FINE REVIEWS: “Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer”

5-Stars!  I recommend “Gosnell” as required reading.

It is the silence of others, despite the grotesque nature of the crimes committed, that continues to bewilder me as I read this startling book. Thankfully, filmmakers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer refused to avert41h0mkgijcl their investigative glare from the inhumane travesty conducted in Philadelphia—the mutilated, mass killing of born-alive infants within the seedy walls of the Women’s Medical Society Clinic by a certain Doctor Kermit Gosnell. This ‘Doctor’ eschewed the Hippocratic oath and human decency. Instead, Kermit Gosnell chose a bleak path nearer to that of Josef ‘The Angel of Death’ Mengele. Mengele did not act alone. His grizzly deeds in Auschwitz were government sanctioned.

Nor did Kermit Gosnell act in isolation. The complicit role activist media, social radicals, medical colleagues, and incompetent (politicized) government played in perpetuating his crimes is an indictment of the moral wasteland we’re becoming. This is not about equating Gosnell’s crime to the horrific actions of Mengele, except to illustrate contemporary society’s refusal to learn from the past. If we did care, these blood-curdling crimes against babies would have ended earlier. If we did care, a caring nation would collectively march in the streets demanding answers. Instead, there’s muted silence and politicized obfuscation.

For me, this telling of the Gosnell nightmare is the first salvo in the fight for our very souls, and a diminishing chance to avoid us being judged barbaric. It is not okay to set aside fundamental moral principles (by either omission or commission) in the pursuit of blindly furthering an ideology. And, it’s never acceptable to contrive distorted truths and false claims (rationalized that it’s ‘for the greater good’) as a justification for the darkest of human behavior.

In that sense, this book provoked in me a reaction well beyond the Pro-Choice/Pro-Life debate. It touched the core of what it truly means to be an empathetic, civilized society; and how the reprehensible conduct of some bad actors destroys it for all of us. As such, authors McElhinney and McAleer have my thanks. I regard them as ‘canaries in the coalmine’ alerting us, American society, to the consequences of turning a blind eye to the inhumane deeds of a select few. If we continue to get this wrong and allow enablers to disassemble facts in order to cover up crimes against the feeblest among us, history will judge us all harshly.

“Gosnell” is a tough read, but a civilized society has the responsibility to pursue the truth wherever it may take us. There should be zero tolerance for cover-ups or dubious rationales, no matter where one resides on the ideological spectrum. In that spirit, I recommend “Gosnell” as required reading in all institutions dedicated to social sciences, moral ethics, governance, and medicine.

Available on Amazon

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Year End Best Books Ever! And ‘The Zebra Affaire’ Makes the List!

Making the Top 20 list at number eleven is the historical / literary fiction novel, The Zebra Affaire according to the myriad-minded author, Jean Gill. Also, an acclaimed photographer, Jean Gill commented in her article:

He’s black, she’s white, and in 1970s South Africa their love affair is a criminal offence. There are chunks of non-fiction you can read if you want (I loved them) as a love story challenges apartheid. Totally authentic in time and place with a real love of South Africa despite the horrors. Reminded me of ‘Doctor Zhivago’ and feels relevant again today.


At the prompting of readers’ from the THE BOOK CLUB facebook group, Jean Gill prepared her recommendations. Her list contains a compelling and diverse collection of superb reads for the inquisitive reader, that I’m including Jean’s complete article for both your convenience and reading pleasure.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Best Books Ever! What are yours?

by Jean Gill [See the original here.]

I was asked to choose my 20 best books ever for The Book Club, a readers’ group on facebook. Impossible of course! This is the list I came up with. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments! And help yourself to some Christmas goodies while you’re thinking about brain food!

Pink Rheims biscuits

1. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Book 1 in a trilogy showing dystopian survival in a reality TV game where the forced participants can die. Not my type of book, I thought, but I could not put it down. I love the feisty teen heroine who’s a deadshot with bow and arrows and no book better captures the post-truth machinations of current politics. (I’ve been wanting to use the word ‘post-truth’ since I discovered it was Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year 2016.)

2. The Gate to Women’s Country – Sheri Tepper
Fantasy novel that turns what-if into a gripping story. What if there were a way to organise society so women can have great sex with unsuitable men AND also ensure that children are protected and nurtured? I read every fantasy book Sheri Tepper writes, for the way she creates amazing worlds, tells a good story and makes me see our own world differently.

Starry starry blinis

3. H is for Hawk – Helen McDonald
Best Autobiography
Autobiography about two interwoven emotional journeys; grief and training a goshawk. A book to savour for the beautiful way its written, for its passion and honesty, for its expertise regarding birds of prey and their training. A bonus for me is the analysis of received wisdom from the past re training hawks, in particular via quotations from the troubled soul T.H.White (another of my favourite writers).

4. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Best Children’s Book
The French Winnie-the-Pooh; a children’s book with observations on life that strike a chord with adults. Full of quotable quotes! ‘People have forgotten this truth,’ the fox said. ‘But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.’
Goodreads has 659 favourite quotes from this book so I think you’ll find one that hits the heart!

French Christmas log

5. Mums Know Best – The Hairy Bikers’ Family Cookbook
Best Cookbook
A recipe book collated from family recipes throughout the U.K. during the Hairy Bikers’  television tour. A tribute to Mums and to home cooking, with recipes that all work and that show the whole multi-cultural range of the British people and our food. When my French neighbours sneer at Britain’s lack of cuisine, I tell them ‘You find world cuisine in Britain’ and nowhere is that more true than in this cookbook. It makes you want to write down all your own family favourites; I still use the splotched, handwritten recipe for Grandma’s Christmas Cake although my mother is dead now and I am the Grandma. The photos are good too and as I’m a food shooter (with a Nikon D750 as weapon of choice 🙂 ) I have hundreds of cookbooks and am very fussy about the photos.

6. The Visual Toolbox:60 lessons for stronger photos – David duChemin
The best photography book. From a master of travel / landscape/ wildlife photos who works with natural light. Offers inspiration and guidance, whatever level of photographer you are. In DuChemin’s company I gain confidence in who I am as a photographer; I learn what I want to improve and how to do it. His own photos are a joy.


7. Assassin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobb
Epic fantasy.
Book 1 of the Farseer Trilogy. Illegitimate and unwanted, young Fitz has to fulfil the only role at court which is offered to him – that of assassin. As the kingdom faces invasion, Fitz discovers his own magical powers and has to learn to control them, for his king and country’s sake. The grand, heroic adventure swept me away, I fell in love with the wolf, and I read every Robin Hobb book the moment it’s available. Training in magic has become clichéd but Robin Hobb pits the illegal Wit (bonding completely with an animal) against the court-controlled Skill (telepathic communication and control of humans) and, uniquely, Fitz has to master both kinds. The relationship between Fitz and his Wolf is as deep and convincing as those between the various humans.

8. Chéri – Colette
Very French love story.
First published in 1920, when France was where the British went to be naughty, Colette’s story of a 19 year old boy and his 43 year old female lover is a sensual classic. Worldly-wise courtesans and pretty young things (male and female) play out their relationships against a backdrop of gowns and soirées. I discovered Colette when I was 18 and the whiff of decadence fascinated me as much as her beautiful, poetic style. She taught me about pearls. She also taught me that a woman could break all the rules, as a writer and as a woman. Colette was the first woman to be accepted into the all-male Académie française, and a poster showing her with her cat in St-Tropez is beside my desk. She was my first inspiration as a writer. Chéri is no longer shocking but this slight volume lingers in the imagination like French perfume.

9. The Map of Love – Ahdaf Soueif
The best epic love story. Set in colonial Egypt and present-day, the story of a young English widow who meets the love of her life is revealed through the discoveries of her descendant, who also goes to Egypt. The relationship between Anna and Sharif is a heart-melter for any romantic and the exotic background takes you on a voyage of discovery.

10. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
Best BIG 19th C novel. Historical romantic suspense set in the 17th C with the best swordsmen in the whole of France. The historical equivalent of shoot-outs and car chases; sword-fights and breakneck horse rides to save the Queen of France. So many characters to fall in love with but my favourite is Milady. The Best Villain ever!

11. The Zebra Affaire – Mark Fine
Historical / Literary Fiction. He’s black, she’s white, and in 1970s South Africa their love affair is a criminal offence. There are chunks of non-fiction you can read if you want (I loved them) as a love story challenges apartheid. Totally authentic in time and place with a real love of South Africa despite the horrors. Reminded me of ‘Doctor Zhivago’ and feels relevant again today.

12. Shogun – James Clavell
Best block-busting page-turner. The adventures of a 17th century English sea-captain surviving in the violent politics of Japan – and I mean violent. Gut-wrenching (this is the culture of hara-kiri after all!) high adrenalin and romantic. Bushido code, world trade, culture clash and steamy tea ceremonies. The beautiful translator Mariko is wonderful and so much depends on the choices she makes, we agonise on her behalf. An emotional roller-coaster, whether you like historical fiction or not.

