Thursday, December 30, 2010

America Can Survive

Friday, December 17, 2010

Worth Dying For, a Jack Reacher Novel

"Worth Dying For" by Lee Child

4-1/2 stars

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol

"Worth Dying For" begins shortly after the end of "61 Hours," and it's no spoiler to tell you that, yes, Jack Reacher survives the end of that novel. Why so many people were convinced he died at the end of "61 Hours" was a bit of a mystery to me, since Child clearly left the ending open and the books have been optioned for movies, which as I understand should start filming soon (though who will play Reacher is still beyond me).

Anyway, Reacher is making his way, painfully (I won't spoil how he got out of the tunnel at the end of the previous novel for you regular readers) across the country to Virginia. If you read the book you can guess why. He gets stranded in rural Nebraska where, as usual, he becomes embroiled rather quickly in the local town's problems -- and they are much worse than he first anticipates. Never one to leave the weak at the mercy of the cruel, he pays a visit to a prominent citizen who regularly beats his wife, and breaks the man 's nose. This starts off a chain of events as the man he hit is much more than simply a man who beats his wife. His family runs a criminal enterprise and terrifies the entire town, employing thug ex-football players to regularly keep the citizenry in line. But that's not all. There's also a 25-year-old murder mystery, a group of townsfolk who quickly depend on Reacher, and mafia men from Las Vegas hunting him while the Duncan family (local thugs) hold up a mysterious shipment and blame it on Reacher. Convoluted, yes; fascinating, also yes.

Child makes Reacher more "human" in this book, in the sense that he feels more pain. At the same time, he is tough as nails. Child is methodical in his writing, and Reacher is the same way in reaching his decisions. He never plans to be Superman, but he is stubborn and insistent at getting at the truth, as well as ensuring that the bad guys aren't left around to hurt the innocent, even though he himself never sticks around.

This is a very good addition to the Reacher series, and one of my favorites, such as "Die Trying." I highly recommend it. There is no love interest, yet you don't even realize that as you are caught up in the action.


Tracy L. Karol

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What Kind of Writer Am I?

By Tracy L. Karol

I love fiction. I love reading it, I love creating it in my mind...I can't wait to pen that first thriller. In fact, I've got an entire series outlined based on the characters in the first book. I've even written the first few chapters.

But I won't lie. Nonfiction is easier to write. First, of course, you aren't creating an entire world out of your imagination. You are dealing with facts. It may be a book that almost reads like fiction, but still the basis is true.

That's where my mind was tonight when I thought, again, about my former jobs. There are crimes, cases, scenes, events that linger with me. Some even haunt me.

I was lucky enough to have a very satisfying career before I became disabled. First I was a print reporter, covering crime, health and education. I wrote mostly "hard news" stories on the crime beat, and features on health. I won some awards. I have a stack of cards from people thanking me for the job I did. The police respected me and the feeling was mutual. Sadly, the pay was horrendous. I soon applied for a job at the metro police department, basically doing the opposite of what I had been. I would go to crime scenes and deal with the media so the detectives didn't have to. I didn't expect to get the job, but it was about triple the income so I went for it.

Obviously I got that one, and I worked closely with detectives for years, seeing the worst of humanity. There's much more to the story, but I'll save it for the book.

That job changed me in a very fundamental way. I never became hard, though I did learn to use gallows humor, like everyone else. Still, there are nights when I can't sleep, thinking of the things I now know; things branded into my soul. After I left and my family suffered our own brutal crime, it seemed every crime I had been to tore through me at once. I saw them not from a police perspective, but from a victim's family. And I wonder, even today, what I might have said to make things worse for those families.

I am a strange mixture. I've reported on crimes. I've been to countless crime scenes and worked with detectives to keep the media informed (or not). And worst of all, I've gotten that phone call that someone I love was murdered.

As I stated, there are scenes that linger, that haunt me. Perhaps the best way to face them is to quit hiding. And so that gave me the idea for a new book. Obviously, I will maintain victim privacy. But there are some stories that just must be told. Will they make sense? I doubt it. But I remember my boss telling me that criminals don't think like us. Even the accidents, the most awful suicides...perhaps sharing them will help someone, or be a warning. At the least, I promise you won't be bored.

