Interesting Yet Documentation Is Substandard. This is a work of narrative nonfiction where the author uses case studies of six people she has followed for some period of time as they fight to get released from prison and come back into the non-correctional life. As such, it is quite well done, though readers who struggle to follow multiple characters in a fiction book will likely struggle to follow along here, as the author herself is largely the only commonality among the six (though two of them knew each other on the inside, their stories are largely separate and told separately). Indeed, the only real negative is that the author makes a lot of claims… that the scant 10% bibliography (at least in the advance edition I read) fails to really document. And thus the star deduction. Still, a solid work and one worthy of consideration. Very much recommended.
Avowed Anti-Capitalist Screed Still Highlights All Too Real Issues. And these issues absolutely need to be more openly discussed. If you dismiss the blinders to anything other than the set premise and worldview the author comes to this research with and look at the points he raises instead, this is a solid examination of at least some of the ways the central Appalachia region of (primarily) Kentucky / (some) West Virginia / (some) Virginia has transformed from being driven by a coal economy to now being driven by a prison economy – largely on much of the exact same land. With a bibliography clocking in at 38% of the ARC I read *even with* the author conducting much of the research and interviews himself, the scholarship within his worldview is largely beyond contestation. This truly is one of the most well documented ARCs I’ve come across in nearly 800 books (across all genres, fiction and nonfiction). Ultimately the star deduction here was because the author never leaves his particular biases to even make strawmen of opposing views, much less actually examine whether they may explain the issues at hand better than his own views do. Still, for what it is, this truly is a remarkable text that covers a particular topic that few others do. Very much recommended.
Scant Documentation Makes A Weaker Case. First, I generally agree with the author’s overall points here, even while disagreeing with his more leftist slants on a lot of his recommendations – unionizing prison inmates among them. But even in cases such as here where I generally agree, I have a history of judging a book based on the actual merits of the actual arguments and verifications therein, and this book simply doesn’t hold up. Its Bibliography (at least in the Advance Review Copy form) is barely 15% of the text, which is about half the norm and maybe 1/3 the length of the Bibliography of truly well documented treatises. And while the author’s career experience as a litigating attorney can account for some of it, even here – provide at least some documentation for your claims, so that those who *don’t* have that background can verify them. But the lack of documentation is the primary argument here for overall lack of persuasiveness. Furthermore, another star was deducted for ultimately not satisfying the overall premise as laid out in the description – which admittedly is a combined effort of both author and publisher, and not always in the author’s hands. Still, the description here proposes that the book argues that plea bargaining “produces a massive underclass of people who are restricted from voting, working, and otherwise participating in society”… and while Canon occassionally makes reference to this, he never really establishes that particular line of reasoning here. Indeed, for *that* side of the criminal justice system there really are a few other vastly superior texts that have released over the last few years. Instead, Canon more takes these as a given – again, with little documentation – and argues – with little documentation – that plea bargaining is the chief cause of this. As stated at the beginning of this review, while I *generally* agree with this line of reasoning, I simply expect a better documented (and ultimately more evenly argued) presentation of this, particularly in a book released to a wide audience, including those who may be predisposed to *not* agreeing with the argument for any number of reasons. Still, ultimately a worthy read that at least adds yet another voice to the conversation, and for that reason it is very much recommended.
For this New Year’s Eve entry into the Twelve Days of Romance blog tour series, we’re looking at book I specifically chose to run on this day due to its setting at New Year’s Eve and which is actually much better than the description indicates. For this entry, we’re looking at New Year Kiss With His Cinderella by Annie O’Neil.
Better Than Described. The actual second meeting of our lead couple is actually much better than described here – they meet on New Year’s Eve night randomly at a mechanical bull ride, share a magical moment there as the clock winds down on the year, then the next day, the narrative focus is on her at work when a bunch of newbies are introduced… including the man she kissed at midnight and thought she’d never see again. Yes, this is a dual narrative tale, and it absolutely works here. Both of our leads are caring medical professionals with deeply troubling (and very real) issues outside of the hospital, and the drama here is fairly tight. As is typical with much of the genre, this does include a few sex scenes, so the clean/ sweet crowd… eh, this probably won’t be for you. For everyone else… those scenes are fairly well done. Enough to get the pulse racing without being *too* problematic if someone sees/ hears what you’re reading. 😉 Overall a solid romance featuring great, Hallmarkie type characters. Very much recommended.