13.  The Game of Kings – Dorothy Dunnett
Best historical fiction with fictional heroes in real 16thC events, starting in Scotland. Book 1 in the six-book Lymond series. Francis Crawford of Lymond is, in my eyes, the most desirable fictional hero ever and his complicated adventures are not short of romance. Intelligent, wide-referencing and thrilling, Dorothy Dunnett’s books are the ones I’m most flattered at my historical novels being likened to.

14. Steppenwolf – Hermann Hesse
Modern classic. Appeals to the middle-aged lonely werewolf in all of us, the one who looks in the mirror with distaste and is willing to follow a free spirit into The Magical Theatre and dive into life’s might-have-beens to discover what still could be. Wild psychic adventure!

15. Soul Music –  Sir Terry Pratchett
Best comic fantasy. The Grim Reaper’s grand-daughter has to learn the family business; Death. Stands alone but set in the many-novelled Discworld where Pratchett fans like me have their favourite characters and set of stories. Death is mine, with his grim sense of humour and his kindness; the character of Death in ‘The Book Thief’ derives directly from Pratchett.

16. Sailing to Sarantium – Guy Gavriel Kay
Best historical fantasy. Based on medieval Byzantium but ‘given a quarter turn to the fantastic’ is how G G Kay describes his technique. He captures the grand sweep and scale of history in all his books, with characters who know they are part of something bigger, characters who make me feel in awe of their nobility, their love affairs, their creative work. He makes me feel proud to be human (not easy!) And there’s a heart-pounding chariot race.

17. Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
The first fantasy novel, ever, and it’s epic. If you’ve read other fantasy novels you’ll recognise the elements: the band of elves, dwarves, men and hobbits, heroes who have to save the land from the forces of evil, with the help of Gandalf the wizard. What keeps it fresh for me is that Tolkien did it all first and there was nothing like this before TLOTR I can feel Sauron’s eye seeking me out and I identify completely with the struggles of small people burdened with the responsibility of the cursed ring.

18. The Distant Sound of Violence – Jason Greensides
Modern urban fiction about British teenagers from different cultures. They have big hearts but the world’s against them. You just want to adopt them all but the adults in their life have no idea what they’re going through – or don’t care 😦 An ending that stays in your mind, powerful and gives hope.

19. I Heard The Owl Call my Name – Margaret Craven
Modern fable. A young vicar, who does not know he is dying, is sent to a native American village where the two religions/ mythologies take the reader on a spiritual journey in two cultures. You don’t have to be religious (I’m a sort of humanist) to respond to the wisdom in this novel, a metaphor for how to live well and accept death, when the owl calls your name. ‘Don’t feel sorry for yourself because you are going to so remote a parish. Feel sorry for the Indians. You know nothing and they must teach you.’

20. The Bees – Laline Paul
Best novel about bee-ing. Suspense and dystopian paranoia drive the story because ‘they’ are out to get the young bee Flora 717. She tries to keep out of trouble while knowing that something is terribly wrong in the hive. Underlying the survival adventure is an accurate knowledge of bees. I’m a registered beekeeper, having followed practical training for three years in Provence, and the micro-view of the world created by Laline Paul is correct in all its facts and possibilities. If bees could speak human, this is the story they would tell and as well as being a page-turner, it’s an important story for the planet.


About Jean Gill

Jean is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France (specifically in Montelimar) with a big white dog, a scruffy black one, a Nikon D750 and a man.  Click here to see Jean’s impressive body of literary works.

Fine Review: “Red Queen Check” by Elizabeth Horton-Newton [Short Story]

strategyVirtues of the short story told by an artful author

I’ve become extremely fond of the short story as a medium. Life is too busy, yet I enjoy a good read, so an enticing short story is a most satisfying treat. Being a fan of author, Elizabeth Horton-Newton—her two novels “The View from the Sixth Floor” and “Riddle” having provided hours of pleasure—I confidently chose her ‘Red Queen Check’ from the short story anthology, Crooked Tales. Glad I did.

The sheer glee in the author’s writing radiated from every paragraph. This doesn’t mean this is a cheerful, trivial read; in fact it is at times gritty. However, there is little doubt she wished for the reader to enjoy the delicious comeuppance she had in-store for the miserable sociopath (or, maybe psychopath) at the stories core. But, it is the recipe of the revenge fashioned that is most satisfying.

From the opening line, Horton-Newton teases the reader with sensual heat as she introduces the femme fatale. By the third paragraph we are repulsed by him, a contemptuous and possessive blowhard with deadly desires.  And so, in the best tradition of a fine short story the stage is set for a diabolical plot driven by an avenging heart.

Yet, despite the obvious pleasure in her writing there is little doubt that the author had earnest intent. Elizabeth Horton-Newton’s message is clear:  there is little use in society for those that abuse—no matter their power or position.

