Book Review: The Blind Side by Michael Lewis @wwnorton

The Blind Side
Michael Lewis
W.W. Norton and Co., September 2007
ISBN 978-0393330472
Trade Paperback

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis was not one of the Biographies on my massive To-Read list. I did not see the movie and I am probably not a true sports fan. Nonetheless, when Boy brought the book home for his Sports Literature class, I had to read it first. He told me it was about football.

It is not about football. Not exactly, and not entirely.

I will admit to being pleasantly surprised by how incredibly interesting the football parts were. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Tom Lemming and it was nifty to understand roles and responsibilities for different player positions.

The story of Michael Oher and the Touhy family is uplifting and inspiring. An example of good people, simply doing what they feel is the right thing. A demonstration of the fierce power invoked when huge hearts and open minds collide.

Michael has a million reasons to be angry, bitter and seriously cynical. He is none of those things. Instead, he’s the go-with-the-flow guy. Crashing on the right floor, at the right time led to Michael attending the elite Briarcrest. A world away from the public schools he had barely bothered with.

To say that Michael stood out would be a gross understatement. He quickly caught the eye of Sean Touhy. Touhy came from very little. He worked hard and became a force to be reckoned with on the basketball court at Ole Miss. He felt a connection to the quiet newcomer.

Sean was not alone. Leigh Ann, and their two children, quickly developed the same kinship. The Touhys welcomed Michael Oher into their family. The four rallied around him to ensure a successful senior year of high-school and to help him transition into college.

I am so happy that I read this. I will absolutely be adding it to a few of my favorite high-school classroom libraries.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2020.

Book Review: Mourning Dove by Claire Fullerton

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Title: Mourning Dove
Author: Claire Fullerton
Narrator: Claire Fullerton
Publisher: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
Publication Date: June 25, 2018

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Mourning Dove
Claire Fullerton
Narrated by Claire Fullerton
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, June 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

The heart has a home when it has an ally. If Millie Crossan doesn’t know anything else, she knows this one truth simply because her brother Finley grew up beside her. Charismatic Finley, 18 months her senior, becomes Millie’s guide when their mother Posey leaves their father and moves her children from Minnesota to Memphis shortly after Millie’s 10th birthday.

Memphis is a world foreign to Millie and Finley. This is the 1970s Memphis, the genteel world of their mother’s upbringing and vastly different from anything they’ve ever known. Here they are the outsiders. Here, they only have each other. And here, as the years fold over themselves, they mature in a manicured Southern culture where they learn firsthand that much of what glitters isn’t gold.

Nuance, tradition, and Southern eccentrics flavor Millie and Finley’s world, as they find their way to belonging. But what hidden variables take their shared history to leave both brother and sister at such disparate ends?

Mourning Dove is a compelling Southern family tale that, by turns, had me smile, tear up, laugh out loud, even get irritated with certain characters’ inflexibility, especially Posey and her husband, the Colonel, step-father to Millie and Finley. If things didn’t go exactly the way they expected, there would be hell to pay and life was frequently uncomfortable for the children.

As Millie and Finley grew up, they learned not only how to live with the rules of the household but also found their own way. The two are devoted to each other whether together or apart and they truly depend on each other through all the joys and despair of life. Still, family and friends are caught very much by surprise when a terrible thing happens even though they knew a darkness was brewing.

A couple of things pulled me out of the story occasionally. I’m a born and bred Southerner and some of the author’s pronunciations were different from mine; for instance, she would say “in-TRIC-a-cies” while I say “IN-tric-a-cies” and “de-COR-ous” while I say “DEC-or-ous”. Also, as a Mary Baldwin alumna, I know that it did not change its designation to University from College until 2016, many years after the time period of this story. I also have never heard of the bride’s family being responsible for hosting the wedding rehearsal dinner, especially back then. All that aside, I really did enjoy hearing about places, mannerisms and Southern culture so similar to my own upbringing. Although I managed to talk my parents out of doing the whole debutante thing, I did spend several years in cotillion 😉

I don’t always think an author narrating her own book is a good idea but Ms. Fullerton does bring the characters and the ambience to life, especially because Millie is telling the story. This is a deeply thoughtful look at the South of the 70’s and 80’s and is a true evocation of a time and place that was quite unique. Well done!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2018.

