. In Nick’s case, his father was a Bernie Madoff-type of guy who continues to scheme from behind bars. Most importantly, he’s a guy that you like and can cheer for.

Part of the reason for your fondness of the guy is seen early on when his nephew Gabe asks for his help. Gabe’s mother has been attacked and is in a coma and his stepdad Roger is missing. Roger is Nick’s brother.

Despite his poor experiences with his father and being estranged from his brother, Nick still believes in family and sets out to find his brother. Thus begins a convoluted search that keeps you guessing as to what will happen next. Finder does a great job at this, which is why I enjoyed the wild ride that the story took me on.

So, although Vanished is a lot like many good thrillers out there by Vince Flynn, David Baldacci, Harlan Coben and the like, it doesn’t make it any less good. In fact, it puts Finder in good company.

coverbannerCan you do me a favor? Based on the feedback I get from readers at signings, presentations, and events, it seems that people enjoy my books. I especially like seeing the same people come back to my festival booths year after year to see what new books that I have out.

I’ve been trying to expand my marketing efforts with some Facebook and Amazon advertising. I’d like to start using ebook promotional services like Bookbub and Bookgorilla to expand that effort. However, to even be considered for those programs, I need to get more reviews. I believe they use it to make sure that the author is marketing the books and readers like them.

My problem is that despite good sales for most of my books (there are some exceptions that I’m working to improve), readers aren’t reviewing my books. So please, if you have read my books, please review them on Amazon. You can even review them if you didn’t buy them there. It won’t be a verified purchase, but it will still be a review. I’m not even asking for a 5-star review (though that would be great!). Just provide me with an honest review.

By the way, if you do have problems with the book, particularly if you think it’s factually wrong, please let me know via e-mail (jimrada@yahoo.com). If I did get something wrong, I most likely can correct it and get a new version of the book uploaded. That way, I won’t have a review saying something is wrong that has been corrected. If it’s not wrong, then I can show you the back-up documentation.

If there’s a book you’d like to review, let me know, and I may be able to get you a review copy.

Thanks for your help on this. I feel like I’m rolling a snowball uphill. It’s slowly getting bigger and at some point, I hope to reach a point where it will start rolling downhill on its own and quickly gaining size. For me, that would mean I’ll be able to devote more of my time to book writing as the sales of my backlist increases.

Here’s the link to my Amazon Author Page. You can use it to find any of my books and leave a review. Thanks again! You’re a big help.

image_681x432_from_275,3664_to_2509,5082I bought The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars awhile back. It finally worked its way to the top of my “to read” pile. I wish I had read it sooner because I really liked it.

The main story involves the identification of a dismembered corpse. Once the body is identified as William Guldensuppe, which leads to two suspects, Augusta Knack, Guldensuppe’s lover, and Martin Thorn, Knack’s lover. However, it is much harder for the police to figure out which of the two suspects committed the murder and whether the other was a willing participant or a dupe.

While the pursuit of the murderer makes an interesting story in itself, the secondary story of how the newspapers played up the story to the point of actually becoming part of the story is just as interesting. Reporters planted evidence, interrogated witnesses, and enlisted their readers in the search for missing body parts.

This was the age of “yellow journalism” with the newspapers of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer competing against each other to be number one.

The story flowed like a bestselling mystery and kept me interested throughout. I kept bouncing back and forth over which of the two suspects committed the murder.

Collins also does a great job of setting the scene. He puts you in the period with colorful descriptions of life in the city.

I found after reading the book that I was searching the Internet looking for the newspapers and books mentioned in the book.

a7e3a582a5939d56e64ce62c407a426aI like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. I haven’t seen Tom Cruise playing him in the movies and I don’t think I will since I have a certain picture of Reacher in my mind and Cruise would destroy that. I liked 61 Hours even though I figured most of it out early in the book. It was still a fun adventure, though. I particularly liked how Reacher is definitely a warm-weather person and can’t handle the South Dakota winters.

61 Hours starts with Reacher getting stuck in a small (but growing) town of Bolton, S.D., after the bus he is riding on slides into a ditch. From there, he gets involved with the local police in trying to protect an old woman who witnessed a drug transaction that can bring down a huge gang of bikers. The problem is that the police know that someone has been sent to kill her.

I found myself liking a side story between Reacher and the new commander of his old unit, Susan Turner. He has to call her for a favor in trying to figure out who is after the witness whose name is Janet Salter. This begins a series of calls as the two of them exchange information and get to know each other or at least as well as someone can know Reacher. He even helps Susan catch a killer whom she is after just by her giving him a briefing of the case.

It an action-packed ride with a slightly ambiguous conclusion, though you know Reacher survives, otherwise there wouldn’t be a series anymore. I’ll have to check to see if there have been anymore since this one.

I’m sure I am now reading the books out of order. That’s one of the nice things about the series. Each book is a stand-alone title with little connection to any of the other books in the series.

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