I applaud the writer’s craft exhibited by Horton-Newton; her ability to score such rich characters within such a satisfying story arc—and all this, with only 4,000 words used! No wonder I now find short stories so appealing…and hope for more from the artful Elizabeth Horton-Newton.

For more about CROOKED TALES short stories click here.

About Elizabeth Horton-Newton

elisabeth-horton-newtonElizabeth Horton-Newton was born and raised in New York City. She began writing when she was a child, writing stories for friends and family. In the 4th Grade at P.S. 151 in Manhattan, she wrote an essay about her dream job—she wanted to be an author. Elizabeth continued to write short stories over the following years as she raised a family. After attending Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY and East Tennessee State University, she worked in the social work field for thirteen years.

She currently lives in East Tennessee with her husband, author Neil Newton, and a collection of rescued dogs and cats. Her first book View From the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale was published in October 2014; a love story that revolves around the assassination of President John Kennedy on November 22, 1963—and the ensuing conspiracy theories. This was followed in June 2015 with the release of Riddle, a romantic thriller about a Native American convicted of killing his high school girlfriend. Elizabeth’s third novel, a somewhat erotic romance of one woman’s journey through love, loss, and resolution, will be released in the fall of 2016.

This mother of 4, grandmother of 5, and great grandmother of a newly arrived boy, loves serial killers and all things horror. She has been this way since early childhood, much to her mother’s dismay. Fascinated by the inner workings of the criminal mind, an interest strongly influenced by her father, she allowed her imagination to run wild in her tale for this anthology. You are invited to pay Elizabeth a visit at Between the Beats and her author website here or connect via Facebook and Twitter: @redqueenliz

Readers Review Room & Traci Sanders – interview with the founder

Traci Sanders is an amazing lady I had the pleasure of meeting a while back in an online writers’ group. Apart from being an early educator and caregiver, she is an award-winning multigenre a…

Author Mark Fine said, “Traci is an impeccable example, as are you, Anita, of the wisdom, enterprise, creativity and innovation of the Indie Author. Both of you are making great strides in legitimizing the Indie Author scene. You refelect the fine writerly talent that’s been constantly ignored by ‘snobbish’ media and publishers row in New York, London and elsewhere. Keep up the good work! #IndieCred4Authors.”

Source: Readers Review Room & Traci Sanders – interview with the founder

Famed theatre critic and playright Robert Brustein checking out Mark Fine’s novel THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE

Famed theatre critic, producer, educator and playright Robert Brustein checking out THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE. He founded both Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut and the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is the theatre critic for The New Republic. He comments on politics for the Huffington Post.

Honored!

Robert Brustein Doreen Beinart

FINE REVIEW: “A Fine Balance” by Robyn Cain ~ It’s a fine read :)

A Fine BalanceA Fine Balance by Robyn Cain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A bald-headed psychopath returns to his neighborhood and the body count rises. He’s the nebulous face, the deadliest kind, of corporate espionage. An equal opportunity killer, incapable of remorse, uncaring whether his victims are family or foe. The opening sequence is startlingly dramatic as we witness the callous actions of this despicable individual. The scene is now set to unravel the full extent of this multi-layered plot.

Enter Jenny; clearly a beautiful and intelligent woman. She is also a revered employee at the company. Yet, rather than live a complete independent life, she merely exists; living a less than privileged life. Jenny’s circumstances add to the growing mystery. We then meet Matt who is travelling incognito, being the millionaire investigating those responsible for harming his company. Matt is a sudden and unwelcome guest in Jenny’s modest residence in order to best maintain his cover. With him impinging on her space, well, needless to say the sparks fly; first the feisty repartee, then the questioning passion.

However, at its heart this is a novel about family and the blood bond that binds–the best that family represents: love, selflessness, sacrifice, loyalty, tradition–and the worst: hatred, corruption, manipulation, betrayal and greed. A fine read. I’m certainly looking forward to reading more of Robyn Cain’s writings.

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FINE REVIEW: “The Foreign Correspondent” by Alan Furst. The restless peace between the two great wars.

The Foreign Correspondent (Night Soldiers, #9)The Foreign Correspondent by Alan Furst
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel was quite a revelation with its focus resting on events between the two great wars. As the storm clouds of World War II are looming we are there via Alan Furst’s pen, experiencing the noir-like, uneasy last hurrah of a free Paris (including a brief dalliance with the film world); to soon fall under the grip of the jackbooted Nazi hordes. In the meantime anxiety builds as loyalties are split. The Communists metastasize their subversive ways in their quest for power as the sinister forces of the Fascists grow, exploiting every weakness, sometimes violently.