About the Author/Narrator

Claire Fullerton grew up in Memphis, TN and now lives in Malibu, CA. She is the author of contemporary fiction, Dancing to an Irish Reel, set in Connemara, Ireland, where she once lived. Dancing to an Irish Reel is a finalist in the 2016 Kindle Book Review Awards, and a 2016 Readers’ Favorite. Claire is the author of A Portal in Time, a paranormal mystery that unfolds in two time periods, set on California’s hauntingly beautiful Monterey Peninsula, in a village called Carmel-by-the-Sea. Both of Claire’s novels are published by Vinspire Publishing. Her third novel, Mourning Dove, is a Southern family saga, published in June, 2018 by Firefly Southern Fiction. She is one of four contributors to the book, Southern Seasons, with her novella, “Through an Autumn Window”, to be published in November 2018 by Firefly Southern Fiction. Claire is represented by Julie Gwinn, of The Seymour Literary Agency, and can be found on WordPress, Twitter (cfullerton3) Goodreads, Instagram ( cffullerton) as well as the website under her name.

WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagram

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Play an excerpt here.

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Book Review: The Gone Dead Train by Lisa Turner

The Gone Dead Train
Detective Billy Able Series #2

Lisa Turner
William Morrow, July 2014
ISBN 978-0-06-213619-0
Trade Paperback

Memphis detective Billy Able investigates the death of two legendary bluesmen—sax player Little Man Lacy and Red Davis. Little Man falls into a construction dig and Red Davis dies waiting for a train—he is found dead on a bench outside the station.  An incompetent detective, a year away from retirement, caught the case and he’s not interested in a couple of old men who were staying at the local homeless shelter. A voodoo bag was found on Davis and female patrol officer Frankie Malone, who grew up in Key West and is familiar with the Santeria religion, sees a connection between the religion and the deaths.

Able, who is returning to active duty after an extended leave, is contacted by a friend, former St. Louis Cardinal’s catcher Augie Poston. Poston, whose career was cut short by mental illness, contacts Able about investigating the death of his mother.  Augie’s mother Dahlia Poston was a civil rights worker who died not long after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Supposedly she was killed trapped in a burning car, but Augie wants to know more about her death. He found scrapbooks of his mother and he hired an investigative journalist to look into her death.

Much of the action takes place around the blues clubs and bars of Beale Street. Readers of Kris Nelscott, Walter Mosley, and Robert Crais may want to check out Detective Billy Able’s latest adventure.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, May 2017.

Book Reviews: Reunion by Carl Brookins, Crashed by Timothy Hallinan, Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman, and When the Past Haunts You by L. C. Hayden

ReunionReunion
A Jack Marston Mystery
Carl Brookins
Echelon Press, 2011
ISBN No. 978-1590806685
Trade Paperback

Jack Marston, a former investigator for the Navy, is now a student service director at City College in Minneapolis.  Jack is living with Lori Jacobs and Lori has just received an invitation to the reunion of the Class of 1989 in the town of Riverview. Lori isn’t too excited about going but Jack encourages her to accept the invitation.   Lori accepts but wants Jack to attend the reunion functions with her.

The couple travel to Riverview to attend.  There are some interesting sounding events set up for the attendees at the reunion.  Jack takes a walk outside on the first night and finds a dead body and this won’t be the first murder to happen during the reunion.

Lori didn’t expect things to remain the same in Riverview but it isn’t the town that she remembers.  It seems that there are a lot of shady dealings going on and certain people will go to any length to keep their secrets hidden.  Jack is using his investigator skills to attempt to figure out what is actually going on in this crooked town and Lori is helping with her knowledge of the people.

The couple’s investigations lead them to a discovery that puts their lives on the line.  Can Jack possibly figure out a way to save them both before they become the next victims?

Reunion is a book that I didn’t want to end and I was surprised when the complicated plot and the actual murderer was finally revealed.

Carl Brookins is a retired professor, author and reviewer.  I would recommend Reunion as well as The Case of the Greedy Lawyers, another Brookins novel.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, September 2012.

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crashedCrashed
Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime, November 2012
ISBN No. 978-1616952747
Hardcover

Junior Bender is a burglar but he has some rather unique ways of approaching his jobs.  Some of his methods will have you rolling on the floor laughing but they seem to work for him – at least most of the time.  There are a few moments when the reader wonders if Junior will survive to steal another day.

An LA crime boss is producing a porn movie starring Thistle Downing. Thistle is a former child star who was loved by her fans but time has taken a toll on Thistle and she is currently living in a drug-induced stupor, destitute and uninsurable.  The movie would bring income to Thistle but would only send her further down her current path of destruction.

Junior is blackmailed into accepting the free-lance job of finding out who is sabotaging this movie.  His job is to keep the movie on track. The problem Junior is running into is that he likes Thistle and knows the movie is not the best thing for her even though she needs the money.  Junior sets out to fulfill his obligation but at the same time do right by Thistle and this isn’t an easy thing to do.  Junior has some very interesting friends who lend a helping hand  along the way.