Please read this book, when published, not with excitement, but with the reverence due the topic. I lived this. It was my life, and in many ways still haunts me.

So...that's the story of how my second book will come to life. Another nonfiction, but vastly different from the first. Crime, true to life.
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Sunday, November 14, 2010


November is epilepsy awareness month, and I'm trying desperately to get an excerpt of my book, "Epilepsy Sucks," finished before the end of the month so anyone interested can download it and see if they might want to read the whole thing. Problem is, I have this damn condition that slows me down and tends to interfere with my life at the most inconvenient times. Did I mention that I have epilepsy?

That being stated, I do plan to have an excerpt available. (I'm putting myself on deadline here). It may just be a taste, but I hope for some feedback as I continue writing.

This is not going to be a technical book, and it's not going to be my life story. I do plan to cover my experience with epilepsy, and the various treatments, types of seizures, as well as describe as best as possible what it's like to have your mind feel out of control. It sucks. But for the most part, those of us in this place are trying to take control. This is a very unique condition, as you'll discover.

I hope you read this book. Chances are someone you know either has epilepsy or cares for someone who does. Or, God forbid, you get it. I was 31 when it blind-sided me and changed my life.

Tracy L. Karol

P.S. Excerpts will be available on my website, and at my Facebook page, link to the right.
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Missing Link

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol 

After the last Flynn novel, I wondered where he would take us on our journey with Mitch Rapp. Our hero has weathered devastating heartbreak, betrayals, corrupt (and/or stupid politicians), more danger than any James Bond character, and has barely managed to keep his soul intact. I find it a great testament to Mr. Flynn's writing and creativity that he has penned a character who has evolved so much. Yet there was always something missing. We knew from previous books that Rapp had been recruited to join the CIA, but his early years with the agency remained a mystery. In fact, just before I started reading this book someone who wanted to start the series asked me if he needed to start at the beginning or if he could pick up anywhere and understand the books. I hesitated to answer, but after reading "American Assassin" I can fully endorse starting with the latest release. 

Obviously Flynn gives enough background material in each book that a new reader can enjoy the novel, but I'm personally glad that I actually read "Term Limits" years ago when it was first released, then read the rest of the books as they were published. Yes, it was agony waiting for each to come out, but they were all well worth the wait. That said, "American Assassin" is one book that anyone can actually start reading now and then go back and read the other books in the series ("Term Limits" is probably optional, but still a great read). It goes back in time and describes a young Mitch Rapp, just graduated from college, recruited by Dr. Irene Kennedy to join a super-secret black ops program to fight terrorism. 

Not only was the book fascinating, it was wonderful to take a peek at the lives of other major characters in the series, some who are no longer around. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I quickly read "Transfer of Power" again and am now reading "The Third Option." So I would say if you've never read Vince Flynn but have wanted to try out his series, "American Assassin" is a great place to start. While it's the latest book, it goes back in time so you don't miss anything from the later books, and if you love a good thriller, you'll have a plethora waiting for you to read once you finish it. And trust me, Flynn knows of what he writes. When I check out the copyright date on these older novels, it's clear that Flynn had a firm grasp on the threat our country was facing from Islamic extremists, prior to 9/11. He has been spot-on ever since. I highly recommend all of his novels, not only for their entertainment value, but because they are actually educational as well. 

A few times I have been lucky enough to stumble upon an author who has already produced a body of work that is fantastic, and after reading one novel I tear through all the other published titles (this happened with Robert Crais and Nelson DeMille). If you haven't started reading Flynn, this is your chance. I'm now on my third go-round with some of these books; that's how much I enjoy them. 

Happy reading!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Long time, no reviews

By Tracy L. Karol

I haven't posted any reviews lately, mainly because I haven't written any :( I have been reading like crazy and plan to get back to writing them again now, so expect to see many coming in the following weeks; I have a backlog of books to cover. If you have a particular book you'd like reviewed, please let me know and I'll do my best to read and review it. My website has been down, so I will have a new address for that shortly as well. That's it for the news on my part, other than my book is coming along nicely and I hope to get it published soon. Until then, happy reading!