Furst is masterful in capturing this much neglected period prior to Hitler’s onslaught, and as such is nuanced and patient as he builds inexorably to a compelling climax at the end of the narrative. I especially enjoyed the scenes recalling Franco’s Spanish Civil War. Such a superbly rendered historical fiction work is “The Foreign Correspondent” that this reader almost felt as though he was there; a witness to history careening toward a brutal cataclysm, yet it was a tale told in very personal terms from the perspective of our leading man…the foreign correspondent.

I hope to be reading many more works by this gifted author, Mr. Alan Furst.

Review by Mark Fine of The Zebra Affaire

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FINE REVIEW: “A Dream Fulfilled” ~ Former Freedom Fighter, Ambassador & Author, Thandi Lujabe-Rankoe. A Riviting Personal Story of Sacrifice for Human Freedom.

A Dream FulfilledA Dream Fulfilled by Thandi Lujabe-Rankoe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Thandi Lujabe-Ranko, the subject of this fine and authoritative autobiography, which outlines for us, in sometimes uncompromising terms, the journey taken by herself – from the cauldron of apartheid, through various postings in exile to a triumphant return to the native land. A quiet, unassuming though single-minded woman, Thandi represents the best that any country can offer. I urge you to read this book as it will not only inform you but will become one of the most important records of the invincibility of the human spirit.”

These are NOT my words, but I discovered them in the forward of “A Dream Fulfilled.” Imagine my delight when I saw that they’d been written by NELSON MANDELA. Of course, I agree with Mandela’s assessment of this fine book.

In a time when we see ambassadorships cavalierly handed out as rewards to those who merely “bundled” the most money for a presidential election, it is gratifying to see that in the tip of Africa a diplomat received her High Commissioner appointment to represent her nation based solely on merit. And boy, did she earn it: The Hard Way! In reading Ambassador Lujabe-Rankoe’s harrowing story, it becomes evident how difficult her journey was; the personal cost was awful. But in telling her story, the ambassador deservedly indicts the brutal apartheid regime. But she displays generous grace and humor to those that were kind.

Thandi was always destined to serve, but her early ambitions to be a nurse in South Africa were crushed by early activism protesting the apartheid laws. As she became immersed in the freedom struggle, she found herself in danger, and fled her native land. With the threat of death a constant, due to the apartheid regime’s sustained efforts to assassinate the ANC leadership, Thandi (often with a child in tow) was constantly on the move to various destinations in Africa, and even Norway. I was amazed at this formidable woman’s ability to adapt to these new communities, cultures, and societies–yet, at the same time successfully championing all humanities cause.

And that is what finally makes the reading of this book so satisfying: Redemption. After 33 years in exile (and after Mandela’s 27 years of imprisonment), both their dreams were finally fulfilled with Nelson Mandela’s 1994 ascendency to the presidency. And as a fitting reward for her profound contribution to the freedom struggle (not merely based on gratuitous political favors) Ambassador Thandi Lujabe-Rankoe was appointed High Commissioner, with the mandate of representing her first-time free nation to the world. And as ambassador, and knowing so well the countries she was posted (due to her past travels) she served her nation brilliantly.

I strongly recommend this book those who appreciate autobiographies and memoirs, African studies, political science, 20th Century world history, women empowerment, stories of personal courage and sacrifice, and compelling tales of inspiration.

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FINE REVIEW: “Outsourced” by Eric Gates. A thrilling twist to ‘a pen is mightier than the sword’…literally!

OutsourcedOutsourced by Eric J. Gates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A friend persuaded me to read ‘Outsourced’, and I’m so glad he did. It was thrilling, topical, unpredictable and after the dramatic climax; an immensely satisfying read. Eric Gates succeeded in taking me to that rare place–the suspension of my disbelief–by making the effort to substantiate his rationale for the deadly artifact at the center of the plot. Without slowing the page-turning high-tempo pace of his thriller, Gates provides a mind-bending primer on quantum mechanics! From that moment I was hooked.

The villain was venal, the authorities were untrustworthy, the leading lady was enigmatic and independent, and the two authors (apparently bitter rivals!) grew in stature and guile as the plot deepened. Gates also succeeded in getting in a few licks against interrogations without due process, unfettered intrusion by the security apparatus in our lives, and a dig or two at the suspect ethics of the traditional print publishing industry. These real world observations grounded ‘Outsourced’ further, feeding this reader’s sense of reality despite what was in fact a deadly pursuit for a mystical device! In short, author Eric Gates provides a thrilling literary twist to the belief that the pen is mightier than the sword….literarily!

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