After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#TwelveDaysOfRomance #BlogTour: New Year Kiss With His Cinderella by Annie O’Neil”
For this blog tour we’re looking at an interesting story of love, forgiveness, repentance, restorative justice, prison reform, and penance that could perhaps have used a better storytelling approach. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Good Son by Jacquelyn Mitchard.
Interesting Story, Perhaps Better Served By A Different Storytelling Technique. This is an interesting story of what happens after a person who has been accused of a heinous crime is released from prison and the toll wrought on the person and their family and friends – particularly in the face of continued harassment from the community. Readers who hate multi-perspective stories will enjoy the fact that we only really get one perspective here, but this is actually the weakest thing about the book to my own mind. For me, having a multi-perspective book with the prisoner’s mother (the perspective we get here), the prisoner, and maybe even the stranger and the victim’s mother, would have made this story quite a bit tighter and potentially, assuming it was done right, that much more interesting. The issues that the book does explore well – restorative justice, repentance, forgiveness, mother’s love, etc – could have been further strengthened by this other technique as well. Still, for what we do get here, it is fairly solid but not “edge of your seat” reading. If you go into this expecting a thrill-a-minute… you’re reading the wrong dang book. But if you look at this more as a character study / family drama with elements of suspense and thriller, you’re likely going to leave this book more satisfied. Very much recommended.
After the jump, an excerpt followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Good Son by Jacquelyn Mitchard”
A Hell Of A Life. Danny Trejo didn’t start acting – professionally – until he was almost 40 years old. Mostly because a large part of the rest of that time, he was high and/ or in prison, including some of California’s most notorious. Today, Trejo is known as one of the more prolific and high profile actors out there, with over 400 acting credits to his name + his line of Trejo’s Tacos restaurants.
Here, we see at least pieces of pretty much all of his 70+ years, from his early childhood as the only male in a house full of women and girls to his first time using various substances to his first robbery and the time he was worried he was about to face capital charges after a prison riot. Much of the front half of the story in particular focuses on his times in and around prisons during the first 2-3 decades of his life, and we see how he gained his “tough guy” persona. He lived it. It was either be tough or be dead.
Which actually makes the discussions of his confrontations with none other than (then *recent*) Oscar nominee Edward James Olmos over the movie American Me even more epic.
And yes, the back quarter ish is primarily about Trejo’s life in Hollywood and how that impacted him and his family. It is here that we see some of the things that will cause many of us to go “I remember that movie!” and “Oh Trejo was [insert opinion here] in that one!”.
In between, we get to see what Trejo was doing in between – which aside from a lot of personal mistakes, was saving a lot of lives and helping a lot of people recover from drug addiction – a passion he pursues to this day.
Serious yet hilarious throughout, this book doesn’t pull any punches. Trejo, an ex-con, openly admits to many things in this book that many would probably try to hide, including things that weren’t known world wide before now (at least to casual observers). And yet we also get to see behind the scenes of just how much good Trejo has been able to accomplish throughout his life.
Truly a remarkable man, and a memoir well written and told. Very much recommended.
PS: Special thank you to the publicist at Simon & Schuster – they know who they are – who sent me the *hardback* version of this book! First one of those I’ve read in at *least* 2-3 years!
Making The Case For A More Systematic Examination Of Its Topic. This book does a *tremendous* job in looking at as many facets of love and relationships involving the United States’ millions – literally -of prisoners via multi-year case studies of five particular couples. And therein also lies its chief weakness – while the original research for the case studies themselves was conducted directly by the author, the author states many facts beyond the people she is directly interviewing… and then the text doesn’t provide any form of bibliography to back up these (sometimes alarming, shocking, or even dubious) claims. But even with this weakness noted, the text’s strengths via its case studies are truly remarkable, and show the pressing need for a more systematic – and documented – examination of this particular topic. This is a book that will shock you. It will pull at your heart strings. It will make you cheer and cry and scream out at the people involved “WTF ARE YOU DOING!!!!!!”. And in these regards, it truly is a phenomenal book. Very much recommended.
Fundamentally Flawed, But With Some Good Points And Multitudinous Evidence. Overall, Alexander’s work has some good points – mostly when it concerns examining the United States’ mass incarceration system as a whole. Its fundamental fatal flaw however its its central tenet- that this mass incarceration system is a system of *racial*, rather than class, control. But at least Alexander documents her case well, even when only citing evidence from a particular strain of thought that happens to agree with her own. Worth reading – highly recommended even – for the examination of the mass incarceration system and its effects as a whole , but severely hampered in its attempts to portray the system as “just another way to keep the black man down”. In that central tenet, it does its greatest disservice to showing the full monstrosity that is the US mass incarceration system.