I want to read more and more about Junior.  He is a character that is full of charm and certainly has some interesting escapades.   Crashed is written in a totally different style from the Bangkok series.  This novel proves that Timothy Hallinan can entertain us with more than one type of novel and I for one want to read everything he writes.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, January 2013.

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Don't Ever Get OldDon’t Ever Get Old
Daniel Friedman
Minotaur Books, May 2012
ISBN No. 978-0312606930
Hardcover

Buck Schatz has been married to his wife, Rose, for 64 years.  Buck can be pretty set in his ways but when Rose speaks Buck does listen.  Rose insists that Buck go to the hospital to visit Jim Wallace.   Jim is dying and is asking to see Buck.  Buck uses the excuse that he can’t drive to the hospital but Jim’s daughter Emily Feely agrees to drive him.  Jim and Buck have never been close but they did spend time together in a POW camp back in 1944.

Jim confesses to Buck that he had seen Heinrich Ziegler in France in 1946.  Ziegler was not a happy memory for Buck.  Zeigler was head of the POW camp and was very cruel to Buck, partly because Buck was Jewish but mostly because Ziegler was simply a very cruel individual.  Buck had heard that Ziegler was dead but Jim states that not only was Ziegler alive but he had given Jim a gold bar to let Ziegler go.

Buck having fulfilled his agreement to visit Jim is more than ready to return home and daytime TV.  A retired homicide detective, Buck has had many dangerous adventures in the past but is now pretty much content to just stay at home, visit the Jewish Community Center on occasion, eat Rose’s cooking and smoke Lucky Strikes.  Buck carries a “memory book” jotting down notes of things he needs to remember because at 87 a person can’t be expected to remember everything.  Buck can’t understand why he can’t light up a Lucky in public and that is just one of the many things Buck finds unacceptable.

But it seems that Jim Wallace told more than one person about Ziegler and the fortune in gold bars that Wallace seemed to think Ziegler possessed so soon Buck is very popular because some of these people think Wallace told Buck how to get his hands on the gold bars.

It turns out that Ziegler is still alive.  Buck’s grandson Tequila decides he will help out his Grandpa and find Ziegler and the gold bars.  So in spite of the fact that Buck isn’t too keen on this idea the two set out to bring home the treasure.  Buck’s almost forgotten detective instincts take over and soon the two have a very exciting adventure.

Don’t Ever Get Old is a joy to read, a wonderful story with great characters.  I am sure that all of us know some elderly person that has a lot of Buck’s attitudes.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, September 2012.

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When the Past Haunts YouWhen The Past Haunts You
A Harry Bronson Mystery
L. C. Hayden
Books by Hayden, February 2012
ISBN No. 978-1470074791
Trade Paperback

It would be difficult to find a happier married couple than Harry and Carol Bronson. Harry is retired from the Dallas police department and enjoys traveling with Carol.  Harry has been involved in a number of mysteries in spite of the fact that he is retired.

Carol Bronson would be the first to tell you that there are no secrets between her and Harry.  However, Carol is going to find out that this statement is not entirely accurate.  Harry has a huge secret that he has never discussed with his wife.  This secret is a sister that he has pushed to the back of his mind and never mentioned her existence to his wife.

Lorraine, Harry’s sister, had a terrible fight with Harry’s parents.   She immediately left home and Harry had no further contact with her until recently when she began calling him.  Lorraine begs Harry to come to Pennsylvania and meet with her.  Harry finally agrees and they meet in a state park that had been a location for good childhood memories for both brother and sister.  However, before the two had a chance to reconnect Lorraine was shot and killed right in front of Harry and there was not one thing Harry could do to save her life.

Even though it was too late to reconnect with his sister, Harry is determined to learn all that he can about her life since she left home.    As Harry traces Lorraine’s life by following up on any information he can discover, he learns that she lived quite a different life than he imagined.  He also learned that she had never forgotten her brother and was always very proud of Harry and his accomplishments as a police officer.

Harry’s quest to learn everything about Lorraine’s past since she left home puts his life in danger but he has no intentions of giving up.  Harry intends to uncover all of Lorraine’s secrets and to bring her killer to justice.  Harry feels that this is the very least he can do for the sister he has ignored for all these years.  Lorraine’s life has involved people from every walk in life, from pimps to millionaires.   Harry is in for many surprises as he investigates.

L. C. Hayden has written an exciting book that keeps the reader on edge every step of the way.  I have read several L. C. Hayden novels and would recommend them.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, March 2013.